Readings and readers can soar or flop

Weddings that take place in the church often include scriptural passages, often read by someone chosen especially for that honor. But what if your wedding isn’t in a church or house of worship? Readings can still be included, either from your faith tradition or taken from many other places.  It is a great way to express the meaning of this big day, sharing your beliefs, your world-view, your passions, and to add content and variety to your ceremony.

But before jumping into it, there are a few things to consider.

Should you let a reader choose his or her own reading? I always advocate that the couple have final approval. Sometimes the reader wants to surprise the couple. I don’t recommend it. If this comes up, simply tell them you’d be less nervous if you see the reading in advance, or your officiant needs to see it first. (I never mind being the fall-guy). I always want copies of readings in my book anyway, in case the reader forgets to bring it.

Picking the right reading is important (Lisa Rhinehart Photography)

It’s best to avoid that situation from the start by giving the chosen reader a few selections you like, or at least some direction, right from the start. Why? It can go terribly wrong. The reader may choose something that doesn’t reflect your views, or pick something too long, something meant to be funny, but it doesn’t fit the tone of your ceremony. I’ve seen it soar and I’ve seen in fall flat.

When you think about who you’d like to read, consider their personality. The person you may want to honor the most may be shy. You want someone who enjoys being in front of a crowd. It is no honor to burden someone with a task they fear. It’s said that public speaking is one of the greatest fears, second only to death. Wow. Keep that in mind.

Here are some helpful ideas for selecting and performing – yes, performing – a reading.

First and most important, the reader should practice, practice, practice! Unless you are a professional actor or public speaker, in which case you already know this, it really makes all the difference. The piece should be practiced out loud. It is not the same to read it to oneself.

Choosing the right reader is equally important (Lisa Rhinehart Photography)

Typing or writing the piece out (even if it’s been given to you) helps – you can put accents, or stress marks, as cues for the proper inflection.

As slow as you may try to read the piece, go even slower. Make a note to yourself to remember that. When we are anxious or excited we often go faster than we realize. Remember, the listener needs to absorb the meaning.

With only one opportunity to hear it unless you are providing the ‘Cliff notes’ go simple. Unless your guests are literature scholars choose something easy to understand. Classics often require some analysis and are written in a style unfamiliar to most of us.

Readings can add beauty to the ceremony (Garth Woods Photography)

Don’t put the text in your program booklet – it will shift attention away from the reader.  However if there are different languages involved, please offer a translation.

Try having several people read one piece. It can be very effective to have a group, such as siblings, read alternating lines or stanzas. Pauses tend to be longer between the readers, slowing it down, and each reader gains confidence from being with the other.

Volume, volume, volume. If there is a microphone, don’t shy away from it. If there is no microphone you will need to project your voice.

There are many places to look for ideas, including song lyrics, excerpts from novels, contemporary poets, and religious writings. And remember, we are free to borrow wisdom from other cultures. The writings of the Persian philosopher Rumi, or the Lebanese-American author Kahlil Gibran are particularly appropriate for weddings. It’s a big world out there.

Sharing the Reading (Garth Woods Photography)



Thank you to my friends Lisa Rhinehart and Garth Woods for the use of their gorgeous photography

This entry was posted in Ceremonies and Celebrations, Pocono Weddings, Tips on Weddings, Wedding Ceremonies and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment

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