There is so much to consider when planning your wedding and your readings can be a small but important part of that. If you are choosing to hold a religious ceremony then I hope you find this useful as a way to start thinking about what readings you and your partner might like during your service.
Firstly, let’s look at some of the rules and norms around readings during church weddings.
What are the rules around church ceremony readings?
Church of England weddings must have at least one reading from the Bible verses and usually include between one and three readings, either all from the bible or other poems and readings that are special to you as a couple.
May we have non-religious readings?
You may include non-religious readings at the discretion of the person officiating your ceremony, but one reading must come from the Bible.
Who can give readings at a church wedding?
You can pick anyone you’d like to for your readers. Often couples choose godparents or close friends; people who don’t have another official role in their day (like bridal party or parents) to include them and show their appreciation for their involvement. Try to appreciate that not everyone wants to stand up in front of a church full of people and speak!
How should people introduce a bible passage?
There is no rule about introducing the bible passage, but often people choose to introduce it so that the congregation knows what is being read, i.e. “this is taken from Song of Solomon, Chapter 2, verses 10-13”. The vicar will tell you if you need to say a closing line such as “this is the word of the Lord” or similar.
When are the bible verses read during a wedding ceremony?
The readings are usually interspersed with hymns and the actual marriage vows but this will also be down to you, as a couple, and your priest or vicar to decide in the run up to the big day.
What are the most popular bible readings for a wedding?
There are wedding readings that I hear frequently so I thought that I would run down some of the more popular wedding readings that might get you thinking about what resonates with you for your own wedding. There are more, or less, religious sounding readings to be found in the Bible, depending on how strong your religious affinity to the church is.
1 Corinthians 13
This remains overwhelmingly popular at weddings, I’m sure you’ve heard bits of it, verse 13 is iconic or these are 4-8:
4-8: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
John Chapter 2, verses 1-11
“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”
1 John Chapter 4, verses 7-12
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.”
“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Song of Songs 8:6-7
“Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of one’s house for love,
it would be utterly scorned.”
Song of Songs 2:10-13
My beloved spoke and said to me,
“arise my darling, my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come,
The cooing of doves is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.”
There are so many (I haven’t even mentioned Genesis, Deuteronomy, Isaiah or some of the Proverbs) and of course your vicar will be happy to guide you in the right direction for what suits you both best.
What were the readings at the royal weddings?
As always, the royal weddings often dictate trends and after William and Kate got married Romans 12: 1-2, 9-18 was popular after Kate’s brother read that in Westminster Abbey.
“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour.
Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
At Harry and Meghan’s wedding the readings were Song of Solomon 2:10 – 13 and Song of Solomon 8:6 which similarly saw a spike in popularity.
“Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
passion fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
a raging flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
If one offered for love
all the wealth of one’s house,
it would be utterly scorned.”