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Top 5 Ceremony Readings for Gay & Lesbian Weddings

Ceremony readingI say this all the time, but my favorite part of gay weddings is the ceremony.  We’ve fought for the right to legally marry, and the ceremony is the chance to truly celebrate that, in a personal and meaningful way.  And, if you’re looking for someone to help with that, hire a Celebrant or officiant to write the script for you and then officiate the ceremony!

Here are the top five ceremony readings I’ve encountered most often in my experience witnessing hundreds of gay wedding ceremonies in Boston, New England and New York.

Photo credit: Carly Fuller Photography

5.  An excerpt from the Judge Vaughn Walker ruling, which overturned Proposition 8 in California

“Marriage is the state recognition and approval of a couple’s choice to live with each other, to remain committed to one another and to form a household based on their own feelings about one another and to join in an economic partnership and support one another and any dependents…

The right to marry has been historically and remains the right to choose a spouse and, with mutual consent, join together and form a household. Race and gender restrictions shaped marriage during eras of race and gender inequality, but such restrictions were never part of the historical core of the institution of marriage. Today, gender is not relevant to the state in determining spouses’ obligations to each other and to their dependents. Relative gender composition aside, same-sex couples are situated identically to opposite-sex couples in terms of their ability to perform the rights and obligations of marriage under California law. Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals…

“They seek the mutual obligation and honor that attend marriage… seek recognition from the state that their union is ‘a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred.’”

4.  From Touched by an Angel, by Maya Angelou

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

3.  Excerpt from Leaves of Grass, by celebrated gay poet, Walt Whitman

The day when I arose at dawn from the bed of perfect
health, refresh’d, singing, inhaling the ripe sweet breath of autumn,
When I saw the full moon in the west grow pale and
disappear in the morning light,
And when I wander’d alone over the beach, and undressing bathed,
laughing with the cool waters, and saw the sun rise,
And when I thought how my dear friend my lover was on
his way coming, O then I was happy,
O then each breath tasted sweeter, and all that day my food
Nourish’d me more, and the beautiful day pass’d well,
And the next came with equal joy, and with the next at evening came my friend,
And that night while all was still I heard the waters roll slowly continually up the shores,
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands as directed to me 
whispering to congratulate me,
For the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same cover in the cool night,
In the stillness in the autumn moonbeams his face was inclined toward me, 
And his arm lay lightly over my breast – and that night I was happy.

2.  The Art of Marriage, Wilferd Arlan Peterson

A good marriage must be created.

In the art of marriage the little things are the big things –-
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say ‘I love you’ at least once each day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world.
It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.
It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.
It is finding room for the things of the spirit.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is not only marrying the right partner –-
It is being the right partner.

1.  Excerpt from the Goodridge v The Massachusetts Department of Public Health ruling (written by Judge Margaret Marshall) that first legalized gay marriage in Massachusetts

Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations….Without question, civil marriage enhances the “welfare of the community.” It is a “social institution of the highest importance.” …

Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family…. Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.

Bernadette Coveney Smith is the owner and founder of 14 Stories, the first firm in the U.S. to specialize in planning in legal weddings for same-sex couples. She is the author of Gay Wedding Confidential, The Lesbian Couple's Guide to Wedding Planning, and The Business of Gay Weddings.