Like most details pertaining to your big day, your ceremony is just one more way to show off your personality as a couple. We asked some local professors from Southeastern University and Florida Southern College to provide their favorite unconventional passages to consider including in your lineup of readings (or even borrowing a few lines for vows!).

“Wild Geese”

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

“The understanding, unconditional, inclusive love that Oliver describes in this poem depicts what marital love should look like: belonging with one another.”

– Hannah Benefield, creative writing instructor at Southeastern University

“Love Poem”

by Linda Pastan

I want to write you
a love poem as headlong
as our creek
after thaw
when we stand
on its dangerous
banks and watch it carry
with it every twig
every dry leaf and branch
in its path
every scruple
when we see it
so swollen
with runoff
that even as we watch
we must grab
each other
and step back
we must grab each
other or
get our shoes
soaked we must
grab each other

“Passages like ‘Love Poem’ avoid hyperbole and focus on things that matter, like holding each other, talking with each other, having each other’s back through hard things, relating to each other as real human beings. Including texts like these in wedding ceremonies could help lay as a foundation a healthier, more fitting, and ultimately more fulfilling understanding of what love and relationships are and can be.”

– Paul Corrigan, Associate Professor of English at Southeastern University

“On Spiritual Friendship”

by Aelred of Rievaulx

A friend is sometimes called the guardian of love, or as some prefer, the guardian of the soul itself. Why? Because a friend in loyal silence protects all the secrets of my spirit. A friend bears and endures, as far as she can, anything wicked she sees in my soul. A friend will rejoice with my soul rejoicing, grieve with it grieving, and feel that everything that belongs to a friend belongs to herself.

Friendship is that virtue through which, by a covenant of sweetest love, our very spirits are united, and from many are made one.

“A marriage, for all the many other things that it is, is at root a kind of friendship. Theologians and philosophers have written some probing and beautiful reflections on friendship over the centuries, and I wish they were more widely used in wedding ceremonies. I especially love Aelred’s vision because of the way it portrays a friendship (and thus a marriage) as a practice of care for another person’s spirit — protecting, enduring, rejoicing, grieving, loving.”

– Brian Hamilton, Assistant Professor of Religion at Florida Southern College

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“Astrophil & Stella 2” by Sir Philip Sidney

Not at first sight, nor with a dribbèd shot,
Love gave the wound which while I breathe will bleed:
But known worth did in mine of time proceed,
Till by degrees it had full conquest got.
I saw, and liked; I liked, but lovèd not;
I loved, but straight did not what love decreed:
At length to love’s decrees I, forced, agreed,
Yet with repining at so partial lot.
Now even that footstep of lost liberty
Is gone, and now like slave-born Muscovite
I call it praise to suffer tyranny;
And now employ the remnant of my wit
To make myself believe that all is well,
While with a feeling skill I paint my hell.

“Sir Philip Sidney wrote a sonnet sequence in the 1570s to a woman he ultimately couldn’t marry. He called it ‘Astrophil & Stella’ (star-lover and star). I particularly like this one because he tries to make things real, not love at first sight.”

Catherine Eskin, Associate Professor of English at Florida Southern College