new york city

Creative Civil Wedding Ceremonies: traditional, contemporary or unique
Conducted by New York Certified Marriage Officiants*

*all officiants certified by New York City Marriage Bureau:


Here are a few readings and poems that we suggest for incorporation into your marriage service. Many of these readings can be used as substitutions for religious readings. Feel free to find your own selections of poetry and prose for your wedding, or compose your own original wedding readings. We are happy to send an extensive list of additional readings at your request. You can see a few more selections, plus these poems on a longer list of readings on our Wedding FAQs page.


We have been called together as witnesses
to the happiness which this couple
has found together
and to the pledge which they will now make
each to the other
for the mutual service
of their common life.

We rejoice with them,
that out of all the world
they have found each other.
And that they will henceforth find the deeper
meaning and richness of human life
in sharing it with each other.

Taught by our own joys,
By our own sorrows,
Even by our own failures,
We remind them
That in marriage
As in all life,
Whosoever insists upon saving his lesser goods
And his little self
Shall miss what is greater,

But whosoever forgets himself
In devotion to his beloved
And in consecration to their common enterprise,
Is surest to find a full and happy life.

- anonymous


There is nothing nobler and more admirable
Than when two people who see eye to eye
Keep house as man and wife,
Confounding their enemies
And Delighting their friends.

- Homer


Song of the Open Road, - by Walt Whitman

Listen, I will be honest with you ...
I do not offer the old smooth prizes
But offer rough new prizes
These are the days that must happen to you:

You shall not heap up what is called riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand
all that you earn or achieve.
However sweet the laid up stores,
However convenient the dwelling,
you shall not remain there.
However sheltered the port,
However calm the waters,
you shall not anchor there.
However welcome the hospitality that welcomes you,
you are permitted to receive it but a little while.
Afoot and lighthearted, take to the open road
Healthy, free, the world before you
The long brown path before you,
Leading wherever you choose.

Say only to one another:

Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money;
I give you myself before preaching and law:
Will you give me yourself?
Will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?


Dance Me To The End Of Love by Leonard Cohen

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love

Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love


The Sound of Silence, by Raymond Baughan

Here in the space between us and the world
lies human meaning

Into the vast uncertainty we call.
The echoes make our music,
sharp equations which can hold the stars,
and marvelous mythologies we trust.

This may be all we need
to lift our love against indifference and pain.

Here in the space between us and each other
lies all the future
of the fragment of the universe
which is our own.


somewhere I have never traveled, by ee cummings

somewhere i have never traveled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:

in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look will easily unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart) by ee cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without It (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
....................i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet)i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)


from The Book and the Brotherhood, Iris Murdoch

I hereby give myself. I love you.
You are the only being whom I can love absolutely with my complete self, with all my flesh and mind and heart. You are my mate, my perfect partner, and I am yours. You must feel this now, as I do.It was a marvel that we ever met. It is some kind of divine luck that we are together now. We must never, never part again. We are, here in this, necessary beings, like gods. As we look at each other we verify, we know, the perfection of our love, we recognize each other. Here is my life, here if need be, is my death.


Bertrand Russell from Marriage and Morals

It is therefore possible for a civilised man and woman to be happy in marriage, although if this is to be the case a number of conditions must be fulfilled. There must be a feeling of complete equality on both sides; there must be no interference with mutual freedom; there must be the most complete physical intimacy; and there must be a certain similarity in regard to standards of values. Given all these conditions, I believe marriage to be the best and most important relation that can exist between two human beings.

If it has not often been realised hitherto, that is chiefly because husbands and wives have regarded themselves as each other's policemen. If marriage is to achieve its possibilities, husband and wife must learn to understand that, whatever the law may say, in their private lives they must be free.


Anne Morrow Lindbergh from A Gift from the Sea

A good relationship has a pattern like a dance, and is built on some of the same rules. The partners do not need to hold on tightly, because they move confidently in the same pattern, intricate but gay, and swift and free, like a country dance of Mozart's. To touch heavily would be to arrest the pattern and freeze the movement, to check the endlessly changing beauty of its unfolding. There is no place here for the possessive clutch, the clinging arm, the heavy hand; only the barest touch in passing. Now arm in arm, now face to face, now back to back - it does not matter which. Because they know they are partners moving to the same  rhythm, creating a pattern together, and being invisibly nourished by it. The joy of such a pattern is not only the joy of creation or the joy of participation; it is also the joy of living in the moment. Lightness of touch and living in the moment are intertwined.


from Captain Corelli's mandolin, by Louis de Bernieres

Love is a temporary madness; it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of eternal passion. That is just being in love, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two


What more sweet than to live with one with whom you are united in body and mind, who talks with you in secret affection, to whom you have committed all your faith and your fortune? What in all nature is lovelier? You are bound to friends in affection. How much more to a husband or wife in the highest love, with union of the body, the bond of mutual vows and the sharing of your goods! Nothing is more safe, tranquil, pleasant and lovable than marriage.

Adapted from Erasmus On Marriagec.1500


When two individuals meet,so do two private worlds. None of our private worlds is big enough for us to live a wholesome life in. We need the wider world of joy and wonder, of purpose and venture, of toil and tears. What are we, any of us, but strangers and sojourners, wandering through the nighttime until we draw together and find the meaning of our lives in one another, dissolving our fears in each other's courage, making music together and lighting torches to guide us through the dark?

- Anthony Powell Davies


- To My Dear and Loving Husband, by Ann Bradstreet 1650

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were lov'd by wife then thee:
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can.
I prize thy love more than the whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold,
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompense



Live long and laugh loud,
Sent on singing, singing,
Smashed to the heart
Under the ribs
With a terrible love.

Joy always,
Joy everywhere --
Let joy kill you!
Keep away from the little deaths.

- Carl Sandburg


T.S Eliot To My Wife 1959

To whom I owe the leaping delight
That quickens my senses in our waking time
And the rhythm that governs the repose of sleeping time,
The breathing in unison

Of lives whose bodies smell of each other
Who think the same thoughts without need of speech
And babble the same speech without the need of meaning

No peevish winter wind shall chill
No sullen tropic sun shall wither
The roses in the rose-garden which is ours and ours only.

But this dedication is for others to read:
These are private words addressed to you in public.


SONNET XVII, by Pablo Neruda

I don't love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
therefore, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn't bloom and carries
Hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don't know another way of loving.

but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest in my hand:
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.


Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke

For one human being to love another human being that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate, the final test and proof, The work for which all other work is but preparation.

* * * * *

(He wishes for the cloths of heaven) by William Butler Yeats

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.

* * * * *

El amor nace, by Jose Marti

con el placer de contemplarse,
se alimenta
con la necesidad de verse,
y concluye
con la imposibilidad
de separarse.

Love is born
with the pleasure of looking at each other,
it is fed
with the necessity
of seeing each other,
it is concluded with the impossibility
of ever being apart.

* * * * *

"I want to be your friend forever and ever
When the hills are all flat and the rivers run dry
When the trees blossom in winter and the snow falls in summer,
When heaven and earth mix - not till then will I part from you.
- Classical Chinese Poem, author unknown

* * * * *

When two people are at one in their inmost hearts
They shatter even the strength of iron, of bronze.

And when two people understand each other in their inmost hearts
Their words are sweet and strong
like the fragrance of orchids.
--from the I Ching

* * * * *

"Married Love" by Kuan Tao-sheng (1263-1319)

translation #1:

You and I have so much love
That it burns like a fire,
In which we bake a lump of clay
Molded into a figure of you
And a figure of me.
The we take both of them,
And break them into pieces,
And mix the pieces with water,
And mold again a figure of you,
And a figure of me.

I am in your clay.
You are in my clay.
In life we share a single quilt,
In death we will share one bed.

translation #2:

Take a lump of clay, wet it, pat it,
And make an image of me, and an image of you.
Then smash them, crash them, and add a little water.
Break them and remake them into an image of you
And an image of me.

Then in my clay, there's a little of you.
And in your clay, there's a little of me.
And nothing ever shall us sever;
Living, we'll sleep in the same quilt,
And dead, we'll be buried together.

* * * * *

Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle,
and the life of the candle will not be shortened.
Happiness never decreases by being shared.

--The Buddha

* * * * *

Love is a high inducement for the individual to ripen .. to become world in himself for the sake of another person ... human love consists in this: that two solitudes protect and border and greet each other ... even between the closest human beings infinite distances
continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other against a wide sky!

Letters to a young poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke


It is for the union of you and me
That there is light in the sky.
It is for the union of you and me
That the earth is decked in dusky green.
It is for the union of you and me
That night sits motionless with the world in her arms;
Dawn appears opening the eastern door
With sweet murmurs in her voice.

The boat of hope sails along the currents of
Eternity that union,
Flowers of the ages are being gathered together
For its welcoming ritual.

It is for the union of you and me
that this heart of mine, in the garb of a bride,
has proceeded from birth to birth
upon the surface of this ever-turning world
to choose the beloved.

-- Rabindranath Tagore (translated by Indu Dutt)


You are a part of me. I do not know
By what slow chemistry you first became
A vital fibre of my being. Go
Beyond the rim of time or space, the same
Inflections of your voice will sing their way
Into the depths of my mind still. Your hair
Will gleam as bright, the artless play
Of word and glance, gesture and the fair
Young fingers waving, have too deeply etched
The pattern of your soul on mine. Forget
Me quickly as a laughing picture sketched
On water, I shall never know regret
Knowing no magic ever can set free
That part of you that is part of me.

- Frank Yerby

* * * * *

Love Song, by William Carlos Williams

SWEEP the house clean,
hang fresh curtains
in the windows
put on a new dress
and come with me!

The elm is scattering
its little loaves
of sweet smells
from a white sky!

Who shall hear of us
in the time to come?
Let him say there was
a burst of fragrance
from black branches


A Celtic Benediction

The peace of the running water to you,
The peace of the flowing air to you,
The peace of the quiet earth to you,
The peace of the shining star to you,
And the love and the care of all of us to you.


Scaffolding - Seamus Henry

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won't slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints,

And yet all this comes down when the job's done,
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.


Traditional Irish folklore Wedding Vow

Oh woman/man loved by me,
mayst thou give me thy heart,
thy soul
and body. Amen


From an old Irish poem

My love is no short year's sentence.
It is grief lodged under the skin,
Strength pushed beyond its bounds;
The four quarters of the world,
The highest point of heaven.
It is
A heart breaking or
Battle with a ghost,
Outrunning the sky or
Courting an echo.
So is my love, my passion, my devotion
To him (her) to whom I give them.


Promise between a bride and groom


To wed me, your promise I must be certain of,
so that we may live out our lives
in sweet contentment, love.


Here is my hand to hold with you,
to bind us for life
so that I'll grow old with you

Irish Blessing for a bride to her groom and vice versa:

You are the star of each night,
You are the brightness of every morning,
You are the story of each guest,
You are the report of every land.
No evil shall befall you, on hill nor bank,
In field or valley, on mountain or in glen.
Neither above, nor below, neither in sea,
Nor on shore,
In skies above, nor in the depths.
You are the kernel of my heart,
You are the face of my sun,
You are the harp of my music,
You are the crown of my company.


Celtic Traditional Vow 1

I honour your gods
I drink at your well
I bring an undefended heart to our meeting place
I have no cherished outcome
I will not negotiate by withholding
I am not subject to disappointment.

Celtic Traditional Vow 2

You cannot possess me for I belong to myself
But while we both wish it, I give you that which is mine to give.
You cannot command me for I am a free person.
But I shall serve you in those ways you require
And the honeycomb will taste sweeter coming from my hand.
I pledge to you that yours will be the name I cry aloud in the night.
and the eyes into which I smile in the morning.
I pledge to you the first bite from my meat.
And the first drink from my cup.
I pledge to you my living, and my dying, equally in your care.
And tell no strangers our grievances.
This is my wedding vow to you
This is a marriage of equals.


(from the ancient Sanskrit)

Look to this day
for it is life
the very life of life.
In its brief course lie all
The realities and truths
of existence,
the joy of growth,
the splendour of action,
the glory of power.
For yesterday is
but a memory.
And tomorrow is
only a vision.
But today well lived
makes every yesterday
a memory of happiness
and every tomorrow
a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore,
to this day.


A prayer for a wedding 11/29/63; by Joel Oppenheimer

because everyone knows exactly what is good for another
because very few see
because a man and a woman may just possibly look at each other
because in the insanity of human relationships there still may come a time we say: yes, yes
because a man or a woman can do anything he or she pleases
because you can reach any point in your life saying: now, I want this
because eventually it occurs we want each other, we want to know watch other, even stupidly, even uglily
because there is at best a simple need in two people to try and reach some simple ground
because that simple ground is not so simple
because we are human beings gathered together whether we like it or not
because we are human beings reaching out to touch
because sometimes we grow..

We ask a blessing on this marriage
We ask that some simplicity be allowed
We ask happiness
We ask that this couple be known for what it is..
And that the light shine upon it
We ask a blessing for this marriage.


Sir Philip Sidney Love's Tranquillity

My true love hath my heart, and I have his'
By just exchange one for the other given:
I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss,
There never was a better bargain driven:
My true love hath my heart, and I have his.

My heart in him his thought and senses guides:
He loves my heart, for once it was his own,
I cherish his, because in me it bides:
My true love hath my heart, and I have his.


From a Native American marriage ceremony
(Sometimes known as the Apache Blessing)

'May the sun bring you new energies by day;
May the moon softly restore you by night.
May the rain wash away any worries you may have
And the breeze blow new strength into your being.
And the, all the days of your life,
May you walk gently through the world
And know its beauty.

Now you will feel not the rain, for each will shelter the other.
Now you will feel not cold, for each will warm the other.
Now you will feel not solitude, for each will company other.
Now you are two persons, but both will lead one life.
Go now to your dwelling to enter into the days of your life,
And may your days be good and long upon the earth.



Rising sun ! when you shall shine
Make this house happy

Beautify it with your beams
Make this house happy,

God of Dawn! Your white blessings spread:
Make this house happy,

Guard the doorway from all evil;
Make this house happy,

White corn! Abide herein;
Make this house happy,

Heavy Rain! Your virtues send,
Make this house happy,

Corn Pollen! Bestow Content,
Make this house happy,

May peace around this family dwell;
Make this house happy.

* * * * * * *


May every blessing and grace be yours
May your love grow stronger and deeper with each passing year.
May joy and delight fill your home
May daily problems not vex you unduly
nor the desire for earthly possessions dominate you

May you have true friends to stay by you in joy and sorrow
And if children bless you, may they return your love
many times over.
With wise and generous hearts
May you help all to come to you in need of comfort
and may you reach a ripe age together
content for having lived a life of goodness and worth.

-Gertrude Nelson