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Sample Poems, Prayers and Readings

Return to the Guide to Wedding Ceremonies for Interfaith Couples.

 

Sonnet XLII, Sonnets from the Portuguese

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints--I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.


Song Of Songs 2:8-10, 14, 16a; 8:6-7a

I hear my Beloved.
See how he comes
leaping on the mountains,
bounding over the hills,
My beloved is like a gazelle,
like a young stag.

See where he stands
behind our wall. He looks in at the window,
He peers through the lattice.

My beloved lifts up his voice,
he says to me,
"Come then, my love,
my lovely one, come.

My dove hiding in the clefts of the rock,
In coverts of the cliff,
show me your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet
and your face is beautiful."

My beloved is mine and I am his.
He said to me:
"Set me like a seal on your heart
Like a seal on your arm.
For love is strong as death,
Jealousy relentless as Sheol.
The flash of it is a flash of fire,
A flame of the Lord himself."
Love no flood can quench
no torrent drown.


Hosea 2:21

And I shall betroth thee unto me forever,
Yea, I will betroth the unto me in righteousness,
And in loving kindness and in compassion;
And I shall betroth thee unto me in faithfulness.
-submitted by Rabbi Miriam S. Jerris


Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
when there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand,
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


Sonnet XVII from Cien sonetos de amor

By Pablo Neruda

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you, so close that your hand on my chest is my hand, so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.


Reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians (two versions)

I Corinthians 12:31-13:8a

1. Be ambitious for the higher gifts. And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.
If I have all the eloquence of men and women or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing.
If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all mysteries and knowing everything, and if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but am without love, I am nothing.
If I give away all I possess, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but am without love, I gain nothing.
Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous or selfish, it does not take offense and is not resentful.
Love takes no pleasure in other people's sins, but delights in the truth. It is always ready to excuse, to trust and to endure whatever comes. Love does not end.
There are in the end three things that last: Faith, Hope and Love; and the greatest of these is Love.

2. If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.


From Romans 12:9-11

Let love be without pretense. Hate what is evil, hold to what is good. Love one another with fraternal charity, anticipating one another with honor.
-submitted by Rabbi Miriam Jerris


Responsorial Psalm

Based on Jeremiah 29:11 and 31:3, Isaiah 54:10, Micah 6:8, and I John 4:12

READER: I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have called you and you are Mine.
RESPONSE: I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have called you and you are Mine.
READER: It is God who speaks: The mountains may depart, the hills may be shaken, but my love for you will never leave you and my covenant of peace with you will never be destroyed.
RESPONSE: I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have called you and you are Mine.

READER: I know the plans I have in mind for you, plans for peace, not disaster, reserving a future full of hope for you.
RESPONSE: I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have called you and you are Mine.

READER: What is good has been explained to you. This is what God asks of you--only this: to act justly, to love tenderly, to walk humbly with your God.
RESPONSE: I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have called you and you are Mine.


Apache Marriage Poem

Now you will feel no rain,
for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you feel no cold,
for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no more loneliness,
for each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two persons,
but there is only one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling to enter into
the days of your togetherness.
And may your days be good
and long upon the earth.


From Al-Fatiha (The Opening), the Holy Qur'an

In the name of God, the infinitely Compassionate and Merciful.
Praise be to God, Lord of all the worlds.
The Compassionate, the Merciful. Ruler on the Day of Reckoning.
You alone do we worship, and You alone do we ask for help.
Guide us on the straight path,
the path of those who have received your grace;
not the path of those who have brought down wrath, nor of those who wander astray.
Amen.


Psalm 128

Happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in God's ways.
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive
shoots around your table.
Thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.
The Lord bless you from Zion. May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
May you see your children's children. Peace be upon Israel!


From The Little Prince

By Antoine de Saint Exupery

The little prince saw a rose garden. "You are not at all like my rose," he said to the flowers. "No one has tended you and you have tended no one."

"You are beautiful, but you are empty," he explained. "To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you. But in herself alone my rose is more important than all the hundreds of other roses: because it is she that I have watered … because it is she that I have sheltered … because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose."

The little Prince understood that it is his commitment to his rose that makes it so important. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tended.


Nuptial Blessing

Let us ask God for his continued blessing on the bride and the groom: Lord, may your fullest blessing come upon them so that they may together rejoice in your gift of married love. May they be noted for their good lives and be parents filled with virtue. May they be glad that you help them in their work and know that you are with them in their need. May they reach old age in the company of friends and family.

 


Always Love Each Other

By Larry S. Chengges

If you can always be as close and happy as today,
Yet be secure enough to grow and change along the way.
If you keep for you alone your love as husband and wife,
Yet find the time to share your joy with others in your life.
If you can be as one and walk through marriage hand in hand,
Yet still support the goals and dreams that each of you have planned.
If you dare to always go your separate ways together,
Then all the wonder of today will stay with you forever.


Proverbs 30:18

There are three things too wonderful for me;
Yea, four I cannot fathom I cannot see;
The way of an eagle in the air,

The way of a serpent upon a rock,
The way of a ship in the midst of the sea,
And the way of a man with a woman
and a woman with a man.

The way of men and women.
Struggling with self and other, the I and the not-I,
seeking that elusive shadow within
sometimes by aimlessly wandering without.
But the work of a spouse
is not to be the shadow of the other,
but to help the other be who that person truly is.
We tend to seek out reflections of ourselves to love
and are sorely troubled when the other person fails to mirror our needs,
our desires and our truths.
But true union begins when we look
beyond the mirror of self-absorption
to see who we have met on his or her own terms.
-submitted by David Roller

The Guide to Wedding Ceremonies for Interfaith Couples is also available in PDF and Word formats.

Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation. Hebrew term, synonymous with Jerusalem.
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