“Love is patient. Love is kind. You know the rest.”

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Another wedding question! It’s from Jo in Herne Hill:

My friend has asked me to do a reading at her wedding in April. It’s a church wedding, but as I am a massive atheist she has said I can do the non-religious one; however she would like me to choose something myself. In the past, I have been required to say the words ‘fondle’, ‘fart’ and ‘arse’ in wedding readings, but am not sure this sort of thing is appropriate in a house of God.

I have a degree in English Literature, but managed to get through two poetry courses without going to a single lecture and passed by writing 9000 words on nonsense verse, so I am not very well qualified and everything I have found online is twee and nauseating, or has been done to death. Help!

I CAN’T! The poems that are good for the purpose have indeed been done to death; you know why? Because most poets are
a) miserable
b) lovelorn
c) death-obsessed
d) fanatically religious
e) all of the above.

Any of these traits are incompatible with the majority of wedding ceremonies. At least with the nauseating twee poems, there’s little danger of you realising only as you clear your throat at the lectern that you’re about to read a graphic metaphor for erections and death in iambic pentameter.

I wonder why your friend is insisting you choose the reading yourself. Is it a test for you, to see how much you understand her? Is it so that she has some reason to freak out at you? Is it because she just can’t be arsed to search for one herself? (Fair enough.) At one recent wedding, the groom asked me to read a page of a biography of Bobby Fischer. Being a passage about children’s chess clubs in New York, it was in no way relevant to weddings or romance; the congregation was baffled; but my friend was happy, which of course was the primary objective.

But, if your friend indeed insists upon putting you through the literary wringer, consider recourse to prose – preferably of a more romantic, less esoteric nature than biographies of chess prodigies, but a touch of non-bawdy humour might be welcome. Alternatively, perhaps you could read the lyrics of a song that they both like? Hey, if Kylie can do it, so can you.

Readers, help Jo out: in the comments, either suggest failsafe poems that HAVEN’T been done at all the weddings, or ideas for a different sort of reading entirely. NB: the phone book, Roger’s Profanisaurus, or Penthouse Readers’ Wives are not acceptable sources.

Whatever you choose, though, choose something SHORT. There have been weddings where I’ve actually been hoping for the Oscars band to strike up just so that I could stop orating.

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3 Responses to ““Love is patient. Love is kind. You know the rest.””

  1. jen Says:

    I once heard a great reading at a wedding done from I think Winnie the Pooh – or it might of been when i was 6. It is the one with christopher robin telling Pooh what love is all about. very schmaltzy, but also unfailingly sweet.

  2. Clare Says:

    My brother asked me to do a reading at his wedding. After a long search I settled on Habitation by Margaret Atwood. For one thing, it hadn’t been done to death at other weddings I’d been to and also it didn’t explicitly address an object of adoration (I would have felt weird saying “you” in someone else’s wedding ceremony).

    Lastly, it is short. Very short. But still seems to contain an important message about the adventure you undertake when you get married and the happinesses and hardships ahead.

    http://www.readbookonline.net/read/690/10628/

  3. greg Says:

    You could read from Philip Larkin’s An Arundel Tomb.

    1. It is a poem about love that most people fundamentally do not get . They think it is nice and about love lasting eternally and so on, it is in fact a bitter how utterly hollow, fleeting and possibly non-existent real love is and how we construct a fantasy about it life can never live up to.
    2. He was also a massive atheist,
    3. It isn’t twee and it is quite beautiful even as it lays into the idea of love.(and most people don’t realise that is what he is doing)
    4. It might also be appropriate if you think the marriage wont last and is built on less than solid foundation

    Fun fact: It is quoted at the end of Jerry Springer: The Opera in it’s proper context.

    Also it was my friend’s girlfriend’s favorite poem but like most people who haven’t studied it a sufficient level she thought it was all love and niceness. That is until I went through it with her and explained.how just all that was actually subverted and how she was entirely wrong in her reading of it and I completely ruined it for her. I’m a lovely man but she needed to be corrected and I couldn’t let anyone think the wonderful Philip Larkin would write something so drearily sentimental.

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