How to choose wedding readings (of the non-cheeseball variety)

Guest written by Humanist Wedding Celebrant (and personal bezzie) Prudence Fassnidge

“Love is patient, love is kind…” 

“Love is a temporary madness…” 

“I will love you forever; whatever happens. Till I die and after I die…”  

We’ve all been guests at wedding ceremonies where we’ve watched someone’s poor sister or uni mate clamber up to a podium and awkwardly recite off the same reading that Google coughed up for the last ten weddings we attended. 

I’m a humanist celebrant, and humanist ceremonies are all about personality and storytelling. So I can’t help but feel that every choice you make about your ceremony should be seen as an opportunity to be yourselves and do things a little differently. Your readings are a great vehicle for this – they can set the tone for the ceremony, and maybe introduce your friends and families to something beautiful they haven’t heard before. 

Here are my top tips for choosing your wedding readings: 

Make it personal 

The readings that resonate the most are the ones most authentic to you and your partner. Get creative – could you choose lyrics from that song you danced to in your kitchen that night? Could you find a passage from that novel you both love? Is there a monologue from a play you saw together or a film you’ve enjoyed? One of my brides guaranteed originality by writing one of her readings herself. Another one of my couples asked their readers to write something bespoke (with editing rights established first…) 

What are you trying to say? 

The classics are classics for a reason, but they don’t say anything about you as a couple. What message are you trying to get across? What do you believe to be true about love, about marriage, about ‘forever’? Decide this before you start researching your readings, and you’ll find ones that convey your beliefs and values. 

Set the tone 

Do you want your ceremony to feel romantic and traditional? Or are you looking for a more light-hearted and relaxed ceremony? You can choose readings that are sweet and sincere, or comedic and irreverent – and this vibe will spill over into your whole ceremony. And just because it’s a wedding doesn’t mean you can’t be silly or your guests can’t have a belly laugh. You do you. 

Pick a public speaker 

Think carefully about who is best suited to read – wedding readings are a lovely way to give loved ones a role in your day, but do also factor in public speaking skills. I know you adore your shy best friend from pre-school, but they may be better suited (and utterly relieved) to be given a more low-key role, and you’ll save everyone a lot of cringing. I’d also advise getting a good fit between reader and reading – if you’ve gone for something funny, choose somebody who can deliver the punchline. If you have lots of vivacious and hilarious people to choose from and you don’t have enough readings to go around, consider grouping people for a reading and divvying it up.  

Less is more 

Couples often ask me how many readings they should choose – my advice is two or three, no more than a minute or two in length. Keep them punchy to keep people’s attention. If you’ve found lots of pieces that you love, consider incorporating them elsewhere – write them on your programme, weave them into your vows or even include them in your speech. 

Make it yours 

You may stumble upon a reading that is almost perfect, but you’re uncomfortable with a religious or spiritual element. As a humanist celebrant I never let this stop me – make the tweak, and as long as you reference in the ceremony that it’s an abridged or adapted version, it’s perfectly ethical.  


Can’t find anything you like? Unsure about readings at all? Don’t have them! Humanist ceremonies are all about breaking traditions and creating new ones. You can keep your ceremony short and simple, with no added fluff. Or if you’re an ‘actions speak louder than words’ kinda couple, there are lots of other options – live music, a hand-fasting, a sing-along with all your guests, or one of many other symbolic gestures. 

Get in touch if you’d like to chat through your ideas! Wishing you all the best for your big day. 

About Prudence…

I'm a humanist wedding celebrant and massive fan of anything that deviates from 'the norm'.

I was inspired to become a humanist celebrant after having my own humanist wedding and, through the process of co-creating my ceremony, becoming extremely jealous of how cool my celebrant's job was. Four years later and many weddings down the line, I'm thrilled to say it's now not only my job but my absolute passion.

My couples choose me for my deeply personal style - I will invest in getting to know you both as individuals and as a couple, so we can share your story authentically with your guests and celebrate everything that has brought you to this huge day! If you have ideas that you worry are too bonkers for a wedding ceremony (I guarantee, they're not) or if you know you want something a bit different but you need some help with inspiration - I'm your person.

A huge thank you to Prudence for writing this gorgeous and super helpful article for me! I have had the pleasure of not only capturing her own wedding (and some of her many family members!) but of also witnessing her work and can safely say she is remarkable at her job. If you want to create a beautiful, fun and genuinely gorgeous celebration for your ceremony, I CANNOT recommend her services highly enough! Go check her out:

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