In most traditional wedding ceremonies, the couple is given the option of selecting a passage (or two) to be read aloud to the congregation, either by the officiant or by a chosen guest. While many couples of Christian faith default to Corinthians 1:13-14 (“Love is patient, love is kind…”) from the Bible, there are alternatives that may hold deeper meaning for the bride and groom—and their guests and relatives.
The couple may choose to have a ceremony specific to their own faith, but adding all-inclusive components to the service helps alleviate any alienation that guests or relatives who don’t practice the same religion (or any religion at all) may feel. While the most important consideration is that the bride and groom are comfortable with the substance and structure of their ceremony, making aspects of the service accessible to all guests helps unite the attendees in celebration.
From Buddhist Scripture: “Do Not Deceive, Do Not Despise”
This Buddhist passage from the Buddha’s sermon at Rahagaha is spiritually moving, with language that is not exclusive to any one faith: “Do not deceive, do not despise; Each other, anywhere. Do not be angry, and do not secret resentment bear; For as a mother risks her life; And watches over her child; So boundless be your love to all; So tender, kind and mild. Yea cherish good-will right and left; For all, both soon and late: And with no hindrance, with no stint; From envy free and hate; While standing, walking, sitting down; Forever keep in mind: The rule of life that’s always best; Is to be loving-kind.”
From Navajo Holy Texts: “You Have Lit the Fire for Life”
This beautiful Navajo wedding blessing is nondenominational and universally moving: “Now you have lit a fire and that fire should not go out. The two of you now have a fire that represents love, understanding and a philosophy of life. It will give you heat, food, warmth and happiness. The new fire represents a new beginning—a new life and a new family. The fire should keep burning; you should stay together. You have lit the fire for life, until old age separates you.”
Judeo-Christian Scripture: A Little of Both
Couples of mixed Judeo-Christian faith can consult the Old Testament of the Bible, portions of which are nearly identical to the Jewish Tanakh, to find verses that encompass values of both religions. Excerpts from the Song of Solomon are a particularly popular choice for many couples.
This reading from the Old Testament book of (also known as Ecclesiasticus) is another option for Judeo-Christian couples: “Happy the husband of a good wife, twice-lengthened are his days; a worthy wife brings joy to her husband, peaceful and full is his life. A good wife is a generous gift bestowed upon him who fears the LORD; be he rich or poor, his heart is content, and a smile is ever on his face. A gracious wife delights her husband, her thoughtfulness puts flesh on his bones; a gift from the LORD is her governed speech, and her firm virtue is of surpassing worth. Choicest of blessings is a modest wife, priceless her chaste person. Like the sun rising in the LORD’S heavens, the beauty of a virtuous wife is the radiance of her home.”
Consult the Officiant
Brides and grooms should bear in mind that while they may be open to more inclusive religions, their church or officiant may not–and in some cases, there are even rules against it. A safe way to approach this is to express to the officiant why it is important to include language that won’t alienate guests of different faiths, and if it is required to stick to the scriptures of the church’s faith, ask for assistance in finding a passage that is acceptable for both the couple and the church.