A ceremony reading can add, and also take away from, a great marriage ceremony. Picking a good reading, or choosing to not have one at all, whilst also choosing who will perform the reading, is key to having an awesome and memorable ceremony. So I thought I’d share with you some tips on how to pick your ceremony readings with me – marriage celebrant Josh Withers for The Planning Issue.

Image: Bulb Creative

In my fifteen years creating weddings I have created many ceremonies, most of my ceremonies, without a formal reading. Books, poems, songs, and movies I digest all form part of my make-up as a person and a wedding celebrant, so I’m not going to say that readings have no purpose. But if you’re going to choose to have a moment where someone reads prose to your wedding guests, I believe it should mean something.

Either the script should mean something to you as a couple, that the words and the heart behind the words, speak directly to you and your marriage.

Or the person bringing the reading is someone you want to honour and thank by involving them in your ceremony.

Starting With That Person

Before you shove someone up the front of your ceremony and make them do beat poetry at your wedding, are they a confident & competent public speaker? Will they die inside when you ask them? Because you don’t have to force someone who will deliver the words terribly onto a microphone, you’ve actually already got a great public speaker in your marriage celebrant. So instead of making your mate Tina the butt of jokes for years to come, make sure they really want to bring a reading.

Practice makes perfect, but they don’t have to go to acting school for four years to bring a reading well. Instead, I recommend they read the reading off the device or paper they will read off at the wedding, into a mirror, two or three times. The simple act of them going through the motions before the ceremony means they will be familiar with what is in their hands, the words and font on the page, and it won’t sound like they’re reading it for the first time – because they’re not.

Images: Jason Corroto Photo

Which Reading Should They Do?

If you happen to walk across a search engine these days you’ll find a million readings, and maybe they’re great. But perhaps there is something a little less “top 10 wedding readings” and a little more “you”? Think about your relationship, your values, your worldviews. What films, music, books, art have you loved? Does Huey Lewis & The News’ Power of Love opening verse and chorus speak to your love, or do Lucas’s words from One Tree Hill move you more?

Images (T-B): Daniel Chafer Photography / Bulb Creative

It’s not uncommon to open a book of poetry, modern or vintage, a book of religious scriptures, or the words from a songwriter or a scriptwriter, to find a wedding reading, so searching online will no doubt help, but there’s also our friends in large-language-model land, our artificial intelligence helpers. Could AI write the perfect personal wedding reading for you?

I prompted ChatGPT with “Can you write a medium-length wedding reading that is heartfelt but also funny about a boy and a girl from Brisbane who met at a Mcdonalds’ restaurant, fell in love on a Contiki tour through Europe, got engaged in Bali whilst on holiday, and are getting married here at Gabbinbar Homestead? The groom likes the Foo Fighters and the bride likes rom-com movies.”

Here’s what ChatGPT-4 brought back. I think it would be actually amazing with some massaging and editing for truth.

Ladies and gentlemen, family and friends, we gather here today at the beautiful Gabbinbar Homestead to celebrate the love story of a boy and a girl from Brisbane. But this isn’t just any love story; it’s a tale of two hearts, destined to meet amidst the golden arches of a Mcdonalds’ restaurant.

You see, it all began on an ordinary day when our groom, an avid Foo Fighters fan, wandered into McDonalds’ with the taste for a McRockin’ meal. Little did he know that he would find his “Everlong” in the form of a girl, a true rom-com aficionado, who also happened to have a craving for some fast food that fateful day.

As fate would have it, these two lovebirds soon discovered their shared love for adventure and embarked on a whirlwind Contiki tour through Europe. Together, they explored the cobbled streets of Paris, danced the night away in Barcelona, and gazed upon the ancient ruins of Rome. And just like in a rom-com, their love only grew stronger with each passing day, the soundtrack of their journey echoing the anthems of the Foo Fighters.

Then came Bali, an island paradise where our couple was once again swept away by the magic of love. It was here, under the warm glow of a setting sun, that our groom popped the question, and our bride, her eyes glistening with tears, said “yes” to a lifetime of love, laughter, and countless movie nights.

And so, we are here today to bear witness to the next chapter of their love story, as they exchange vows and embark on the greatest adventure of all – marriage. Just like the Foo Fighters, may their love always be “Times Like These” that they’ll never forget. And may they always remember that the best romantic comedies are the ones we write together.

As they stand before us today, ready to begin their happily ever after, let us raise our glasses to the bride and groom. To love, laughter, and the joy of finding your soulmate at a Mcdonalds’ restaurant. Cheers!

Header Image & This Image: Luke Fletcher Photo

About Josh Withers: Josh Withers creates epic marriage ceremonies for adventurous couples. He is a fun-loving, cheeky, and creative wedding celebrant who loves to make weddings memorable and meaningful. Josh believes that weddings are not just about signing papers and saying vows, but about celebrating the unique story and personality of each couple. He crafts a ceremony that reflects your style, values, and sense of humour. Josh is based on the Gold Coast, Australia, but travels around the world every week to officiate awesome weddings.

He has performed weddings in New Zealand, Fiji, Bali, Canada, Iceland, Europe, and the USA. Josh is also a podcaster, blogger, speaker, and author on all things wedding-related. He is passionate about helping couples plan their dream weddings without stress or drama. If you are looking for a wedding celebrant who will make you laugh, cry, and smile all at the same time, look no further than Josh Withers.