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
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.