I only sort-of joke that Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday. It is completely of your own making—who you spend the day with, how or if you celebrate, what, if any, inanimate object you choose to exchange in honor of it. It’s quite perfect, I’ll tell you what.
I get excited come this time of year. On February 22 two years back, we were engaged. So, I use that as yet another anniversary to celebrate and another day to hold dear. We need to celebrate more.
Anyway, last year this time we were in the height of planning for our wedding day. It was beautiful yet emotional time for us. A friend getting married later this year asked how to encourage yourself to enjoy this time and the day itself. Part of my cobbled-together response included choosing to focus on the things that will bring you much joy and doing your very best to not be swept up in the rest. One of these things for me was choosing a reading for our ceremony.
We are not traditional, obviously. We eloped, and that meant choosing words that somehow could convey our philosophies for life and most importantly our love and commitment to one another.
I spent months reading through websites and books waiting for something to hit. Some were too long, while others too prim. Some were too over the top in their new age philosophies for our taste, while others far too traditional. There are so, so many.
Find comfort in that, though; The perfect excerpt, one that speaks to and will invoke chills on the arms of you both, is out there. And you will find it.
A few tips that might help:
- If you are looking for something alternative, specify just that. Search things like alternative wedding readings or literary love excerpts or simply poems about love. Examples include articles like these gems:
- Peruse the comments section of the articles yielded in the search above (this is where I found ours!).
- Do not discount song lyrics, religious passages, or even poetry that is not obviously about love.
- Remember it is not a crime to use only portions of texts if you do not find the whole thing fitting, or if it is just too long.
- Oh, and if you really want to delve deep, try Brain Pickings and the Poetry Foundation.
In the end, this was one of the most special parts of the ceremony. As I said shortly after our return, there was something so world-changing about hearing those words I had found and we loved mutually come alive through the mouth of our sweet officiant.
We chose “To an English Friend in Africa” by Ben Okri. The moment I read it I knew; These beautiful words could be lifted and used as a song about our simultaneous cravings for bold, independent lives and for one another. It could be heard as a story of the road that lie ahead.
“To an English Friend in Africa”
Be grateful for freedom
To see other dreams.
Bless your loneliness as much as you drank
Of your former companionships.
All that you are experiencing now
Will become moods of future joys
So bless it all.
Do not think your ways superior
Do not venture to judge
But see things with fresh and open eyes
Do not condemn
But praise what you can
And when you can’t be silent.
Time is now a gift for you
A gift of freedom
To think and remember and understand
The ever perplexing past
And to re-create yourself anew
In order to transform time.
Live while you are alive.
Learn the ways of silence and wisdom
Learn to act, learn a new speech
Learn to be what you are in the seed of your spirit
Learn to free yourself from all things that have molded you
And which limit your secret and undiscovered road.
Remember that all things which happen
To you are raw materials
Endlessly yielding of thoughts that could change
Your life and go on doing forever.
Never forget to pray and be thankful
For all the things good or bad on the rich road;
For everything is changeable
So long as you live while you are alive.
Fear not, but be full of light and love;
Fear not but be alert and receptive;
Fear not but act decisively when you should;
Fear not, but know when to stop;
Fear not for you are loved by me.
Be joyful in your silence
Be strong in your patience
Do not try to wrestle with the universe
But be sometimes like water or air
Sometimes like fire
Live slowly, think slowly, for time is a mystery.
Never forget that love
Requires that you be
The greatest person you are capable of being,
Self-generating and strong and gentle-
Your own hero and star.
Love demands the best in us
To always and in time overcome the worst
And lowest in our souls.
Love the world wisely.
It is love alone that is the greatest weapon
And the deepest and hardest secret.
Be grateful for life as you live it.
And may a wonderful light
Always guide you on the unfolding road.