poem index

Wedding Poems

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The “blessed bond of board and bed” is how Shakespeare once described marriage. “It is leviathan," wrote Denise Levertov on the same subject, “and we in its belly looking for joy.” And Gregory Corso, nervously imagining his own wedding, described it this way:

     I kiss the bride all those corny men slapping me on the back
     She’s all yours, boy! Ha-ha-ha!
     And in their eyes you could see some obscene honeymoon going on—
     Then all that absurd rice and clanky cans and shoes
     Niagara Falls! Hordes of us! Husbands! Wives! Flowers! Chocolates!

What occasion calls for poetry—or inspires the writing of poetry—more than a wedding? Indeed, there is a long and rich tradition linking poetry to the marriage ceremony, beginning with the Greeks, who invented a form known as the epithalamium. This was a song in praise of the bride and bridegroom, sung at the door of the nuptial chamber on the wedding night. The song blessed the couple and predicted their happiness, often alluding to various nymphs, gods, and goddesses. The epithalamium was employed as a literary form for the first time by Sappho, who wrote:

     Raise up the roof-tree—
     a wedding song!
     High up, carpenters—
     a wedding song!
     The bridegroom is coming,
     the equal of Ares,
     much bigger than a big man.

The form was popular with Roman writers such as Ovid, Catullus, and Claudian, but it was lost until the Renaissance, when it was revived by poets like Edmund Spenser, John Donne, Ben Jonson, Pierre Ronsard, and Torquato Tasso. Spenser’s "Epithalamion" is among the finest examples of English wedding poems. Written for the author’s own wedding, the poem consists of 23 stanzas meant to represent each hour of the wedding day.

These days, however, couples tend to be much more interested in poems that can be read aloud during the ceremony than invocations of nymphs and goddesses. Whether you're looking for a poem to read for your significant other on the day of the event, or looking for a poem with which to toast the newly married couple, browse this selection of wedding poems—traditional or modern, heartfelt or humorous—perfect for any type of couple or ceremony.

For an even broader selection of poems that might fit your particular occasion, browse the poems on our wedding and anniversary occasion pages and browse poems about love; love, contemporary; and romance in the themes menu. For poems of classic courtship, modern romance, passion, or friendship, as well as books, essays, and more, visit our Love Poems page.

Traditional Wedding Poems

1 Corinthians 13:4-7, from World English Bible
Love is patient …

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways …

Love” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
We cannot live, except thus mutually …

A Red, Red Rose” by Robert Burns
O my luve’s like a red, red rose …

She Walks in Beauty” by George Gordon Byron
She walks in beauty, like the night …

Love” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
All thoughts, all passions, all delights …

The Good-Morrow” by John Donne
I wonder by my troth, what thou and I …

A Great Need” by Hafez
Out

Of Love: A Sonnet” by Robert Herrick
How love came in I do not know …

The Awakening” by James Weldon Johnson
I dreamed that I was a rose …

Endymion, Book I [A thing of beauty is a joy for ever]” by John Keats
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever …

Sonnet VII [O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell]” by John Keats
O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell …

Paradise Lost, Book IV, Lines 639-652” by John Milton
With thee conversing I forget all time …

Sonnet 116 [Let me not to the marriage of true minds]” by William Shakespeare
Let me not to the marriage of true minds …

A Ditty” by Sir Philip Sidney
My true-love hath my heart, and I have his …

Epithalamion” by Edmund Spenser
Ye learnèd sisters, which have oftentimes …

Marriage Morning” by Lord Alfred Tennyson
Light, so low upon earth …

Words Between Lovers

Variation on the Word Sleep” by Margaret Atwood
I would like to watch you sleeping …

To My Dear and Loving Husband” by Anne Bradstreet
If ever two were one, then surely we …

Now” by Robert Browning
Out of your whole life give but one moment!

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond” by E. E. Cummings
somewhere I have never travelled,gladly beyond …

Happenstance” by Rita Dove
When you appeared it was as if …

Sonnet 8 [Set me where as the sun doth parch the green]” by Henry Howard
Set me where as the sun doth parch the green …

Briefly It Enters, and Briefly Speaks” by Jane Kenyon
I am the blossom pressed in a book …

syntax” by Maureen N. McLane
and if …

Having a Coke with You” by Frank O’Hara
is even more fun than going to San Sebastian …

Falling” by Patrick Phillips
The truth is that I fall in love …

Twenty-One Love Poems [Poem II]” by Adrienne Rich
I wake up in your bed. I know I have been dreaming …

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? (Sonnet 18)” by Shakespeare
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day …

We Two, How Long We Were Fool’d” by Walt Whitman
We two, how long we were fool’d …

Dedications, Blessings & Advice to Lovers

The Love Unfeigned” by Geoffrey Chaucer
O Yonge fresshe folks, he or she …

"This Union" by Hafez
This ...

A Blessing for Wedding” by Jane Hirshfield
Today when persimmons ripen …

Epithalamion” by Rickey Laurentiis
She drew a name full of winning flesh …

From Blossoms” by Li-Young Lee
From blossoms comes …

So Much Happiness” Naomi Shihab Nye
It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness …

Epithalamion, [Happy Bridegroom]” by Sappho
Happy bridegroom, Hesper brings …

In Memoriam, Epilogue [O true and tried, so well and long]” by Lord Alfred Tennyson
O true and tried, so well and long …

A Wedding Toast” by Richard Wilbur
St. John tells how, at Cana’s wedding-feast …

Marriage” William Carlos Williams
So different, this man …

Funny Wedding Poems

A Slice of Wedding Cake” by Robert Graves
Why have such scores of lovely, gifted girls …

When a Woman Loves a Man” by David Lehman
When she says margarita she means daiquiri …

Tin Wedding Whistle” by Ogden Nash
Though you know it anyhow …

Magnolia” by Gerald Stern
The mayor, in order to marry us, borrowed …

Matrimonial Toast” by Ken White
My dear near-to-hearts, commoners and peers, miscreants …

Essays

All My Poems Are Love Poems: When Two Poets Fall in Love
Love poetry is about as old as love itself, from Homer’s vision of Penelope’s steadfastness, to the biblical Song of Solomon, to Shakespeare’s sonnets for his “Dark Lady” (or, some speculate, Dark Lord), to Keats’s love songs for his own depression. Most poets, at one time or another, write their way into the hearts of their chosen partners, but sometimes something slightly more unusual happens: two poets fall in love with each other.
read more

 

Dear Dainty Delicious Darlings
To poets such as Lewis Carroll, Paul Laurence Dunbar, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Charles Olson, Alexander Pope, Gertrude Stein, Walt Whitman, and W. B. Yeats, love letters were the means by which they could send “A hundred thousand kisses, darling!” (Joyce) or just “a hundred and eighty-two” (Carroll), whether they had been “prepared by drinking” (Pope) or written “wildly...not stopping to think” (Dunbar). Read letters to and from these poets and more.
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Poems of New Love

Invitation to Love” by Paul Laurence Dunbar
The Kiss” by Stephen Dunn
The First Marriage” by Peter Meinke
Love at First Sight” by Wislawa Szymborska

Poems of Older Love

Habitation” by Margaret Atwood
Our House” by Sophie Cabot Black
Love Comes Quietly” by Robert Creeley
Scaffolding” by Seamus Heaney
To Sylvia, To Wed” by Robert Herrick
For What Binds Us” by Jane Hirshfield
Twenty-One Love Poems [Poem III]” by Adrienne Rich
[Again and again, even though we know love’s landscape]” by Rainer Maria Rilke
"[Do you still remember: falling stars]" by Rainer Maria Rilke
"Their Secret Was" by Rumi

Passionate Love

Marriage: A Daybook” by Nicole Cooley
Tear It Down” by Jack Gilbert
You are perfect for me” by Rebecca Wolff