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Wedding words

Emma Macdonald

You’ve booked the location, settled the menu, paid for the dress and decided the honeymoon location.

But what do you actually say when you’re getting married?

Your wedding is the one time in your life when the words you choose will have the potential to define your relationship. Whether you use poetry, song lyrics or prose from the heart during your vows, readings and speeches, you are setting the tone for your future together.

These words declare your love in front of friends, family and all of those you hold dear; and they have the potential to provide a dramatic centerpiece for your wedding ceremony. So it is worth spending time working out what it is that needs to be said on one of the most important days of your life.


These words can be very much stock standard if you are opting for a traditional church wedding where you have narrow parameters for personal interpretation. But if you chose a civil service, you can pretty much say what you want.

According to civil celebrant Amanda Corbett, the beauty of having a 
civil ceremony is that there are no limitations on what you can choose to say for your vows—apart from the legal requirement that the couple must say “I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, (name), take thee, (name), to be my lawful wedded husband/wife.”

Amanda, who has been a wedding celebrant for 12 years, says that in the end, couples want to deeply to express to their friends and family the qualities they love in the other.

“Most people are able to find some special words to say about the person they love,” Amanda says. “Sometimes they may need help with a few questions or suggestions and then away they go. I’ve had quite a few couples send me an email with
 a page of words and say ‘hey, this is what I want to say but I don’t know if it’s any good’. Usually, their words are wonderful and beautiful with so much meaning because they are written with the one person in mind.”


Wedding speeches are now rarely as formal as they used to be. Brides, grooms, wedding party members and mothers and fathers of the bride—all have freedom to adapt their speeches to their own personality and levels of creativity.

Speak2us consultant Sofia Majewski says the best speeches are personal and direct, do not shy away from emotion, and allow the speaker to engage in a warm conversation with the guests.

The Canberra-based TED Talks coach encourages every bride 
to have her say rather than 
letting her husband speak on her behalf. She also urges two crucial points—brevity and class.

“Hollywood has had a field day using the disastrous wedding speech as a dramatic device, and there are no excuses for couples who risk their most special day to an unreliable best man, or someone who’s going to visit 
the bar too many times to speak coherently once they are handed the microphone.”

Social media ensures you can’t hide from a wedding speech disaster these days, so prevention is your only option.

Sofia says avoid clichés such as “without further ado” and “last but not least” and to write the speech with plenty of time in order to refine and rehearse.

Keep it courteous at all times and don’t think the put-downs and embarrassing humor from the hen’s and buck’s nights will travel well in front of assembled parents, grandparents, bosses, and colleagues.

Finally, always express your thanks with genuine gratitude.


While the vows tend to be the most formal part of the service and the speeches the most informal, many couples choose readings which allow them to express themselves with words crafted by some of the world’s best wordsmiths.

There are no real rules around what can be said and couples
 can choose words from their favourite song lyrics to a passage from a novel—bearing in mind that shorter readings delivered by animated speakers will always seem more magical than 10 verses delivered in a monotone.

Award-winning poet, writer and University of Canberra Professor Paul Hetherington believes that poetry will always hold the ability to connect powerfully with people. It is sad, therefore, that we have few formal opportunities to engage with poetry, save for weddings and funerals.

At this time, we are looking for language to express our most profound feelings and most poignant human connections.

“There are many wonderful poems about love, including Shakespeare’s sonnets and Pablo Neruda’s poetry,” Professor Hetherington says. “If readers are prepared to range more widely than these famous authors, they will find beautiful and graceful love poems in many individual collections of poetry by Australian and international authors. One place to start on looking for such poems is in poetry anthologies – such as Carol Ann Duffy’s Hand in Hand: An Anthology of Love Poems.”

Poetry understands that much of the most sophisticated and important human communication is feeling one’s way towards elusive emotions; or a linguistic dance that 
links a web of connected and irreducible meanings.

And if you are more a ‘sung word’ than ‘spoken word’ enthusiast, there is nothing to stop you from borrowing the words of your favourite musical artist. Few issues inspire modern musicians to wax lyrical more than love, except, perhaps heartbreak. But stick with the love songs and you’ll be good to go.

Just remember the perfect words of John, Paul, Ringo and George, “All you need is love.”


“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”

– Pablo Neruda


“Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no, it is an ever-fixed mark.”

– William Shakespeare Sonnet 116


“If I could make a wish, I think I’d pass

Can’t think of anything I need

No cigarettes, no sleep, no light, no sound

Nothing to eat, no books to read

Making love with you

Has left me peaceful, warm and tired

What more could I ask

There’s nothing left to be desired

Peace came upon me and it leaves me weak

So sleep, silent angel, go to sleep

Sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe and to love you.”

– The Hollies


We are weaned from our timidity

In the flush of love’s light

we dare be brave

And suddenly we see

that love costs all we are

and will ever be.

Yet it is only love

which sets us free.”

– Maya Angelou


When the evening shadows and the stars appear

And there is no one there to dry your tears

I could hold you
 for a million years

To make you feel my love.

– Adele


The minute I heard my first love story, I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere, they’re in each other all along.

– Rumi

Feature image: David Campbell Imagery from Robbie and Alycia’s wedding. See more here

This article originally appeared as part of our UNVEILED print flip in Magazine: Future for Winter 2017, available for free while stocks last. Find out more about Magazine here



Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author