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How Do I Deliver the Reading at my Friend’s Wedding?

In nine days, one of my best friends, Harold, will be getting married to Christina. Long time readers know their story, and for those who don’t, you can read about it here.

In addition to being one of the groomsmen, I was also asked by the couple if I could do the honor of delivering the reading. Here is what they asked me to read:

The Invitation
by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain!I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithlessand therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day,and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Now I’m not nervous about reading out loud or in front of a bunch of people. I was one of those kids who was always volunteering to read in class because, frankly, I’m damn good at reading. I’m also not afraid of public speaking, especially at emotional ceremonies like this. When our friend Trey was killed in a car accident in 2010, I spoke at his funeral, and many of the same people who were there, will be here at Harold’s wedding, so there will be many familiar faces.

There is nothing for me to worry about, I know I’ll be fine, but I want to make this reading great for my friends. Even though I’m not shy, I don’t know if I’m the most gifted public speaker, so I have some questions I’d like you all to answer.

How big of a deal is this in comparison to other traditions at the wedding ceremony?
I know the most important part of a wedding is the open bar reception (at least that’s what’s most important to me), but is the reading a duty high up there in significance? I’ve only been to a couple of weddings, and I can’t even remember if people read something, so if any married readers can tell me how important this was in their ceremony, I’d love to hear it.

How should I read this?
It’s a beautiful piece of writing, right? The first time I read it, I had a tear in my eye at the end because of allergies, but still, these words are heavy and emotional considering the setting. The thing I appreciate most about it is the contemporary language. If I was given Shakespeare, I’d be intimidated, but since it’s not, I want to know how you all suggest I tackle it. Do I go the Obama 2004 DNC keynote address route, and try to get people up out there seat? Do I approach it like a quiet storm radio DJ who’s reading a listener’s confession email? Do I act like Larenz Tate in “Love Jones”? The work does have a poetic lift to it. Or do I get emo with it, like this:

Do I say hello before I start or just go right into it?
To acknowledge the gathering of people or not, is the question.

Should I memorize it?
It’s a reading, not a recital, so I feel like I should be seen actually reading it, but would I be showing off if I memorized it? I mean, I don’t want my head bowed the whole time. Eye contact is important here, right? Maybe I memorize it enough so I can lift my head up every now and then and at least make eye contact with the bride and groom?

Do I bring up the piece in a folder of sorts or on my iPhone
It’s 2013 people! Don’t give me that face because I’m asking this question. I’ve seen a lot of people break out the Holy Bible iPad app in service, so I don’t think this question is crazy. But what’s proper here? Should I read it from a hard copy piece of paper or my device (it will be turned off, of course) and if I bring it on a piece of paper, should it be in a folder? Y’all know unfolding a piece of paper is not sexy.

What were some of the worst wedding readings you ever witnessed?
Answer this so I know what not to do.

What were some of the most memorable readings you ever witnessed?
This isn’t about me, this is about my best friend and his bride-to-be getting married. I only want to fulfill my duties in a memorable way for them, so if any of you can recall what made a wedding reading memorable, I’d appreciate you sharing the story with me.

THE WEDDING IS IN 9 DAYS! I CAN’T WAIT!

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  • Rican

    It shouldn’t be too staged. I’m sure they asked you because they wanted it to come from you and not a “character”. It should be natural and heartfelt. If you feel most comfortable with a piece of paper or your phone (make sure it’s fully charged) I don’t think it matters one way or another.

  • monique

    that’s definitely a deep piece, jozen…and if you had your allergies act up on you when you were in the secure confinement of your own head, i guarantee they’ll flare up again when you’re in a room filled with love and good wishes for the happy couple. i don’t think memorizing it is necessary, but i would definitely try to put the reading in to perspective when you introduce yourself. what does this piece mean to them? why are they choosing it? i’m not saying to give their entire history, but maybe add in a few sentences in the beginning about how the piece relates to their journey.

    hope this helps,
    a former maid of honor 🙂

  • $282316

    I’m a divorcee and my wedding day was the absolute worst haha, so I
    may not be the best person to chime in here, but the most memorable part
    of it was my cousin’s reading. I think having a close bond and respect
    for the person reciting such sincere words definitely makes the moment
    more profound and stand-out; which I am sure is what your friends has in
    mind when they requested you to deliver the reading.

    Maybe take the Larenz Tate route because it’ll emote feelings in the audience without being a Jerry Maguire drama box.

    I
    would find it tasteful for you to greet the audience before beginning,
    offer a quick congrats to the couple, and maybe even express honor in
    being the one chosen to get the crowd going/setting the warm and fuzzy
    tone for what’s to follow 🙂 Quickly though (one minute), so as not to
    appear you are stealing the thunder of what your really up their to do
    (the recitation).

    Don’t memorize it, that seems a little extra. I
    think taking up your iPad (better than iPhone so words are
    larger/clearer/more easily readable) would be a sexy way to deliver.

    Like
    I said, my cousins reading at my wedding was definitely one of my favs,
    but I have a clear bias in this. However, I think there are a couple of
    things she did that helped strike a cord amongst the entire audience,
    not just me.

    1. The powerful, romantic excerpts she recited (which she chose) –
    “But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
    And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
    Love one another but make not a bond of love:
    Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
    Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
    Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
    Sing
    and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be
    alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver
    with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s
    keeping.
    For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
    And stand together, yet not too near together:
    For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
    And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each others’ shadow”

    “Let not the waves of the sea separate us now, and the years you have spent in our midst become a memory.
    You have walked among us a spirit, and your shadow has been a light upon our faces.
    Much
    have we loved you. But speechless was our love, and with veils has it
    been veiled. Yet now it cries aloud unto you, and would stand revealed
    before you.
    And ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”
    -The Prophet

    2.
    The delivery – she made herself vulnerable to the words, almost as if
    she’d let come other-worldly thing overcome her for the few moments she
    spoke (fluid-tongues-type-vocalizing) . It was real, it was sincere.

    3.
    The cadence – as you said, the poetic lift is important. Practice the
    tone and measure the appropriate points to inflect, project, and slow it down, etc.

    This was fun 🙂 Hope it helped, good luck!

  • http://symphoniedoux-amere.tumblr.com/ Symphonie Doux-Amère

    I’m a divorcee and my wedding day was the absolute worst haha, so I
    may not be the best person to chime in here, but the most memorable part
    of it was my cousin’s reading. I think having a close bond and respect
    for the person reciting such sincere words definitely makes the moment
    more profound and stand-out; which I am sure is what your friends has in
    mind when they requested you to deliver the reading.

    Maybe take the Larenz Tate route because it’ll emote feelings in the audience without being a Jerry Maguire drama box.

    I would find it tasteful for you to greet the audience before beginning,
    offer a quick congrats to the couple, and maybe even express honor in
    being the one chosen to get the crowd going/setting the warm and fuzzy
    tone for what’s to follow 🙂 Quickly though (one minute), so as not to
    appear you are stealing the thunder of what your really up their to do
    (the recitation).

    Don’t memorize it, that seems a little extra. I
    think taking up your iPad (better than iPhone so words are
    larger/clearer/more easily readable) would be a sexy way to deliver.

    Like I said, my cousins reading at my wedding was definitely one of my favs,
    but I have a clear bias in this. However, I think there are a couple of
    things she did that helped strike a cord amongst the entire audience,
    not just me.

    1. The powerful, romantic excerpts she recited (which she chose) –
    “But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
    And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
    Love one another but make not a bond of love:
    Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
    Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
    Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
    Sing
    and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be
    alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver
    with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each others’
    keeping.
    For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
    And stand together, yet not too near together:
    For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
    And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each others’ shadow”

    “Let not the waves of the sea separate us now, and the years you have spent in our midst become a memory.
    You have walked among us a spirit, and your shadow has been a light upon our faces.
    Much
    have we loved you. But speechless was our love, and with veils has it
    been veiled. Yet now it cries aloud unto you, and would stand revealed
    before you.
    And ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”
    -The Prophet

    2.
    The delivery – she made herself vulnerable to the words, almost as if
    she’d let come other-worldly thing overcome her for the few moments she
    spoke (fluid-tongues-type-vocalizing) . It was real, it was sincere.

    3.
    The cadence – as you said, the poetic lift is important. Practice the
    tone and measure the appropriate points to inflect, project, and slow it down, etc.

    This was fun 🙂 Hope it helped, good luck!

  • Doesn’t Matter

    It’d be more dramatic if you just jumped right into the reading without saying anything first. I like the idea of reading it like Laurenz Tate, and yes read it off a piece of paper. Wow I’m happy your matchmaking worked out for them! Question is when will you do it again?

  • GoodLuck!

    do Not use your iphone!
    it wont look smooth it’ll look last minute. It’s not formal enough for the event, and potentially distracting as you squint at the screen.