Marriage is one of the oldest institutions in humanity; over the centuries, it has cultivated a complex tapestry of traditions and expectations. Throughout history, women were viewed as property. Daughters were married off for better economic prospects. Even some traditions today reflect antiquated thinking.
However, the world is constantly evolving; modern couples can choose to reflect this evolution by renegotiating these traditions and subverting expectations. Feminist wedding readings, scripts, and ceremonies—which focus on equality, mutual respect, and unity—are growing more popular for this reason.
Below are 15 readings you can incorporate into your feminist wedding, such as George Eliot’s “To Be One With Each Other,” Maya Angelou’s “Touched by an Angel,” and a quote from Roxane Gay’s “Bad Feminist.” A full feminist wedding ceremony script is also provided.
Feminist Wedding Readings for a Memorable Ceremony
1. A Quote from Barbara De Angelis
The more connections you and your lover make, not just between your bodies, but between your minds, your hearts, and your souls, the more you will strengthen the fabric of your relationship, and the more real moments you will experience together.
Barbara De Angelis, a relationship consultant and author, has an important message for couples: a stronger partnership requires equal work and holistic effort from both individuals.
2. A Quote from Quentin Crisp
The formula for achieving a successful relationship is simple: you should treat all disasters as if they were trivialities but never treat a triviality as if it were a disaster.
These words are valuable for newlyweds, who might feel overwhelmed at the prospect of all the challenges married life will bring. Including this in your ceremony as a feminist wedding reading can give you some relief and guidance for the future.
3. “To Be One With Each Other” by George Eliot
What greater thing is there for two human souls,
than to feel that they are joined for life –
to strengthen each other in all labour,
to rest on each other in all sorrow,
to minister to each other in all pain,
to share with each other in all gladness,
to be one with each other in the silent unspoken memories.
This poem by George Eliot encapsulates the beauty of marriage—becoming one with your partner. Relying on one another will make it easier for you two to weather life’s storms and have a healthy relationship.
4. “I Wanna Be Yours” by John Cooper Clarke
I wanna be your vacuum cleaner
Breathing in your dust
I wanna be your Ford Cortina
I will never rust
If you like your coffee hot
Let me be your coffee pot
You call the shots
I wanna be yours
I wanna be your raincoat
For those frequent rainy days
I wanna be your dreamboat
When you want to sail away
Let me be your teddy bear
Take me with you anywhere
I don’t care
I wanna be yours
I wanna be your electric meter
I will not run out
I wanna be the electric heater
You’ll get cold without
I wanna be your setting lotion
Hold your hair in deep devotion
Deep as the deep Atlantic ocean
That’s how deep is my devotion
This poem contains a multitude of unique metaphors, painting the image of a love that is encompassing, resilient, and passionate. This reading for a feminist wedding will let your partner know that you will be there for them.
5. An Excerpt from Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex”
Two separate beings, in different circumstances, face to face in freedom and seeking justification of their existence through one another, will always live an adventure full of risk and promise.
A prominent intellectual and feminist, Simone de Beauvoir’s writings—specifically in The Second Sex—explore the history of womanhood and femininity and its subjugation to masculinity. Essential reading for feminists, including an excerpt from her work can be a powerfully symbolic act.
6. “Touched by an Angel” by Maya Angelou
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
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, a writer and activist, is widely celebrated for her transcendent and powerful works of art. The poem above speaks of the liberating and empowering quality of love, pushing us to become our true selves.
7. “Love Is Not All (Sonnet XXX)” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.
This feminist wedding reading is a traditional Shakespearean sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay. It starts off by saying that love is not the be-all and end-all of life. However, love is essential to life; once you find the right love, you would not want to trade it for anything else in the world.
8. “When You See Water” by Alice Walker
When you see water in a stream
you say: oh, this is stream
When you see water in the river
you say: oh, this is water
of the river;
When you see ocean
you say: This is the ocean’s
But actually water is always
and does not belong
to any of these containers
though it creates them.
And so it is with you.
Writer of the renowned The Color Purple, Alice Walker is an author and activist. This poem can be an empowering addition to your feminist wedding ceremony, as it tells you not to let your limits or environment define you. You define yourself. You have the power to tell your story and be who you are.
9. An Excerpt from Germaine Greer’s “The Female Eunuch”
It is often falsely assumed, even by feminists, that sexuality is the enemy of the female who really wants to develop these aspects of her personality, and this is perhaps the most misleading aspect of movements like the National Organization of Women. It was not the insistence upon her sex that weakened the American woman student’s desire to make something of her education, but the insistence upon a passive sexual role.
If you are looking for an outspoken, straightforward feminist reading for your wedding, The Female Eunuch has plenty of quotable options. The excerpt above speaks of a common misconception surrounding feminism, debunking it by saying that it is the perception of passivity that negatively affects women.
10. “Paul Robeson” by Gwendolyn Brooks
we all heard it,
cool and clear,
cutting across the hot grit of the day.
The major Voice.
The adult Voice
forgoing Rolling River,
forgoing tearful tale of bale and barge
and other symptoms of an old despond.
Warning, in music-words
devout and large,
that we are each other’s
we are each other’s
we are each other’s
magnitude and bond.
Written by the first African-American to become a poet laureate in the United States, Paul Robeson is an ode to the singer and activist whom many people from Brooks’ community regarded as a hero. The last lines remind us that no man is an island; we are equally responsible for ourselves and the people around us.
11. Lyrics from “Independent Women, Part I” by Destiny’s Child
I do what I want, live how I wanna live
I’ve worked hard and sacrificed to get what I get
The shoes on my feet (I bought ’em)
The clothes I’m wearing (I bought ’em)
The rock I’m rocking (I bought it)
‘Cause I depend on me if I want it
The watch I’m wearing (I bought it)
The house I live in (I bought it)
The car I’m driving (I bought it)
I depend on me, I depend on me
If you want a more contemporary reading for your feminist wedding script, Destiny’s Child’s anthem Independent Women, Part I is an excellent choice. You can reword and rearrange the lyrics to create a cohesive reading that flows well when spoken.
12. “If Not For You” by Joanna Fuchs
If not for you, I wouldn’t know
What true love really meant.
I’d never feel this inner peace;
I couldn’t be content.
If not for you, I’d never have
The pleasures of romance.
I’d miss the bliss, the craziness,
Of love’s sweet, silly dance.
I have to feel your tender touch;
I have to hear your voice;
No other one could take your place;
You’re it; I have no choice.
If not for you, I’d be adrift;
I don’t know what I’d do;
I’d be searching for my other half,
Incomplete, if not for you.
A romantic and sentimental choice, this poem by Joanna Fuchs talks about the overwhelming and encompassing nature of love. Finding your other half is fulfilling in all senses of the word.
13. An Excerpt from “Orlando” by Virginia Woolf
At one and the same time, therefore, society is everything and society is nothing. Society is the most powerful concoction in the world and society has no existence whatsoever.
At its core, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando is an exploration of how gender is a social construct that influences how we think and view the world. It is widely regarded as a feminist classic. The quote above can be a liberating and empowering reading for your feminist wedding.
14. A Quote from “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay
I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying—trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself.
Honest and heartfelt, this passage from Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist tells us that it is okay to be messy. You can be flawed, full of contradictions, and imperfect. That in itself is an empowering statement; as long as you are trying your best to fight for what is right, you are enough.
15. A Quote from Pearl S. Buck
A good marriage is one which allows for change and growth in the individuals and in the way they express their love.
This simple yet profound quote from Pulitzer Prize awardee and writer Pearl S. Buck reminds us that we must make room for change in a marriage. Couples must let one another grow and rediscover themselves over and over again along the way.
Feminist Wedding Script: Lovely Example
Day-of Coordinator: Everyone, please take your seat and settle down. We also ask that you put your phones in silent. The ceremony will begin in a moment.
[Processional music starts playing.]
Officiant: Good afternoon, everyone. We gather here not just to witness the union of two souls, but also to celebrate a partnership founded on equality, mutual respect, and love. Today, (partner’s name) and (partner’s name) come together as two powerful individuals choosing to walk forward hand in hand.
Officiant: [Opening remarks. They can talk about the couple and their relationship. However, this is also a fantastic opportunity to explain what feminism is and clear up any misconceptions.]
Officiant: I now invite a few of (partner’s name) and (partner’s name)’s closest friends and relatives to share some readings the couple personally found impactful.
Officiant: First, (name) will read an excerpt from (your choice of feminist wedding reading).
Reader 1: [Reading.]
Officiant: Next, (name) will read (the title of the reading).
Reader 2: [Reading.]
Officiant: Last but not least, (name) will read (the title of the reading).
Reader 3: [Reading.]
Officiant: Thank you for those wonderful and profound readings. In a world filled with histories of silence and being silenced, today we loudly declare love. (Partner’s name) and (partner’s name), as you embark on this journey, always remember that your union is a partnership. No one leads and no one follows. You move together, in tandem, as equals.
Officiant: Everyone, we now arrive at a profoundly personal moment. (Partner’s name) and (partner’s name) have chosen to articulate their promises to one another, not in words spoken by generations before them, but in their own voices, ringing with their hopes, dreams, and shared memories.
Officiant: As they bare their souls and make their commitments, I invite you to listen, not just with your ears, but with your hearts. For in these promises, you will witness the very foundation of the life they are building together. (Partner’s name), (partner’s name), the stage is yours.
Partner: [Written vows.]
Partner: [Written vows.]
Officiant: We now come to the symbolic rite of exchanging rings. These rings are circular, eternal, and without a start or end. Yet, while the ring’s form speaks to the infinite, its material is of the Earth, grounding us and reminding us of the tangible, daily choices we make in love.
Officiant: (Partner’s name) and (partner’s name), as you exchange these rings, let them serve as enduring reminders of the promises you’ve voiced today and the continuous circle of love and trust you share. Just as these rings have no hierarchy, may your love and partnership remain equal and unending.
Partners, one after the other: With this ring, I recognize our shared path, our united dreams, and our bond of equality.
Officiant: In a world that often draws lines, dictates roles, and expects conformity, today, we make a lifelong commitment to blur those lines and reshape those roles, all while celebrating the unique bond that (partner’s name) and (partner’s name) share.
Officiant: By the power vested in me by your love, respect, and unwavering commitment to equality, I now pronounce you partners for life. Seal your vows with a kiss!
[Recessional music starts playing.]
[Bridal party exits the venue.]
In short, feminism is the belief in and advocacy for women’s political, social, and economic rights, which have historically been at a disadvantage vis-à-vis men’s. However, feminism does not intend to view men as inferior; instead, it simply calls for equal access to opportunities and resources for everyone.
Having a feminist wedding means echoing these calls for equality and agency. Beyond adding feminist readings to your ceremony, reflect on ways you can reinterpret tradition to make it less dehumanizing or condescending toward women—think a modern take on the “giving away the bride” or a rewording of “You may now kiss the bride.”