Here Are 57 of Our Fave Nonreligious Wedding Readings

These popular secular wedding readings deserve a spot in your ceremony.
An open book with the pages folded into a heart shape
Photo: Helen Rushbrook | Stocksy
Hannah Nowack The Knot Senior Weddings Editor
by
Hannah Nowack
Hannah Nowack The Knot Senior Weddings Editor
Hannah Nowack
Senior Editor
  • Hannah writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a focus on real wedding coverage.
  • Hannah has a passion for DE&I and plays an integral role in ensuring The Knot content highlights all voices and all love stories.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Hannah was the Social Media Editor at Martha Stewart Weddings.
Updated Apr 22, 2024

It's common to include excerpts from religious texts, like the Bible and the Torah, for religious a wedding ceremony. But secular weddings can use nonreligious wedding readings from just about any source for their event. However, if you and your partner are unsure about your options, you're in luck. There are plenty of beautiful and fun marriage ceremony readings that nonreligious to-be-weds can include as part of their ceremony script. Below are our favorite choices to celebrate your special moment.

Nonreligious readings you should know: What to Read at a Nonreligious Wedding | Best | Short | Funny | Modern and Contemporary | Unique

What Do You Read at a Nonreligious Wedding?

Song lyrics, poems, book excerpts (even children's books), television and movie quotes are all great nonreligious readings for weddings. Remember, you can select whatever you want––from African American wedding readings to Harry Potter quotes, your choices are endless. While religious weddings often follow prescriptive templates and scripts, your options are truly limitless if you've chosen a secular wedding ceremony. Think about what you want to say to your best friend on your wedding day and go from there.

Best Nonreligious Wedding Readings

These selections, which range from meaningful poems to literary excerpts, are among some of the best and most famous wedding readings for nonreligious ceremonies. There's no question these cute wedding readings for nonreligious couples are top-notch.

1. "Untitled" by R.M. Drake

    "You will be the clouds/ And I will be the sky./ You will be the ocean/ And I will be the shore./ You will be the trees/ And I will be the wind./ Whatever we are, you and I/ Will always collide."

    2. Every Day by David Levithan

      "This is what love does: It makes you want to rewrite the world. It makes you want to choose the characters, build the scenery, guide the plot. The person you love sits across from you, and you want to do everything in your power to make it possible, endlessly possible. And when it's just the two of you, alone in a room, you can pretend that this is how it is, this is how it will be."

      3. "Love is an Adventure" by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

        "Love is an adventure and a conquest. It survives and develops like the universe itself only by perpetual discovery. The only right love is that between couples whose passion leads them both, one through the other, to a higher possession of their being. Put your faith in the spirit which dwells between the two of you. You have each offered yourself to the other as a boundless field of understanding, of enrichment, of mutually increased sensibility. You will meet above all by entering into and constantly sharing one another's thoughts, affections, and dreams. There alone, as you know, in spirit, which is arrived through flesh, you will find no disappointments, no limits. There alone the skies are ever open for your love; there alone lies the great road ahead."

        4. Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins

          "Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won't adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words 'make' and 'stay' become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free."

          5. Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

            "'Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don't blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being 'in love', which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident."

            6. Delirium by Lauren Oliver

              "Love: a single word, a wispy thing, a word no bigger or longer than an edge. That's what it is: an edge; a razor. It draws up through the center of your life, cutting everything in two. Before and after. The rest of the world falls away on either side."

              7. "Union" by Robert Fulghum

                "Before this moment you have been many things to one another: acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, and even teacher, for you have learned much from one another in these last few years. Now you shall say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, this—is my husband, this—is my wife."

                8. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

                  "At night, there was the feeling that we had to come home, feeling no longer alone, waking in the night to find the other one there, and not gone away; all other things were unreal. We slept when we were tired and if we woke the other one woke too so one was not alone. Often a man wishes to be alone and a woman wishes to be alone too and if they love each other they are jealous of that in each other, but I can truly say we never felt that. We could feel alone when we were together, alone against the others. We were never lonely and never afraid when we were together."

                  9. Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas

                    "I no longer believed in the idea of soulmates, or love at first sight. But I was beginning to believe that a very few times in your life, if you were lucky, you might meet someone who was exactly right for you. Not because he was perfect, or because you were, but because your combined flaws were arranged in a way that allowed two separate beings to hinge together."

                    10. "Blessing of the Hands" by Unknown

                      "These are the hands of your partner, young and strong and full of love, holding your hands as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever. These are the hands that will work alongside yours as together you build your future. These are the hands that will hold you and comfort you in grief and uncertainty. These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes, tears of sorrow and joy. These are the hands that will hold your family as one. These are the hands that will give you strength. And these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch."

                      11. Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

                        "People are like cities: We all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is a postcard glimpse of a skyline or a polished square. Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn't know were there, even the ones they wouldn't have thought to call beautiful themselves."

                        12. Just Kids by Patti Smith

                          "Where does it all lead? What will become of us? These were our young questions, and young answers were revealed. It leads to each other. We become ourselves… 'What will happen to us?' I asked. 'There will always be us,' he answered."

                          13. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

                            "I have for the first time found what I can truly love—I have found you. You are my sympathy—my better self—my good angel—I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely; a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wrap my existence about you—and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one."

                            14. "Sonnet 116" by William Shakespeare

                              "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments. 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/ That looks on tempests and is never shaken;/ It is the star to every wand'ring bark,/ Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken./ Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks/ Within his bending sickle's compass come;/ Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,/ But bears it out even to the edge of doom./ If this be error and upon me prov'd,/ I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd."

                              15. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

                                "You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving. The great acts of love are done by those who are habitually performing small acts of kindness. We pardon to the extent that we love. Love is knowing that even when you are alone, you will never be lonely again. And great happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved. Loved for ourselves. And even loved in spite of ourselves."

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                                16. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

                                  "I will love you forever; whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead, I'll drift about forever, all my atoms, till i find you again… I'll be looking for you, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we'll cling together so tight that nothing and no one'll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… we'll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams… and when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won't just be able to take one, they'll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we'll be joined so tight…"

                                  17. The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach

                                    "A soul mate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we're pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we're safe in our own paradise. Our soul mate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction. When we're two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we've found the right person. Our soul mate is the one who makes life come to life."

                                    18. "A Walled Garden" by Anonymous

                                      "'Your marriage', he said, 'Should have within it a secret protected place, open to you alone. Imagine it to be a walled garden. Entered by a door to which only you have the key. Within this garden you will cease to be a mother, father, employee, homemaker or any other role which you fulfill in daily life. Here you are yourselves, two people who love each other. Here you can concentrate on one another's needs. So take my hand and let us go back to our garden. The time we spend together is not wasted but invested. Invested in our future and the nurture of our love.'"

                                      19. "She's Not Perfect" by Bob Marley

                                        "She's not perfect—you aren't either, and the two of you may never be perfect together—but if she can make you laugh, cause you to think twice, and admit to being human and making mistakes, hold onto her and give her the most you can. She may not be thinking about you every second of the day, but she will give you a part of her that she knows you can break—her heart. So don't hurt her, don't change her, don't analyze and don't expect more than she can give. Smile when she makes you happy, let her know when she makes you mad, and miss her when she's not there."

                                        20. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

                                          "Madly in love after so many years…they enjoyed the miracle of loving each other as much at the table as in bed, and they grew to be so happy that even when they were two worn-out old people they kept on blooming like little children and playing together like dogs."

                                          21. "Untitled" by Christina Rossetti

                                            "What is the beginning? Love. What the course. Love still. What the goal. The goal is Love. On a happy hill Is there nothing then but Love? Search we sky or earth There is nothing out of Love Hath perpetual worth; All things flag but only Love, All things fail and flee; There is nothing left but Love Worthy you and me."

                                            Short Nonreligious Wedding Readings

                                            Wedding readings don't have to be lengthy to be impactful, as evidenced by these short readings. Sometimes, a sentence or two, packed with poignant meaning, is the best way to leave a lasting impression on the wedding day.

                                            22. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

                                              "My mother's last word to me clanks inside me like an iron bell that someone beats at dinnertime: love, love, love, love, love… Be brave. Be authentic. Practice saying the word 'love' to the people you love so when it matters most to say it, you will."

                                              23. Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie Stiefvater

                                                "You're like a song that I heard when I was a little kid but I forgot I knew until I heard it again."

                                                24. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

                                                  "You are protected, in short, by your ability to love."

                                                  25. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

                                                    "I am nothing special; just a common man with common thoughts, and I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten. But in one respect I have succeeded as gloriously as anyone who's ever lived: I've loved another with all my heart and soul; and to me, this has always been enough."

                                                    26. Buried Light by Beau Taplin

                                                      "Home is not where you are from/ It is where you belong/ Some of us travel the whole world to find it./ Others, find it in a person."

                                                      27. "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 labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?"

                                                        28. "Love" by Sir Walter Scott

                                                          "Love rules the court/ The camp, the grove/ And man below, and the saints above/ For love is heaven/ And heaven is love"

                                                          29. "Untitled" by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

                                                            "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."

                                                            30. "Our Family" by Anonymous

                                                              "Our family is a circle of love and strength/ With every birth and every union, the circle grows/ Every joy shared adds more love/ Every obstacle faced together makes the circle stronger."

                                                              Funny Nonreligious Wedding Readings

                                                              Looking to infuse a bit of humor into your wedding ceremony? These non-religious, funny wedding readings will garner a chuckle or two from everyone on the big day.

                                                              31. "About the Man Who Began Flying After Meeting Her" by Dave Eggers

                                                                "When he met her and they liked each other a great deal, he heard things better, and in his eyes the lines of the physical world were sharper than before. He was smarter, he was more aware, and he thought of new things to do with his days. He considered activities which before had been vaguely intriguing but which now seemed urgent, and which must, he thought, be done with his new companion. He wanted to fly in lightweight contraptions with her. He had always been intrigued by gliders, parachutes, ultralights and hang-gliders, and now he felt that this would be a facet of their new life: that they would be a couple that flew around on weekends and on vacations, in small aircraft. They would learn the terminology; they would join clubs. They would have a trailer of some kind, or a large van, in which to hold their new machines and supple wings folded, and they would drive to new places to see from above. The kind of flying that interested him was close to the ground—less than a thousand feet above earth. He wanted to see things moving quickly below him, wanted to be able to wave to people below, to see wildebeest run and to count dolphins streaming away from shore. He hoped this was the kind of flying she'd want to do, too. He became so attached to the idea of this person and this flying and this life entwined that he was not sure what he would do if it did not become actual. He didn't want to do this flying alone; he would rather not do it than do it without her. But if he asked her to fly with him, and she expressed reservations, or was not inspired, would he stay with her? Could he? He decides that he would not. If she does not drive in the van with the wings carefully folded, he will have to leave, smile and leave, and then he will look again. But when and if he finds another companion, he knows his plan will not be for flying. It will be another plan with another person, because if he goes flying close to the earth it will be with her."

                                                                32. The Impressive Clergyman in The Princess Bride (1987)

                                                                  "Mawwiage. Mawwiage is wat bwings us togeder today. Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam wifin a dream… And wuv, twue wuv, will fowwow you foweva…"

                                                                  33. I Like You by Sandol Stoddard Warburg

                                                                    "I like you because you know where I'm ticklish/ And you don't tickle me there except just a little tiny bit sometimes/ But if you do, then I know where to tickle you too/ You know how to be silly—that's why I like you."

                                                                    34. "Gravitation" by Albert Einstein

                                                                      "Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love. How on earth can you explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love? Put your hand on a stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with that special girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That's relativity."

                                                                      35. So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams

                                                                        "There was a sort of gallery structure in the roof space which held a bed and also a bathroom which, Fenchurch explained, you could actually swing a cat in, 'But,' she added, 'only if it was a reasonably patient cat and didn't mind a few nasty cracks about the head. So. Here you are.' 'Yes.' They looked at each other for a moment. The moment became a longer moment, and suddenly it was a very long moment, so long one could hardly tell where all the time was coming from. For Arthur, who could usually contrive to feel self-conscious if left alone long enough with a Swiss cheese plant, the moment was one of sustained revelation. He felt on the sudden like a cramped and zoo-born animal who wakes one morning to find the door of his cage hanging quietly open and the savanna stretching gray and pink to the distant rising sun, while all around new sounds are waking. He wondered what the new sounds were as he gazed at her openly wondering face and her eyes that smiled with a shared surprise. He hadn't realized that life speaks with a voice to you, a voice that brings you answers to the questions you continually ask of it, had never consciously detected it or recognized its tones until it now said something it had never said to him before, which was, 'yes.'"

                                                                        36. The Princess Bride by William Goldman

                                                                          "Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches… I have stayed these years in my hovel because of you. I have taught myself languages because of you. I have made my body strong because I thought you might be pleased by a strong body. I have lived my life with only the prayer that some sudden dawn you might glance in my direction. I have not known a moment in years when the sight of you did not send my heart careening against my rib cage. I have not known a night when your visage did not accompany me to sleep. There has not been a morning when you did not flutter behind my waking eyelids… I love you. Okay? Want it louder? I love you. Spell it out, should I? I ell-oh-vee-ee why-oh-you. Want it backward? You love I…I've been saying it so long to you, you just wouldn't listen. Every time you said, 'Farm Boy, do this', you thought I was answering, 'As you wish', but that's only because you were hearing wrong. 'I love you' was what it was, but you never heard."

                                                                          37. The Sandman, Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones by Neil Gaiman

                                                                            "Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life … You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you."

                                                                            38. "Let Me Put It This Way" by Simon Armitage

                                                                              "Let me put it this way: if you came to lay your sleeping head against my arm or sleeve, and if my arm went dead, or if I had to take my leave at midnight, I should rather cleave it from the joint or seam than make a scene or bring you round. There, how does that sound?"

                                                                              Contemporary and Modern Nonreligious Wedding Readings

                                                                              A reading doesn't have to be from 100 years ago to be a good fit for your wedding ceremony. Here are some of our favorite modern and contemporary wedding readings for nonreligious affairs.

                                                                              39. Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City

                                                                                "His hello was the end of her endings. Her laugh was their first step down the aisle. His hand would be hers to hold forever. His forever was as simple as her smile. He said she was what was missing. She said instantly she knew. She was a question to be answered. And his answer was 'I do.'"

                                                                                40. "Highs and Lows" by Morgan Harper Nichols

                                                                                  "For the highs and lows/ and moments between/ mountains and valleys/ and rivers and streams,/ For where you are now/ and where you will go,/ For 'I've always known'/ and 'I told you so'/ For 'nothing is happening'/ and 'all has gone wrong'/ It's here in this journey/ you will learn to be strong/ You will get where you're going,/ landing where you belong"

                                                                                  41. "A History of Love" by Diane Ackerman

                                                                                    "Love. What a small word we use for an idea so immense and powerful it has altered the flow of history, calmed monsters, kindled works of art, cheered the forlorn, turned tough guys to mush, consoled the enslaved, driven strong women mad, glorified the humble, fuelled national scandals, bankrupted robber barons, and made mincemeat of kings. How can love's spaciousness be conveyed in the narrow confines of one syllable? Love is an ancient delirium, a desire older than civilization, with taproots stretching deep into dark and mysterious days… The heart is a living museum. In each of its galleries, no matter how narrow or dimly lit, preserved forever like wondrous diatoms, are our moments of loving and being liked."

                                                                                    42. Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

                                                                                      "When I say, 'I love you,' it's not because I want you or because I can't have you. It has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try. I've seen your kindness and your strength. I've seen the best and the worst of you. And I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You're a hell of a woman. You're the one."

                                                                                      43. This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

                                                                                        "No relationship is perfect, ever. There are always some ways you have to bend, to compromise, to give something up in order to gain something greater… The love we have for each other is bigger than these small differences. And that's the key. It's like a big pie chart, and the love in a relationship has to be the biggest piece. Love can make up for a lot."

                                                                                        44. Jack in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

                                                                                          "My dearest friend, if you don't mind/ I'd like to join you by your side/ Where we can gaze into the stars/ And sit together, now and forever/ For it is plain as anyone can see/ We're simply meant to be."

                                                                                          45. When Harry Met Sally by Nora Ephron

                                                                                            "I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."

                                                                                            46. Excerpt From Former Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy's Majority Opinion on Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court Case (2015)

                                                                                              "Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there. It offers the hope of companionship and understanding and assurance that while both still live there will be someone to care for the other."

                                                                                              47. The Priest in Fleabag

                                                                                                "It turns out it's quite hard to come up with something original about love, but I've had a go. Love is awful. It's awful. It's painful. It's frightening. It makes you doubt yourself, judge yourself, distance yourself from the other people in your life. It makes you selfish. It makes you creepy, makes you obsessed with your hair, makes you cruel, makes you say and do things you never thought you would do."

                                                                                                "It's all any of us want, and it's hell when we get there. So no wonder it's something we don't want to do on our own. I was taught if we're born with love then life is about choosing the right place to put it. People talk about that a lot, feeling right, when it feels right, it's easy. But I'm not sure that's true. It takes strength to know what's right. And love isn't something that weak people do. Being a romantic takes a hell of a lot of hope. I think what they mean is, when you find somebody that you love, it feels like hope."

                                                                                                48. Ted Mosby in How I Met Your Mother

                                                                                                  "Love doesn't make sense. You can't logic your way into or out of it. Love is totally nonsensical. But we have to keep doing it, or else we're lost and love is dead and humanity should just pack it in. Because love is the best thing we do. I know that sounds cheesy, but it's just true… It doesn't have to make sense, to make sense."

                                                                                                  49. David Rose in Schitt's Creek

                                                                                                    "I have never liked a smile as much as I like yours. I've never felt as safe as I feel when I'm with you. I've never known love like I do when we're together. It's not been an easy road for me but knowing that you will be there for me at the end makes everything okay. Patrick Brewer, you are my happy ending."

                                                                                                    50. "There Will Be Time" by Mumford & Sons, featuring Baaba Maal

                                                                                                      "But in the cold light, I live to love and adore you/ It's all that I am, it's all that I have/ In the cold light I live, I only live for you/ It's all that I am, it's all that I have"

                                                                                                      Unique Nonreligious Wedding Readings

                                                                                                      Alternative and fun readings for weddings that are nonreligious exist too. Below are seven your loved ones probably won't expect to hear at your wedding.

                                                                                                      51. Johnny Cash's Love Letter to June Carter Cash (1994)

                                                                                                        "But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You're the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much."

                                                                                                        52. One Day by David Nicholls

                                                                                                          "'Live each day as if it's your last,' that was the conventional advice, but really, who had the energy for that? What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wasn't practical. Better by far to simply try and be good and courageous and bold and to make a difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Go out there with your passion and your electric typewriter and work hard at...something. Change lives through art maybe. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance."

                                                                                                          53. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

                                                                                                            "You won't understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well."

                                                                                                            54. Queen in Queen & Slim (2019)

                                                                                                              "I want a guy to show me myself. I want him to love me so deeply that I'm not afraid to show how ugly I can be. I want him to show me scars I never knew I had. But I don't want him to make them go away, I want him to hold my hand while I nurse them myself. And I want him to cherish the bruises they leave behind."

                                                                                                              55. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

                                                                                                                "Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

                                                                                                                56. "By Your Side" by Sade

                                                                                                                  "Oh, when you're cold/ I'll be there/ Hold you tight to me/ When you're on the outside, baby/ And you can't get in/ I will show you/ You're so much better than you know/ When you're lost and you're alone/ And you can't get back again/ I'll find you/ Darling, and I'll bring you home"

                                                                                                                  57. I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

                                                                                                                    "Life is not a series of isolated ponds & puddles; life is this river you see below, before you. It flows from the past through the present on its way to the future."

                                                                                                                    Chapelle Johnson contributed to the reporting of this piece.

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