#NerdWedding: The Readings

Back in December, in the midst of my end-of-year review blog post, I promised to share details of the readings we had at our wedding. I’ve had a few messages and Twitter DMs since, asking me to get on with it, so here you are. More details of the wedding are available in the post linked above:

1. Excerpt from ‘The Amber Spyglass’ by Philip Pullman
Very early on in our friendship, Richard and I talked about ‘His Dark Materials’, but he had never read the books. So, one day at work (we met when we were both NPL scientists) I went up to office, handed my copies to him, and said “These are on loan, so look after them!” I remember feeling weirdly nervous at the time. I guess I should have taken that as a clue that maybe my interest in Rich wasn’t entirely platonic! Anyway, on our wedding day, my lovely friend Lindsay read the following words, and told some of her version of the Laurie & Richard story. As my closest friend in the lab, she had front row seats to the whole thing, and when things crumbled (temporarily), she was one of the people who picked me up. She also shares lots of interests with Richard (e.g. cricket and Ben Folds), so was the perfect person to read this. Unsurprisingly, Lindsay did a phenomenal job. She also gifted us with two beautiful embroidered handkerchiefs and a gorgeous print, featuring the same passage. Yes, she is great.

(Please note, the text below has been lightly edited from the original – no shade on Pullman of course. We did this because the book was unfamiliar to lots of our guests, so we wanted to keep it simple.)

Lyra said to Will, “I will love you forever; whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, 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 will 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… 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, because we’ll be joined so tightly.”

2. Neil Gaiman – Marriage Advice
I can’t remember how I came across this, but the moment I read it, I knew we had to use it. And Richard loved it too. I’m a huge Neil Gaiman fan, so I think everything he does is perfection, but in my humble opinion, this is the most romantic wedding reading out there. It’s not soppy and pretentious. There’s no hero saving a fair maiden. It is simple and egalitarian, both small and unfathomably large. Just like love. On the day, it was beautifully delivered by my awesome brother Barry (another Gaiman fan!).

This is everything I have to tell you about love: nothing.
This is everything I’ve learned about marriage: nothing.

Only that the world out there is complicated, and there are beasts in the night, and delight and pain,
And the only thing that makes it okay, sometimes,
Is to reach out a hand in the darkness and find another hand to squeeze, and not to be alone.

It’s not the kisses, or never just the kisses: it’s what they mean.
Somebody’s got your back.
Somebody knows your worst self, and somehow doesn’t want to rescue you, or send for the army to rescue them.

It’s not two broken halves becoming one.
It’s the light from a distant lighthouse bringing you both safely home, because home is wherever you are both together.

So this is everything I have to tell you about love and marriage: nothing.
Like a book without pages or a forest without trees.
Because there are things you cannot know before you experience them. Because no study can prepare you for the joys or the trials.
Because nobody else’s love, nobody else’s marriage, is like yours.
It’s a road you can only learn by walking it, a dance you cannot be taught, a song that did not exist before you began, together, to sing.

And because, in the darkness, you will reach out a hand,
Not knowing for certain if someone else is even there.
And then your hands will meet, and neither of you will ever need to be alone again.
That’s all I know about love.

3. A Lovely Love Story by Edward Monkton
This was the final reading, and it was special for reasons we didn’t expect. It’s a popular choice for weddings, and whilst we liked the sentiment, the original wording didn’t quite sit right with either of us (the woman loves shopping and the man loves things). So, we edited it to better suit our personalities and interests. We asked Richard’s sister Kate to do the honours, but unfortunately, a few months out from the wedding, she underwent serious back surgery. As a result, she and her family had to cancel their trip to London. You can imagine how devastated we all were. Rich and Kate are very close, so I was desperate to find a way to include her, and we didn’t want to give the reading to anyone else. So, we asked if she could record herself reading it, and we could play it at the ceremony. Kate agreed, and a few days before the wedding, asked for Jess’s email (the lovely event coordinator at the Royal Society of Chemistry) to send the file to, rather than sending it to us. At this point, we suspected that a surprise might be coming, but we could never have imagined what it might be. Here’s our version of the reading:

A fierce Dinosaur was trapped inside his cage of ice. Although it was cold, he was happy in there. It was, after all, his cage. Then along came the Lovely Other Dinosaur. The Lovely Other Dinosaur melted the Dinosaur’s cage with kind words and loving thoughts.

“I like this Dinosaur,” thought the Lovely Other Dinosaur. “Although he is fierce, he is also tender and he is funny. He is also quite clever, though I will not tell him this for now.”
“I like this Lovely Other Dinosaur,” thought the Dinosaur. “She is beautiful and smart and she is brave and she smells so nice. She is also a free spirit, which is a quality I much admire in a dinosaur.”

“But he can be so distant and so peculiar at times,” thought the Lovely Other Dinosaur. “He is also overly fond of playing computer games. Are all Dinosaurs so overly fond of computer games?”
“But her mind is so restless,” thought the Dinosaur. “And she is also uncommonly keen on reading books. Are all Lovely Other Dinosaurs so uncommonly keen on books?”

“I will forgive his peculiarity and his concern for games,” thought the Lovely Other Dinosaur, “For they are part of what makes him a richly charactered individual.”
“I will forgive her restless mind and her fondness for books,” thought the Dinosaur, “for she fills our life with beautiful thoughts and wonderful surprises. Besides, I am not unkeen on reading either.”

Now the Dinosaur and the Lovely Other Dinosaur are old. Look at them. Together they stand on the hill, telling each other stories and feeling the warmth of the sun on their backs.
And that, my friends, is how it is with love. Let us all be Dinosaurs and Lovely Other Dinosaurs together. For the sun is warm. And the world is a beautiful place.

But Kate didn’t just READ the words. Despite not being able to sit or stand for very long, she created a stop-motion animated video with LEGO dinosaurs, and narrated the whole thing! We cried and laughed and cried some more. It was an incredible gift, and one we’ll never fully be able to thank her for. I’ve added the video to Google Drive so you can watch it yourself. Yes, I’m the green one!

And there we have it. I know everyone says that their wedding day was special, but ours really was. Mainly because of the wonderful humans that we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by.