Shakespeare themed wedding day

Why not have a Shakespeare themed wedding?

Are you a Shakespeare addict? Do you relish his romances? Swoon over sonnets? If so, it’s only natural to add a little of The Bard’s magic to the biggest romance of all: your wedding. Whether you choose to quote his writing directly, or just to use Shakespearean romance as your underlying wedding theme, let the world’s most famous playwright add a little glamour to your special day.

Romantic Shakespeare Readings

Whether you write them into your vows or save them for the ultimate wedding speech, Shakespeare quotes can come in handy in quite a few places on your wedding day. Engrave your favorite romantic quotes on cards to go along with wedding favors, or use quotes with decorative lettering as the basis for literary-themed centerpieces. You may also want to include some in the wedding program. There are hundreds of beautiful lines in The Bard’s work, but here are a few to get you started.

In the mood for a classic? Take a few lines from Sonnet 116, which has been delighting brides and grooms since 1609. It begins, “Let me not to the marriage of true minds / admit impediments.” The sonnet compares love to the North Star, guiding couples through tempests without wavering. If you’re looking for a healthy affirmation of love as a strong, unshakable force in the universe, this is your sonnet. 

Even though “Romeo and Juliet” ended poorly, their whirlwind romance still produced some beautiful quotes. Dazzle your partner with romantic lines like:

One fairer than my love! the all-seeing sun

Ne’er saw her match since first the world begun.

(Act I, Scene 2)

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,

My love as deep; the more I give to thee,

The more I have, for both are infinite. 

(Act II, Scene 2)

But my true love is grown to such excess

I cannot sum up sum of half my wealth.

(Act II, Scene 6)

If you’re hoping for something a little more succinct, no one sums it up like Shakespeare in “All’s Well That Ends Well”: “A heaven on earth I have won by wooing thee.” 

Elizabethan wedding Customs

Want to feel like you’re living in Shakespeare’s time? It helps to use some modern imagination if you’re tempted to throw an historically-accurate Elizabethan wedding. These were usually arranged for the benefit of family status, rather than for love. Instead of meeting for the first time on your wedding day, as some unlucky couples did, you can instead capture the excitement of seeing your future spouse with a “first look” photography shoot. If you want to give an extra nod to Elizabethan custom, you can have miniature paintings or photographs taken of yourself and arrange for go-between friends to exchange pictures with your partner before the ceremony. These will make quirky decorations for your future home when hung side by side. 

Elizabethan marriages depended heavily upon the custom of the dowry, which was essentially a payment the wife’s family made to the husband for taking her off of their hands. This business transaction, which could be paid in money, land, or even farm animals, made the bride part of her groom’s property. While this custom doesn’t go over too well in today’s society, you can still see echoes of it in modern wedding rituals (such as the bride’s family being expected to pay for the majority of the wedding). If you want to turn the idea of the dowry into something a little more equal-opportunity and playful, you can each give a present to your partner’s parents as a way of thanking them for their “contribution” of such a fine person to your marriage.

Celebrate your wedding with an elaborate wedding feast in true Elizabethan style. A great emphasis was placed on presenting exotic and decorative dishes. If you can find a butcher’s shop that sells peacock in your area, you can serve this rich Elizabethan delicacy. If you can’t find peacock, roast a whole goose or turkey and decorate it with peacock feathers. Birds were often served adorned with their own feathers as an extravagant garnish. Don’t forget loaves of hearty peasant bread and sauces rich with pomegranates, sugar plums, and saffron. Serve plenty of ale (home brews are nice touches), since Elizabethans had trouble finding clean water and drank mead, wine, and ale instead.

If you want alternatives to a white wedding dress, you’re in luck. White wasn’t in vogue yet in Shakespeare’s time. Instead, opt for colors like red, green, blue, yellow, or tan–anything achievable with natural dyes. For true special occasions, wealthy brides would wear costly fabrics like satin or velvet. 

Using Shakespearean Themes

Let your imagination run free; Shakespeare certainly did. Snuggle up with your spouse-to-be and a few copies of your favorite plays, and pick out your favorite elements. Do you love the whimsy of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream?” You can hold your wedding in a picturesque forest clearing and dress your flower girls in fairy wings. Do you rejoice at the scene in “Much Ado About Nothing” where everyone marries their true loves? Serve an extravagant Sicilian wedding feast. Incorporate as much or as little Shakespeare as you like into your proceedings; remember, it’s your wedding, and all’s well that ends well.