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Why is Sonnet 116 read at weddings?

When it comes to choosing poetry for weddings, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 is perhaps the most popular choice in the Western world. This sonnet has become a symbolic representation of true love and eternal commitment, making it a perfect choice for couples who are ready to embark on a new journey of life together. But why is Sonnet 116 so popular and what makes it ideal for weddings? In this blog post, we will explore the background, meaning, and significance of Sonnet 116 and understand why it has become a staple at weddings.


Sonnet 116 is part of a collection of 154 sonnets written by William Shakespeare in the late 16th century. These sonnets are considered some of the most influential and widely read works of poetry in world literature. The sonnet form was popularized in Italy in the 13th century and later became a staple of Renaissance literature. Shakespeare’s sonnets are written in a specific form, consisting of 14 lines of iambic pentameter, with a specific rhyme scheme.

Sonnet 116 is one of the most famous and iconic sonnets in this collection. The sonnet was first published in 1609 in a collection of Shakespeare’s sonnets, printed by Thomas Thorpe. While the identity of the person referred to as the “fair youth” in the sonnets is not confirmed, the general consensus among scholars is that the sonnets were addressed to a young man who Shakespeare may have been infatuated with.

The Meaning of Sonnet 116

Sonnet 116 is a powerful declaration of love that transcends time, space, and earthly circumstances. The sonnet begins with the line “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.” This line sets the tone for the rest of the sonnet, implying that true love requires no obstacles or hindrances. The following lines elaborate on this sentiment, stating that love is not susceptible to time or change, that it “is an ever-fixed mark / That looks on tempests and is never shaken.”

Throughout the sonnet, Shakespeare characterizes love as an all-encompassing force that guides and steadies us amidst the uncertainties and challenges of life. He emphasizes the unchanging, permanent nature of love, describing it as “the star to every wand’ring bark,” providing guidance and direction to those who seek it. Ultimately, he concludes that love is so strong that it is not even possible to describe it in words, but rather it is “an ever-fixed mark / That looks on tempests and is never shaken.”

The Significance of Sonnet 116 at Weddings

Given the themes that Sonnet 116 explores, it is no wonder why it has become a popular choice for weddings. The sonnet’s emphasis on the steadfast and unwavering nature of true love, its unchanging commitment to the beloved, and its persevering qualities are all traits that couples aspire to at the start of a new life together. The lines “Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, / But bears it out even to the edge of doom” speak to the enduring character of true love, one that is meant to last beyond the wedding day and into the lifelong partnership of marriage.

Furthermore, Sonnet 116 resonates with people of all cultures and backgrounds, making it a unifying voice of love and commitment that transcends temporal and spatial boundaries. Whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or any other faith or creed, the sentiment of Sonnet 116 speaks to your heart, inspiring you to seek and cherish the beauty of true love.


Sonnet 116’s enduring popularity and significance at weddings is a testament to the power and influence of Shakespeare’s poetry. As couples embark on a new journey of life together, they are reminded of the steadfast nature of true love and the character traits that will help them endure through life’s ups and downs. Sonnet 116 serves as a powerful symbol of love, and a reminder that true love is eternal, strong, and unwavering. Regardless of the cultural background or faith tradition, this sonnet speaks to the heart of all couples who are ready to take the plunge into a lifelong journey of love and commitment.


Which of Shakespeare’s sonnets is most frequently used as a wedding reading?

William Shakespeare is one of history’s most famous poets and his poetic works continue to be popular today, especially as wedding readings. One of his sonnets in particular, Sonnet 116, is widely recognized as the most popular and frequently used wedding reading.

Sonnet 116 focuses on the theme of what true love is and what it should be. In the poem, Shakespeare defines love as an unchanging force that withstands time and obstacles. He states that love is an “ever fixed mark” that is not subject to change or to alteration under any circumstances. It is the one constant in life that remains true even when everything else around us changes.

The sonnet opens with the famous lines, “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.” This phrase has become an iconic opening line for wedding readings and is often recited at the beginning of many wedding ceremonies. The essence of the sonnet is to say that if two people are truly in love, then nothing can come between them, not even death.

Sonnet 116 has a simple yet powerful message; true love is not based on superficial attributes or fleeting emotions but rather on an unchanging and undying commitment to one another. It is this message that has made the sonnet such a popular choice for wedding ceremonies over the years.

Sonnet 116 is the most frequently used wedding reading of William Shakespeare’s works. It’s a poetic masterpiece that defines what true love is and what it should be, making it the perfect way to celebrate the union of two people in love.

What does Shakespeare think about marriage?

Shakespeare, the renowned English playwright, poet and actor, is known for his portrayal of love and relationships in his works. He has created some of the most iconic romantic couples in literature, and his plays and sonnets are often studied for their insights into human emotions, including love and marriage. In portraying marriages of different types and kinds in his works, Shakespeare offers a multifaceted view of the institution of marriage, its complexities, challenges and rewards.

In Shakespeare’s works, love between a woman and a man reaches its culmination in marriage, seen as a natural state of happiness. For instance, in Romeo and Juliet, the eponymous young lovers are desperate to be married, and they risk everything to tie the knot, despite their feuding families. In Much Ado About Nothing, the witty banter between Benedick and Beatrice evolves into a serious relationship that culminates in marriage. Similarly, in The Taming of the Shrew, Petruchio and Katherina’s tempestuous courtship leads to marriage, which is portrayed as a positive outcome for both.

However, Shakespeare also recognizes the challenges and complexities of marriage, and he portrays them in his works. In Othello, for instance, the marriage between Othello and Desdemona is undermined by jealousy, distrust and manipulation, leading to tragedy. In The Winter’s Tale, Leontes’ irrational jealousy leads to the breakdown of his marriage to Hermione, who is eventually presumed dead. These examples show that Shakespeare understands that love and marriage are not always smooth sailing, and he depicts the challenges that arise in relationships even when there is mutual love and respect.

Moreover, Shakespeare’s portrayal of marriage is not limited to romantic relationships alone. He also portrays a range of other types of marriages, including arranged marriages, forced marriages, and political marriages. In Measure for Measure, Claudio is pressured into marrying Juliet, the woman he has impregnated out of wedlock, as a form of punishment. Similarly, in Macbeth, Lady Macbeth’s marriage to Macbeth is based on their mutual ambition for power and status. These portrayals demonstrate how marriage can be influenced by external factors such as societal expectations, political calculations, and even coercion.

Shakespeare’S view of marriage is multifaceted and nuanced, reflecting the complexities and challenges of the institution. While he celebrates the joys of love and companionship in marriage, he also acknowledges the problems that can arise in relationships and the external factors that can impact them. Shakespeare’s works offer a rich and varied exploration of the institution of marriage, making his insights into love and relationships timeless and enduring.

What is the wedding and marriage of Shakespeare?

William Shakespeare, widely regarded as the greatest playwright and writer in the English language, was married to Anne Hathaway. Shakespeare and Hathaway were married in November 1582 and they remained married until Shakespeare’s death. The details of their wedding ceremony are not entirely known, but it is believed that it was a simple affair, with only a few witnesses present.

At the time of their marriage, William was 18, while Anne was 26. This age difference was not uncommon for that time period, as women often married later in life due to the need to establish themselves financially before entering into marriage. Anne was pregnant with their first child at the time of their marriage, which may have prompted the quick ceremony.

The couple had three children together, including a set of twins. Unfortunately, their son Hamnet died at the age of 11, leaving William and Anne devastated. Despite this tragedy, they remained together, with Shakespeare spending much of his time working in London while Anne stayed behind in their home in Stratford-Upon-Avon with their two surviving children.

Despite not being able to spend much time together, there is evidence that Shakespeare and Hathaway remained devoted to one another throughout their marriage. In his will, Shakespeare famously left his “second-best bed” to Anne, which was seen as a symbol of their strong bond and affection for one another.

William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway’s marriage began in 1582 and lasted until Shakespeare’s death. They had three children together, but tragically lost one of them. Despite spending much of their marriage apart, there is evidence that they remained devoted to one another and their marriage was a strong and loving partnership.

How does Shakespeare convey love in Sonnet 116?

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 is one of the most famous love poems in English literature. It is widely regarded as a masterpiece of romantic poetry, and is a testament to the enduring power and beauty of love. In this sonnet, Shakespeare characterises love as a permanent and unending state, describing it as an “ever-fixed mark” that is unshakeable in the face of all the trials and tribulations life might throw at it.

Throughout the sonnet, Shakespeare uses a variety of different poetic devices to convey the intensity and depth of feeling that underpins his conception of love. One of the key ways in which he does this is through the use of powerful imagery that contrasts the ephemeral nature of human experience with the all-encompassing force of love. For example, he highlights the transience of beauty by referring to “rosy lips and cheeks” that will eventually fade with time, while contrasting this with the eternal nature of true love, which will endure even as “youth and beauty fade”.

Shakespeare also uses a range of metaphors to convey the intensity and power of love. For example, he compares love to the North Star, a fixed point in the sky that has guided sailors for centuries and which remains constant and unchanging despite the shifting tides and storms of the sea. This metaphor emphasises the absolute constancy of love, and emphasises its importance as a guiding force in our lives.

Another key device that Shakespeare uses in Sonnet 116 is the use of rhetorical questions. These are questions that are not meant to elicit a direct answer, but rather to encourage the reader to reflect on the nature of the subject being discussed. By asking questions such as “What is love?” and “Does it alter when it alteration finds?”, Shakespeare encourages us to think deeply about the nature of love and its enduring power.

Sonnet 116 is a masterpiece of romantic poetry that conveys the power and beauty of love in a way that has resonated with readers for centuries. Through its vivid imagery, powerful metaphors and rhetorical flourishes, Shakespeare presents love as a force that is both unchanging and eternal, and which can guide us through the storms and trials of life.

What is the purpose of the poem sonnet?

The sonnet is one of the most famous forms in English poetry, originally developed in Italy in the 13th century. A poetic form is a type of poem, and each form has its own unique rules and is associated with particular themes. Sonnets are traditionally composed of 14 lines, and have a fixed narrative structure. Sonnets can be subdivided into two types: the Petrarchan sonnet and the Shakespearean sonnet.

The Petrarchan sonnet, also known as the Italian sonnet, typically consists of an eight-line stanza (octave) followed by a six-line stanza (sestet). The octave often presents a question or problem, and the sestet provides a resolution or answer. The Shakespearean sonnet, otherwise known as the English sonnet, consists of three quatrains (four lines) followed by a final couplet of two lines. Shakespearean sonnets often present an initial problem or premise in the first two quatrains, followed by a development or twist in the third quatrain, and a resolution or conclusion in the final couplet.

Sonnets are associated with desire, and for centuries poets have used the frame of the sonnet to explore the complicated human experience of romantic love. The sonnet is particularly suited to exploring the complexities of desire in part because of its strict form, which allows for a poet to carefully craft a structured argument or narrative. Additionally, the sonnet’s emphasis on concision allows for a poet to capture intense emotions with extreme economy of language.

The sonnet has also been used to explore other themes, including the beauty of nature, the passage of time, and the nature of mortality. Sonnets can also serve as a formal challenge to poets, who must work within a strict framework to create a compelling and emotionally resonant poem.

The purpose of the sonnet is to provide poets with a formal structure in which to explore complex emotions and themes, particularly the theme of romantic love. The sonnet’s strict form allows the poet to fashion a carefully structured argument or narrative with great economy of language, making it a powerful tool for poets. Sonnets remain a beloved and influential form of poetry, and continue to inspire poets to this day.