Widowed at the Wedding
Weddings are kind of a big deal in human society and the newlyweds are expected to live Happily Ever After together. Except sometimes, they don't. This trope is about characters whose spouses die during or just after their wedding, either naturally or violently, leaving them widowed before they were even really married and heavily traumatized for the rest of their life. The violent death variation is often used for a sudden Downer Ending, though it can be foreshadowed with It's Not You, It's My Enemies. May involve a Blood-Splattered Wedding Dress. Subtrope of Wedding Day. See also Black Widow for when the death is at the hands of the bride. Out with a Bang might also be the cause, if it's on the wedding night (and is often used if the groom is much older and might have a heart condition). May lead to The Lost Lenore and Crusading Widower. A distant relative of Retirony, and extreme form of the Cartwright Curse. Since this is a Death Trope, spoilers ahead!
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In the end of Gurren Lagann, Simon and Nia finally get married but she Disappears into Light immediately after their kiss. Notably, the bridegroom knew this would happen all along but it only made him want that marriage more. And the bride should've been dead several days before the wedding, but she was such a Plucky Girl that she kept herself alive outta sheer willpower to go through it.
- In the final chapter of Haou Airen, Hakuron is shot to death on his way to his wedding ceremony of him and Kurumi, although Kurumi is technically not a widow since he dies before the ceremony is about to begin.
- Subverted in a case of Detective Conan, since the one who poisoned a local bride-to-be is... the groom himself, as revenge because her Overprotective Dad killed his mother in an accident. Also, said bride had realized his intentions and could have not consumed the poisoned tea, but she was so depressed that she voluntarily took the poison. And she got better anyway.
- In The Princess of Death's Second Marriage, Alicia gets her nickname from the fact that during her wedding ceremony, her husband-to-be is murdered by an assassin.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pegasus' wife Cecilia dies just after their wedding, sending him to the edge of the Despair Event Horizon and setting into motion the events leading to Pegasus getting the Millennium Eye and creating Duel Monsters.
- Subverted in the Fantastic Four, when Johnny Storm married Alicia Masters ( before their relationship got retconned out of existence when the "Alicia" Johnny married was revealed to have been a shape-shifting Skrull all along). Her evil step-father the Puppet Master planed to use his mind-controlling clay to force Ben Grimm to kill Johnny the moment the judge declared them legally married; he hated the idea of Alicia marrying one of his enemies, but believed that she would inherit a substantial amount as the Human Torch's widow. However, after seeing how happy his step-daughter was, he chose not to tarnish her happiness, even if she didn't even know he was there to watch her get married.
- Bruce Wayne Jr. (Batman) in Superman & Batman: Generations was widowed shortly after the wedding when his newly-wedded wife Kara Kent (Supergirl) was killed by her brother Joel Kent.
- Superman in an alternate timeline explored by Waverider in the Armageddon 2001 crossover event became a widow shortly after his marriage to Lois Lane when a nuclear bomb created by Manheim of Intergang goes off, taking out the entire city of Metropolis, including Superman's first wife.
- All that shine as moonstone leave a discernible mark, one of the first Thorin/Bilbo fics written in the wake of Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit, uses this trope in an interesting way in that both parties already know that Bilbo will be widowed almost as soon as they're married, and this is part of why they are marrying at all.
Film — Animated
- Wreck-It Ralph: Sgt. Calhoun's husband Brad was killed by a Cy-Bug when she forgot to run a perimeter scan on her wedding day. When she marries Fix-It Felix Jr. at the end of the movie she takes extreme precautions to make sure history doesn't repeat itself.
- Fiona in Shrek, when Farquaad gets eaten by the dragon at their wedding. He got what was coming to him.
- Corpse Bride: Victoria and Lord Barkis, letting her free again for Victor.
Film — Live-Action
- James Bond is briefly married and immediately widowed in the end of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, when Blofeld tries killing him in retribution for him foiling his plans earlier but kills his wife instead. Bond is still reeling from the trauma as late as For Your Eyes Only. In another movie, Licence to Kill, Felix Leiter's wife is raped and killed on the day of their wedding, prompting Bond to go rogue on a vendetta.
- And in Casino Royale he doesn't even make it to a wedding.
- Almost happens in Kill Bill, where Beatrix Kiddo aka Black Mamba's fiance Tommy is killed during their wedding rehearsal (alongside pretty much everyone else), so technically she is not a widow and henceforth calls herself "the Bride".
- In the movie Tommy Boy, Tommy's father dies at his own wedding, presumably of a heart attack, leaving his new wife a widow. Later it is discovered that she was a scam artist who was already married.
- In High Noon, the Miller gang is due to arrive at any moment to kill Sheriff Kane, on his wedding day. Everybody, including his newlywed wife, thinks the trope is going to be played straight and beg him to flee, but Kane defies it successfully.
- In François Truffaut's film The Bride Wore Black five men make a young bride a widow on her wedding day. She takes her revenge, methodically killing each of the five men using various methods. Tarantino was asked if Kill Bill intentionally borrows key and minor details from it, but he has stated that he has never seen the movie.
- Once Upon a Time in the West has a subverted case; a man is murdered as he prepares the homestead for his bride, leaving her stranded when she comes. Everybody assumes it's their Wedding Day, but the actual wedding happened a month before the start of the story, which complicates the plans of the villains.
- In Angus, Angus's grandfather is set to marry April but he is found dead upstairs on the day of the wedding.
- In Heartbreakers Tensey dies just minutes after proposing to Max. She was apparently hoping for him to at least wait until after the wedding to die so she could get her hands on widow money.
- Private Benjamin's husband dies of a heart attack while they're making love on their wedding night.
- In the film version of Reefer Madness: The Musical, Jimmy Harper and Mary Lane imagine themselves at their wedding when Mary was shot during the gun struggle between Jimmy and Jack the dope dealer, singing the reprise of "Romeo And Juliet" while Mary dies in Jimmy's arms.
- Erast Fandorin marries at the end of The Winter Queen but his wife is killed as a retribution for him breaking his earlier promise to the late Big Bad. This event is responsible for most of Fandorin's later quirks, such as stuttering, grey-haired temples, and inability to maintain lasting relationships with women.
- In the Deryni works, Kelson is widowed at his first marriage to Sidana of Meara at the end of The Bishop's Heir. Her brother Llewell cannot accept the idea of her being married to any Haldane and later says so.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Joffrey is murdered during his wedding feast, leaving Margaery widowed for the second time—and her first husband was also killed very soon after their wedding.
- In Nemesis, Verity dies right before she is about to marry Michael Rafiel.
- In Vorkosigan Saga, this nearly happens to Miles in "Winterfaire Gifts", as an enemy of his sends Ekaterin a poisoned necklace as a wedding gift.
- Almost happened to Aunt Peace in Eight Cousins, since her boyfriend died few hours before their wedding. The poor woman almost fell victim to Death by Despair, and even when she pulled through, she never married and was always sad because of that.
- In the first Left Behind book, the Rapture takes place at the same time that a couple is getting married, and the groom (who is a Christian) is the one who gets taken up, leaving the bride without her husband. Technically he's only Ascended To A Higher Plane Of Existence, but imagine how crushed she would feel to see her husband mysteriously vanish leaving only his tuxedo behind, not to mention confused if she didn't know there was such a thing as the Rapture.
- In Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, Princess Sarene of Teod is widowed before the wedding. Her betrothal to Prince Raoden had been a Perfectly Arranged Marriage to seal a treaty between their countries, and to prevent the treaty being voided by some unexpected accident, the wedding agreement specified that should either party die before the wedding, the betrothal would be considered equivalent to marriage for all legal and social purposes. As it turns out, Raoden was Not Quite Dead, so he and Sarene get a proper wedding at the very end of the book.
- Sarene also attempts to marry someone else partway through but becomes legally, although not actually, dead mid-ceremony.
- In Summers at Castle Auburn, the Crown Prince is fatally poisoned on his wedding day, by his bride.
- In Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb, Evil Prince Regal and Bastard Bastard Galen conspire to kill Prince Verity during his wedding. Fitz manages to warn Verity in time.
- Assassin Fantastic's "Coin of the Realm" revolves around an Arranged Marriage going forward despite the fact that a competition is currently being held where whoever can assassinate the most high-profile target will become the next Royal Assassin. Ultimately, Rosalind kills her would-be husband in order to secure that title for herself.
- In Smallville, narrowly averted in two on-screen weddings - in Bride, Doomsday crashes Jimmy and Chloe's wedding and almost kills Jimmy. In Finale, Part 1, Darkseid, possessing Oliver, tried to put a gold kryptonite ring on Clark's finger, but fortunately Chloe spotted it just in time.
- In one episode of Two And a Half Men ("Fish in a Drawer"), Charlie and Alan's mother marries an older gentleman who is found dead on Charlie's bed during the wedding reception.
- In the Knight Rider episode "The Scent of Roses", Michael quits the Foundation after being shot and nearly killed on a case. He asks Stevie Mason to marry him, but right after the wedding the Criminal of the Week comes by to kill Michael and Stevie takes the bullet for him. Cue Roaring Rampage of Revenge ending with Michael nearly beating the Big Bad to death.
- In the short-lived sitcom Stacked, a woman plans to marry an elderly man for his money. Unfortunately for her, he dies during the ceremony, before their marriage was made official.
- Narrowly averted on CSI: New York, when the team discovered that an undertaker was re-selling tuxedos that had been used to dress corpses, not realizing that this was transferring toxic embalming chemicals to the purchasers. Mac and his team interrupt a wedding in progress to warn the groom to change clothes before he succumbs to his toxic tux. The previous client of the undertaker, a young bride, wasn't so lucky, however.
- In Downton Abbey, William dies just hours after his wedding due to wounds sustained at the front (this being World War One). He wanted to marry his sweetheart before he died so she could receive a widow's pension.
- In Hollyoaks, literally minutes after marrying Steph Dean and leaving the church, Max Cunningham is run over by Niall Rafferty; this also fits in with the Heroic Sacrifice trope, as Max had pushed his little brother Tom safely out of Niall's path.
- Happens in Robin Hood when Robin marries an injured and dying Lady Marian.
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Balance of Terror", two Enterprise crewmembers are right in the middle of their wedding ceremony when the Romulans trigger a red alert. The groom is killed in the ensuing hostilities, and the episode ends with the bride weeping in the chapel.
- In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Course: Oblivion", Lt. Tom Paris and Lt. B'elanna Torres get married, but they don't get to enjoy their honeymoon when B'elanna dies shortly after the wedding of acute cellular degradation and the crew find out they are all biomimetic copies of the real Voyager.
- In the first episode of the series Providence, the mother of the bride collapses from a heart attack in the middle of the ceremony, leaving her husband a widower.
- With a touch of Irony in Coronation Street. Fred was set to marry Bev but Audrey had shown interest in him, giving him cold feet. On the day of the wedding he ran off to see Audrey. After a chat, the two sorted things out and he decided he would marry Bev. Sadly he collapsed as he was leaving Audrey's house.
- In Brazilian novela Amor à Vida, just as the characters Tales and Nicole are getting married, the wedding is interrupted by another character, who reveals Tales is only marrying Nicole to inherit her fortune. The revelation upsets Nicole so much she winds up dying right there, and is buried in her wedding gown.
- Subverted in the Person of Interest episode "God Mode". One scene has a crazed Stalker with a Crush pointing a gun at a just-married couple, yammering about how if he can't have her, nobody can. A shot rings out and the gunman falls over to reveal Reese leaning out a car window, who then congratulates the newlyweds and drives off.
- In the 2000 version of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) Marty is murdered via a set-up hit and run car 'accident' (over a cliff) on his wedding day, it is actually whilst his fiancée Jeannie is awaiting him at the alter that she recieves the news.
- Subverted in the Mexican Soap Opera De frente al sol ("Straight at the Sun"). When Alicia and Alfredo are finally getting married, the groom's Evil Matriarch of a mother (who has antagonized them all the time) shows up and walks up the aisle, her purse in her hand as if she's gonna take a weapon out of it and attack... but then she just pulls her fan and calmly walks out of the church.
- Played for Laughs in One Thousand Ways Todie, where a drug-addicted bride-to-be starts sniffing on bath salts, gets high on them and her behavior becomes... increasingly erratic (including her screwing the best man) until she collapses dead at the altar.
- On Melrose Place, Sydney is killed just moments after her wedding to Craig.
- Game of Thrones: King Joffrey chokes to death after drinking poisoned wine at his own wedding to Margaery of the House Tyrell. The regicide was orchestrated by Olenna Tyrell, Margaery's grandmother.
- The aforementioned The Bride Wore Black served as inspiration for Kate Bush's "The Wedding List" in which a woman widowed at the wedding hatches her revenge.
- The title character of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor goes mad and stabs her husband Arthur, whom she was forced to marry, to death on her wedding night. Then she shows up at the reception, madly singing about her sweetheart...
- In Jekyll & Hyde, Jekyll is either shot or commits suicide upon his transformation into Hyde at his wedding, leaving Lisa/Emma as a widow. Depending on the production, this can be during the ceremony itself or at the reception afterwards.
- Invoked deliberately by Fairfax in The Yeomen of the Guard, who gets married the day he's slated to be executed so that his money will go to his widow instead of the cousin who accused him of sorcery. Things get complicated after his friends help him escape.
- There's a classic ghost story where during the reception at their home the bride, groom and their guests decide to play hide and seek. When the game is over, no one can find the bride and after searching the rest of the night they decided she must have run away. Years later the husband goes into the attic and sees an antique chest in the corner, he opens it and finds a skeleton wearing a wedding dress. His wife had hidden up here and the lid of the chest had fallen and locked her in. Her fingers are bent and twisted and her mouth is open in a silent scream.
- There an hotel by the California sea that has a gorgeous staircase, often used by brides-to-be to rehearse for the moment they'll go up the aisle. It's supposedly haunted by the ghost of an unlucky bride who, during The Roaring Twenties, died upon tripping on her dress and then falling to her death.
- There's an urban legend where a bride-to-be, feeling she looks anemic, wants to get a nice tan before the wedding. Unfortunately, she only has a week, and all the tanning salons she calls say that for safety reasons they cannot allow more than one half hour session every two days, and for the effect she wants she'd prefer to have a two-hour session every day. She gets around this by scheduling appointments at different tanning salons. A week later – voilà! A lovely tan! As she's getting ready for the wedding, though, she notices her breath has a foul odour. She doesn't have time to do anything about it, so she just pops a tic tac and is on her way. In the middle of the vows, she suddenly collapses, dead — turns out all that tanning had cooked her from the inside.
- In one possible ending of Grand Theft Auto IV, an assassin is sent to kill Niko Bellic as he attends his cousin Roman's wedding. The assassin fails to kill Niko, but Roman is shot and killed instead, leaving his wife a widow.
- In Dragon Age: Origins, this kinda happens to female City Elf player character. She is abducted during her wedding and Nelaros, her spouse, dies while attempting to rescue her.
- In the background information of Zork Zero, Lucrezia Flathead had this happen to her ten times. It's strongly implied that she was responsible for this happening, along with the deaths of her first three husbands, none of whom made it to their first anniversary.
- This trope is what kick-starts the Time Travel plot of Time and Eternity. It then happens again after all is supposedly solved. The third time, the murder is averted.
- Futurama parodies this when Bender gets a sex change to cheat at the Olympics, then later marries Calculon to scam him. When he decides he can't go through with the scam, but doesn't want Calculon to learn the truth, and can't figure out a way to back out of the marriage, Leela and the others help him stage his elaborate, overly-dramatic death at the wedding because "if there's one thing [Calculon] can handle, it's soap opera pain."
- Played for Laughs in a Robot Chicken sketch when the (rather old) groom dies of a heart attack as he and his bride leave the church. The bride expresses sorrow, and then asks if it 'still counts' as a marriage.