Charles (Grant) is a charming but gaffe-prone thirtysomething whose friends are getting married one after the other, with him as the most likely candidate to be best man. He has come to find attending weddings unbearably tedious, and he himself remains single (or, as an ex-girlfriend of his puts it, a "serial monogamist"). His circle of closest friends - his brother David (David Bower), his flatmate Scarlett (Charlotte Coleman), siblings Fiona (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Tom (James Fleet), and partners Matthew (John Hannah) and Gareth (Simon Callow) - are likewise all unmarried for various reasons.
One day, at yet another wedding, Charles meets Carrie (Andie MacDowell), and he has a one-night stand with her. When he meets her again at another wedding, he begins to think she might be the right one. Unfortunately, she's now engaged to someone else...
A one-off special catching up with the characters 25 years later, entitled "One Red Nose Day and a Wedding", aired as part of 2019's Comic Relief telethon. An American web miniseries based on the film with the same name was released that year from Hulu as well.
The film contains examples of:
- The Alleged Car: Charles and Scarlett both drive piles of scrap posing as cars; Charles' car has tape on the windscreen and won't start when they're late for the first wedding, while Scarlett's rust-covered late 1970s Mini supposedly has a top speed of 40 mph, and although Charles is able to top that on the way to the church, the car is very audibly struggling.
- Ambiguously Bi: Fiona, when a guest at Bernard and Lydia's wedding wonders if the reason she isn't married is because she is a lesbian (finding it a more interesting follow-up than "Haven't met the right chap?"), admits, "Well, I was a lesbian once at school, but only for about fifteen minutes." and it's left unclear if she's attracted to women or it was just a one-time thing.
- Author Appeal: Oh, Richard Curtis, with your clumsily adorable Hugh Grant characters and your alluring American women and your quirkily awkward dialogue and your minor social crises.
- Babies Ever After:
- The bride and groom from the first wedding, Angus and Laura, have become parents by the end of the film (Laura having been three months pregnant on their wedding day).
- Charles and Carrie have a daughter in the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue.
- By the time of "One Red Nose Day and a Wedding", the bride and groom from the second wedding, Bernard and Lydia, have six children.
- Best Woman: Scarlett is wearing a tuxedo at Charles' wedding, indicating that she's one of his groomsmen.
- Bilingual Backfire: Surprisingly averted when Charles and David converse in sign language in front of Carrie, making derogatory remarks about her fiance and complimentary ones about her breasts. One watches the scene expecting that any minute now, Carrie will reveal that she also knows sign language and has understood everything, but this never happens.
- Birth/Death Juxtaposition: Gareth suffers a fatal heart attack at Carrie's wedding.
- Bury Your Gays: Guess who gets the funeral? Curtis deliberately made up for this in the Red Nose Day sequel with Charles and Fiona's daughters getting married, plus Matthew has even been able to move on and is happily married himself.
- But Not Too Gay: Matthew, Gareth's partner, is referred to as his "closest friend" at his funeral, presumably to avoid offending those who didn't know the true nature of their relationship or the church officials who would have shunned them if they did.
- The Cameo: The bumbling priest at the second wedding is played by Rowan Atkinson.
- The Casanova: Inverted. The one who happens to have done the most sleeping around (and is quite casual about it) is Carrie rather than Charles.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Charles (and, in some cases, Scarlett) drops several of these.
- The film's first dialoguenote involves over a dozen repetitions of the word as Charles and Scarlett realise they've overslept, Charles gets hit in the back of the head by his braces while getting partially dressed, his car won't start (forcing them to take Scarlett's car, which nominally only does 40 mph), they miss their exit and have to reverse toward an oncoming lorry to get back onto it, and the zip on Scarlett's dress gets stuck. And yet when the bride arrives, Charles shifts gears to "Bugger!"
- Another series of F-bombs falls when Charles and Scarlett oversleep again on the day of the second wedding, make an unsuccessful attempt at waiting for a taxi to pass by, decide to take Scarlett's car only to find it clamped, and then have to run through the streets of London to get to the wedding on time.
- And although Charles is on time for the fourth wedding, he still takes it upon himself to drop another series of F-bombs when Carrie shows up and reveals that her marriage didn't work out and she's single again.
- Cordon Bleugh Chef: Gareth. "The recipe for 'Duck à la Banana' fortunately goes with him to his grave."
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Fiona, to some extent.
- Disposable Fiancé:
- Henrietta is psychotic and so Charles is apparently right to ditch her at the altar.
- Hamish is a pompous stiff and much older than Carrie. Good riddance.
- The Ditz: Scarlett.
- Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Henrietta punching out Charles at the fourth wedding of the film, her and his wedding, after he confesses that his love is still for someone else. Charles may have had it coming, no doubt, but imagine if genders were reversed however and ask, would it have been nearly as funny? Slightly toned down by the fact that it's not played solely for comedy and Henrietta is portrayed as being in the right to do so, as even her in-universe detractors (like Fiona) point out how spurning someone at the altar is an unforgivable thing to do.
- Dreadful Musician: The amateur duo at the first wedding; Gareth spends their entire performance writhing in agony, miming sticking his fingers down his throat to induce vomiting, etc. They're even listed as "Frightful Folk Duo" in the credits. One of them, Nicola Walker, returns in "One Red Nose Day and a Wedding", this time accompanied by Sam Smith - and they're still both credited as "Very Bad Singer".
- Empathic Environment: It's gloomy and rainy the day of the funeral and pouring after Charles' aborted wedding, though that later turns romantic.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: There are four weddings and a funeral.
- Experimented in College: Fiona. "I was a lesbian once at school, but only for about fifteen minutes."
- Fairytale Wedding Dress
- Foreshadowing: At the fourth wedding: "When someone asks you a question, just say "I do."
- Fourth Date Marriage: Bernard and Lydia hook up at the first wedding. Theirs, the second, takes place only three months later.
- Friendship as Courtship: Bernard and Lydia marrying within three months of getting together is tempered by the fact that they've apparently known each other for years, just not romantically.
- Friendship Moment: Several of those take place among Charles's circle of friends.
- Gay Best Friend: Gareth seems to serve this purpose to everyone in Charles' group of friends, especially since he's the oldest and most experienced in life. By the third wedding, he actively encourages everyone to find their future mate, and they all take it heart, finding their spouse by the film's conclusion. Not only that, he and Matthew are the only ones in the group in a happy and stable relationship, the kind of relationship that the others are hoping for—Charles outright refers to them as "a perfect match. If we can't be like them, maybe we should just let it go."
- Gilligan Cut: Paired with Sexy Discretion Shot. Charles escorts Carrie back to her hotel after the second wedding. She invites him in for a drink, with them both swearing that that's all that will happen. Cut to a sunrise and the two of them lying in bed.
- Hand Signals: Charlie converses with his deaf brother David in sign language. This lets them make derogatory and inappropriate remarks about others without others knowing.
- Happily Married: Although not legally so because they're a gay couple, this is essentially the case with Gareth and Matthew. Enough for Charles to say to Tom, "If we can't be like them, what's the point?", indicating that their relationship truly serves as an inspiration to the others.
- Hollywood Heart Attack: Gareth.
- Hooked Up Afterwards: Every couple who was dating or just met towards the film's conclusion is shown getting married in the epilogue.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: A rare non-animated example: Scarlett is about two-thirds the height of her eventual boyfriend.
- I Need to Go Iron My Dog: Tom tries his luck with a guest at the third wedding by saying that some people meet their future spouses at weddings. She replies that she met her husband at a wedding - so Tom downs the rest of his drink in one gulp and excuses himself by saying he needs to refill his glass.
- I'm Standing Right Here: Charles and his exes are joking about one of his other exes—"Miss Piggy and her mother was Mrs. Piggy!"—when the woman in question—who's been sitting next to Charles the whole time—angrily snaps "We've both lost a lot of weight since then!"
- Insatiable Newlyweds: Bernard and Lydia can't even wait until the end of the reception at their wedding to embark on a marathon sex session - which is unfortunate for Charles, who is already in the room and has to hide in the bathroom. Eventually, he gives up waiting for an appropriate moment to leave and simply appears holding a pencil and exclaiming "Found it!" before beating a hasty retreat. It seems marriage doesn't dull Bernard and Lydia's sexual appetites either—he happily admits to being "exhausted" when they arrive at the fourth wedding, and they have six children by the time of "One Red Nose Day and a Wedding".
- Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Averted with Charles' brother David. Despite his deafness, he's portrayed as completely normal, just as snarky and raunchy as his hearing counterparts (if anything more so, because he and Charles can be incredibly rude about people who are standing in front of them, by means of sign language). He's also Charles' confidant and guide, but it's not his deafness that makes him smart; he's just like that.
- Ironic Echo: About to be married to Henrietta, Charles is advised "When someone asks you a question, just say "I do." Later, at the altar:David: [signing] Because, Charlie - this is for the rest of your life. Finally, you've got to marry the person you love with your whole heart. And by the way, your flies are undone.Vicar: What's he saying?Charles: He says...he suspects the groom loves someone else.Vicar: Do you? Do you love someone else? Do you, Charles?Charles: [long pause] ...I do.
[Henrietta shrieks with rage and punches him in the face.]
- Irony: After the titular four weddings (the final of which is aborted) Charles asks Carrie is NOT marrying him is something she's like to do for the rest of her life.
- It Always Rains at Funerals: Played straight.
- It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Since Bernard, the groom at the second wedding, comes from an aristocratic family, his second middle name, St John, is pronounced "sinjen". Gerald, the vicar, pronounces it as written, though Bernard uses the correct pronunciation when he "repeats" it; the second time, the vicar mumbles something that sounds like "Siddle", and the third time, he skips Bernard's middle names entirely.
- Kissing Cousins:
- One of Carrie's lovers was her cousin.
- At the end, Tom ends up married to a distant cousin.
- Last-Second Word Swap: Tom has to correct himself quickly regarding the existence of a stag night before the fourth wedding.George: Bit of a poor show you not having a stag night.
Tom: We did! We did... We didn't think it was a very good idea in this day and age.
- Life of the Party: Gareth throws himself full tilt into the dancing at the first three receptions.Matthew: [to Charles as he watches Gareth gyrating wildly at the first wedding] I remember the first time I saw Gareth dancing. I feared lives would be lost.
- Lost Wedding Ring: At the first wedding, Charles, as the best man, realizes at the last minute that he's forgotten to bring the rings. Of his friends, only Scarlett has some rings she can spare, so Laura, the bride, ends up with a multicoloured plastic heart ring, while Angus, the groom, ends up with a winged skull ring. In "One Red Nose Day and a Wedding", Laura is still wearing her ring.
- Love at First Sight: Charles tells Carrie that he loved her the moment he saw her. Earlier, after the funeral, Tom tells him that he never expected "the thunderbolt", but that's precisely what happens when he meets his distant cousin and future wife at Charles' wedding.
- Lover and Beloved: Gareth appears to be 15-20 years Matthew's senior (there's a 13 year age difference between the actors).
- Malaproper: The priest at the second wedding makes a number of verbal blunders ("awful wedded wife" for "lawful wedded wife", etc.).
- Master of the Mixed Message: It's really hard to tell what Carrie wants from Charles during the movie, between sleeping with him, leading him on and marrying another man.
- Meaningful Background Event: If you watch carefully, you can see Gareth looking ill for several minutes before he finally collapses.
- Next Thing They Knew: Charles and Carrie flirt a bit while sharing a drink, but swear nothing more will happen. We then cut to them lying in bed together the next morning.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Tom fully admits to this. He comes across as a complete buffoon at the first two weddings, but takes charge when Gareth collapses at the third wedding and runs interference at the fourth wedding.Tom: The great advantage of having a reputation for being stupid: people are less suspicious of you.
- Oh, Crap!: Charles at wedding #2's reception when he realizes he's been seated at a table populated entirely with his exgirlfriends (and the current boyfriend of one of them). He gets another when they start telling each other all the not particularly nice things he said about them after he had broken up with them.
- Poor Communication Kills: Charles commits a massive gaffe at Wedding #1 when he runs into a friend, John, whom he hasn't seen in ages, and asks after his "gorgeous girlfriend". John says she's no longer his girlfriend, and Charles says that's probably just as well, as rumour had it she "never stopped bonking Toby de Lisle". A shocked and angry John explains that she's now his wife. When we later see him at the reception, his facial expression suggests that the seeds of doubt have been well and truly sown in his mind.
- Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Henrietta. The rest of Charles' former girlfriends look like this from his perspective when he has to sit with them at the wedding, in his personal circle of Hell. However, they're only repeating his previous indiscreet comments, so it can be seen as Laser-Guided Karma.
- Really Gets Around: Carrie lists all her former lovers (more than 30), which takes quite some time.
- Romantic Rain: The movie ends with the lovers finally getting together in the pouring rain.Charles: There I was, standing there in the church, and for the first time in my whole life I realized I totally and utterly loved one person. And it wasn't the person next to me in the veil. It's the person standing opposite me now... in the rain.Carrie: Is it still raining? I hadn't noticed.
- Running Gag: Charles oversleeps and shows up late at every wedding he's invited to. His friends make absolutely sure he's on time for his own.Fiona: [as Charles barrels into the church at the first wedding, seconds ahead of the bride] There is a sort of greatness to your lateness.
Charles: Thanks, it's not achieved without real suffering.
- Second Love: Matthew is seen with a new partner during the closing montage, obviously very happy.
- Sequel: 2019's Comic Relief special, starring Lily James as Charles and Carrie's daughter, and Alicia Vikander as Fiona's daughter — the two get married in a mini redemption for the Bury Your Gays in the movie.
- Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace:
- Averted at Carrie's wedding; Charles walks in right when the priest says the line, and Carrie turns her head in anticipation, but perhaps because he didn't hear the line, Charles doesn't say anything, and the wedding goes on as planned.
- Played straight by David at his brother Charles's wedding. David is actually deaf, and Charles must translate for everyone else what he says in sign language. Cue an Armor-Piercing Slap from the spurned bride.
- Sucks at Dancing: That great wedding tradition of energetic but absolutely horrendous dancing at the reception is on full display at Wedding #1. When the happy couple take to the floor for the opening number, Elton John's "Crocodile Rock", Laura is decent, but Angus looks like he's never even heard music before. Similarly awful performances are given by Tom and Scarlett, but what all of them lack in rhythm and grace, they make up for in enthusiasm. And then there's Gareth, who is in a class of his own; Matthew drily tells Charles that the first time he saw Gareth on the dance floor, he "feared lives would be lost."
- Sympathetic Adulterer: Despite apparently being happy with her fiancé, Carrie cheats on him with Charles without a second thought or a shred of remorse, which the viewers are supposed to be okay with as Charles and Carrie are the end game plan. The only person to call her out on her behavior is Charles himself, and even that's more about how she treated him.
- Tactful Translation: When Charles and Carrie run into his deaf brother while out shopping. Charles and his brother proceed to converse in sign language, with Charles making derogatory comments about Carrie's fiance (he's in love with her) and his brother making complimentary ones about her breasts. All the while, Charles is telling her that they're offering congratulations.
- Upper-Class Twit: Tom. When Charles jokes that his family is England's richest, Tom corrects him: they're only seventh. He's also dim-witted (though this is at least partly Obfuscating Stupidity), as exemplified by his exchange with fellow upper-class twit Bernard after the first wedding:Tom: [taking photos of the wedding party outside the church] Splendid, I thought! What did you think?
Bernard: I thought, splendid! What did you think?
Tom: Splendid, I thought!
- Wardrobe Malfunction: As Charles and Scarlett sprint through the streets of London to get to Wedding #2, part of Scarlett's bridesmaid dress falls off; Scarlett tells Charles to leave it. When she takes her place to head into the church for the ceremony, we see that the part that fell off was a giant bow on the back; without it, there is a huge gap in the fabric that exposes her underwear.
- Weddings for Everyone: Everyone, interestingly, but Charles and Carrie.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The ending shows all of Charles' group of friends—even Henrietta!—as Happily Married and he and Carrie with a baby.