Follow TV Tropes


Film / My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Go To
"Nice Greek girls are supposed to do three things in life: marry Greek boys, make Greek babies, and feed everyone... until the day we die."
Toula Portokalos

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a 2002 romantic comedy film written by and starring Nia Vardalos, based on her one-woman show of the same name. It was directed by Joel Zwick and produced by Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson.

Toula Portokalos is a single thirty-year-old Greek-American woman living with her parents and brother in a close-knit Chicago Greek community and working in the family's Greek restaurant. They even have a Greek statue in their front lawn and proudly emblazoned the Greek flag on their garage door. Deciding to invigorate her life, she breaks out on her own to go to college and start working at a travel agency. She also gets a makeover, taming her wild hair and getting contacts.

In this new lifestyle she meets the handsome, charming but non-Greek Ian Miller. They fall for each other and decide to get married. Her dad does not approve; how could she possibly marry a non-Greek?

Nevertheless, things get sorted out and a huge and very Greek wedding is planned...

Hilarity Ensues.

It was followed up by a TV sitcom, My Big Fat Greek Life, which only lasted seven episodes.

A sequel, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, was released in March 2016 and focuses on the wedding of Gus and Maria who find out they were never legally married.

A third film My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 was filmed in 2022 in Greece and released in September 2023.

Provides examples of:

  • An Aesop: Accept yourself and others.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: The 1st film has Nick, Toula's younger brother, who is immature but he has a tight relationship with Toula and she is more annoyed with Athena, her older sister, than not. The second film has Paris's younger cousins serving this role when they aren't acting like mini versions of Gus.
    • Nikki and Angelo act antagonistic towards one another, except when Angelo finally comes out as gay and with his partner.
  • Artistic License – Religion: Shortly after Ian and Toula become engaged, he gets baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church. While the church would gladly accept adult converts, the Church typically requires that the candidate go through membership classes regarding the theology and mores of the Church to ensure that the candidate still wants to convert, as well as to prepare them for what's to come. The candidate is then typically baptized on a major feast day, such as (Orthodox) Easter. This process is very similar to Catholic converts undergoing RCIA classes.
  • Authority in Name Only: In the third film, when the Portokalos family return to Gus's old village, their initial guide Victory is revealed to be essentially the mayor of the town, but it's swiftly explained that Victory basically voted for themselves in an election with only one voter, so the other villagers just go with it because there are so few of them left and none of them can be bothered taking the job themselves.
  • Award-Bait Song:
    • The second film has Rita Wilson singing "Even More Mine"—which she also co-wrote.
    • For the third film, she and now 15 time Academy Award nominee Diane Warren provided a far more straightforward example with "Oli Mazi (We Are All Together)"—sung by Wilson along with Greek singer Christos Mastoras.
  • Babies Ever After: Toula ends up having a child at the end.
  • Bad "Bad Acting":
    Voula: Oh. Woe to me. Business is bad.
  • Batman Gambit: Toula and her mother manage to convince her father that her getting a job is his idea.
  • Beautiful All Along: Toula turns out to be quite good looking when she puts some effort into her appearance.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Despite being Toula's younger brother, Nick loves giving Ian a hard time, and making sure the latter knows he's fiercely protective of her.
  • Bilingual Backfire: In the sequel, after Nick mildly insults Ian in Greek, he's stunned when Ian responds in Greek as well. Since he's been married to Toula for a long time, he probably picked up some Greek.
    • Happens again when Gus tells his brother Ian's "okay for an Anglo." Ian fires right back with "You're okay for a grouchy old man." Gus is stunned for a moment before breaking into laughter.
  • Bilingual Bonus: In all its regal (and, as "I have three testicles" indicates, not-so-regal) splendor.
  • Black Sheep: Toula, who isn't very into her Greek ancestry and sees it more as a burden than something to celebrate. A late scene shows that her brother Nick has some similar thoughts, but he's not as vocal about it.
  • Brain Bleach: When Gus gets stuck in the bathtub in the sequel, and Ian and his brothers-in-law have to help him out, Toula immediately gets a towel before anyone does anything, mentioning to Ian how he'll "never unsee that" if he gets a look at Gus' privates
    • And when it all goes terribly wrong, Toula calls an ambulance anyways, and Ian and the brothers are sitting outside looking haggard, taking a swig from a bottle of liquor.
      Ian: [Almost catatonic]... I can still see it...
  • Canon Discontinuity: My Big Fat Greek Life was only really in Broad Strokes continuity with the first film (evident in the lead characters having their names changed from Toula and Ian to Nia and Thomas respectively), and was ignored altogether by the second.
  • Character Development: A tiny one for Ian; in the sequel he's learned enough Greek to know when the family is trolling him. That means he can roast them right back.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Gus's ability to turn any word, regardless of whether it has a Greek origin or not, into a Greek word sort of pays off, when he realizes the surname "Miller" sounds quite a bit like the Greek word for apple, milo, whereas their last name, Portokali means orange. In other words, while they are distinctly different, they're all still fruits. It's his absurd and rather charming way of bridging the gap between cultures and coming to terms with the fact that his daughter is marrying a xeno, and that his future son-in-law is actually a pretty good guy.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: In the first movie it's mentioned that Nikki has a husband and Angelo has a girlfriend. In the sequel, Nikki is implied to be single (given how she flirts with a couple guys) and Angelo in an apparently long-term relationship with another man.
    • To be fair, though, the events of the second film take place at least seventeen years after the first, and it is explicitly stated that the travel agency and the dry cleaners have closed, so it is possible Nikki got divorced and Angelo and his girlfriend broke up and he realized (or admitted to himself) that he was gay in the intervening time.
  • Close-Knit Community: Toula's extended family all know each other's business and are very close.
  • Closer to Earth: Toula's mother, compared with her father. When Toula announces she's getting married, her father has a Heroic BSoD while her mother tries to convince him nothing's wrong with it.
  • Cool Big Sis: Toula serves as this role to Nick, inspiring him to take college courses in art, before that they always had a close relationship.
  • Chicago: The setting, albeit not the sets (see California Doubling).
  • Converting for Love: Ian, to Greek Orthodoxy. Since Toula's Church isn't used to adults converting, he is baptised in a kiddie-pool.note 
  • Cultural Posturing: There is nothing that Mr. Portokalos can't trace back to Greece. Even kimonos.
  • Does He Have a Brother?: One of Toula's lesser seen cousins asks this about Ian at the wedding (he doesn't, and he only has one cousin, in contrast to Toula's large family).
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Toula, when she first sees Ian. Later Ian when he sees Toula in the tour office, leads to a brutal beatdown by an old lady.
  • Engagement Challenge: Resulting in Converting for Love, as it's the only way Toula's father will consent.
  • Fairytale Wedding Dress: Toula's dress, even though with the veil it looks overdone.
  • The Film of the Play: The film is an adaptation of a one-woman play written by and starring Nia Vardalos.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: We're given a short dating montage before Ian and Toula decide to get engaged. It's a little unclear exactly how much time passes.
  • From the Latin "Intro Ducere": The father frequently claims that he can show the Greek root of any word. He makes it up as he goes.
  • Funny Foreigner: Toula's family is extremely Greek, which is played for all the laughs it can get.
  • Fun with Foreign Languages: Toula's brother and cousins have fun giving Ian the wrong Greek phrases.
  • Genre Savvy: Maria Portokalos knows her kids quite well and sees how things are unfolding well ahead of everyone else. In a comedic example, when Nick tricks Ian with a Trolling Translator moment, she immediately gives Nick a Dope Slap, even though she didn't know that Nick told Ian to say what he said.
  • Glad You Thought of It: The best way to get Gus' consent is to let him think it was his idea.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: Part of Toula's makeover involves ditching her glasses for contacts.
  • Got Me Doing It: Toula is horrified with herself when in the sequel she says, "Why would you leave me?" about Paris going to college, the way her father protested to her attending computer courses.
  • Greasy Spoon: The Portokalos establishment is an excellent example of a Greek-American diner in the city.
  • Happily Married:
    • Toula's parents. Probably Ian's parents.
    • And Ian and Toula, as shown in the Distant Finale.
  • Hilarity Ensues: Every time Ian's family tries to interact with Toula's.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Toula complains in her voice-over: "My cousins have two settings: loud and louder". A few minutes later she proceeds to yell at her sister.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: "I'll kill you and Make It Look Like an Accident." Toula's male relatives are probably just messing around with Ian. Probably.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Toula's reaction to her giant-white-cupcake of a wedding dress. "I'm a snow beast!" And the bridesmaids' dresses are even worse.
  • It Runs in the Family: Toula is the only sane Portokalos.
  • It's All About Me: Gus' attitude. When Toula wants to take a few classes, he starts crying about her leaving him. When she gets engaged, he says (emphasis not added), "How can she do this to me?"
  • Ivy League for Everyone: In the sequel. While NYU is not officially an Ivy League school, it is still competitive and very tough to get into. Same applies to Northwestern, the school that Toula and Ian initially pushed Paris to attend.
  • Lucky Charms Title: My Big Fat Grssk Wedding?
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Even though Toula and Ian are both white, her father is initially upset to find her dating a non-ethnic Greek and refer to him as "xeno" ("alien", "outsider"). It takes a while, and Ian trying to integrate into the family's culture, for them to accept him.
  • Meaningful Name: Portokali (πορτοκάλι) is Greek for "orange." Toula's father makes an Incredibly Lame Pun on the resemblance of Ian's name (Miller) to the Greek word for apple (μήλο, milo). Get it?
  • Never Mess with Granny: The ouzo-guzzling grandmother is somewhere between this and Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!. On the night before Toula's wedding she gives Toula her wedding garlands and shows her some other keepsakes and photos, whereupon we learn that I Was Quite a Looker.
  • Never Trust a Trailer. One of the trailers for the sequel makes mention of a wedding without saying who it's for, with Paris wearing a white dress to her Prom, many people, without having watched other trailers that made it clear that it was Gus and Maria's wedding, assumed Paris was the one getting married.
  • No Antagonist: The central conflict of the first movie is more about the culture clash between American and Greek values than it is between any two people. Toula's dad Gus is the closest thing this film gets to a bad guy, but he loves Toula and wants what's best for her. It just takes a little convincing before he's on board, and grows to like Ian after a time. At his worst, Gus is an Anti-Villain, and that's really stretching it.
  • No True Scotsman: Gus's brother in the second film lambasts him for moving to America and says that proves he isn't "a real Greek".
  • Not So Above It All: In the sequel, even Ian would rather have his daughter attend college in the city rather than go to New York.
  • Nuclear Family: Greek Americans don't believe in it. At least not the Portokalos. Truth in Television for many immigrants.
  • Odd Name Out: Almost all of the young family members have the name (or variation) of Anita (including Athena and Angelo), Diane or Nick (including Nikki). The outsider? Toula.
    "Costas, Nick, Nick, Nick, Costas..."
    "And I am GUS!"
    • This is pretty much Truth in Television for Greek families, since the eldest boy and girl in each branch of the family are usually named for their grandparents (giving you multiple cousins with the same names), but other children don't fit this pattern so they often have more unique names.
  • Old Maid:
    • Toula is only 30, but her parents seem to think she needs to get married right away. Her father started calling her old at FIFTEEN! This is Exaggerated Truth in Television, as any child of Greek immigrants will tell you. It's a pretty common attitude in the Eastern Mediterranean that any woman over 25 who isn't married is an embarrassment to the family.
    • In the sequel he calls Paris old at seventeen.
  • One-Steve Limit:
    • Aversion: Unlimited Nicks.
    • Very many instances of Nikki.
    • This is partly Truth in Television, as Greek children are traditionally named after their grandparents—and with only four grandparents to go around among the huge number of grandkids, there's going to be some overlap. Obviously it doesn't usually get that bad, but still.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Toula, Voula, Nick, Nikki, etc aren't actual Greek names; rather, they're affectionate pet names that can derive from a number of given names. For example, Toula is a shortening of "Fotoula".
    • this another Greek custom btw as it is fairy common to people to only be know by their nicknames, even bosses and their employers, though it is not universal Cyprus, wich has Greek Cypriot population, does not do that as ofent but it is still there sometimes.
  • Parental Hypocrisy: A running theme in the second film.
    • Toula moans "Why do you want to leave me?" when Paris tells the family she wants to head to college out of state, a callback to when Toula told Gus that she wanted to take college courses.
    • At the wedding in the second film, Maria asks "Who said that a woman has to be married?" and Toula yells "You! All our lives!" with her older sister Athena nodding in agreement and annoyance.
  • Parents Are Wrong:
    • Toula's father wants her to be traditional and marry a "nice Greek boy". He's also opposed to her getting any advanced education, because she's already "smart enough for a girl". He eventually relents on both fronts. This inspires Toula's brother to pursue a career in art, despite his father's dismissive attitude.
    • Toula and Ian are forced to admit this when Paris reveals she doesn't want to go to Northwestern University, which is in the city after they pushed her to apply for schools in Illinois. She wants to go to NYU, an Ivy League on the East Coast. While they are saddened, Toula admits that she wanted to give her daughter the opportunities she didn't receive; she and Ian help Paris move into her New York dormitory.
  • Pillow Pistol: Toula mentions that her grandmother still sleeps with a knife under her pillow.
  • Pursue the Dream Job: Toula, in her early thirties, decides to invigorate her life, going to college and starting to work at a travel agency.
  • Racist Grandma: Toula's grandmother despises Turkish people. To judge from her age, this is probably a result of World War I. Sadly, certain events of that time explain a lot about her attitude. Television airings cut all of her "ugly Turk" dialogue, which makes for some awkward dialogue jumps (like Grandma walking in, almost immediately hitting her son, and Toula's voice-over explaining that they told her the war was over).
  • Real Men Eat Meat: Ian is a vegetarian and Toula's family is naturally shocked by this. Leads to a funny exchange:
    Voula: What do you mean, he don't eat no meat?...That's okay, that's okay. I make lamb. note 
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Toula and Ian become this in the sequel about Paris wanting to go to college in New York. Despite being crushed that she wants to move away from them and become independent, they support her decision and help her move in, with the entire family joining for a loud goodbye.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: At a family level: the Portokalos are totally red, while the Millers are totally blue. Part of the movie's Rule of Funny is that the Millers are as much of an extreme portrayal of "boring" WASPS as the Portokalos are of Funny Foreigner Greeks. The only exceptions are the protagonists, Toula and Ian, who are nowhere near as extreme as the rest of their families.
  • Running Gag: Gus Portokalos thinks Windex is the solution to everything. Becomes a bit of a Brick Joke at the end of the film when Ian sprays some on a wedding-day zit and it actually works.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: At the start, Toula's dad believes she should do this. As the film progresses, it appears to be more of "stay in the enclave", and applies to his son as well: Greeks hang out with Greeks, marry Greeks, work at the family business, and so forth.
  • Straight Gay: His mother's intuition and his confirmation is the only hint we get that Angelo is gay in the sequel.
  • Tactful Translation: Unimpressed with Ian's attempt to wish him a happy Easter—"Cheestro Nasty!", meant to be Χριστός ἀνέστη (Christos Anesti, meaning "Christ is Risen!")—Gus mutters in Greek, "My people were writing philosophy when your people were still swinging in trees." At Ian's confused look, Toula says, "He likes you."
  • Technologically Blind Elders: The 2nd film plays this for comedy regarding Gus, when Toula and Nick are even seen fighting each other over who'd lose and have to teach their father basic computer search functions. Averted with the elderly women in their family, which includes Gus's mother, are advanced enough to use Face Time and play games.
  • There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: "...Greeks, and everybody else who wish they were Greek."
  • Trolling Translator:
    • This is Ian's Running Gag; in one memorable scene, he asks how to say "Dinner's ready!" in Greek, but the phrase he's told actually means "I have three testicles!"
    • In one instance, Nick tricks Ian into telling Toula's mother, "Nice tits." She immediately turns and slaps Nick upside the head.
  • Truth in Television: As any Greek-American who's seen the film will readily tell you, along with pretty much anyone from Southern Europe, especially the Balkans.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy:
    • Well, Toula is a woman - but the same concept applies.
    • It's hinted that Toula's brother Nick (who apparently wants to study art) has similar issues. His beautifully designed menus are dismissed with an "enh" by Gus.
    • While Gus seems to have grown on Ian by the end of the movie, in the sequel he makes it pretty clear while he likes Ian he still is disappointed he's not Greek and is already trying to find a Greek husband for his granddaughter, Paris who is 17.
  • When I Was Your Age...
    Maria Portokalos: "Nicko! Don't play with the food! When I was your age, we didn't have food!"
  • Women Are Wiser:
    • Maria is more open-minded than Gus, and has a great deal more common sense.
      Maria Portokalos: "Let me tell you something, Toula. The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants."
    • However, this is inverted with Ian's parents; while Rodney shows signs of lightening up towards the end, Harriet merely develops a fondness for ouzo.
    • Second film has Gus struggling with computers, while the women in his family - even his ancient mother - have no problem handling FaceTime or playing gambling games on their iPads.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): My Big Fat Greek Life, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3


My Big Fat Greek Batman Gambit

Convincing Toula's aunt to hire her at the travel agency is easy. The real struggle will be getting her father to agree to let her work somewhere besides his restaurant.

But Maria knows if she can make her husband think it was his own idea, it's as good as done.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / BatmanGambit

Media sources: