The plot is relatively simple: Maggie Carpenter (Roberts) is a young woman with a fear of commitment. Besides a string of abandoned boyfriends, she has left three would-be husbands at the altar. Her case has attracted enough press attention to interest the resident Intrepid Reporter.
Said reporter is Ike Graham (Gere), recently unemployed after writing a libelous article about Miss Carpenter. Realizing the story was full of factual errors and Malicious Slander provided by the men whose heart Carpenter has broken, Graham decides to find the Runaway Bride and find the truth behind her story.
He finds her preparing for her fourth potential marriage. At first, Ike decides to help Maggie face her fears. However, the two start becoming attracted to each other. Bob Kelly (Christopher Meloni), her current fiancé, doesn't particularly appreciate that kind of help.
The film provides examples of:
- Actually Pretty Funny: When Ike first meets Maggie and her friend Peggy, they offer to style his hair while answering any questions he has about Maggie's aborted marriages. They take the opportunity to dye his hair three different colors, and rather than take offense, he simply asks where he can find some strong shampoo and buys a bystander's hat.
- Arc Words: Not quite a Driving Question: How does Maggie like her eggs? Each of her fiances confidently answers: The same way they like theirs. As it happens, each of her four fiances like their eggs differently, and her favorite is something entirely different.
- Balcony Escape: When Maggie is spying on Ike.
- Commitment Issues: The point of the movie is Maggie's complete inability to commit to someone.
- Extreme Doormat: As it turns out, Maggie, who just sort of went along with what anyone else wanted, rather than figuring out what she wanted, hence none of her potential marriages proving palatable. Much of her Character Development shows how she Grew a Spine.
- Hooked Up Afterwards: A long sequence of these takes place over the credits.
- Ironic Echo: When Maggie's dad cracks the joke about her being the fastest running joke in town, if not the longest, it's funny the first time. When he cracks the same joke again during the dinner party before her wedding, and Maggie mouths the joke along with him, it becomes clear she's been the butt of that joke many times.
- Love Triangle: Between Maggie, Ike and Bob. Bob seems willfully ignorant of it for most of the film until they start kissing right in front of him.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: Ike and Maggie are pretty selfish and egotistical people. Yet because they are the protagonists, we are supposed to root for their happiness.
- Runaway Bride: Maggie has repeatedly ditched men at the most emotionally vulnerable time in their lives because she is insecure. Unlike other examples, the poor guys are sympathetic and friendly and their pain is part of the meat of the movie. Indeed, Ike personally meets the abandoned grooms and hears their stories.
- Shaming the Mob: Ike at the pre-wedding party to the collected family and friends of Maggie. Granted, the "Mob" here was only throwing snide comments at Maggie rather than pitchforks and torches."May you find yourselves the bullseye of an easy target, may you be publicly flogged for all of your bad choices, and may your noses be rubbed in all of your mistakes."
- Surveillance as the Plot Demands / Magical Security Cam: Sort of. The wedding videos suffer from this, with multiple cuts and invisible cameras.
- Side Bet: While Ike is watching wedding videos of Maggie's past runs, one of them shows her father losing a bet.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: As Bob storms off after Ike and Maggie's kiss, Maggie assures him that he'll find the right girl for him in no time at all. Right on cue, a blonde shoves Maggie out of the way to chase after Bob.
- Why Waste a Wedding?: Ike becomes groom #5 because he and Maggie hook up during her rehearsal for her fourth wedding and decide not to waste all the arrangements.
- Working with the Ex: Ike works for his ex-wife Rita (his editor). She has to fire him for not checking facts, and producing an inaccurate column about the titular character. As it happens, his ex-wife's husband, Fisher, is friends with both of them; she brings her husband in to provide Ike with emotional support when she decides to fire him, and finds a way for Ike to redeem himself. Fisher also cracks jokes about how he probably shouldn't leave Ike and Rita alone together, although it's clear to everyone that any chance of them rekindling or repairing their relationship has long since past.