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Accidental Marriage

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Today's forecast is sunny, with a chance of bridal showers.
"I don't have a wife. Zoe, why do I have a wife?"
Malcolm Reynolds, Firefly, "Our Mrs. Reynolds"

Be careful when visiting foreign parts or in the company of aliens, because you never know... you just might end up married. A character (almost always a male) discovers that a seemingly innocent action now entitles him to a permanent fashion accessory — an intense young lady who insists that they are now married. Sometimes it's a delusion on her part, but sometimes it's valid — at least by the rules of the place where she grew up.

Naturally, this never happens to someone who would be willing to just walk away and leave her stranded. Or, for that matter, to someone who's willing to bite the bullet, settle down with their accidental bride, and have two and a half accidental children.

When set in modern times, the trope usually takes the form of a joke, practice, or stage wedding that actually turns to be reveal after the officiant is revealed to be a legitimate minister or justice of the peace. If the accidental marriage is discovered years after the fact, see Oops! I Forgot I Was Married.

In real life, the possibility of a legally-binding Accidental Marriage (at least in North America) is pretty remote. Although courts in both the United States and Canada have decreed that a couple who thinks they're legally married are legally married, in most cases a marriage isn't considered valid without a marriage licence, which has to be obtained from the government before the wedding — contrary to many fictional depictions which show the paperwork being done after the ceremonial part. Likewise, in most places both parties to the wedding have to buy the licence together, meaning there are quite a few bureaucratic checks and balances in place intended to prevent fraudulent or forced marriages (and earn some money for the local government, too).

Additionally, the "getting drunk and waking up married" type is not valid either, since the law requires that both parties enter into the relationship voluntarily and in full possession of their faculties.

Many religions, meanwhile, have instituted "formation programs" (such as the Catholic Church's "Pre-Cana" program) which serve as instruction courses in what marriage is supposed to be, "cooling off periods" for those who might be inclined to get married hastily, and screening programs to weed out those who are not intending to be faithful or who are under duress, drunk or who accidentally said the wrong thing while grabbing an Oni's horns.

The closest real-world example of this trope is probably Las Vegas (not coincidentally, a very common setting for "surprise marriage" type storylines) due to the fact that unlike many states, Nevada does not require a waiting period between obtaining the licence and the marriage itself, and that the Clark County marriage bureau office in Las Vegas is open from 8 a.m. until midnight every day of the year, even weekends and holidays.

Sister Trope to Accidental Proposal (indeed, that trope can often lead to this one). Compare Real Fake Wedding, and "Not Really Married" Plot.

When the alien culture happens to interpret a seemingly innocuous gesture as a challenge to a duel to the death, see Fumbling the Gauntlet.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ah! My Goddess combines this with Magically-Binding Contract. When Belldandy appears before Keiichi to grant him a wish, he half-jokingly wishes that a goddess like her would stay with him forever. Later in the manga it's revealed that, as far as the rules of Heaven go, saying that to a god or goddess equals to a marriage proposal, and Belldandy approving said wish means they're effectively husband and wife.
  • A Bride's Story: Laila and Leyli try their damnedest to invoke this by running into chosen people, wearing their headscarves loose (because touching a woman’s bare head would be scandalous unless you’re her husband... or marry her right away). One of their older relatives actually pulled this off, but for more sensible reasons.
  • As the plot of DearS, the protagonist Takeya bonds with Ren through a direct kiss in the very first episode — then spent half of the series wondering what was going on between two of them.
  • Doctor Slump: while Midori is in the bathroom, Senbei passes by and jokingly practices proposing to her. She overhears, and immediately accepts. The two get married the following page and everyone invited (even Senbei himself) is dumbfounded, unable to process the string of events that lead to their marriage or even what convinced her to marry him in the first place. Things actually work out really well for the two, as they remain Happily Married for the rest of the series.
  • Dragon Ball: Though it was actually accidental engagement, the relationship between Chi-Chi and Goku was largely based on his assumption that "married" was a kind of food and, in her joy to have a fiance, Chi Chi never really explained what it actually meant. When the misunderstanding is cleared years later and the now teenaged Chi Chi gets depressed about it, though, Goku agrees to go through it anyway since he gave his word to her. They eventually have two children together.
  • Gate: 33 year old Itami cares for the 15 year old Lelei and innocently sleeps in the same room with her. Little does he know that she has a crush on him and in her people's culture, a man and woman sleeping in the same room together for three or more nights in a row is a marriage. The other girls in his life are not pleased, while he is freaked out.
  • I'm Gonna Be an Angel!: Yuusuke stumbles over Noel, who just happens to be napping in the nude in the middle of a forest. Their lips meet and she awakens, convinced that they are now married. This results in her entire kooky family moving into (and totally redesigning) Yuusuke's house.
  • Isekai de Kojiin wo Hiraita kedo, Naze ka Darehitori Sudatou to Shinai Ken: The protagonist Shinji first makes the mistake of petting on the the head Lucia, a beast-kin, while checking to see if she's okay, after she recovered from a goblin attack and a deadly illness. She proclaims that the only people allowed to do that are her parents, and a "master" to her Sex Slave. When she strips and offers herself up, right then and there, he, perhaps unwisely, proclaims that she should only do that stuff with her husband who loves her. Needless to say, she believes she's his wife for the foreseeable rest of the story.
  • Is This A Zombie?: Ayumu accidentally gets knocked into a female vampire, Maelstrom, and ends up kissing her on the lips. According to Maelstrom's culture, a kiss between a man and a woman constitutes a marriage, which she vows to take seriously. Underscored because at the time of said marriage, Ayumu was wearing a frilly pink dress and Maelstrom was wearing shorts. Hilarity ensues as she competes with Haruna for Ayumu's attention.
  • Kakemakumo Kashikoki: The homeless Shin Handa takes shelter from an unexpected summer shower in the shrine of a fox spirit, hungrily devours the food offering that was placed there and nonchalantly remarks that he'd "agree to become the bride of the fox spirit" if it meant he would get to eat such delicious meals everyday. Lo and behold, he's transported to the spirit world, and married to the fox spirit. Since this ISN'T a Boys' Love manga, neither of them are happy.
  • This trope just piles up in the second episode of Kyo Kara Maoh!. Wolfram spends all of dinner needling the new monarch Shibuya Yuuri, and succeeds in angering him by insulting his mother — whereupon Yuuri slaps him across the face. Unbeknownst to Yuuri, this constitutes a proposal of marriage. Instead of clearing up the confusion, Wolfram's brothers urge Yuuri to 'take it back', but Yuuri, thinking they mean the insult of the slap, swears he never will. The insulted and embarrassed Wolfram then throws his cutlery on the ground, and when Yuuri picks it up, it turns out that dropping a knife is a challenge to a duel, and Yuuri has accepted by picking it up. Poor Yuuri is deeply bewildered. Yuuri wins the duel, and it's unclear whether having lost the duel means Wolfram isn't allowed to decline the marriage proposal, or if he just doesn't want to anymore; either way, the engagement stands.
    • Fanwank is that Wolfram lost his chance to decline, and Yuuri can't back out since he already swore to never take it back. Their marital state is pretty much in limbo.
    • Wolfram falls for Yuuri pretty hard before long, and becomes fanatically possessive of his fiancé, who is both naturally oblivious and in denial about this whole 'engaged to a guy' thing. Hilarity ensues.
    • In a later episode a childhood friend of Wolfram's who considers them engaged due to similar circumstances appears, and Yuuri falls for the knife trick again, only this time he also accidentally points a spork at the challenger, which formally indicates that you have stolen someone's lover and intend to fight for them. Wolfram is touched.
    • The writers love this trope.
  • In My Bride is a Mermaid, the main character Nagasumi is rescued by Seto Sun, the daughter of a Yakuza mermaid family. Turns out she would have to be executed for breaking the mermaid code of secrecy by saving Nagasumi, unless he marries her.
  • In One Piece, Boa Hancock believes that she is married to Luffy after he hugs her. However she is too shy to ever talk to him about this, and her grandmother later clears up her misunderstanding.
  • In Photon, after getting the kana for baka drawn on his forehead by his mischievous childhood friend Aun, the title character draws the same characters on the forehead of the sleeping Keyne. Since in Keyne's culture, a man proposes to a woman by drawing his "personal symbol" on her forehead, Keyne awakens, discovers what happened, and concludes that she and Photon are engaged. At the end, Photon ends up accidentally marrying Aun, Lashara and Keyne (again) when he draws the kana on all three of them, although he doesn't seem to understand what he's done.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena: Utena Tenjou is surprised to find herself engaged to Anthy, the Rose Bride, after winning a duel against her previous fiance, Saionji.
  • In The Rising of the Shield Hero web novel, Naofumi starts teasing Melty about her increased responsibilities after becoming Melromarc's queen. She decides to get revenge by sharing some of that responsibility, naming Naofumi as Archduke and Magistrate. This backfires when Trash points out the station of Archduke is reserved for the queen's consort, meaning she effectively just named Naofumi her future husband.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei: Subverted and parodied. Even though Itoshiki's hometown will marry anyone who makes eye contact, Itoshiki manages to spend the night there unmarried, even though in a desperate attempt to get him married, his family have sent various people who are good at making eye contact after Itoshiki... including footballers, thugs and a hideous 100-eyed monster.
    • There's a hilarious part of that episode where two of the people they hire get in a fight, make eye contact and end up engaged.
    • Similarly, both of the times he gets into embarrassing situations with uber perfectionist Chiri, she demands that he follows through by marrying her.
  • Sorta parodied in Tenjho Tenge when Souichiro Nagi gets tossed into a dressing room when Aya Natsume was taking a shower. He gets to see Aya naked, and according to the rules of the Natsume clan this means she must devote herself to him. Cue to Aya acting like a weird mix of Yamato Nadeshiko and Clingy Jealous Girl in regards to him.
  • Urusei Yatsura:
    • Lum's insistence that she is married to Ataru because he declared "Now I can get married!" (meaning to his girlfriend Shinobu) after winning the Tag Race in the first chapter/episode.
    • For the first movie, Ataru discovers that an alien princess he played tag with as a child is interpreting the time he jumped on her shadow as a pledge to marry her. It turns out the tradition she was naming was mostly ignored by everyone, and it also turns out that young Ataru had lied about jumping on her shadow.
    • Also in both the manga and TV Series, there was a story where a little earth girl with a crush on Jariten gave him some chocolate on Valentine's day, then telling him that by accepting it he'd promised to marry her. Everyone but Jariten found the whole thing cute and funny.
  • Subverted in You're Under Arrest! when Yoriko accidentally gets engaged to a foreign prince named Saki Abdusha when she held his hand. He shrugs it off in the end saying his customs don't apply in Japan. He still proposes to Yoriko later, but she refuses his offer since he's much younger than she is and both have too many things to do.
  • Neneko's belief that she "gave up her flower" and is now married to Tomokazu because he accidentally fondled her rear end in an early episode of Yumeria.

    Comic Books 
  • In Chew, this happens between Agent Colby and his supervisor Appleby. Colby is certainly not happy...especially when he sees the in-laws...
  • In a DC Elseworlds issue Detective Comics Annual #7 (1994), Pirate Batman ("Captain Leatherwing") rescues a Noble Savage princess, and gives her a European dress to replace her torn clothing. Later, the princess (with her father interpreting) gives Leatherwing a bracelet. He accepts, not knowing that this exchange means that they are now married ... to the later consternation of Pirate Catwoman.
  • In The Incredible Hercules #134, "W.W.T.D.? (What Would Thor Do?)", Herc, standing in for his absent buddy Thor, travels to Svartalfheim to confront the warlike Dark Elves and their queen Alflyse. After passing the three tests to prove he really is Thor (he actually fails the test of "Show Some Leg" but an enthusiastic Alflyse declares 2 out of 3 is good enough) there's a night of respectably restrained celebration and Hercules wakes the next day to find Alflyse has accepted him as her husband. There are worse fates...
    • Subverted in that she does know he's not really Thor, she's just messing with him.
  • In Justice Society of America, the Huntress of the recreated Earth Two tells Power Girl her DA boyfriend had proposed, before the Joker maimed him in an attempt to "recreate" Two-Face, and she had never had a chance to turn him down, and now she feels she can't leave him.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fanfic The Accidental Marriage, Daisy and Coulson accidentally marry each other when they swim in the Pool of Blissful Matrimony on an alien planet — on said planet, a couple is considered to be instantly married if they swim together in the pool.
  • In Beauty in Thirds, Megatron bonds with Skywarp... then learns that in doing so, he's also bonded with Thundercracker and Starscream (it's a seeker thing).
  • Armani to Lya at the end of book 2 of the Broken Bow series.
  • Changeling Courtship Rituals has this happen to Twilight Sparkle, who from her perspective is defending Equestria from a villainous Changeling queen's attempts to gain control of the country... unaware that Changelings have Blue-and-Orange Morality, and that they consider two people confronting each other dramatically, fighting in serious combat, and thwarting their rival's schemes to be the traditional approach to dating. Her foiling Queen Chrysalis's grand plan in A Canterlot Wedding was considered an amazingly romantic (by Changeling standards) Accidental Proposal, and their hero and villain rivalry afterwards just added more fuel to the fire from Chrysalis's perspective.
  • In Don't Tell the Groom, Starscream claims to be Megatron's Conjunx Endura. Megatron accuses him of lying, since they haven't undergone the ritus, only for Starscream to explain that the Vosian ritus consists of the Acts of Mercy, Vengeance, Indulgence and Passion — by constantly forgiving Starscream no matter what the Seeker does, avenging him whenever he's attacked, indulging his silly little whims, and hating him to the point of not being able to be in the same room as him, Megatron has fufilled those rites several times over.
  • The Merlin (2008) fic "Dragonfasting" features a case where the marriage was intended but the actual couple didn't have a say in it at first. When Morgana attempts to force herself on Merlin so that she can be the mother of the next Dragonlord, Aithusa triggers the ancient rite known as Dragonfasting that ties Merlin and Morgana together in marriage according to the rites of the Dragonlords, as Aithusa needed to properly bond Merlin's magic to Morgana's to break the enchantment that drove Morgana to ally with Morgause in the first place.
  • In Drops in the Bucket, a For Want of a Nail Naruto fanfic, Obito is informed that, since he has been cohabiting with Kakashi for two years, under bureaucratic code 147-B they are now common-law married. Hilariously enough, Kakashi can recite the specific law by memory but failed to realize it would apply to their situation. Fortunately, this means that Obito can be reinstated into the Uchiha clan, since technically his Sharingan isn't in a non-Uchiha anymore.
  • In the Ah! My Goddess fanfic The Goddess and the Sky, the wish that should have gone to Keiichi goes to Sora instead. While she is initially unable to decide what to wish for, after tasting Belldandy's cooking, she jokingly wishes that the goddess would marry her... you can guess the rest from there.
  • An interesting variation of this in Harry Potter and Fate's Debt; the story begins when Harry, the night before his first train trip to Hogwarts, receives a note from his future self telling to get to know Ginny Weasley. Over the course of the fic, Dumbledore speculates that Harry and Ginny had a soul bond in the future due to the depth of their feelings for each other, with Harry's future self sending the note back in time by invoking a ritual known as 'Fate's Debt' to get more time with Ginny after some future tragedy; Dumbledore speculates that the future Harry didn't realise that the ritual would basically send at least the potential for the bond back through time as well as the note. As a result, where a normal soul bond takes years to go through the relevant three stages as the souls become acquainted, due to the side-effects of the ritual Harry and Ginny jump straight to the second stage after they meet at the station, where they are capable of communicating telepathically across great distances, and are legally considered to be married despite only being eleven and ten (although nobody knows about the marriage as they would need to read an obscure book of records in the Ministry, and Dumbledore can make arrangements to delay it being checked).
  • In the Transformers fanfic Healing Old Wounds, Megatron and Trepan accidentally become conjunx endura after getting drunk and sleeping together.
  • In Manchester Lost, Aziraphale's last name has technically been 'Crowley' for the past 500 years or so; they both thought that the other had arranged the divorce.
  • Supergirl (2015) fanfic my youth is yours: In college, Kara got Lena a watch engraved with a Kryptonian promise of love, and Lena got Kara a bracelet made of an unbreakable metal to symbolize their love. By Kryptonian standards, that's more than enough for them to be considered legal mates (though normally the relationship is tested by the Jewel of Truth first, that's technically optional). Kara of course knew, and is mortified when Lena finds out. She insists that she didn't mean it like that, but her sister Alex outright calls Lena Kara's wife.
  • The Stargate SG-1 fic "None So Blind" has SG-1 inadvertently participate in a mass marriage ceremony assuming that it’s just a general blessing to commemorate a successful harvest due to a translation error, with the organisers thus marrying Cam Mitchell to Vala Mal Doran and Daniel Jackson to Samantha Carter respectively (the native organiser assumed that Teal’c was the matchmaker who brought the two couples together and is attending to witness the culmination of his efforts, although Daniel expresses surprise that they were correct about who was involved with who as the four involved are dating). Sam notes that the SGC drew up policies based on the precedent set by Daniel’s original marriage to Sha’re that no offworld marriage is legal if the participants are unaware and the marriage isn’t consummated, so SG-1 are able to return to Earth with nothing but embarrassment after an awkward misunderstanding.
  • In the Love Hina fanfic Prince of PolPol, the PolPol wedding ceremony consists of the couple sharing the Kiss of Marriage and an apple. Nyamo takes advantage of this to get Keitaro (who has been discovered to be the prince of PolPol) to marry her while he's too distracted in telling her his woes to notice she's giving him an apple to eat.
  • Several examples occur in the Ranma ½ Peggy Sue Ranma the Second time Around. First, Ryouga accidentally marries Shampoo after he punches her out (he saw her sparring with female!Ranma and thought Ranma was being attacked). Then Pantyhose Taro is married to Original Character Perfume when she dupes him into fighting and defeating her (it was part of a ploy to get his name changed – by marrying an Amazon, he is given a new name — Aw Sum — to signify joining the family). Finally, Ryu Kumon ends up married to both Lin-Lin and Ran-Ran when he uses the “Moko Kaimon Ha” on them and knocks them out (they were trying to attack him after he insulted their honor).
  • At the end of Sendai, Shampoo ends up accidentally married to Ryouga after he defeats her in combat. She isn't very happy about it, but goes through with it anyway.
  • Taken to extremes in the The Desert Storm series. During the Time Skip between Sa Sarad and Tarot, Obi-Wan accidentally gets married twenty-seven times (!) while overseeing a tea ceremony on the planet Gatalenta. Of course, the Jedi Order immediately annuls all the marriages — although the process apparently took three days, leaving Adi Gallia at her wits' end by the time she returned to the Temple.
    Jango: —how the hell — twenty-seven times?
    Ben: Gatalenta practices polyamorous marriages, and the tea ceremony — one of many the culture practices — that unified the involved parties is quite complex. He'd hosted seven weddings before anyone caught the fact that he was accidentally indicating himself as one of those parties.
    • According to Ben, this type of misunderstanding is common amongst Jedi since one of their duties is to oversee ceremonies, which include weddings. And in a galaxy with thousands of different cultures, it's not unheard of for a Jedi to accidentally perform a wedding. When Ben is asked how many marriages he's had during a game of truth and dare, Ben jokes that he lost count.
  • As the title suggests, this is the crux of "Accidentally in Matrimony," a Story Within a Story in the Dragon Age: Inquisition series Skyhold Academy Yearbook.
  • In the Lupin III fanfic Smoochin' in Drag, Lupin (while Disguised in Drag) gets drunk and ends up married to Inspector Zenigata.
  • In Snowmaiden, a The Hobbit fan fic, it turns out that for elves, sex = marriage. Subverted in that the accidental bride wanted to get married, but did not intend to, due to the ensuing problems.
  • In Storybook Hero, Harry Potter letting half-goblin Shank-ko both manage the finances of his business and get a say in who works there are to him just harmless, practical decisions given her business knowledge. To her, she's surprised by how "forward" he is and considers herself his first wife.
  • The 100;
    • In "A Union", Clarke basically does this when she agrees to join Anya in a 'peace union' and only learns when she's taken to Anya's tent that this basically means she and Anya are now married. However, once the misunderstanding is cleared up, Anya affirms that she won't do anything to Clarke that Clarke doesn't want her to do, and Bellamy agrees to help support the 'lie' of their initial marriage until the events in Mount Weather help Clarke and Anya develop deeper feelings for each other.
    • In "This Must Be the Place", when Clarke and Anya retreat to a bunker after escaping Mount Weather, Clarke unwittingly proposes to Anya when she suggests a 'union' when discussing the possibility of an alliance against Mount Weather and unwittingly gives Anya the three primary offerings of such a bond. Anya assumes that Lincoln told Clarke what was involved in a Union during his time as a prisoner at the dropship, and thus gives Clarke the same equivalent offerings before the "connection of spirits" as Clarke and Anya have sex for the first time.
  • In Trains, Glee fic, Kurt and Puck, get married sort of accidentally (Kurt is drunk and wants them to get married, Puck is sober but is willing to do whatever will make Kurt happy) when New Directions go to Las Vegas for Nationals. The marriage isn't legally binding, since Nevada doesn't have marriage equality, but throughout the whole fic they treat it like it is.
  • In the Bojack Horseman fanfic Unexepected, Bojack and Mr. Peanutbutter are acting in a new tv series. Due to a combination of a last minute rewrite to have their characters marry, Princess Carolyn just casting an actual minister instead of an actor to save time, and Bojack and Mr. Peanutbutter signing their real names instead of their characters' names on the marriage certificate, they end up legally married when the minister files the certificate and the Hollywoo press finds out before they can get a quickie divorce. They initially decide to stay together for good PR before getting a divorce once their tv series ends, but over the course of the six months the story takes place in they fall in love for real and confess to each other during an interview. And then promptly get kicked out of the studio for getting caught...ahem, consummating the marriage.
  • Waking Up In Vegas had Tony marry Pepper while they were both drunk. With a Star Trek themed wedding, no less!
  • The Kim Possible fic “Tunnel Vision” features Kim and Ron travelling by accident through various periods in history. When they arrive in the Wild West in 1869, after Kim is captured by Native Americans and Ron stages a rescue, the chief of the tribe is so impressed by Ron's devotion to Kim that he performs a tribal wedding ritual for them without either knowing. While Kim and Ron don't consider themselves to be married back in their own time, they accept being known as a married couple for the rest of their time-travel experience, and affirm that they wouldn't want to marry anyone else anyway.
  • "We're Finally Official! (Sort of)" features a variation of the events of "Snotlout Gets the Axe" where Tuffnut 'marries' Hiccup and Astrid rather than Fishlegs and Ruffnut, and concludes with some legal debate about whether or not Tuffnut is actually a licensed officiator. The fic ends without a clear decision being made, but arguments include that Tuffnut's certificate was signed by a previous officiator, but it doesn't have the signatures of the Berk Elders or other relevant officials; this would prohibit Tuffnut from performing marriages on Berk, but creates the potential that he could be authorised to do so on a more independent area like the Edge.
  • Erio to Caro in "The Young Couple's Meeting": a parody fan manga. (CAUTION: Danbooru Link. Image SFW)
  • The modern AU Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi fanfic swiss cheese theory has an interesting cross between this and a Real Fake Wedding. While performing a comedy wedding skit, there's a mixup at the courthouse and Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji get actual wedding papers as props. The skit is performed, and the papers are filled out as a joke. What no one knows out is that the officiant (Jin Guangshan, legally ordained) filed the papers for revenge due to on-set hostility. Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji don't find out they're legitimately married until three and a half years later, when they get together and decide to elope.

    Films — Animated 
  • The main character in Corpse Bride enacts a mock wedding vow rehearsal, not knowing that the "branch" he places the ring on at the end is actually the finger of a restless bride's corpse until it's too late.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • James and Katie accidentally get married in The Decoy Bride by going through a fake ceremony (meant to distract the paparazzi from the real bride), but then signing both of their names to the register. They quickly seek a divorce, but end up together by the end of the film, anyway.
  • In the 1923 silent Yiddish comedy East And West, freewheeling New York jazz baby Mollie travels to the old country with her father for a family wedding, and hilarity naturally ensues. The turning point of the movie involves a "pretend wedding" the night before the real one, which of course ends up being a valid wedding according to Orthodox Jewish law. The catch is that the groom is a young Telmudic scholar who knew that the "pretend" ceremony was binding, but didn't stop it because he was enamored with Mollie. It ends happily, though.
  • In the Indian film Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, an uptight architect accidentally marries a free-spirited hairstylist after a night of debauchery. They mutually decide to annul the marriage as soon as possible, but he starts to fall in love with her.
  • Among many other hijinks during their crazy night in Vegas, one of the characters in The Hangover manages to get himself hitched.
  • In Jeremiah Johnson, when Jeremiah and Del Gue are taken by surprise by some Christianized Flathead Indians, Jeremiah offers them some horses just to be polite and guarantee his safe release. Unfortunately, the Flatheads have a gift economy and are bound by tradition to respond to any gift with an even greater gift. The Flathead chief compels Jeremiah to marry his daughter.
    • That unavoidable marriage actually turns out rather well as they gain a genuine love for each other over time. Making it all the sadder when she and his adopted son are murdered towards the end.
  • At the end of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life, Hillary and Bryce nearly get married in an African ceremony which involves getting their hair braided, or so they are told.
  • In Laws of Attraction, two rival divorce attorneys end up married in Ireland after getting drunk in a festival while evaluating the couple's assets in their current case (on which they are on opposing sides). Subverted when it turns out to not be a real marriage: the minister was actually a butler.
  • The Dick Van Dyke/Disney movie Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. had this at the end. The main character is coaxed into dancing with Wednesday, and her father laughingly says, "Hey, Wise Guy do pretty good marriage dance!" Crusoe accidentally pushes Wednesday down while protesting, and only gets saved from the angry native girls by a Navy helicopter.
  • Inverted in Alfred Hitchcock's only romantic comedy, Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941), when the long-married title couple learn that their marriage ceremony was not valid.
  • In The Muppets Take Manhattan, the play that the Muppets are trying to get produced includes a scene where Kermit marries Miss Piggy, with the minister being played by Gonzo. When the play is staged at the end of the film, Piggy swaps Gonzo for a real minister. There would be some debate after that film, in the Muppet-Verse, whether Kermit had actually married Miss Piggy. (He certainly didn't want anything like that, but The Show Must Go On...)
    • It’s muddied even further by the fact that the in-movie “real minister” is actually played by a real minister.
    • Years later they're still playing off this one. In the extras section of the first season Muppet Show DVD collection are a series of interviews with the Muppets. Piggy confirms that they are, Kermit is adamant that they aren't... and no one even ever says the "M" word.
    • And in The Muppets (2011), it's still left somewhat ambiguous! They cohabited a mansion outside of Hollywood, where Piggy left Kermit prior to the film, and when they're reunited in the course of events she says, "You never intended to marry me." While that's certainly true and in accordance with the events of Manhattan, it's unclear whether the marriage was legit or if she left because she was tired of waiting for him to decide to make it real.
  • In My Wife's Relations, a series of misunderstandings results in Buster Keaton getting married to an large, irate Irishwoman whose family thinks he's rich.
  • Bob in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert does not seem to have married his wife deliberately and wishes he could be rid of her.
  • Occurs in Romancing The Bride where the protagonist wakes up to find herself handcuffed to a complete stranger who tells her that they got married the night before (of course she has no memory of this).
  • In a rare instance of a woman becoming unwittingly married to a scheming man, in The Accidental Husband, the title character arranges to become married to the host of a relationship talk show as payback for having advised the former's girlfriend to break up with him.
  • In Shanghai Noon, Chon Wang ends up accidentally married (from his POV) to the Sioux chief's daughter (who knew exactly what she was doing). She follows him around for the rest of the movie, periodically saving his ass, only to end up trading him in for Roy at the end.
    • Considering that Chon spends the entire film pining for a princess without giving his "wife" a second glance, it kind of makes sense.
  • In The Searchers, Martin Pawley thinks he's buying a blanket from some Indians. Turns out he's married one of them instead. Ethan Edwards thinks its hilarious. He is also rather nicer to the unexpected bride than her 'husband' despite the fact she's a Comanche.
  • In The Scarecrow, Buster Keaton's character is found on one knee (he was tying a shoe) by the leading lady, who simpers and says, "This is so sudden." Luckily, he is in love with her, and they elope.
  • In Stargate, Daniel finds himself offered a bride because he's believed to be a messenger from the gods. He doesn't realise, at first, that they were meant to actually be married, though, he just discovers her coming into his bedroom, and sends her away, to her great embarrassment. However, after it's explained to him, he winds up falling in love with her, a rare instance of the accidental marriage staying together. Well, until she gets possessed by a Goa'uld in the series.
  • In What Happens in Vegas, a man and a woman accidentally end up married to each other after accidentally getting booked in the same room in Las Vegas and subsequently getting drunk and going out to find a wedding chapel. They initially decided that they need to get a divorce once the trip is over. The guy wins a $3 million jackpot on a slot machine, with a quarter the woman lent him. Since she's his wife now, she's entitled to half of it when they divorce. But when the judge finds out what happened, he decrees that they have to try to stay married for 6 months and attend marriage counseling, or no one gets the money.

  • The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi: Amina married Raksh, a demon in a Human Disguise, at the end of an all-out drunken bender. The next morning, she sees his true form and panics, whereas Raksh is equal parts confused and intrigued by the mortal contract. Whatever its legal status, it's magically binding enough to link them indefinitely.
  • In The Blizzard, a short story by Alexander Pushkin, the heroine wants to elope with a not-so-deserving admirer, but he gets lost in a blizzard and never makes it to the church. Meanwhile, another careless young man, his namesake, ends up in that church due to the same blizzard, and, hardly paying attention to what's happening, he is wedded to the girl. Several years later, when they are both older and wiser, they do get their Happily Ever After.
  • Dune: Paul Atreides asks Fremen girl Chani for help carrying his water tokens, startling her somewhat, as among the Fremen, a girl will only carry the water tokens of the man she intends to marry. Fortunately an amused Stilgar recognises that Paul is simply ignorant of what this implies among Fremen. They wind up (intentionally) married, so in the long run it wouldn't have mattered anyway.
  • Invoked in First Lord's Fury, the sixth book of Jim Butcher's Codex Alera: Kitai is worried about how people will see her relationship with Tavi because of all the things they've gotten up to without being married. Tavi points out that they more or less accidentally fulfilled the Marat marriage custom back in the first book, and they could claim to have been married since then.
    • Then immediately subverted when Kitai rejects the idea, jokingly accuses Tavi of trying to get out of a wedding, and demands that he marry her in a proper Aleran ceremony.
  • A Queer Romance "drunk in Vegas" version is the main plot of Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers.
  • The Husky And His White Cat Shizun: Erha He Ta De Bai Mao Shizun: The protagonists, Chu Wanning and Mo Ran end up accidentally married while trying to prevent a demon from gaining power via a ghost marriage ceremony. They join the line of spirits getting married and the rituals used are valid and binding enought that Mo Ran is able to later truthfully claim to a Ghost King that Chu Wanning is his spouse.
  • P. G. Wodehouse: The Jeeves and Wooster books are made of Accidental Engagements. Add to that the fact that poor Bertie can't seem to decide whether or not he wants to stay a bachelor...
  • In the Liaden Universe novel Agent of Change, Val Con gives Miri a small switchblade knife for protection — causing the alien Clutch Turtles with whom they are traveling to assume Val Con and Miri had gotten married. (Knives and rituals associated with them make up a significant part of the Clutch Turtles' society and culture.)
  • About halfway through Esther Friesner's Majyk by Accident, the protagonist is saddled with a Welfin wife when he takes her hand to go to dinner. She's pleased because she loathes the Welfin way of life, the other Welfies are pleased because it means they can make demands of the protagonist, and nobody really cares what he thinks of it.
  • In Man and Wife by Wilkie Collins, Geoffrey Delamyn and Anne Silvester accidentally get legally married in 19th century Scotland by each writing a note referring to the other as their spouse. At the same time, Geoffrey is trying to get rid of Anne by manipulating his friend Arnold into posing in public as her husband — believing that this will cause Anne and Arnold to become married. One of Wilkie Collins' reasons for writing the book was to encourage reform to Scottish marriage law.
  • In Miss Lulu Bett, everybody's bored at a fancy dinner when Ninian, to liven things up, jokingly asks Lulu to marry him, and she jokingly accepts. They are both shocked when Dwight tells them that because he's a justice of the peace and they made a verbal pledge in his presence, their marriage is real and legally binding.
  • In Much Fall of Blood, Erik does this due to not knowing much about Mongol language and culture.
  • In "On Fortune's Wheel" by Cynthia Voigt, Birle (a peasant girl) and Orien (a runaway future Earl) travel together throughout the story. They eventually fall for each other, say to each other that they wish to have the other for their husband/wife, and begin a sexual relationship. When they return home, Birle lives with Orien's family at court for a while, but eventually decides court life doesn't agree with her, and returns to her home village to leave Orien free to marry another. Months later, he tracks her down, and when she asks if he's married, he explains that he is — to her — because a wedding vow is considered binding if said in front of the Earl or the future Earl (i.e. him). She rolls with it.
  • In J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, it's explained that fairies get married simply by leaping into each other's arms (although a clergyman must be present). Later in the story, a character named Mamie Mannering leaps into Peter's arms, and the narrator points out that this "was a sort of fairy wedding".
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's A Princess of Mars, John Carter listens to Dejah Thoris call him "my chieftain" with what he admits (with hindsight) was total cluelessness, and then calls her "my princess," inspiring much mirth on her part.
    Dejah Thoris caught her breath at my last words, and gazed upon me with dilated eyes and quickening breath, and then, with an odd little laugh, which brought roguish dimples to the corners of her mouth, she shook her head and cried:
    "What a child! A great warrior and yet a stumbling little child."
    "What have I done now?" I asked, in sore perplexity.
    "Some day you shall know, John Carter, if we live; but I may not tell you. And I, the daughter of Mors Kajak, son of Tardos Mors, have listened without anger," she soliloquized in conclusion.
    • It turns out later that this is not an actual marriage by Barsoomian tradition (those are, apparently, fairly lavish affairs similar to Earthly ones); it could be regarded as either a) a somewhat inept attempt at a proposal, or b) a statement that he considers her his slave. She gets mad and refuses to talk with him any further when his next statement seems to indicate that it's b, though in fact he's just clueless and has no idea of the implications.
  • The displaced Earthwoman in Anne McCaffrey's Restoree is similarly clueless about the significance of the hero's use of the possessive 'my lady' in addressing her. However on his planet marriage really is just that simple — though equally easy to get out of — not that she wants to.
  • Invoked in A Series of Unfortunate Events, when Count Olaf tries to marry Violet by having her act as the bride to his groom in a play, and having the minister be played by a real Justice of the Peace. While Olaf and Violet (as well as her brother, Klaus) both realize what he's doing (though Violet is unwilling), no one else does (including the minister).
  • In the novel "So Help Me God!" a young man and woman are demonstrating a mock wedding. The boy doesn't realize that by reciting the traditional Jewish marriage formula and giving her his class ring he has married the girl according to Jewish law (see Real Life). Scholars try everything they can think of to get around it (for example, Did they have two proper witnesses?) but eventually agree the couple will require a Jewish divorce because the woman did not immediately state she did not want to be married to the man. Since the man's father, but not his mother, is Jewish, and he has not formally converted to Judaism, there is no valid marriage—but he also doesn't realize at this point in the story that he is not officially Jewish, and this plot point is not picked up again even when he does discover this.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Jon Snow accidentally invokes the wildling marriage custom of bride-stealing, when he captures the spearwife Ygritte, is unable to kill her and instead lets her go. This is one of the few genuinely humorous moments of the series, though it is overshadowed by the two of them actually falling in love.
  • Stardoc: Our heroine has been seeing a blue space hunk. Things start getting hot and heavy; that's when he springs on her that if they do the deed, they're as good as married in the sight of his culture. She accepts, but it ends badly. In a later novel, it's revealed that, in Jorenian culture, simply talking about marriage is considered to be a proposal.
  • Star Trek Expanded Universe:
    • In the Star Trek: The Original Series novel Enemy Unseen, an ambassador from an extremely status-conscious culture is shamed that he could not protect three of his wives (they were poisoned by an agent trying to disrupt negotiations, and he was unable to treat the poison, forcing him to resort to having McCoy cure them.) so he invites Kirk to a "ceremony of repentance." At the end of it, he tells Kirk that Kirk should always take care of his new wives, and wishes him to take as much joy from them as the ambassador once did. (In a case of cultural projection, he views Kirk as a clan-head, and thus the actions of McCoy were Kirk's responsibility. Because it was demonstrated that Kirk could care for his wives better than he could, he was forced by his religious beliefs to pass their care to Kirk.)
    • In the Star Trek: Discovery novel Fear Itself, when Saru meets the Goran "hub", she offers him tea, then says they are now betrothed, and after their marriage is consumated, their children will eat him. She's kidding.
  • In Patricia Briggs' Steal the Dragon, the male lead sets up a "communication spell" for the female lead that he knows is the first part of his people's marriage ceremony. He thought he could undo the spell after the Big Bad was defeated. However, the bride accidentally completes the magical ceremony on her own, making this an accidental marriage for both of them.
  • Crawford, one of the protagonists of Tim Powers' The Stress of Her Regard, finds himself unwillingly married to a silicon-based vampiric life form, having slipped a wedding ring onto the finger of a statue so he wouldn't drop it in the mud during a rainstorm.
  • Du Chaillu from Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth books. Richard Rahl, at that point known as Cypher, saves her life, and proceeds to kill thirty warriors from her tribe, including her 5 husbands, proving through their prophesy that he's their savior, and she's now his wife. He, being Richard, tries to talk her out of it via pure logic and a desire to make people just think! We then proceed to write this whole incident off until The Temple of the Winds, when we realize, "Oh shit, Kahlan is Richard's third wife."
  • Millicent writes to Helen that she honestly doesn't know how she ended up engaged to Mr. Hattersley in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. He asked, she said maybe, and her mother just ran with it.
  • In Tinker by Wen Spencer, Tinker is fluent in the everyday language of the elves. Her fluency leads the elf Windwolf to believe she understands the culture as well. When he offers her a gift "traditional for the occasion" he means the occasion of their betrothal, but she thinks he means the occasion of saving his life. When he asks if she wants to have sex with him, she thinks he means a quick roll in the hay, but he's offering his people's wedding ceremony (and a life-altering spell placed on her).
  • The Voyage Of Paul Twister opens with an interesting twist on this trope: Aylwyn tricks Paul into unwittingly acting out his part in what is apparently a valid marriage ceremony among her people, but he turns out to be just fine with it, because he's wanted her since the first book anyway.
  • The Wheel of Time:
    • When Mat discovers that Tuon is the woman he is fated to marry, he has a brief breakdown in which he proclaims three times that she's his wife. She and the witnesses are appalled by his presumption: turns out that in her culture, that's one way to initiate a formal marriage ceremony, and she has a year to complete it with her threefold response. After they're forced to spend some time getting to know each other, Tuon names him her husband well before the year is up.
    • Downplayed with Rand and Aviendha. Aviendha tries to keep an angry distance between them, but thanks to Rand's ignorance of Aiel culture his attempts to apologize to her keep turning out to be Aiel courtship rituals.
    • Nynaeve claims that she and Lan are engaged under Two Rivers customs after he gives her his ring — which he did because it's a royal signet that she can use for practical purposes. Subverted when it's revealed that she's lying because she really, really wants to marry him.
  • In Jack Higgins' novel The Wrath of God: The narrator rescues a Yaqui girl from rape by corrupt police and she hangs a medallion around his neck. He thinks it's just a gift to say thanks, but when he learns he's now married by Yaqui law, he likes the idea. Unfortunately, someone else has given him a dangerous mission, and he may not survive to settle down with the girl.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On 30 Rock, a French-speaking minister accidentally married Jack to Liz instead of Avery. At first they planned to just sign the divorce papers, but then Pete pointed out that this gave Liz leverage to get Jack to stop slashing the TGS budget. Cue Escalating War as each struggles to get more leverage over the other.
  • In Arrested Development, cousins George Michael and Maeby wind up accidentally married while performing a mock wedding for a group of Alzheimer patients, because a real priest substituted for the usual caretaker that day and he was not informed that it was a mock wedding. However, because of the incredible Unresolved Sexual Tension between them, and the fact that they aren't even related by blood, this is both a bit less Squicky and infinitely more funny than it might otherwise be.
    • GOB once met a woman with whom he intended to have a one-night stand; instead, they ended up married for a few episodes thanks to a drunken dare. (The woman, by the way, was played by Amy Poehler, Will Arnett's real-life wife).
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "The Parliament of Dreams", the main characters, as part of a "Galactic Religions Week" on the eponymous station, experience an extremely confusing Minbari religious ceremony involving eating red fruit and some intense looks between the Minbari Ambassador Delenn and the human commander, Jeffrey Sinclair. As it turns out, although the people attending it were told that it was a "rebirth" ceremony, Sinclair's lover Catherine Sakainote  informs him that it could also have doubled as a wedding. He jokes that he didn't think that Londo and G'Kar were one another's type.
    • Most interestingly, this is actually a bit of Aborted Arc; Delenn and Sinclair were supposed to get married, but then J. Michael Straczynski had to write Sinclair out of the show due to Michael O'Hare's illness; as a result, Sinclair gets Put on a Bus to Minbar and Delenn ends up marrying Sinclair's replacement, John Sheridan.
  • In Batman (1966), Marsha Queen of Diamonds seeks to extort Batman into marrying her. The next step into her scheme is to get to see the location of the Batcave.
  • In one episode of The Big Bang Theory, Penny reveals she had a "fake" Vegas wedding to her now ex-boyfriend Zack a few years ago, which the gang explains to her is in fact legally binding. In the rest of the episode, they try to convince Zack he should divorce Penny.
  • In the Big Time Rush episode "Big Time Wedding", James accidentally proposes to a visiting foreign princess from Kerplankistan by kneeling in front of her with a white rose. In the end his friends save him by tricking her father into marrying his daughter to one of her servants, both of whom are happy with this.
  • In a variant, Angela on Bones was shocked to learn that a drunken-party ceremony she'd participated in on Fiji was actually considered a valid marriage by the U.S. State Department. She'd been so drunk that she forgot it'd happened, and hadn't known that the presiding party-goer was legitimately authorized to perform weddings. This is particularly strange, because she finds this out while looking for a higher security clearance. Then, when she's attempting to marry Hodgins, their wedding is interrupted by someone telling her what she should have already known. For several more episodes, she tries to find her husband to get a divorce, but has no idea who he is. Doubly strange because, as she was intoxicated and doesn't really remember it, not to mention can't even remember what her husband looks like, she could get annulment without needing him, but for some reason chooses to go through various wacky hijinks to figure out who he is and get him to sign the divorce papers. When they find him and he refuses, it's treated as if she's now trapped in the marriage, even though that's not at all the case.
  • The Brittas Empire: The episode “A Walk on the Wild Side” has Helen be reunited with a spiritual guru named Harry Johnson, who she had a mock wedding with. To her horror, she finds out that the minister who conducted the wedding has since become the Bishop of Maidenstone, meaning that they are actually married. She actually considers seriously going through with it, until Harry is killed at the end of the episode.
  • In Castle's season 6 finale, Beckett and Castle discover (much to their shock and disgust, since they are getting married in a few days) that she drunk-married the boyfriend she had at university during a trip to Las Vegas. Most of the episode deals with Kate trying to get him to sign the annulment papers. It turns out the 'husband', a small time con artist, knew what happened all along but instead of contacting Kate and getting a divorce, he has been telling people that she had an accident and has been in a coma for the last fifteen years. This way he could maintain a 'semi-married' state where he would be free to date other women but his girlfriends would not pressure him to divorce his wife and marry them. Kate is definitely not amused when she finds out about that.
  • An episode of Charmed had a variation on the Vegas version: Billie casts a spell on Phoebe intending to help her find love. Unfortunately, it just bewitched Phoebe and her current boyfriend Dex, causing them to become ultra lovey-dovey and get married. The trance breaks when they cross the threshold, and they're very confused as to why they're dressed as bride and groom, he was carrying her, and they have rings.
  • Doctor Who:
    • A subplot in the story "The Aztecs" involves the Doctor accidentally getting engaged to a local woman — because he accepted a drink of cocoa. She offered it because he'd been charming her to get information. Cameca understands that the Doctor must leave her, but he's so upset by the pain he inadvertently caused her that he carefully avoid romantic entanglements for several centuries and incarnations afterwards.
    • Ten incarnations later, the Eleventh Doctor somehow gets engaged to Marilyn Monroe off-screen in "A Christmas Carol". "That was never a real...chapel..."
    • Amy Pond accidentally married Henry VIII.
    • The Tenth Doctor's throwaway line about marrying Queen Elizabeth is explained in "The Day of the Doctor". He thought she was a shape-shifter and was trying to Bluff the Impostor when he proposed. Turns out the alien was her horse — and he didn't count on the real deal saying yes. Elizabeth is quite serious and they take a moment out from the developing crisis to have a brief but licit wedding ceremony before the Doctor dashes off to the future to save the Earth — and England which is the part of it his new wife cares about. The Tenth Doctor's comment to the Ood about how Liz One will have to get a new nickname suggests they had a wedding night — eventually.
  • On Drake & Josh, Josh's foreign internet pal comes to visit and through a supposed friendship ceremony, Drake becomes married to the girl. They try to get her parents to undo the marriage, until Drake finds out that her parents are rich. Josh goes through with sabotaging the relationship anyway, getting the marriage undone and causing the girl and her parents to storm out.
  • The premise of the Taiwanese Series Drunken to Love You, is two strangers getting drunk, getting married, and falling in love.
  • In Farscape, the "Look at the Princess" trilogy. The wedding itself is completely on purpose (though John was REALLY forced into it by the bride's mother giving him an impossible choice.) However, he didn't realize that by kissing the princess and being found genetically compatible with her, he would be expected to marry her (since her DNA had been poisoned so no one else was compatible with her.) Damn those alien politics.
  • Mal's wedding to Saffron in the Firefly episode "Our Mrs. Reynolds" supposedly occurred by accepting a wreath, drink, and dance from the young lady. However, "Saffron" was actually a con-artist, taking advantage of the obscure tradition to get aboard without raising suspicion, with the ultimate intent of hijacking the ship. However, Mal is lucky in that Saffron has been married many other times, some of her husbands are still alive because she only ripped them off, and the Alliance has laws against bigamy. Suffice to say, the marriage is invalid. Though Saffron does tease him about it the next time they meet.
  • In an episode of Frasier, Martin off-handedly mentions that he and his friend Duke might have accidentally gotten married after they stumbled onto some sort of gay pride event while on vacation in San Francisco.
  • Friends: Ross and Rachel engage in the drunk-in-Vegas variant of the trope in the Season 5 finale.
  • In a massive oversimplification of Greek marriage customs, Full House had an episode where both DJ and Jesse unknowingly married Greeks by walking around the table with them. The problem was easily solved, though: divorce was achieved by walking around the table backwards.
  • Inverted in an episode of Gilligan's Island: The Millionare and his wife find out they're accidentally not married because their priest was a fraud.
  • In GoGo Sentai Boukenger, a girl arrives at the base, saying Souta once proposed to her, though he'd never met her before. Turns out she's actually a cat. He'd once found her injured and took care of her, and had said he wished he could keep her. She sought him out after becoming human due to a shape shifting-inducing MacGuffin.
  • In Happy Days, Fonzie and Jenny go as bride and groom to a costume party on a yacht and, after an incident involving a performance with a minister played by the ship's captain, think they've accidentally gotten married, to Jenny's delight and Fonzie's horror.
  • One episode of Hey Dude! had a subplot where a group of generically Eastern European guests were visiting the ranch, and one character accidentally proposed marriage to a young girl.
  • Just Shoot Me!: Maya and Elliot go to a mass wedding thinking that Dennis went there to marry a model and end up unwittingly married.
  • On Married... with Children, a recently divorced Marcy goes to a banking convention, has far too much to drink at a party, and wakes up the next morning married to the bartender from the night before. The bartender, Jefferson d'Arcy, played by Ted McGinley, would be Marcy's husband for the rest of the series.
  • An episode of M*A*S*H has Winchester "married" to a fun-loving woman during his R'n'R in Tokyo. Turns out that he drunkenly called for someone to marry them, and the bartender obliged just to shut him up. It isn't valid, but the camp throws them a drunken unwedding.
    B.J.: With the power vested in me by the state of intoxication, I pronounce you man and woman. You may now ignore the bride.
  • Similar to the Muppets example above, in The Office (US), Dwight helps Angela rehearse her wedding to Andy by playing Andy (while Andy plays the father of the bride.) They exchange "mock" vows, and Dwight later reveals that the German-speaking Mennonite was a real minister and that he tricked Andy into signing a marriage certificate for them, so they're actually married. Angela is not at all pleased.
  • On My Name Is Earl, the Pilot episode begins with Earl talking to the audience about his life thus far, and how he met Joy and married her in Vegas while drunk, only to find out she was pregnant. Later episodes expand on this story: Joy had been kicked out of the house for her out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and wanted to get herself a man to take care of her. Earl, meanwhile, was 3 weeks into a relationship with another woman named Jessie. Joy conspires with her friends to get him drunk, knowing that he wouldn't go for it if he knew she was pregnant. (Earl just thought she had a bit of a belly, not that that belly had a baby in it.) After returning from Vegas, they move into Earl's friend Frank's trailer (Earl had been Frank's roommate, but Frank wound up in prison after a heist gone wrong.) And they use the Metallica tickets that Earl had received for his and Jessie's 3-week anniversary for their "honeymoon," during which Joy knocks out Jessie's teeth.
  • There’s a version of this in New Girl. Winston begins a relationship with a soldier named Rhonda who loves over-the-top pranks. When Cece and Schmidt say they don’t want Rhonda (who Winston has only been dating for a couple weeks) at their wedding, Rhonda and Winston decide to prank the two by getting married, saying that they can’t stop Winston from bringing his wife. Cece and Schmidt think the pair were just trying to make a point and that the marriage certificate is fake, and finally agree to let Rhonda come to their wedding. Turns out they had actually gotten married and planned to get it annulled the next day- until tomorrow comes and Rhonda tells him via video that she’s been called back to duty and they’ll have to wait, leaving Winston stuck in a joke marriage.
    • She later returns, at which point Winston is engaged for real and needs the sham marriage annulled in order to marry Aly. Rhonda agrees to sign the papers for real (this after she signs them with disappearing ink the first time), but then discovers that Aly hates pranks and refuses, saying she can’t let Winston marry someone like that. It’s not until Aly begrudgingly agrees to do a prank with Rhonda that Winston finally gets the papers signed.
  • Passions had Theresa drunkenly marry Julian. No matter, he faked his own death not too long after (and as it turned out, the marriage was never valid anyway). The series finale revealed that Theresa was free to marry Ethan because Gwen had married someone else (offscreen) when drunk some years ago. Talk about a copout.
  • On Red Dwarf, in series 6 the Dwarfers have to barter for an oxygen unit from a planet of GELFs. Their price? Lister as bridegroom to a female yeti.
  • On Series/Schmigadoon, Octavius tries to get Melissa to marry him under duress.
  • In Stargate SG-1, O'Neill unknowingly eats a "marriage cake" on an alien planet and sleeps with the woman who made it (the cake was drugged; it is unlikely he would have had sex with a strange woman otherwise.) Unfortunately, he ends up with an unusual STD (actually nanites) that causes rapid aging. Whoops.
  • A variation of this comes in a first-season Taxi episode. John Burns picks up a girl at Mario's with the line, "Let's just skip everything and get married." Not only does it get him a date, but she accepts his proposal. (As John later explains to the other cabbies, each of them was expecting the other to call it off...but they went through with it.) Later, the couple plan to get the marriage annulled, but by the episode's end they actually decide to make a go of it.
  • The last straw in Hyde and Jackie's relationship in That '70s Show was after Hyde went to Las Vegas for several months after catching Jackie and Kelso in a state of undress when Hyde planned to propose to Jackie — only for Samantha to follow Hyde Hyde when he returns to Point Place and inform him they're married while Hyde was drunk. Like other examples, this marriage isn't valid as Sam was already married, never divorced her first husband, and she ultimately returned to Vegas with her first husband.
  • In That's So Raven, Raven once accidentally accepted a marriage proposal from the visiting prince of Fictional Country "Shakobi." Unaware of Shakobi's traditions, Raven accepts the prince's gifts of a feather, a seashell, and a dress, as well as an invitation to a party. After she leaves for the party, Raven's mother finds out online that those gifts make up a traditional Shakobi marriage proposal, and that Raven is in fact on her way to her own wedding. Luckily, Raven finds out the truth from her friends before she actually goes through with the ceremony. When she explains the situation to the prince, he understands and releases her, no hurt feelings.
  • What I Like About You: Val gets drunk on a trip to Vegas and wakes up married to Vic, her old boss who she had a thing for but never actually dated and hadn't seen in years. He insists on trying to make the marriage work. They find out later in the season that the Elvis impersonator who married them wasn't actually a minister, so they didn't get married after all. But by this point, they're in love and both willing to work through their problems, so they promptly go to file for a legitimate marriage certificate.
  • On Who's the Boss?, after a trip to South Carolina in which they signed in to a motel as "Mr. and Mrs.", Tony and Angela somehow ended up as Common Law spouses under S.C. law. The ensuing effort to annul the marriage was less about ending the marriage than about Tony and Angela awkwardly dodging their own feelings on the subject.

  • Older Than Feudalism: In The Aeneid, Aeneas is "married" to Dido in this manner. Juno has the nymphs singing and the lightning crashing, and to Dido, this resembles a marriage carried out by the gods. But to Aeneas, it was just a few hours alone in a cave during a storm with a nice girl. You know what that means... well, Aeneas sure knew.
  • In Arthurian Legend, Percival has No Social Skills, being raised in isolation by his mother. When he first meets his future love interest he exchanges rings with her, unaware of what his gesture signifies. Later, when he figures it out, he sets off in search of her to make good his proposal.

  • So does Alan Jackson's "I Don't Even Know Your Name".
  • Possibly happened in Katy Perry's "Waking Up in Vegas", as Katy is now wearing her beau's class ring and she has fuzzy memories of an Elvis Impersonator acting as a minister.
  • The song "Last Name" by Carrie Underwood completely states the whole "Getting drunk and waking up married" thing to a sheen.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In Safe Havens, this happened to Jenny and Luis: while in Vegas they accidentally drove into a drive-thru chapel instead of a fast food joint, and were blocked in before they could get out. They never got it annulled because they found they didn't really want to, but didn't tell anyone else because they were embarrassed about it until Jenny got pregnant. If anything, though, that Jenny went through with it shows how much she loves Luis: the normally greedy Jenny gave up thousands of dollars in wedding presents for her secret marriage.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • A brawl on TNA impact! during Kurt and Karen Angle's wedding re-vow ceremony resulted in Kurt's lackey AJ Styles getting married to Karen. The two even went on a "honeymoon" the following week.

  • Slightly downplayed in The Drowsy Chaperone, as Mr. Feltzeig tries to present Kitty as a new mind-reading act, and she reads his mind as, "Kitty, will you marry me?" She says yes, and he has to go along with it or else he will lose his leading act again and get murdered by the mobsters he's indebted to.
  • In the farce Engaged by W. S. Gilbert, it is claimed that a man and woman can become legally married in Scotland simply by declaring themselves to be husband and wife. Two characters claim to be married in order to repel a spurned suitor, and then discover that they've inadvertently become married. But it turns out that although the cottage they were visiting was in Scotland, the yard they were standing in was in England.

    Video Games 
  • In Rachel's joke ending in BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, a pair of magical glasses make pretty much every girl (and Jin) fall madly in love with Ragna. One of the victims, Noel, actually creates a fake marriage registration and goes so far as to forge the official government seal for it. However, Nirvana had it annulled by tearing it up. And detonated the civil administration building where Noel's backup copies were held.
  • In Blue Dragon, the fact that Marumaro is wearing exactly one hat is interpreted as a proposal of marriage by the girls of Kelaso Village.
  • Subverted in Bravely Second. Magnolia Arch comes from Fort Lune on the Moon of Luxendarc, where flowers are rare enough to be comparable to jewels and offering one to a lady is akin to asking her hand in marriage. When she crash-lands on Luxendarc, Yew Geneolgia finds her unconscious and rouses her with a magnolianote ; once she's awake, he gives the flower to her. Accepting the flower and accepting the proposal are technically different actions, but as she sees it, Yew still proposed to her, which kick-starts their relationship; this doesn't come to light until the middle of the game.
  • In "Julan: Ashlander Companion", a mod for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, there is a point where, without thinking, Julan tells the female player character she should marry him after he becomes leader of his tribe. According to the mod, the leader of a tribe is the one who conducts marriage ceremonies, and since Julan is by now said leader, he and the PC are now married.
  • In the back story of Firan MUX, two of the Seven Heroes, Bannos and Shara, find themselves married to each other when visiting the Ticanee by sleeping in the same tent together (while the crowd loudly encouraged them). Players, however, only marry through code that explicitly prevents accidental marriage (though it could happen in theory).
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening:
    • More like "accidental first date", but okay. In Stahl's B support with Cherche has him asking her to help him gather firewood. She quickly tells him that in her hometown, a guy inviting a girl to gather firewood indicates romantic interest since firewood is supposed to ignite the flames of passion in the girl's heart. Stahl is greatly embarrassed when he hears that, but they go on this "first date" anyway.
    • A meta version of this can actually get sprung on distracted players: There's a mechanic that allows the various characters to develop relationships, and if two of them reach S rank support, get married. All well and good. The problem is that at about halfway through the game, Prince Chrom must marry one of his five possible brides for plot reasons, meaning that when the player hits that point in the story he'll automatically marry whoever has the highest support level, even if it's not S rank yet. If the player didn't realize that the marriage had to happen, it's entirely possible for Chrom to end up with someone unintended by the player. This is sort of lampshaded if he marries Olivia, who joins the party the chapter before this happens.
  • In Guild Wars: Eye of the North, a side quest has a Norn challenge the player to a set of contests, namely a booze-drinking competition and beating a bear to death. Only after succeeding is it revealed this was the Norn equivalent of a marriage proposal and the player just accepted. The final quest in the chain is essentially the player trying to politely break things off.
  • You don't actually end up married, but due to your character's lack of knowledge of Echani culture in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, it is possible for a male character to be flirting with/courting the Handmaiden without realizing it.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Link accepts the Zoras' sacred jewel so he can open the Door of Time, only to discover with some confusion seven years later that he is now engaged to Princess Ruto. In this case the narration outright states that he doesn't know what she's talking about when she calls it her most precious possession and mentions it being a sort of engagement ring, and in his defence he was raised by forest children who never grow up and so presumably don't have any concept of marriage.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: A conversation on Aya has Jaal mention he taught Liam an old angaran song, but neglected to mention it is a marriage song, and a binding one at that, before Liam sung it to some of the Tempest crew. Jaal adds he'll teach Liam the one for divorce next.
  • In the Mystery Case Files game Escape From Ravenhearst, the Master Detective is trapped in a seemingly endless series of puzzles and crazy situations concocted by her Back from the Dead archnemesis, Charles. She reaches the final act and finds that things are very different — classical music, rose petals, what the heck's going on... she solves yet another puzzle and discovers that Charles believes this means she's accepting his proposal of marriage.
  • In StarCraft II, Jim Raynor's Lancer Matt Horner once got himself married to the mercenary Mira Han after winning a card game, claiming he didn't know what the prize was going to be. A portrait of his lovely wife. Needless to say, he made little to no effort to stay in touch with her. This didn't stop her from using the alias "Mira Horner".
    Mira Han: Oh and, um, say hello to Matthew for me; ask him why he never calls.
    Matt Horner: [does the "I'm not here!" gesture]
    [after the mission]
    Matt Horner: If Mira calls, I'm—Just tell her I'm busy.
  • In Super Paper Mario, this is actually what sets the entire story into motion. Princess Peach is hypnotized into marrying Bowser (an odd couple if ever there was one) which is what fulfills a prophecy which begins the destruction of the universe. You should know what happens next: Mario comes to save the day. Of course. Hilariously, for the remainder of the game, Bowser insists on behaving as though the marriage was legally binding, referring to Peach as his wife (much to her annoyance).
  • Tears to Tiara: First, Arawn winds up married to Riannon as a political thing. Then he marries Morgan to save her from getting executed, and it's not even entirely clear if he realizes this one. Then he burns a seal pelt that belongs to Llyr, so that's three. Then he accidentally marries Octavia because he grabs her hand, bringing him to four. At the rate he's going, everyone on earth is going to marry him, apparently.
    • Thankfully in the anime adaptation, Arawn only marries the first three mentioned above. Octavia doesn't marry him because he never held her hand. Instead, she might marry Arthur since he held her hand after their sword fight.
  • In the sequel Tears to Tiara 2, Hamil was apparently under the impression that the religious rituals he performed to summon divine reinforcements for war meant he's married to the goddess Ashtarte. She didn't think so. Not that she's complaining once she found out.
  • In episode 3 of Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures, Wallace accidentally proposes to Miss Flitt while picking up a lugnut that she mistakes for a wedding ring. Sorting this out takes up a good part of the plot of episode 4.

  • In Archipelago, Big Bad Wannabe Winged Humanoid Steller found himself married to three harpies after killing their previous husband in a duel. Not that they (the wives) minded the change.
    Steller: Word of advice: If you ever happen to challenge a seagull chieftain to mortal combat, double check to see if 'eerily delighted widows' are part of your winnings!
  • In BACK, after wandering into a Wedding Alter in search of coven members in Daggum, Abigail and Daniel accidentally end up married; Abigail had taken a number, and the officiant had mistaken Daniel's explanation of love to Abigail for vows.
  • Happens in a side-story of Collar 6 where a man finds out that he became a sub to a dom woman without remembering it (due to a knock on the head) since dom/sub relationships in that universe resemble marriages in the sense that they are contracted and the slave collar serves the purpose of a wedding ring.
  • This is pretty much the entire point of the plot of Marry Me (Bobby Crosby): A guy is dragged to a concert by his lesbian friend who adores the singer and has a sign that reads "Marry Me." She asks him to hold up the sign for her while she goes to the bathroom. Guess what the singer does next? In this case the hapless guy actually does decide to ride it out, and ends up genuinely falling in love with her. Also, toward the end they find out that they aren't actually married. They decide to get married for real, anyway.
  • In a rare female victim example, the main Earth character in Our Home Planet accidentally gets married to the younger of the D'bo Sisters by biting her on the middle finger. It was in self-defense because they were trying to eat her and her roommate. And then she tried to invalidate the marriage by claiming her roommate was her wife, causing the both of them to be married. Then the alien prince Julian did the same thing when trying to defend himself.
  • In Random Encounter, a princess's entourage comes to DHS wanting an escort back to her own country — offered a female student, they insist on a boy for the sake of "tradition," setting Claw on a Twelfth Night Adventure. What they fail to mention that this "tradition" ends with the princess's escort becoming her consort.
  • This page of Supermegatopia.

    Web Original 
  • One of the many thrilling and hilarious storylines in the Cumberholmes Role Play Twitter Community was having Cumberholmes marry Irene Adler-Norton in Las Vegas. They were both intoxicated at the time and gave false names, yet they still got married. The marriage came to an amicable end, especially with Mycroft pushing through the paperwork.
  • The Fall of Doc Future: It turns out that merely by trying to be polite, respectful, and helpful, Doc accidentally married a goddess. There were even some branches of possibility where they formed a happy family together, but those all ended in catastrophe and reset one way or another; in the current timeline, they are more-or-less amicably estranged.

    Web Videos 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: In the Brave and the Bold #26 review, Linkara came home from vacation and was surprised to be wearing a wedding ring, apparently too drunk to have even remembered who he got married to (in real life, Lewis got married to Viga, though presumably not while drunk).
  • This is the premise behind the series Husbands, when Cheeks and Brady (who were dating) find out they got married. For multiple reasons they decide to remain married and see how it works out.

    Western Animation 
  • In Ben 10: Omniverse, a Tetramand princess named Looma claims that Kevin is her fiance and pursues him throughout the episode. Kevin reveals that years ago he got engaged to her so he could get his hands on an indestructible Tetramand engine block for his car. When it looks like the marriage is about to go through, Ben steps up and challenges Looma in order to save Kevin. Kevin is very pleased by this and knocks out Argit when the latter is about to reveal that if Ben wins he will become Looma's fiance. Of course, Ben wins. Looma and her father are very pleased with this result. Ben, not so much.
  • In Dragons: Race to the Edge episode "Snotlout Gets the Axe", Tuffnut seemingly marries Fishlegs and Ruffnut due to him having trained as an officiator back on Berk, making him licensed to perform weddings, but in the end it turns out that Tuffnut didn't complete his training.
  • Family Guy, when Chris is serving in the Peace Corps in South America, he is accidentally married to a tribal chief's daughter when he leads the tribe in a random song-and-dance number.
    • We have this with Quagmire when he married his wife Charmisse, while drunk.
  • Fry and Leela of Futurama once got married without either of them quite knowing how it happened; the entire courtship and wedding happened during a time warp, with the result that they found themselves standing at the altar with no memory of how they got there. After a second timeslip, they're in divorce court.
    • Also nearly happens when the deaf Leela makes a deal with the Robot Devil, agreeing to give him "her hand" in exchange for robotic ears. According to the fine print, it was her hand in marriage.
      Bender: [singing] The use of words expressing something other than their literal intention! Now THAT is Irony!
  • Subverted on King of the Hill when Peggy and Hank hold a mock wedding for Bobby and Luanne to try to end a prank war between the two. Bobby thinks he got Luanne pregnant by replacing her birth control pills with candy, and Hank tells him he can atone by making an honest woman of her, though Luanne knows it's a joke. After the fake ceremony performed by Bill, Hank and Peggy tell Luanne Bill really is a minister, so they really are married. Bill gives the truth away before the end of the episode.
  • On The Simpsons, Homer and Ned marry two floozies while drunk in Vegas, despite already being married. This actually winds up being a rare subversion of the Reset Button, because a later episode has their wives track them down and get a judge to declare their legal standing (in Simpsons-world, bigamy is apparently legal in Nevada, though not in real life). Things are alright for Ned since Maude is dead, but Homer now has to sleep in the tree house.
  • Invoked on Total Drama World Tour: Stalker with a Crush Sierra tricks Cody into this by reciting the marriage vow really fast and getting him to say "I do," arguing it counts since she became an ordained minister on the Internet. Subverted at the beginning of the next episode when Heather points out they didn't have a marriage license or any of the other trappings in the first place (even ignoring the issues of their age or his informed consent).
  • In T.U.F.F. Puppy, Dudley and Kitty have to fake a wedding to catch Snaptrap and Chameleon when they go on a Wedding Smashers spree. At the end, it is hinted that Keswick was actually certified and their marriage was real.
  • Subverted on Ugly Americans: Mark accidentally agrees to take part in some weird demonic ritual for his girlfriend Callie, who's a Succubus. A lot of the festivities seem to mean it's a wedding, either directly (white dress, ice sculptor) or indirectly (killing her ex-boyfriends), but it turns out she actually plans to suck out his soul. When he manages to get out of it (and cheers her up by dumping pig blood on her) he asks if all this means they're engaged, and she tells him not to be an idiot.

    Real Life 
  • In Israel, Jewish law is the law of the land when it comes to marriage, divorce, and such matters for Jewish Israelis.note  In Jewish law, pronouncing "You are consecrated to me through this ring in accordance with the religion of Moses and Israel" in the presence of two witnesses, then having sex, is a legal marriage. So what was intended as a joke was resolved by a legal divorce. [1]
    • It gets even weirder, because while technically those things are all part of a wedding (though you don't even need sex, just a certain amount of time alone), even if you have some of this and not all of it, there's enough of a doubt/question that you might be married that you may actually need a divorce. And since anyone above bar/bat mitzvah can theoretically get married, stories abound of prank middle-school weddings or ultra-realistic theater weddings in which, even if they didn't do the deed, major rabbinic headaches occur.
    • This article describes a historical example, where a man jokingly gave a very cheap ring to a female acquaintance, leading to a debate among many of the top rabbis of Europe about whether they were legally betrothed.
    • Since many Jewish grooms don't know the formula they are to repeat, the rabbi typically has them repeat it after him word by word—but omits the Hebrew word for "to me," which the groom is supposed to know to say, so that the rabbi doesn't inadvertently marry the bride himself.
  • It seems this actually happened to Janeane Garofalo.
  • In medieval Christian canon law, getting married was a matter of saying "I take you as my wife" and "I take you as my husband" — or words to that effect. (Witnesses were highly recommended but optional.) And when the couple had had intercourse, the courts were very lenient about what were words to that effect. Several cases turned on not what one had said, but what was meant by the words that were admitted. You see a promise of future intent "I will take you as my wife" was a legal betrothal and binding unless formally dissolved. If you followed that up with sex you were married. The opportunities for 'He said, She said' are obvious. Church courts were kept busy for centuries sorting out all the permutations. This was notably an improvement for women of many Germanic tribes, as the Church protected existing marriages. Therefore, if a woman had a sweetheart and was clever about it, she could choose her husband herself. Of course she'd then have to seek the Church's protection against her angry father...
    • The Council of Trent cleared this up for Catholics by requiring witnesses, one of whom had to be a priest unless it was impractical.
  • According to Director Francis Ford Coppola on the DVD commentary from Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mina and Jonathan's wedding was a reshoot done at a Los Angeles Greek Orthodox church. They filmed the entire ceremony with a genuine Orthodox minister and realized afterwards that Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves might actually be married–not in a legal sense, but in the eyes of God.
  • Colonial Connecticut required marriage ceremonies by a government official. A couple resident in New Haven insisted they were married without it and refused to have the ceremony; probably Quakers, who were still going by the medieval rules. One official caught them in the street and reproachfully demanded first of him and then of her whether they really took each other as wife/husband. He then pronounced them married, making them married by the law. The bridegroom conceded that it was a good one.
    • In some states, like Pennsylvania, it's still legal to get married without an officiant present, although the couple still has to get a marriage license beforehand.
  • In some states (e.g. Colorado) that allow common law marriages it is possible to wind up married to someone merely by referring to them as your spouse, provided all the other conditions have been met (cohabitation, holding themselves to be a couple in the eyes of the community, etc.)
  • The Enlightenment era idea of Civil Marriage which got enacted in most Western countries after the French Revolution (tho sometimes that "after" was over a century later) has two main purposes: 1) take the issue out of the hand of the Church and into the hands of the state and 2) make absolutely clear what is and what isn't required for a marriage (who can officiate, which venues are acceptable, which paperwork [if any] is required and so on) — in essence to avoid precisely this trope. Still, some jurisdictions allow religious or "traditional" marriages performed in other jurisdictions as valid on equal footing with civil marriage, but that may be subject to additional conditions as well.


Video Example(s):


Senku and Ruri

After winning his bout to reach the finals, Senkus' plan to admit defeat in order for his disciple Chrome to become the Village Chief and marry Ruri falls apart when Chrome falls unconscious and Senku ends up winning the tournament by-default.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / AccidentalMarriage

Media sources: