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Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage

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Now I need you to kiss the bride in triplicate.

Victoria Everglot: What if Victor and I don't like each other?
Lady Everglot: Ha! As if that has anything to do with marriage.

Very few people would want to be part of an Arranged Marriage, but it's not all bad. After all, usually your parents are the ones selecting your spouse, and they know you and love you and want you to be happy. Or at the very least, they don't want you throwing a tantrum at the altar and destroying the alliance they've been planning for years. They may have other, higher priorities than your happiness, but your happiness does usually matter. Therefore, there is at least some prayer that your spouse will be someone you could grow to love.

Not in these types of marriages. The people arranging this marriage don't care about your feelings. In fact, they probably don't even know you. To them you're just an ID number that needs to be paired up with another ID number, and you're going to be, whether you want to or not.

Maybe the government needs you to marry someone in order to secure an important alliance. Maybe you're the next link in the super-soldier breeding program. Whatever the reason, the powers that be have declared that this marriage has to happen.

A subtrope of Arranged Marriage. Note that whether or not an arranged marriage qualifies for this subtrope depends on who is arranging the marriage and the relationship between the arranger and the people getting married. The person arranging the marriage needs to be an impersonal force, not a close relative. If the King is ordering the marriage of two of his subjects, that may be this trope; if he's ordering the marriage of his daughter the Princess, it isn't. Also note that this can overlap with Perfectly Arranged Marriage: sometimes, the bureaucracy's computer is pretty good at pairing compatible people. And if not, there's always plain luck. Often a part of Altar Diplomacy, where the match is made for political reasons.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Code Geass has a scene where, after rescuing Empress Tianzi from an unwanted Arranged Marriage and preventing a political alliance between Britannians and Chinese that would've ruined Lelouch/Zero's plans, Diethard floats the idea of marrying Tianzi and a high-ranked Black Knight. Lelouch is mentally considering that this isn't a bad idea before it's hilariously shot down by every woman in the Black Knights group before he can say anything.
  • In Hetalia: Axis Powers, it seems that Nations as People Lithuania and Poland were married as a result of being the Anthropomorphic Personifications of two countries in a close alliance. Though at least they seem to sorta get along, and at the same time, Lithuania's boss Duke Wladislaw Jagello and Poland's boss Queen Jadwiga are going through their own BSM as well.
  • The main premise of Koi to Uso. The protagonist is assigned a marriage partner by the government right after confessing to the girl he likes.
  • In the Psycho-Pass: The Movie movie, Akane discovers her old friend Kaori is getting married to a man that the Sibyl System has decided is a good match for her because its database indicates they have a high "Romantic Compatibility" score. And it is correct: she falls for him after their first few meetings.
  • Most of the plot of Twin Star Exorcists revolves around the Arranged Marriage between Rokuro and Benio. The reason is that an oracle predicted their child would be The Miko, the reincarnation of Abe No Seimei that would wipe out the impurities once and for all. The fact that all attempts during the previous thousand years ended up killed by said Impurities before they could have children shows pretty well that whoever decided it, they didn't really care for their safety.
  • Yuki Yuna is a Hero has a friendship variant. Flashbacks show that after Togo's first tour of duty as a Hero ended and she was released from the hospital, the Taisha deliberately arranged to have her family move next door to Yuna's family, because they knew Yuna had extremely high potential as another Hero and wanted the two girls to become friends.

    Comic Books 
  • Happens in Monstress, the Warlord of the East - an Arcanic Lord of the Dawn Court and a Baroness of the Dusk Court, both of whom are female, are married for the sake of uniting both courts and preparing for war against humanity. Neither side is happy and both are ready to do some political intrigue against each other.

    Fan Works 
  • There is an entire genre of Harry Potter fanfiction called the Marriage Law fic which centers around the Ministry forcing people to get married to a partner of the government's choosing in an effort to rebuild the population after the losses in the Voldemort war(s). This provides a way of forcing the start of a relationship between two parties who would not plausibly seek to be with each other. There is also a subgenre in which one or more characters is horrified by either the law in general or their chosen partner in particular, and try to do something to get out of the marriage, usually either by marrying someone else before the law comes into effect, fleeing the country, or starting an outright rebellion.
  • The Hunger Games fanfic series Five Loaves of Breadnote  includes this. The Capitol arranges everything about its subjects' laws — where they live, where they work, and if and who they marry. It's technically possible to indicate a preference either way, but the government is entirely free to ignore it when it suits them.
  • Naruto once a had a Fandom-Specific Plot where, after the Sound-Sand Invasion in order to repair their alliances with Konoha, The Sand Village's council would commit to one of these with Temari, being the now deceased Kazekage's daughter, being the most politically advantageous one. Naruto, being the one who defeated Gaara, would be considered to be the groom because of well-thought but ultimately wrong conclusions.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Carry On Loving has Sidney and Sophie Bliss, a couple who match up people that either hate each other or have no chemistry whatsoever.
  • In the movie version of Harrison Bergeron, the government chooses spouses for people in order to increase the odds breeding average children.
  • The plot of the 1930's sci-fi musical Just Imagine (well, that and a Swedish comedian who's a Fish out of Temporal Water). The hero goes on an Interplanetary Voyage to Mars to prove himself worthy of his Love Interest whom the courts are going to marry off to his rival, judged as being more socially valuable.
  • In the 1984 comedy Protocol, Goldie Hawn's character is offered as a wife to the emir of a small Middle Eastern nation of strategic importance to the United States. She's not aware of this, thinking only that she's going on a diplomatic visit, until she arrives and sees a mural of herself with the emir in wedding attire.
  • In the Don Knotts movie The Reluctant Astronaut, the titular character has a hastily arranged marriage so he and his bride can become the first married couple on the Moon.
  • Implied in THX 1138 with the arranged "roommate".

  • In a rabbinic midrash, a Roman matron asks Rabbi Yose bar Halafta what God's been up to since He created the world in six days. He tells her that God's been making matches between people. The matron scornfully claims she can easily do the same thing, and lines up a thousand of her manservants facing a thousand of her maidservants, telling each pair they're to get married. The next day, all her servants come before her with serious injuries, each complaining about the one she matched them with. The matron admits to Rabbi Yose that arranging marriages on such a wide scale is indeed a job for God, not human beings.

  • The Asterisk War: Politically-Active Princess Julis's brother, King Jolbert of Lieseltania, warns her that if she doesn't find a consort fairly soon, the integrated enterprise foundations that run the country behind the scenes might pick her a husband to benefit themselves (they found Jolbert himself a queen and several mistresses). For his part, he openly (and not unreasonably) ships her with her dueling partner Ayato, believing they'd be as good partners off the field as they are on it.
  • In Catching Fire, the second book of The Hunger Games, the Capitol plans to do this to Peeta and Katniss. This is later subverted in the end of the third book, where they voluntarily decide to marry.
  • A downplayed example: In Corpus Delicti, you can only choose your partner from the parts of the population that have a compatible immune system with yours.
  • Subverted in a 1951 story The Cupids Of Venus by William Morrison. A group of men and their psychologically-selected brides are training on Venus to settle on another planet. The protagonist accidentally encounters a woman on the course (they're training separately) and falls in Love at First Sight with her, but is told he's been assigned another bride who is more psychologically-suited to him. So during a survival trek he goes off his route, meets up with the woman he prefers and they run off together, battling through the Venusian jungle to a colony ship where they bribe a guard and smuggle themselves on board. Turns out their 'accidental' meeting was arranged by the people running the camp. He really did join up with the woman psychologically suited to him (that's why he fell in love with her instantly). It's a Secret Test of Character to ensure the colonists become Fire-Forged Friends and also have the incentive and resourcefulness to survive as pioneers on another planet. Those couples who can't work together under pressure, or are too rigid in their behavior to run away or bribe guards, are removed from the program or assigned to administration.
  • All marriages in the Delirium Series are arranged by the government, because all people over the age of 18 have been "cured" of the ability to love.
  • In Demon King Daimao, the government gives one of their agents the duty of arranging a marriage between Junko and Akuto.
  • In the Deryni novel In the King's Service, King Donal Haldane chooses his loyal human courtier Sir Kenneth Morgan for his ward Lady Alyce deCorwyn. Alyce's parents and brother are dead, and she is a royal ward as the heiress to a wealthy duchy, so she knows that politics is involved and accepts that Donal will decide who she marries. She is in fact more than fine with it as Kenneth is the father of her best friend, she's known him for years and has a bit of a crush on him. Better still he is rather embarrassedly in love with her.
  • In the Doctor Who novel Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon, many people on Overindustrialised Future Earth work for faceless megacorporations that "take care" of their employees, arranging their accommodation, education, and, if the Company considers it necessary, marriages. They do try to arrange compatible matches, but probably only because unhappy employees are bad for productivity, and the matching process involves a stack of employee profiles and a computer in the personnel department, as opposed to, say, people getting to meet people (the marriage ceremony involves their files being stapled together). One character recalls agreeing to be married as a condition of his next promotion, and then hearing no more about it until he returned from a business trip to find his new wife waiting for him in the kitchen. At first he's much more interested in his new apartment, but as she cheerfully chatters away, informing him that they are likely to be in debt to the Company for the rest of their lives, he notices she's very pretty... resulting in a Perfectly Arranged Marriage.
  • The Bene Gesserit from Dune arrange marriages for the members of their sisterhood, either to gain influence, cement political alliances, or aid in the breeding of the Kwisatz Haderach. Some of these marriages do turn out well. This is partly due to design: Bene Gesserit bred for this role are trained in the arts of seduction, so that the male partner is guaranteed to fall in love. It's just that sometimes, the Bene Gesserit falls in love, too. This is what causes Jessica to defy the Bene Gesserit, give Leto a son instead of a daughter, and produce the Kwisatz Haderach a generation early, setting the entire plot in motion. The most potent example would be the arranging of Paul and Irulan at the end of Dune, which drives a lot of the conflict of Dune Messiah since Irulan is somewhat in love, while Paul is in love with Chani. Irulan is also under a lot of pressure to produce an heir and prevent one being born through Chani.
    • God-Emperor Leto Atreides later takes over the Bene Gesserit's breeding program for his own ends, and orders various couples to produce children for him over the millennia. It's noted that some of these couples also fall in love; however, Leto just wants the children, and doesn't insist that the people involved stay together any longer than it takes to produce them (although he does forbid the use of assisted reproductive technology.)
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Falling Free, the company is trying to breed the newly created quaddies. When a young couple, with a baby, is told with whom they are assigned to have their next children, they revolt.
  • In The Giver, all couples are arranged this way, although, in this case, some mention is made of how couples are arranged so that the people involved complement each other and work well together, though it's still loveless and sexless.
  • Golden Terrace: The marriage between Yan Xiaohan and Fu Shen was arranged by Emperor Yuantai as a means of stripping the latter of his political power, as the emperor felt that Fu Shen was more loyal to the nation than the crown and could possibly turn on him at any moment. The only other choice that Yan Xiaohan had in the matter was to kill Fu Shen, so he begrudgingly accepted the emperor's initial decree. Though Yan Xiaohan and Fu Shen are initially introduced as political rivals, the marriage actually ends up working out quite well for them, as the two had been fond of each other for years despite their disagreements.
  • In The Harem Games contestants are married by an 'Omiai' treated as a market where the teenage males pick 6-15 brides to help them in the upcoming battle royale fight to the death. The brides have no say in the matter. Alex is unusual because during the selection ceremony, he was bedridden as a result of a horrific, unprovoked beating, where he couldn't retaliate, and his brides were not only chosen for him, but most of them actively petitioned for the role.
  • Heralds of Valdemar series: The reasons and political maneuvering behind the various forms of Arranged Marriage among the nobility are a theme of Closer to Home. In an attempt to resolve a feud between two noble houses, the Prince commands that House Raeylen marry their only son to House Chendlar's oldest daughter. This backfires badly when it turns out Chendlar's youngest daughter has fallen hard for the son, and he manipulates her in a scheme to kill off both families and inherit their lands.
  • Subverted in the Honor Harrington series. The Mesan Alignment practices this as part of its breeding program, but compatibility is a major factor in their decisions — partly because the Mesan Alignment cares about its own people, and partly because spousal murder can really mess up their plans. At minimum, they try to ensure that their couples can at least tolerate each other enough to produce children.
  • In Plato's Laws, this is what happens when they have a fatherless heiress. They even admit:
    And if a man dying by some unexpected fate leaves daughters behind him, let him pardon the legislator if he gives them in marriage, he have a regard only to two out of three conditions—nearness of kin and the preservation of the lot, and omits the third condition, which a father would naturally consider, for he would choose out of all the citizens a son for himself, and a husband for his daughter, with a view to his character and disposition - the father, say, shall forgive the legislator if he disregards this, which to him is an impossible consideration.
  • Matched: The government controls every aspect of your life, including who you will marry based on compatibility measures.
  • Isaac Asimov had the whole Solarian way of marriage (for a given definition of "marriage") in his Robot books — which impacted in later Empire ones. People were assigned their spouses by a board. And, presumably, a lot of A.I. This is a major plot-point in The Naked Sun.
  • In Nineteen Eighty-Four, all marriages have to be approved by a committee, and approval will not be given if the man and woman show any signs of being sexually attracted to each other because sex for pleasure is not allowed.
  • Similarly, in Plato's Republic, all "marriages" among members of the ruling "guardian" class are arranged by the state. We say "marriages" in quotes, because it appears that these are one-time things rather than permanent relationships. Also, although the selection of pairings is officially either random or the work of the gods, it's actually the philosopher-kings who make the decisions, breeding citizens according to the needs of the state.
  • Played with in the Samaria series. The idea of the Kiss (an arm implant that records your life for Jovah) lighting up when you meet your soulmate, and the tradition of Jovah choosing the Angelica (the Archangel's consort), has been mythologized into a Red String of Fate. However, Jovah's actually a spaceship computer that uses genetic and psychological records to (with fair accuracy) arrange the best possible marriages for producing genetically superior children and complementary spouses for the Archangel. Also, it's not supposed to be a forced marriage (though in Rachel's case, it is one); Jovah's just trying to be helpful.
  • In the Star Trek Novelverse, in order to stave off the extinction of the Andorian species the Andorian Empire resorts to arranging bondgroups based on genetic analysis to maximize fertility.longer explanation  Some of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch books deal with an Andorian member of Deep Space 9's crew resisting calls by his bondgroup, whom he hates, to return home to help them conceive. Andoria eventually secedes from the Federation for a brief period to get out from under the Federation's No Transhumanism Allowed laws so they can use genetic engineering to permanently fix the problem.
  • In Tales from Netheredge the subjects of the kingdom of Bow seem to hold these in high regard, in accordance with their belief in the power of the pairing. Their queen Verne was married off — by her High Chancellor — to a commoner from a merchant family, as that commoner's negotiation skills would be an incredibly useful asset in court (and despite his complete lack of fidelity, they appear to be fond of each other). Likewise, the Court Mage and the High Chancellor were advised — by said queen — to get married to uplift the people's morale in the face of an impending invasion; it helped that they had already fallen in love at that point (and pretty much Everyone Could See It).
  • This is one of the life-in-the-future tropes played with in Tomorrow Town by Kim Newman. The apparent motive for the murder of Asshole Victim Varno Zhoule is that he had been matched with one of the women of the town by the Master Computer, even though she was already happily married to someone else, and it's suspected that Zhoule arranged to have the result come out in his own favor. Ostensibly the computer matches people based on their suitability, but as the 'ideas man' behind Tomorrow Town Zhoule is coded as the most valuable member of the community so decisions are rigged in his favour as he's automatically the most suitable mating partner (in truth his ideas are Awesome, but Impractical, so he's worse than useless).
  • In David Weber's The War Gods series, the King of the Sothoii has the power to force marriages in cases of nobles who don't have a male heir. It's seen as a last resort, admittedly hard on only-daughters, but worth it in order to insure that the Kingdom isn't destabilized by having important lands and titles fall into dispute.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Philip and Elizabeth's marriage from The Americans is one of these though they do grow to truly love each other. This is not Truth in Television as the USSR usually chose couples who were already married to be their deep cover agents. They would also sometimes recruit existing agents' spouses to come into the job.
  • In Babylon 5, the Psi Corps arranges marriages between powerful telepaths in order to facilitate the breeding of even more powerful telepaths. If the people involved try to refuse, the Corps is perfectly willing to arrange rapes instead - apparently having never heard of artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilization.
  • In the Black Mirror episode "Hang the DJ", relationships are all arranged by "the system", which is some sort of computer that matches people for predetermined amounts of time (which could be 12 hours or 3 years), until it gathers enough information to find your One True Love.
  • In The Good Place, everyone who ends up in the titular happy afterlife is paired with their perfect "soulmate", who can be platonic, but is often a romantic match. However, when people who don't belong there end up taking places they didn't deserve, the system of soulmates becomes challenging. Protagonist Eleanor, for example, is a bad person who ends up taking a spot in the Good Place by accident, and is paired with a soulmate, Chidi, but later, the real Eleanor shows up and seems to be his real soulmate, which gives him trouble due to his indecisiveness. Another flawed pairing also occurs with Tahani and the silent monk Jianyu, who is actually a Florida DJ named Jason who took the role he was assumed to have out of fear of being caught, which makes both unhappy. However, these problems were all planned, as they've all been in the Bad Place all along, living in a simulated Good Place designed to be their torture. It's left unclear if the real Good Place has soulmates, but the situation they went through was entirely deliberate, with Eleanor being tortured by her growing love for Chidi, Chidi being tortured by the choice of two soulmates, Tahani being tortured by her inability to connect with the person she thinks is Jianyu, and Jason being miserable because he has to hide and can't relate to Tahani.
  • In The Handmaid's Tale, Nick has an arranged marriage with 15-year-old Eden as a "reward" for good behavior. In reality, it seems to be a power play by the Commander and a way for Serena to mess with Offred. He mostly ignores her, and she eventually runs off with the Guardian Isaac. They eventually are found and sentenced to death for adultery.
  • Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams: In "Human Is" the State apparently pairs people as couples due to a "procreation mandate", which is how Vera and Silas were put together, and this explains why their marriage was quite cold.
  • The Starlost: In the pilot episode, Devon questions the Blind Obedience of the Elders when they claim that the Creator has decreed that the woman he loves must marry someone else for genetic reasons. He (along with everyone else) doesn't know he's living on a Generation Ship so there's a good reason for this, but after finding this out he also discovers that the Elders are faking the Creator's orders to maintain their authority, so he's not inclined to play along. He grabs his girl and flees into the rest of the ship, followed by her outraged husband-to-be.
  • In Supernatural, Heaven of all things arranges these. Angels use Cupids to make people fall in love but it comes across as more of a breeding program with the goals of preserving vessel bloodlines or needing certain children to be born.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Ars Magica, heiresses whose fathers die become wards of their father's lord, and they (and more importantly their lands) will be married off to the lord's benefit. It's technically illegal to simply sell her for money, but in practice, this is often laughed at.
  • Halruaa of Forgotten Realms, as described in Counselors and Kings. And they for most part really did believe eugenics applied to wizards will improve the situation.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, the Tau Empire has a system of arranged breeding. Couples are selected on the basis of genetic advantage and sent a summons from a "Procreation Committee" to spend a day together trying to conceive. After conception, both partners will go their separate ways, and any children from the union will be raised communally by trainers of their caste (though parents may take an interest in and visit the children).

  • Arguably, Hermia's situation in A Midsummer Night's Dream. The original arrangement with Demitrius doesn't qualify, since that was arranged by her father and Theseus was just enforcing the existing law allowing an Arranged Marriage. However, once Theseus expanded his ruling to allow Hermia the option of joining a convent instead, it could be considered this trope.

    Video Games 
  • The Apiary in Haven (2020) has a government branch known as the Matchmaker, which mandates the pairing of individuals it deems compatible as "mates". Kay and Yu, determined to commit to a relationship with each other rather than their assigned mates, end up fleeing the Apiary to begin a new life on the distant planet Source.
  • In Super Robot Wars Z2: Saisei-hen, Diethard attempts to marry off Tianzi again like in the series, except this time, EVERY SINGLE ZEXIS woman gets on his case about it. His expression is just awesome. Oh and one guy gets in on it too.
    Chirico: Are you even human?
    Diethard: C-Chirico Cuvie!

    Web Comics 
  • The Arrangement: Zelda and Ganondorf's marriage is arranged, however it's not an Altar Diplomacy. The marriage is to try and keep Ganondorf from being tainted by Demise's spirit and becoming an evil warlord.
  • In Marry Me (Bobby Crosby), the "NEET Protection Law" arranges for civil servants to marry NEETs in an attempt to counter Japan's declining birthrate and ensure that the latter have someone to look after them. Mari's grandmother applied in her name, and Sinn is sent to marry her as a condition of getting a promotion. Mari accepts, but only after some pressure and Sinn helping her out with her cat.
  • Played for Laughs in Piled Higher and Deeper, Professor Smith tells The Nameless Hero that studies show married PhD students graduate faster, then immediately segues into asking him how his love life is going.
    Smith: If you like, I can speak to one of my colleagues in the department. I'm sure we can find a suitable match for you within a close geographic area.
    Nameless: Uh... This is awkward.
    Smith: It's awkward that you haven't graduated.
  • Marionetta: Exaggerated. All women in Kalgratt must be married by the age of twenty, unless they are in the army. The government approves a list of locale suitors and sends them to the woman's home along with soldiers until she makes a decision. If you try to evade this, or if you try to run away from your husband and he reports you, you are going to be hunted for the rest of your life.

    Web Videos 
  • In one episode of Ask Lovecraft, the horror writer is asked how one might make a Lovecraftian wedding. He suggests that all weddings are inherently Lovecraftian, simply because the practice of marriage has traditionally originated with this trope and is, thus, spiritually and emotionally hollow. But you can still add an extra tentacle or two if you want it for aesthetic reasons...

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode where the family joins the Movementarians, there's a group wedding.
      Marge: This is ridiculous, we're already married!
      Homer: But Marge, we're not mass married!
      [Barney and Otto appear]
      Barney: At least you got to choose your mate, we got matched up on the printout!
      Otto: Remember our agreement. I'm the man!
    And Comic Book Guy is seen awkwardly asking a beautiful redhead (who seems creeped out by him) " you like comic books?"
  • Steven Universe: In "The Zoo", Steven and Greg get trapped in the Diamonds' People Zoo, and Greg discovers that the adult humans dwelling in the zoo are paired off for mating in what they call "The Choosening".

    Real Life 
  • Sun Myung Moon matched up many of the couples who took part in his mass weddings.
  • Alexander the Great attempted to do this, in order to get a unified empire, ordering his men to marry local women. The marriages, for the most part, did not last his reign. His successors instead simply gave Greek settlers land to build new cities, from Turkey to Pakistan, and let nature take its course.
  • The Romans were more successful, although they did not attempt to do this on such a large scale. Rome's wars often resulted in prisoners being obtained from amongst the upper class and elites of the recently conquered. Those that Rome did not simply kill were often married off to client rulers (Cleopatra's children were married off to Libyan royalty), given to influential men as concubines (which wasn't that different from marriage) or were married amongst similar captives from other nations — essentially making them someone else's problem.
  • The Incas also did this.
  • North Korea practices this in its massive system of prison camps: male and female prisoners are "matched" by camp guards to produce children who will spend their entire lives in the prison camp, guaranteeing the government's supply of prison labor.
  • This is essentially the point of online matchmaking services, though with the distinction that the two people so paired up aren't strictly obligated to marry.