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Child Marriage Veto

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"No, father; you may cut off my head, if you choose, but marry that horrible beggar—I never will!"
Don Giovanni de la Fortuna

An Arranged Marriage is set up for a young person (usually a daughter) by her parents, but the child refuses to go through with it. Her refusal may be eventually accepted, with or without a lot of conflict and drama, so that she is free to remain single or marry her true love. Or, she may suffer Honor-Related Abuse, depending on just where on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism the show is.

In older tales, a group of sisters may be offered the bridegroom; only the youngest is willing to consent. She invariably ends up with a fine bridegroom.

The child may be adult or underage; the trope covers the entire spectrum from the nicest forms of Arranged Marriage to Old Man Marrying a Child.

Contrast Parental Marriage Veto. For works where the child wishes she had refused the marriage, see Marital Rape License.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics brings us the episode "King Grizzlebeard.'' It deals with a kindhearted king and his Spoiled Brat of a daughter. She refuses to take a suitor because she believes herself to be "much too superior" to marry any of them and when they arrive, she resorts to making jokes that range from Actually Pretty Funny to Crosses the Line Twice. The last person she makes fun of for his poor choice of clothing is the Titular King Grizzlebeard. Fed up with her awful attitude, her father vows to make the man with the lowest status her husband. Unfortunately for Elena, a Random Beggar arrives and starts playing the harp outside her window and her father has the two marry no matter how fiercely she objects.
  • One Piece: "Big Mom" Charlotte Linlin arranges marriages for her children in order to cement alliances with other groups. One of them, however, refused (even though the groom was instantly smitten with her and in fact proposed the alliance so he could marry her, despite his people's long hatred for the prospective bride's mother) and ran away to find a husband of her own choosing, earning her mother's hatred (to the extent that Big Mom stated she'd have her assassinated if she knew where to find her). The daughter in question became "Marriage Proposal" Lola, captain of the Rolling Pirates and an ally of the Straw Hats during the Thriller Bark arc.
  • Ranma ½: Genma Saotome and Soun Tendo had arranged for Ranma and Akane to marry. The kids swear they won't because they hate each other, but most people who've seen the series swear it's more akin to Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other.

    Eastern European Animation 
  • Gypsy Tales: The titular character of "Káló, the Gypsy Lad" is arranged to marry Gilze but refuses because he falls in love with Zurdána. He has a change of heart when Dimkárta reveals that Zurdána "only toys with the lads of the dry land, making fools of them."

    Fairy Tales 
  • In Bearskin, a man promised that for Bearskin's aid to him, he would marry one of his daughters. The older two reject the notion out of hand, but the youngest agrees.
  • In "Beauty and the Beast'', Beauty's sisters veto the idea of going to the Beast; only Beauty agrees.
  • In Joseph Jacobs' "Catskin": A lord has only one child, a daughter, when he wants a son to inherit his estate. When she's old enough to marry, he orders her married off. She hates the bridegroom, so she demands first three fancy dresses, and then a coat of catskin. When her father meets her demands, she runs away.
  • In "Constanza Constanzo" (link), Costanza nobly refuses a suitor with merely Blue Blood, even though her lack of a dowry — her father's realm having been divided into three parts for her sisters' dowry, before she was born — meant she was unlikely to attract a suitor with Royal Blood.
    Next — speaking with all submission and reverence — I do not purpose to let myself fall below the race of my ancestors, who from all time have been famous and illustrious, nor do I wish to debase the crown you wear by taking for a husband one who is our inferior. You, my beloved father, have begotten four daughters, of whom you have married three in the most honourable fashion to three mighty kings, giving with them great store of gold and wide domains, but you wish to dispose of me, who have ever been obedient to you and observant of your precepts, in an ignoble alliance. Wherefore I tell you, to end my speech, that I will never take a husband unless I can be mated, like my three sisters, to a king of a rank that is my due.
  • In Andrew Lang's "Don Giovanni de la Fortuna" and in the Filipino tale "The Reward of Kindness", three daughters reject an ugly suitor introduced by their parents:
    Now, this old woman had three daughters. When she reached home with the bear-like man, she called her eldest daughter, and said, "Now, my daughter, here is a man who delivered me from prison. As I can do nothing to reward him for his great kindness, I want you to take him for your husband."
    The daughter replied, "Mother, why have you brought this ugly man here? No, I cannot marry him. I can find a better husband."
    On hearing this harsh reply, the mother could not say a word. She called her second daughter, and explained her wishes to her; but the younger daughter refused, just as her sister had refused, and she made fun of the man.
  • In the Grimms' tale King Thrushbeard, the protagonist keeps doing this to every suitor presented to her (and also mocks them to their faces, giving the title character his nickname) until her father decides to forcibly marry her off to a beggar just to punish her.
  • In The Brothers Grimm's "Maid Maleen", the titular princess turns an arranged marriage down because she is already in love with another man. Infuriated, the king locks Maleen away in a tower to try to break her spirit.
  • Franz Xaver von Schönwerth's "Nine Bags Of Gold": Hans wants to marry his daughter Marie to a wealthy man, but she turns him down because she has been warned the man is a gold-digging asshole. Hans is unhappy about Marie's refusal, but he accepts his daughter's decision.
  • "Pintosmalto": The merchant really wants his one child to marry. Betta isn't interested, which causes her father grief, but he doesn't force her to anything. The situation is resolved when Betta creates her own husband. Pintosmalto may not have heritage, but the merchant sees he has great beauty and makes his daughter happy, so he gives his blessing.

    Film — Animated 
  • Aladdin: Jasmine's propensity towards rejecting her suitors gets Aladdin his foot in the door.
  • Brave: Merida doesn't want to be married, so she pulls some Rules Lawyer stuff to get out of it by choosing a feat of Archery marksmanship as the contest, and then entering the contest, in which only the firstborn of each clan may compete. Fortuitously, she's firstborn and also a master archer. Later in the film, the three suitors reveal that none of them were keen to marry a stranger either, and they happily agree with her suggestion that the tradition be changed.
    "I am Merida, firstborn of clan DunBroch, and I'll be shooting for my own hand!"
  • Sleeping Beauty has Prince Phillip engaged to Princess Aurora from the day of her birth (he looks about five at the time). Sixteen years later he tells his father he has no intention of going through with it because he has met someone else, and "this is the 14th century", so such arrangements are outdated. As the audience well knows, the girl he's planning to run off with and the girl he's betrothed to are in fact one and the same, but neither he nor she learn this for quite some time.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Arthur (1981): Arthur refuses to marry Susan, the woman his family wants him to marry, even when threatened with being cut off from the family fortune. While his father refuses to back down, his grandmother eventually overrules her son and allows Arthur to remain rich even after he chooses love over money.
  • In Spaceballs, King Roland never has to back off from his demand that his daughter shall marry a prince. Sure the horribly boring Prince Valium was the only prince left in the galaxy, but it turns out that the hero is actually also a prince. Problem solved.

  • A Brother's Price: Jerin vetoes a marriage to the Brindle sisters in advance. His eldest sister (who is in charge of the family at the time) happily agrees, as she doesn't like Balin Brindle, who would be her husband if they swapped him for Jerin. In the backstory, there is Trini's attempt to veto a marriage. Her veto was not heeded, which resulted in an evil husband. At the time the story takes place, Trini is widowed and, finally, allowed to veto.
  • The Dragonslayers: When King Mildred promises that whomever can slay the dragon may marry his daughter, he winds up sending Elizar, who's old enough to be Willie's grandfather. Willie privately refuses to even consider marrying him (good thing too, seeing as it turns out his supposedly dead wife is still alive), and sets out to kill the dragon herself and thus earn the right to choose her own husband.
  • Enchanted Forest Chronicles:
    • Cimorene goes to live with the dragons as her way of vetoing her parents' attempt to marry her off to the son of a neighboring king, since she can't stand Therandil. She vetoes further proposals by sending away all the knights and princes who try to come and rescue her, sending most of them off to rescue other princesses instead. In the second book, she finally marries King Mendanbar after legitimately falling for him.
    • In "Utensile Strength", Princess Annalisa refuses to marry her Evil Uncle Rothbern the Great, who'd usurped her kingdom and wanted to marry her to cement his rule.
  • The Lord of Bembibre: When Don Alonso tells his daughter he has decided to engage her to the Count of Lemos, Beatriz replies she refuses to marry a backstabbing, power-hungry asshole.
    Don Alonso: "I want to tell you now, that a situation has come about that may see my efforts rewarded and crown my most ardent desires. The Count of Lemos, lord most noble and powerful of Galicia, favoured by the King and especially by the Infante Don Juan, has requested your hand in marriage and I have granted it."
    Doña Beatriz: "Is that count not the same," said Doña Beatriz, "who, after having obtained from the noble Queen Doña María the town of Monforte in Galicia, abandoned her banners to join those of the Infante Don Juan?"
    Don Alonso: "The same," said Don Alonso, dissatisfied with his daughter's question, "and what do you have to say about him?"
    Beatriz: "That it is impossible for my father to give me as husband a man whom I could neither love nor even respect."
  • In Rob Roy, Diana Vernon is arranged to marry one of the sons of Sir Hildebrand, but she opts for entering a convent because she dislikes all of them, except Rashleigh whom she deeply hates. On his deathbed, her father leaves her free to follow her own wishes, and she ends up marrying Hildebrand's nephew Frank, the one who she really loved.
  • Arianne Martell from A Song of Ice and Fire has, by the time we meet her, vetoed a large number of marriages that her father, Prince Doran, has proposed. She has also informed her father that she intends to go right on vetoing until he offers her to someone who's still young enough to have some teeth left. It turns out that Prince Doran is counting on Arianne to veto all of his proposed suitors so that no one will suspect his plan to marry her to Viserys Targaryen.
  • Spinning Silver: Wanda refuses an arranged marriage with the town brewer's son. Her father goes into a rage and nearly kills her, in the ensuing fight he gets pushed into the fire and burns to death.
  • In With a Tangled Skein, a young woman is ready to commit suicide rather than accept an arranged marriage. She winds up as Clotho, an Aspect of Fate.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Babylon 5 episode "The War Prayer" had this with a couple of Centauri, each arranged to marry someone else, but wanting to marry each other.
  • In The Borgias, Lucrezia starts doing this in the second season, due in no small part to her very unhappy marriage in the first season. Her family are not pleased, but by this point she's gotten strong enough that she can only be persuaded to do something rather than simply ordered.
  • In Game of Thrones when Tywin announces he's betrothing her to Loras Tyrell, Cersei puts her foot down and adamantly refuses to go through with it (considering how her last marriage turned out, one can't exactly blame her). When Tywin doesn't budge, she resorts to telling him that all the rumours about her, Jaime, and her kids are true and threatens to make it public. This at the very least gives Tywin a moment of pause, even sending him into a bit of a Villainous Breakdown (accompanied by a good dose of denial), and Cersei's convinced she's won. After Tywin is murdered and so cannot enforce the marriage, it becomes a moot point.
  • In the flashbacks of Lost, Sun is very reluctant when her father (via her mother) pressures her into a relationship with the son of one of the father's business partners. After a little while she opens up and falls in love in with the guy... but then HE vetoes the whole thing. It turns out that he already has a girlfriend, it's just that he hadn't dared to tell his family about it.
  • In Royal Pains, Divya breaks off her Arranged Marriage to Raj, though this comes with the consequence of being disowned by her family and being forced to repay Raj's family for what they put into wedding plans.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In the episode "Haven", Deanna Troi has been arranged to be married to Wyatt Miller. It's not Deanna who breaks off the marriage, though; it's Wyatt, who has had dreams of a non-Deanna woman since he was a child... and then he finds her on a plague ship.
    • Another episode featured the Enterprise transporting a diplomat on a mission to end an interstellar civil war that has lasted for generations by bringing a young woman to be the bride for the opposing faction's leader. It turns out she was created as "the perfect mate", with a blank slate personality; becoming the perfect match for any male nearby until she imprints on a husband permanently and gets locked into that personality forever. Long story short, Picard has to spend tons of time with her, and she imprints on HIM permanently. It seems like a diplomatic incident is looming, since she now loves Picard and not the man she is intended to marry; but being the prefect mate for Picard, her sense of duty is so strong she subverts the trope and goes through with the wedding anyway in order to end the war and save lives.

  • In Dorothy L. Sayers' The Emperor Constantine, when the match between Constantine and Fausta has been all but concluded, Constantine politely insists on consulting her, and she agrees — her father clearly had not expected even to consider this trope.
  • In Fiddler on the Roof, the main protagonist is Tevye, the struggling patriarch of a poor family. Managing to arrange a marriage between his oldest daughter and the wealthy, older man Lazar Wolf makes him very happy at first. Sure, he doesn't even like the guy — but Lazar has money and social position that will guarantee that his new wife will never have to starve. When the girl finds out about her upcoming marriage — and this is after the deal has been made and the men in the village have celebrated it — she takes it very badly. Tevye takes pity on her, sparing her from the marriage. But in this society, letting the wife-to-be have a say in the matter is so shameful that he has to make up a cover story to fool people into thinking it was his own idea to change his mind.
    • She later marries the man she loves. Lazar attends the wedding, and makes two things clear. First that he doesn't resent her for rejecting him, second that he will never forgive her father for letting her reject him. Tevye had promised his daughter to Lazar, and breaking this agreement by letting his daughter have a say in the matter makes Tevye a man without honor as far as Lazar is concerned.
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream — Hermia's father is so determined to have her marry Demetrius that he takes the case before the Duke of Athens to have her executed, if she continues to refuse. Hermia still has the right to refuse to marry anyone and join a nunnery, though.
  • Romeo and Juliet
    • Juliet's father begins the play by telling Paris that Juliet has this.
    ''My will to her consent is but a part.
    An she agreed within her scope of choice."
    • By the third act he has gotten far less kind and tells her she can marry the man he's chosen or be disowned.
    ''An you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend.
    An you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets."
  • In Zemsta, Wacław is very, very not keen on marrying the rich widow Podstolina, as his father wants him to. Though she's all for it.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age has a few examples.
    • Notably averted in Dragon Age: Origins in the City Elf origin; despite the best efforts of a reluctant PC, the ceremony will still go forward. However, it will not finish.
    • Dorian's backstory, in Dragon Age: Inquisition, is that his parents arranged a marriage for him with a girl of appropriate lineage and magic. Only trouble is, Dorian is gay and wouldn't go along with the plan, and he implies in party banter that he and his betrothed's dislike for each other went far beyond the Incompatible Orientation. When he caught wind that his dad was up to something that would change Dorian's sexuality, he fled the country. The player only learns about this when his past catches up to him.
  • In Dragon Quest VIII, Princess Medea is engaged to Prince Charmles. Although she's willing to go through with it in order to honor the treaty between their kingdoms, it's clear that nobody (aside from Charmles himself) is really pleased with the match, and eventually she decides to pull a Runaway Bride, with her father and friends defending her. Depending on the ending you earn, she either escapes with The Hero, or the King of Argonia exploits a loophole so she can marry the hero instead; the agreement was that Medea would marry a prince of Argonia, not Charmles specifically, and the hero's father turns out to be the King's older brother.
  • Mitsuru's Social Link in Persona 3 involves the board of directors arranging for her to marry a much older man to stabilize the Kirijo Group after her father's death. She seems to have accepted it, but the main character can convince her otherwise, as she had actually fallen in love with him.
    • Haru from Persona 5 goes through the same plot with the difference that it's her father arranging the marriage purely to benefit his company. In fact, her primary reason for becoming a Phantom Thief is to get out of the arrangement. In the bad ending for failing to complete her father's Palace in time, it's shown that her fiancé is heavily abusive, giving more weight to her reluctance.

    Real Life 
  • Many arranged-marriage systems do in fact allow for vetoing, rather than being forced marriages. (Sort of like parent-selected life-long blind dates). As the intro already says, there's a spectrum. (For example, situations where no legal power prevents children from marrying whoever they please, but it's still a cultural no-no, shameful for the parents and/or the children.)
  • Certain Central Asian cultures have girls elope by being "kidnapped" by their lovers to escape arranged marriages, forcing their parents to accept the marriage. There is a dark side to this; it's based off actual "bride abduction", in which a man and his friends would actually forcibly kidnap a girl, rape her, then compensate her family for taking the bride, so the parents would be forced to accept the marriage because the daughter has been Defiled Forever.
    • Italy used to have a similar practice, called fuitina (literally "little escape" in a number of local dialects), in which a couple would get around the parents' will by faking a kidnapping with rape and then celebrating a wedding, as the girl is now Defiled Forever. This ended in the 20th century, with the relevant law being abolished in 1981 as the final consequence of a girl being actually kidnapped and raped and refusing to marry her rapist as she was expected to.
  • In one case, a girl divorced the husband that had been chosen for her. The judge was astonished that she would ask for a divorce—or rather, that she was 10 years old and married to a much older man was so self-confident in harassing the justice system for her culturally accepted rights.
  • In ancient China, a girl could protest her parents' choice of husband for her by wearing a white dress to the wedding, white being the color of mourning in their culture. The parents may even call it off if she's that unhappy.
  • Mandatory for arranged marriages in the Catholic Church, as lack of consent is an impediment to marriage. An impediment that was frequently more honoured in the breach than the observance for much of recent history, mind you, but it was still there.
  • Saint Catherine of Sienna's older sister, Bonaventura, fell victim to Death by Childbirth. 16-year-old Catherine was supposed to marry her sister's widower, apparently quite the Jerkass; Catherine utterly refused to do so since she had already decided to consecrate herself to God, showing this via first cutting off her hair and later both refusing to eat and locking herself in her room until her parents left her alone.