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Last Wish Marriage

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"Princess Anna is...dead. She was killed by Queen Elsa. At least we got to say our marriage vows...before she died in my arms."
Prince Hans, Frozen (2013)

Marriage is a big decision and one that normally shouldn't be entered into lightly because it will affect you for the rest of your life. However, long-term planning goes out the window when Your Days Are Numbered. Many people want to get married at some point (or experience sex and their morals demand marriage), and when you're terminally ill or headed off into a battle where your odds of survival are slim, it's now or never. A result of this is that the people in question may have never even considered marrying each other under any other circumstances, but instead are just two terminally ill patients who don't want to die alone or an otherwise platonic friend volunteering to marry the patient because they're not long for this world. Alternatively, the two could have been/still are High-School Sweethearts. If it's done really cheesy, it will end with a Last Kiss. See also True Love Is a Kink.

On a more practical level, this may be to ensure that the widow/widower receives the pension, inheritance, insurance payout, death benefits, or even Kingdom of their deceased spouse, which can either be played as a benevolent gift from the dying or a cruel manipulation of someone too weak or delirious to properly voice objections.

Very much Truth in Television.

Subtrope of Altar the Speed.

See also Metaphorical Marriage when the couple can't get married legally, but they have an unofficial wedding-like ceremony and consider themselves as good as married, and Wedding/Death Juxtaposition.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Angel Beats!, Hinata proposes marriage to Yui to fulfill her final wish and allow her to move on from Purgatory.
  • Kanon pulls this off with the end of Makoto's route as she declines in both health and intelligence. Though she indeed doesn't last much longer, the 2006 anime does hint that she may return next spring.
  • At the end of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Simon marries Nia just before she Goes Out With A Smile.

    Comic Books 
  • In V3 of the Legion of Super-Heroes comics, Shadow Lass married Mon-El when he was dying (and he died an issue later). In this case, Shadow Lass initiated the marriage. Whether this is still in continuity is uncertain.

    Comic Strips 
  • Invoked in The Fortunes of Flossie — After getting into a minor car accident, Bill plays up the seriousness his injuries and begs for a preacher to come marry him and Flossie before he dies. As soon and Flossie has said "I do," Bill reveals that he's fine.

    Fan Works 
  • Little House on the Prairie anthology fic Harvest of Friends has Chapter 4, in which a dying Sylvia Webb is given a wedding in church and makes it to the kiss before starting to lose consciousness and succumb from the injuries sustained after falling while trying to escape her rapist rather than die in bed.
  • The Lois & Clark fic A Gift for Life has Clark getting Leukemia from Kryptonite exposure. He marries Lois...because she's agreed to have a baby for him, and even though actual sex will not be involved, he wants the child to be legitimate and have a "real" family. (The theme of the story is the controversy of conceiving a child to use as a donor).

    Films — Animated 
  • In Frozen (2013), Hans claims that he married Anna as she lay on her deathbed, thus making him King of Arendelle since the Queen, Anna's sister Elsa, had gone missing.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The African Queen, Rose Sayer and Charlie Allnut are captured during their attempted bombing of the German warship. The German captain asks if they have a Last Request before they're hanged, and they ask the captain to marry them.
  • Happens to the main character and his girlfriend in Deep Impact. Despite being very young teenagers, they want to (and are allowed to) get married due to the possibility that they might die soon anyway because of the meteor.
  • In Forrest Gump, Jenny marries Forrest because she knows (or at least suspects) that she's dying.
  • Independence Day: Just before Steven Hiller goes on his incredibly dangerous mission to implant the computer virus in the alien mothership, he finally marries his girlfriend.
  • In Love and Death, Sonya agrees to marry her nebbish cousin Boris because he's been challenged to a duel and fully expects that he'd be killed, and she figures that she can do him a simple kindness. She's a bit taken aback when he actually survives and she actually has to live with him.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, during the final battle, Will proposes to Elizabeth. Knowing that there's a good chance they could die, Elizabeth asks Barbossa to perform the marriage ceremony right then and there (as he's a ship's captain and is legally able to do so), which he does - while sword-fighting with Davy Jones' minions the whole time.
  • In This Is The Army Johnny Jones marries his girlfriend before being sent overseas, which at the beginning of the film he's against doing.

  • In Cry, the Beloved Country, Absalom marries his pregnant girlfriend after he is sentenced to death.
  • In the historical novel Keeper of the Crystal Spring, Norman Lord Gandulf is in love with the Saxon peasant Aldyth. When they're trapped together in an oubliette, they exchange handfast vows because they're pretty sure they're going to die. This is sufficient, given the time period, for them to be regarded as legally married. When they're able to escape, they properly marry later.
  • In In the King's Service, Lord Ahern de Corwyn is engaged to Zoë Morgan when he becomes ill from a ruptured bowel. The couple exchange wedding vows at Ahern's insistence (he refuses the Last Rites until this is done), and he dies about an hour later.
  • In Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, the protagonist is rushed through a marriage (to a woman he almost certainly intended to marry anyway) because the following day, he's going to do something potentially suicidal but necessary.
  • In The Shadow Rising, Perrin and Faile are married in Emond's Field as a demand from Faile to leave the village, which is due to be assaulted and overrun by Trollocs. She returns with The Cavalry, in the form of villagers from the neighboring villages that she recruited.
  • In Tomek wśród łowców głów (Tom among the headhunters) from Polish novel cycle by Alfred Szklarski, Tomek's love interest from Australia, Sally, marries him when she is seriously injured. It was in the penultimate chapter Sally's last wish and she said that when he is hers, she can die, but nobody wanted to believe it and she really recovered soon.
  • In both the book and film versions of A Walk to Remember, a teenage boy discovers that his girlfriend is terminally ill, so he proposes to her. They get married at the end of the story.
  • In When Darkness Falls Idalia accepts Jermayan's marriage proposal after she's already learned she must willingly sacrifice herself to foil the demons' plot. Shortly thereafter, however, she's reincarnated as the daughter of the elven king, and as Jermayan is an elf as well, a Jailbait Wait isn't a problem.
  • In the Wagons West book Nevada!, wanting to honor the wish of a "soiled dove" who was believed to be dying led to Toby's first marriage, althro the bride actually survived, causing issues after Toby came back from the war.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The average Soap Opera will occasionally churn out varying versions of this. Often, the supposedly dying person doesn't die, causing complications between their new spouse and whoever he/she had to ditch to enter into the union.
  • The Big Leap: Paula and Mike, since she knows she doesn't have much time left and the two are madly in love. It's a good thing too, since she only makes it a few weeks after the event before passing.
  • On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a supernatural apocalypse prompted Xander to finally propose to Anya, who was hurt because she thought he was only proposing for this reason, and he'd never have to go through with it.
  • In Charmed, Cole and Phoebe got married in the face of their supernatural apocalypse, but after killing the Big Bad he Came Back Wrong and their relations were doomed.
  • Attempted in Doctor Who. In the First Doctor serial The Aztecs, Susan is ordered to marry a man who is scheduled to be sacrificed. Naturally, she wants nothing to do with it.
  • William and Daisy are married in Downton Abbey Series 2, with William on his deathbed after his war wounds. It is Played for Drama since Daisy doesn't love William (she only sees him as a good friend), but she is pushed to the marriage by the rest of the staff. Later it's revealed that William wanted to marry her also for the sake of his widowed father who had no family left, so he could have a nice daughter-in-law.
  • In Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Matthew and Ingrid, convinced the world is going to end, want to get married. They were already boyfriend and girlfriend, but they hadn't been planning to marry quite so soon. It doesn't happen because the preacher is too busy hearing last-minute confessions.
    • Unfortunately, it does happen later for the same couple after they're actually engaged. Ingrid is bitten by a rabid dog, and as her mind starts to slip from the ravages of the illness, she pleads with Matthew to marry her before it takes her from him completely. He does.
  • On The Handmaid's Tale Gilead has the Colonies, camps where prisoners work themselves to death cleaning up toxic waste. Janine organizes a wedding for Kit (who is very weak and ill) and Fiona, who are in a relationship. It is their last moment of happiness before Kit dies.
  • Cameron on House once married a man that had been diagnosed as terminally ill with thyroid cancer. He died six months after their wedding.
  • In Manifest, Zeke's "death date" is fast approaching, so he and Michaela get married with just days to go. Complicating matters is Jared, who acts OK with it because he expects to reignite their relationship after Zeke dies. Zeke gets better.
  • In the Season 2 finale of Robin Hood, Robin and Marian start to say their wedding vows when they think they're going to die together, but are rescued before they can finish them. Near the end of the episode, they finish them as Marian is dying for real.
    • In an earlier episode, "Walkabout", Guy of Gisborne repeatedly asks Marian to marry him so they can escape the forthcoming destruction of Nottingham (as a promise made to the Sheriff by Prince John that the entire city will be destroyed if the Sheriff should die an unnatural death has been triggered when the Sheriff goes missing, but Gisborne himself and his immediate family will be spared). Marian refuses because she cannot abandon the people of Nottingham, and eventually Gisborne decides to stay and die by her side. As the guards close in, he implores her to marry him now, as there is still time to "steal that from them, at least", although he is interrupted by the return of the Sheriff.
  • On Scorpion, Sylvester marries Walter's terminally ill sister, Megan, to allow her to be able to die on her terms, rather than be kept alive on a breathing tube and other life-support means.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Hindu Mythology: A folktale tells of the Mahabharata hero Aravan (who becomes the Tamil god Kuttantavar), who was married to Mohini, before his self-sacrifice. Aravan agrees to become the sacrificial victim for the Kalappali ("sacrifice to the battlefield") to ensure the victory of the Pandavas, his father, and his uncles. Before being sacrificed to goddess Kali, Aravan asks three boons from Krishna, the guide of the Pandavas. The third boon was that Aravan should be married before the sacrifice so that he could get the right of cremation and funerary offerings (bachelors were buried). To fulfill this wish in the Kuttantavar cult myth, Krishna turns into Mohini, marries Aravan, and spends the night with him.

    Visual Novels 
  • Played with in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. In case 2, Alita Tiala wants to marry Wocky Kitaki because she knew that his heart could stop at any time, and when that happened, Wocky's fortune would become hers.


    Western Animation 
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The End", Gumball and Darwin believe the world is going to end in a day, so Gumball tries to marry his crush, Penny, in the school hallway, apparently without even proposing first. She responds by pointing out the problem with this and the fact they're just twelve, but says she'd be open to him trying this again in like twenty years, which Gumball accepts... before he immediately proposes to the nearest girl after Penny walks off.
  • In an episode of Family Guy, Brian falls in love with an old woman. As she is in the hospital dying, he brings a virtual reality helmet for her to wear so she can see a long life married to him before she dies.
    • Another episode of Family Guy, "Married... with Cancer", has Brian date Jess, a woman with cancer. Once her doctor announces that her cancer is terminal and she's due to die in days, she cries about the fact that she will never be able to get married, and Brian uses this opportunity to propose to her. Of course, Brian assumes that she's gonna die soon and he'll be able to use his selfless proposal to a dying girl as a way to impress future girlfriends. However, Jess's doctor announces that her cancer has gone into remission right after the wedding, and Brian is forced to live with a woman he never really wanted to stay with.

    Real Life 
  • An inspiring Real Life example is the charity Wish Upon A Wedding. It grants terminally ill people weddings and vow renewals.
  • Joseph Plunkett and Grace Evelyn Gifford got married mere hours before his execution in 1916. Part of the Easter Uprising (1916), Joseph was sentenced to death by execution squad. Grace and Joseph were married in his jail cell about seven hours before his death. Grace never married again. The event is memorialized in the song "Grace" by The Dubliners.
  • Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. Incredibly, in a Berlin that was 80% over-run by the Red Army, they still found a civil registrar from the Berlin local government (such as was left) who was brought to the Bunker to officiate and make it legal and write out a formal marriage certificate. Mr. and Mrs. Hitler both required death certificates the following day.
  • The US Government considers this with survivor benefits. For the spouse to qualify for survivor benefits, the marriage must have lasted at least nine months or produced a child, unless the death was in the line of duty.
  • In 2013 a lesbian couple was allowed to get married before the date that gay marriages were to be officially allowed in their state, because one of the two had breast cancer and would be dead before the new law would go into effect. Read more here.
  • Quite possibly the reason Francis I of France allowed his daughter, Madeleine of Valois, to marry James V of Scotland. She died 6 months later from tuberculosis.
  • Eazy-E was very sick with AIDS, and died just two weeks after his wedding in 1995 to his longtime girlfriend Tomika Woods, at the age of 30.
  • In the United States, a number of women have actually married death row inmates. This is legal as the 1987 Supreme Court decision Turney vs. Safley ruled prison inmates have the legal right to marry.
  • In a variation, some religious orders specify in their rule that a novice can be permitted to make their final vows — becoming a full and permanent member of the community — earlier than usual if they are terminally ill or otherwise in danger of death.