In Real Life, people (of the Twenty-First Century) propose marriage predominantly because they love somebody. In fiction, that now tiny proportion of non-love-related proposals rises because of the intense comedy, drama, tragedy and other-storyline-exploring potential.
That is, of course, in Western nations as an Arranged Marriage is still not unusual in many other countries; it can still be a form of marrying for convenience, though, typically when a person agrees to an arranged marriage in order to get the arrangers to stop pestering them once they've resigned themselves. In other cases, like in media where the featured arranged marriage is not opposed to, it is simply fulfilling a convention of that media and/or its country, and so will probably not be a Marriage Of Convenience.
Historically, people did not Marry for Love. They married a good match for social standing and/or money. Additionally, if you wanted to keep the assets in the family, one may arrange a marriage of convenience with a distant-ish cousin. If you were not quite heterosexual, it really didn't matter because you would still pick out a suitable member of the opposite sex to marry. Nowadays, of course, incest is frowned upon and homophobia is becoming less common, so these good reasons for a purely convenient marriage shouldn't be so prevalent. But they are.
Often, a marriage of convenience is a mutually beneficial agreement, with both parties profiting from the binding - it may even involve a contract - but not always. Sometimes, only one of the partners may be in it for something other than love.
An expectation is that one or both of the people will fall in love with the other. It is also often a convention used to get two friends who are in love with each other to realise it. Then it may become a Perfectly Arranged Marriage.
There are many reasons one may choose to Marry For Convenience, and any instance can be one or more of the following (and others):
- Social standing - differs from respect as it is typically someone upper class making a good match
- Respect - including when reputation is at stake
- Money - including bet winning and to get the partner's money.
- Green card/citizenship
- Political marriage
- To play straight/gay
- Because the woman is pregnant - frequently "convenient" in the sense of not having that shotgun pointed at your back anymore.
- To help a single parent
- For practicalities - when only married couples are eligible for X, and/or to get out of marrying someone else.
- As a back-up plan
- To get close for ulterior motives
- To please parents - this may also be because of any of the above, too.
The (creators of the) work may show a marriage of convenience in order to fit in with the period of the story being told or for other reasons - commonly characterisation or as a critique of the society which has forced such a marriage to happen, or as a cheap way to get two characters together without any of that dating and love nonsense.
- Altar Diplomacy: marriage as politics.
- The Beard: marriage to perpetrate some sort of deception (most commonly as a way of discouraging speculation about one's sexuality).
- Citizenship Marriage: marriage primarily so that one partner can stay in a particular country.
- Fallback Marriage Pact: marriage to avoid growing old alone.
- Honorable Marriage Proposal: marriage offered to preserve a woman's sexual reputation.
- Mail-Order Bride: typically a Marriage of Convenience for the bride, at least; may overlap with Gold Digger and/or Citizenship Marriage.
- Nobility Marries Money: when a Nouveau Riche Social Climber marries an Impoverished Patrician.
- Remarrying for Your Kids: marriage for the benefit of one partner's children.
- One Piece: Don Chinjao has planned to have his grandson Sai, the leader of the Happo Navy, to marry the daughter of the general of the Nippo Navy as a bridge for the two navies to merge and become stronger. Sai in the end decides not to, though.
- This is done in Aldnoah.Zero, with Slaine Troyard personally arranging a marriage to Princess Asseylum Vers Allusia except it was her half-sister Lemrina Vers Envers masquerading as her at the start of the second season. At the end of the show, Princess Asseylum announces that she would take Count Klanclain Cruhteo as her husband in marriage in order to secure a lasting peace between the Earth and the Vers Empire.
- The father of Saotome Ranma from Rumiko Takahashi's Ranma ½ has arranged to board with with the father of Tendo Akane so that these two young people can become acquainted and eventually marry. On one hand, Genma sees a huge advantage in Ranma inheriting a working dojo to maintain his martial arts training, and to thwart all of Ranma's other suitors as well; on the other Soun would like to see Akane marry someone with a strong interest in martial arts, so that the dojo he founded won't be neglected or sold off. However, Ranma regards Akane as too forceful and "uncute," while Akane despises boys in general since they're too pushy on her, and calls Ranma a "pervert" to his face... but as time passes Belligerent Sexual Tension sets on between them.
- This is how the plot for Stepping on Roses begins: Soichirou Ashida needs to get married so he can properly inherit his family's fortune, Sumi Kitamura needs money to pay off her brother's debts and save her family from destitution, they meet pretty much by chance and reach an agreement to get married for anything but love. At least that's how it starts.
- A French comic version of The Odyssey has Ulysses' right hand man, having given up hope during the ten years of Ulysses' absence and sick of watching the suitors abuse their hospitality, propose to Penelope to get them out of having to entertain the wannabe boyfriends. She rejects him like all the others, and when Ulysses shows up they fight.
- Deadpool and Shiklah. They literally got married as a way of thwarting Dracula. Without being able to marry Shiklah, he's unable to merge their kingdoms and take over. Deadpool later outright admits it again. He states he loves Shiklah, but did not marry her for love, or lust, but strictly to cock-block Dracula. Word of God has also stated exactly the same.
- In one Donald Duck comic, Donald finds out that to get the job he wants, he has to be married, so he proposes to Daisy. She is very touched at first, until he tells her the reason which pisses her off and makes her throw him out.
- In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Flowerbell's Love Triangle", Flowerbell the woodnymph seeks to marry Papa Smurf in order to avoid marrying the greedy treasure hunting imp Avarice from "Smurfette's Dancing Shoes". The two end up marrying to surprise Avarice, although by the time the wedding is finished, Flowerbell flies away from Papa Smurf, finding herself now free from Avarice.
- A Marriage Of Convenience: Exactly What It Says on the Tin for this Frozen fanfiction, where, to help Arendelle, Elsa must accept Prince Hans as her husband. Nobody is okay with this, but eventually Hans starts to reform and develop feelings for her.
- In Concerning Us the young Janine is strongly advised to find a husband to avoid the social stigma and future hardships in Victorian Britain. She's not thrilled, but accepts it as a necessity, and the prospect of a friendship marriage is discussed between her and James, implying they both would be okay with it.
- Satsuki's narration of Ch. 35 of Cellar Secrets discusses this , along with Nobility Marries Money and a deconstruction of Awful Wedded Life, as she wonders if she should get married to someone to delay Nui helping pick up any financial slack.
"[...]I wonder if I should find someone wealthy and get married just to secure a constitutable future. Of course, while I had the thought, I would find that to be far worse in comparison, as I'd probably be selling ourselves to a long life of misery. Likewise, I figured that the idea would make little sense as we don't live in any sort of dark or primitive ages where marrying into money was the thing that everyone did."
- Happens near the end of the first Arcia Chronicles duology, when Shander Gardani proposes to Princess Ilana. They don't love each other, but he, having recently been elected king by the people, needs to start a dynasty, while she is on the verge of becoming a nun, having lost pretty much everything. Ultimately, their purely pragmatic marriage results in a genuine love and becomes surprisingly happy for both parties.
- In Great Expectations Miss Havisham raises Estella to be a heartless man-eater who woos men only to completely deny them, and then marries the most boring, rich man she can find so that she can continue doing so but with money. She then grows a heart by being cold when a horse kills her husband and questionably finally gets together with Pip. Miss Havisham trains Estella to want these things because she (Miss H) was left at the altar by the man she wanted to Marry for Love, because he is a criminal.
- In The Hunger Games Katniss and Peeta are sold as a couple in order to gain popularity so that one of them can survive the games. When they both survive, they're expected to marry. Whether or not they actually do is left unsaid in the books but they spend their lives together in a loving relationship.
- In Clan of the Cave Bear an unmated woman with a child (whether her mate has died or she is without a mate when the child is born) is often mated to a male member of the Clan so that she and her child will have someone to provide for them; otherwise the tribe must collectively provide for them, which isn't preferred. She may become the male's second mate if he already has one.
- Charlotte Lucas from Pride and Prejudice is famous example. Despite not really liking Mr. Collins, she marries him for financial stability, as he will one day inherit the estate of Longbourn. Since she's plain-looking and an Old Maid, Charlotte knows a better offer isn't likely to come. She defends her chose of husband to Elizabeth, who always wanted to Marry for Love.
Charlotte: I am not romantic, you know; I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins' character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.
- In Realm of the Elderlings book Dragon Haven, Hest proposes to Alisa because his family is on his case and she's an Old Maid who he thinks couldn't refuse a proposal. Although his elaborate courtship annoys her, she agrees to marry him when he's honest about his reasons. (The real real reason isn't just family pressure, though. He needs her to be The Beard.)
- Captain Vorpatril's Alliance: In order to keep Tej and her companion Rish from being deported as illegal immigrants, Ivan Vorpatril proposes this. Because of a quirk of Barrayaran tradition, they only need Ivan's cousin and Rish as witnesses, and are married seconds before the immigration officers beak down the door. They eventually turn out to have a Perfectly Arranged Marriage.
- Hollow Kingdom Trilogy: Although not in the trilogy proper, this is the ending for one of the villains. Thorn, after having spent a lifetime abusing his wife and bullying the small group of elves he leads, is punished by the goblins for trying to steal back his wife, with the same afflictions he had hurt his wife with or abused her for. This goes on for several years until he is found by the Elf King, who forbids him to remarry due to his history. Thorn attempts to live as a good elf until the day an elf woman is widowed. Because of elvish society, only children take their own shares of food, while men take their and their wife's shares. So that she isn't humiliated, Thorn takes a share for her. The Elf King decides that it can only continue if the elf woman chooses to marry Thorn, which she does. This finally seals Thorn's redemption.
- In Gene Storm: City in the Sky Snapper "marries" Beau because he's descended from the family that owned the resort-city of Mistral which makes him an automatic Board member as far as the computers are concerned, but they need two in order to call off the quarantine robots set to kill all mutants, including them. Fortunately the security computers could register marriages quickly.
- In the short story "Something to Worry About" by P. G. Wodehouse, a teenage girl's parents exile her to the country because they think she is too obsessed with boys. This so infuriates her that, within a week of arriving in the country, she convinces four different boys to propose to her and accepts all four proposals.
- In The Hunchback Of Notredame, Esmeralda marries Pierre Gringoire so that he will be saved from being hung.
- In Warrior Cats, Crowfeather and Nightcloud's relationship has been described by the authors as one: he knew that with a mate and kits he'd be trusted more by his Clan again, and Nightcloud figured that he was a strong young cat that was going to be "going places".
- In Dragon Bones, the father of the protagonist married for convenience. He despises his wife and cheats on her with her illegitimate half-sister, whom he didn't want to marry because she's considered a commoner. On his deathbed, he says that he regrets his choice and should have married the illegitimate sister. In the presence of his wife, whom he abused throughout the marriage.
- A relatively common trope in historical romance, notably in Georgette Heyer's The Convenient Marriage, A Civil Contract, Fridays Child, and The Reluctant Widow. In each case, the marriage goes differently depending on the couple and circumstances. In The Devils Cub the hero proposes this to the heroine, as a way of avoiding scandal, but she refuses because she is really in love with him and can't bear the thought of a cold marriage to him. In The Corinthian the heroine and the hero Meet Cute because both are escaping this trope (with different people) at the same moment.
- In the chick-lit novel School for Husbands, there is a big convoluted scheme to get Sophie to marry Simon. For Sophie's mother, by divorcing current husband Mark who is deemed as too low ranking for their reasonably upper-middle-class family, she would be able to brag and be more popular among her aristocratic neighbours — for Simon he gets to be in line for a promotion as the executives who just took over the company he works at believe in marriage and family values and are rumoured to either not promote or flat-out fire those who are uncoupled — Sophie would, of course, be infinitely provided for out of Simon's vast wealth. She stays with Mark, who is not the massive d-bag that Simon is.
- In Wolf Hall, Thomas and Liz Cromwell are Happily Married, but it didn't start as a love match. After Thomas proved himself an able and trustworthy business associate for her father, Henry Wykys, Henry told Thomas he could feel free to marry her because she was looking for a new husband anyway, being a widow. Henry is a little bemused when Liz and Thomas decided to talk the matter over first before agreeing.
- Brother Cadfael: In The Rose Rent, the widow Judith receives a number of marriage proposals, one of them from a middle-aged wool merchant who has the decency not to frame it as anything but a sound business move (since his main competition consists of a foppish young man only interested in spending her wealth). She ends up marrying the bronzesmith, the one man who never showed any interest in her fortune and helped her unquestioningly in her time of need.
- Our Miss Brooks: In the cinematic Grand Finale, Miss Brooks refuses a heartfelt marriage proposal from Lawrence Nolan because she likes, but doesn't love him. Miss Brooks refuses to marry for anything but love, although Nolan is very wealthy. At the end of the film, she finally achieves her Series Goal and marries Love Interest Philip Boynton.
- Rose in Titanic (1997) is set to marry a man she utterly despises because he makes a good match and is rich. This initially shows how much she hates the society and seeks adventure - cue Jack.
- In Nanny McPhee the father is being made to marry by the end of the month or else he will be left cut off from his trust fund and his children taken away, so he chooses a local serial-widower to marry - on the last day of the month, mind - but the kids ruin the marriage, leaving him to quickly pick his scullery maid as a wife to have the ceremony instead.
- The Parent Trap. Nick is engaged to be married to Meredith and although it is unknown to him, and only suspected by Hallie and Annie (as well as Chessie), her intention is to marry into his successful vineyard business and exploit his wealth.
- The Santa Clause 2, also known as The Mrs. Clause, finds Scott having to find a wife to marry before Christmas Eve, otherwise he can no longer be Santa. Already he goes through a De-Santafaction process (reverting back to his normal appearance) and although the divorced dad is reluctant, starts an elimination process looking for a woman suitable for marriage. Eventually, he and Principal Carol Newman do genuinely fall in love with each other - something that Scott figured would never happen.
- King Henry VIII, as played by the late Richard Burton in Anne Of The Thousand Days, feels free to pursue Anne Boleyn because his marriage to Katherine of Aragon was made to cement a treaty. As he put it so succinctly: "I do not love that woman. I did not marry her. That was a marriage of state: England married Spain."
- The biographic film Marie Antoinette has Marie of Austria delivered to Louis XVI of France at the age of 15 to cement a treaty between the two nations. Neither was really prepared for marriage, and Marie was despised at the French court as "that Austrian whore." Nevertheless, Marie and Louis grew to love each other during their short reign.
- The Cat in the Hat: Lawrence "Larry" Quinn is dating Sally and Conrad's mother, Joan, and is planning on marrying her - because she's a successful real estate tycoon, while he's a lazy bum who pretends to be a respectable businessman, and marrying her would allow him to mooch off her and not have work ever again.
- In The Rebound it's made a point of that Aram is too nice/naive to date Sandy because of how he won't divorce his French ex-wife even though she only married him to get a green card.
- Gordy. Henry Royce is a wealthy industrialist, and his daughter Jessica is engaged to his public relations director, Gilbert Sipes. At first it appears that Sipes is sincere in his attempts to help boost Jessica's career as being "the face" of Royce Industries, but we later learn his real intentions is taking over the business after they're married, because he stood a chance at inheriting it all.
- The main plot point in Double Harness: Joan believes that if she treats marriage like a business, she can get financial security and be happy without letting pesky emotions get in the way.
- Played for Laughs in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry about two straight firemen who pretend to be gay spouses in order to qualify for married firefighter benefits.
- Ebullient Squire Will Danaher from The Quiet Man has been itching to woo the widow Sarah Tillane, not for love, but because their land holdings combined would make theirs the largest arable tract in the county. Up until Sean Thornton from America comes along, Widow Tillane will have nothing to do with Grumpy Bear Danaher.
- Subverted in Star Trek (2009). Asked by a young Spock why he married Amanda Grayson, Sarek states that it allowed him to observe human behavior for his job as the Vulcan ambassador to Earth, therefore "Marrying your mother was... logical." Later in the film, however, he strongly implies this to have been only a partial truth when he tells an adult Spock that it was a love match.
- British superspy James Bond gets cosmetic surgery and marries Japanese agent Aki in You Only Live Twice to pose as a native pearl diver in order to get close to a dormant volcano where Bond suspects that SPECTRE has an Elaborate Underground Base. Lampshaded when Bond proposes sleeping together as a "honeymoon":
Agent Aki: Mister Bond, this is business, not pleasure.[Bond pushes away a plate of oysters.]James Bond: Won't be needing these, then.
- In Bend It Like Beckham, near the end of the film Jess's closeted gay friend Tony suggests to her that they should get married, as this will both help to hide his sexuality from his conservative Indian family and allow her to pursue her dream of playing football in America. Jess refuses.
- This is the main driving force of The Proposal - Margaret is about to be deported so she convinces a co-worker to be her fiancé. He barters with her and gets a publishing deal out of it.
- The marriage in Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet is The Beard for him and Citizenship Marriage for her. What could possibly go wrong?
- In Libeled Lady (1936), Bill Chandler and Gladys Benton have a quickie wedding so that Bill can then seduce Connie Allenbury and Gladys can accuse Connie of stealing her husband, thereby defusing Connie's libel suit against a newspaper that called her a homewrecker. Bill sleeps on the couch in their hotel suite during this time, but he and Gladys have to keep up a pretense of being Insatiable Newlyweds whenever any of the staff enter. Eventually, Gladys falls for Bill, but he's already fallen for Connie; Hilarity Ensues.
- Zus & Zo: Nino's gay, but he's marrying a woman, Bo. Why? Because he has to in order to inherit a hotel worth $1.9 million, which he and Bo will split.
- In the 1928 film The Wind, the protagonist moves to Texas to stay with a cousin of hers. His wife however thinks that she's trying to steal her husband and kicks her out. With nowhere to go and no money of her, Letty is forced to marry one of the men who she previously declined her hand in marriage. She isn't in love with him but at least she has somewhere to stay.
- Our Miss Brooks:
- In "King and Brooks", a Indian maharajah proposes marriage to Miss Brooks. Miss Brooks refuses to marry for convenience, it's only a marriage for love that appeals to Connie. However, the fact that Miss Brooks would be the polygamous maharajah's fourth wife had something to do with her reluctance!
- In the cinematic Grand Finale, Miss Brooks refuses a heartfelt marriage proposal from Lawrence Nolan because she likes, but doesn't love him. Miss Brooks again refuses to marry for anything but love, although Nolan is very wealthy. At the end of the film, she finally achieves her Series Goal and marries Love Interest Philip Boynton.
- In Revenge:
- Emily begins to date and then agree to marry the son her own age of the family who killed her father in order to get close to them and enact her revenge.
- In the fourth season, Nolan marries Louise to free her from her mother's control.
- Dixie of Casualty is one of British TV's longest running lesbian characters, and this fact is well known - to everyone but her dad. Because she is inseparable from her paramedic partner Jeff, though, he asks her to marry him so that her dad can see her married before he dies. It seems to be going well until the dad catches Dixie with her girlfriend, the officiator, before the wedding - but accepts her and Dixie and Jeff stay married even after he dies in a best-friends-over-40 style arrangement at least until Jeff dies.
- When Barney thinks his mom is going to die in How I Met Your Mother he hires an actress to play his wife. Unfortunately, his mom perks right back up, and he ends up hiring a young actor to play his son for seven years, too.
- Blackadder: In "The Queen of Spain's Beard" Edmund is first betrothed to the Spanish Infanta and later is married off to a princess of Hungarynote because of his father king Edward's political machinations.
- On Mad Men, Bob Benton offers to marry Joan Harris so that she can avoid the stigma of being a single mother (and so that he can avoid questions about his sexuality.) She turns him down, not wanting to get stuck in another unhappy marriage.
- M*A*S*H. Frank's marriage to Louise is certainly this. It's joked throughout his stint on the series that he married her mainly for money - Frank himself has pointed out that she owns the house and stocks, and that he's in her father's will, and B.J. also once mentioned that she also owns real estate.
- Game of Thrones: Many marriages are political in nature. Specifically, Walder Frey's common price for allowing important people to cross his bridge in times of need is a husband for one of his daughters or granddaughters, Danaerys declared she would marry Hizdahr zo Loraq in an attempt to bring peace to Meereen, Tyrion was arranged to marry Sansa so that he would produce an heir, and Sansa's marriage to Ramsay Bolton was political on both sides - to give the Boltons' rule in Winterfell legitimacy and to allow her to go home.
- The protagonists of The Americans are a pair of Soviet spies who are ordered to pretend to be a married couple as part of their cover.
- An episode of Thunder in Paradise involved Spencer getting into such a marriage: The woman needs a husband as a condition to keep her inheritance, and offers him money he's in dire need of.
- On My Name Is Earl, Catalina gets deported after she is caught driving without a license and it's revealed that she's The Illegal. Since it was Earl's fault (he was supposed to give her a lift to work, but was too busy gambling), Earl travels to her home country along with Randy in order to get her back into the US. Since Randy had a huge crush on her, Earl deliberately fails the tests that a prospective groom must pass, so Randy can pass them and marry Catalina. He gets her back into the country, but she doesn't want to be married to Randy, so on the advice of Joy, she has really disgusting sex with him...which doesn't turn out the way she hoped. After that, Randy tells her it's just going to be a Citizenship Marriage...and that is never brought up in-series again. It isn't known if they are still (legally) married later in the series, or if they got a divorce or an annulment at some point.
- The premise of Ned & Stacey: Ned needed to be married to secure a promotion, and Stacey needed to move out of her parents' house and Ned had a great apartment.
- Frontier: Mrs. Carruthers needs a new husband to be the official face of her fur trading business, since she is unlikely to be taken seriously as an independent businesswoman in the 18th century. She uses her influence to get the Brown brothers released from prison after they were arrested on trumped-up charges, on the condition that one of them (she doesn't care which) agree to a platonic marriage. This later becomes a Perfectly Arranged Marriage.
- The couple in Mary Chapin Carpenter's "He Thinks He'll Keep Her" are a case of this, where couples in The Deep South are forced together young for good matches and speedy children. The wife doesn't like it very much, and leaves her good husband.
- In "Paradise By the Dashboard Light" by Meat Loaf, a seventeen year old boy proposes to his girlfriend because that is the only way she will agree to have sex with him. They both live to regret it.
- A song in Fiddler on the Roof is called "Matchmaker" and has Chava and Hodel ask Tzeitel to find a perfect husband for Arranged Marriage both because they need to find a man to please the parents and so that they will not be alone.
- Lord Admiral Porter comes aboard the HMS Pinafore to court Josephine, the daughter of the ship's captain. However, when it's revealed that the captain was Switched at Birth, it renders Josephine too low on the caste ladder for an admiral to woo. Lord Admiral Porter heaves a sigh, and avers that he will propose to his second cousin Hebe instead, so that his time aboard the Pinafore won't be a total waste.
- The concept is discussed by Lulu and Tidus in Guadosalam about the marriage of Yuna and Seymour in Final Fantasy X.
- Rocko's Modern Life. In "Kiss Me, I'm Foreign", a mix-up involving Rocko's green card and immigration papers revokes his U.S. citizenship, so to avoid him being deported back to Australia, Heffer arranges a fake marriage between him and Filburt; Rocko thinks the idea is absurd, and Filburt actually takes it seriously and turns into a nagging housewife.
- In Corpse Bride, Mr. and Mrs. Everglot make it clear that they are married for financial reasons, not out of love for each other.
- American Dad!: The episode "Shallow Vows" reveals that Stan only married Francine for her looks, but eventually grew to love her and even blinded himself to prove that he can love her without looking at her. Later, it turns out that Francine in turn married Stan so he can provide for her, and they both decide that they're even.
- In Aladdin, Iago suggests that Jafar marry Jasmine in order to become Sultan, instead of Jafar's original plan to either kill whoever marries her or plant someone under his control to marry her. Jafar thinks this is actually a good idea and sets about trying to make it happen, but given the film's not called Jafar, it's obvious how that all works out.
- Kaeloo parodies the trope in one episode where Pretty decides to get married - to Quack Quack, who she doesn't even like - just to get the chance to wear a wedding dress. When the others try to call her out on this, she goes on a rant about how much pain she had to endure to lose enough weight to be able to fit into the dress.