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Marrying the Mark

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The bride registered at Target.
This is a marriage in which one partner enters a relationship with their significant other in order to run a con on them. Quite often the goal is to steal all of the mark's money, whether by divorce, murder, or good old-fashioned embezzlement; information, framing the mark for a crime, or looking for an opportunity to kill the mark are also popular goals.

This may lead to falling In Love with the Mark if they develop romantic feelings, though that's actually surprisingly rare - most people who would have fallen for their target do so before the relationship gets serious, and a Con Man who goes into a relationship looking to score usually knows better than to start getting emotional.

Sub-Trope of Marriage of Convenience. Compare Prank Date for a more low-key alternative.

May overlap with Femme Fatale, Til Murder Do Us Part, Honey Trap, or a particularly vicious Gold Digger. This is the standard operating procedure for the Black Widow.

As a common motive in mysteries, beware of unmarked spoilers below.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Kurosagi chapters 25-29 involve a marriage swindler who uses her sex appeal to trick them into giving her money to start up a fake business, then disappear after getting the millions of yen for the supposed capital.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Batman Adventures #16, the Joker starts reciprocating Harley Quinn's affections and even proposes to her just after she receives a letter informing her she's inherited a fortune. The twist is that the letter is a fake, which Harley sent herself; she's smart enough to realise it will cause the Joker to marry and murder her, but mad enough to believe that if she reveals the truth once they're married, he'll have no reason to murder her and they'll live happily ever after.
  • Blacksad: Jezebel goes as far as marrying her own father who she blames for the death of her mother (though she doesn't sleep with him), in order to have him killed by the KKK-like organization he's part of. Unfortunately, it also results in the death of her sister.
  • In the elseworld story Catwoman: Guardian of Gotham, Batman himself is a depraved supervillain who discovers that Catwoman's Secret Identity is Selina Kyle. He woos her in his public persona as Bruce Wayne and even marries her, just so he could gloat about how she never suspected a thing when he decides to finally drop the act and kill her.
  • In a plot to destroy The Fantastic Four, the Skrulls sent Lyja to impersonate Alicia Masters. She got close to Johnny Storm and ended up falling in love with him for real before marrying him. This event has since become a Running Gag in the Fantastic Four books ("remember that time Johnny married a Skrull?")
  • Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel: Tragically done as part of the backstory of Adam Brashear/Blue Marvel. Adam's wife Candace was born as Marlene Frazier, a government agent for the FBI tasked with keeping an eye on Adam in the years after he went underground due to the 1960s US Government being distrustful of a black superhero with so much power and wary of inflaming racial tensions. Candace eventually fell in love with Adam and eventually committed entirely to her new identity, claiming to her husband and children that she was an orphan. Adam didn't find out about her birth identity or her government ties until their children were in college decades later when Tony Stark uncovered her secret.

  • Adele Hasn't Had Her Dinner Yet: The backstory of the mysterious villain Gardener says that he married a wealthy lady, "The Apple King"'s widow. The visuals imply that they married improperly soon after his death. The Gardener devoted his green thumb skills to fruit-growing, and then killed his wife, being her sole heir.
  • Gaslight. Gregory, the famously abusive husband of Ingrid Bergman's character Paula, only married Paula so that he could gain access to her aunt's old house, where the primadonna opera singer had hidden a collection of priceless jewels.
  • 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 are taking over the business after they're married because he stood a chance at inheriting it all.
  • The Handmaiden: As an adaptation of Fingersmith, Count Fujiwara is plotting to marry Lady Hideko, scam her out of her fortune, and have her institutionalized. Lady Hideko and Count Fujiwara agree to swap her with Sook-hee in the asylum, but Sook-hee's family helps to bust her out, and Fujiwara and Hideko have an Incompatible Orientation problem, as Lady Hideko is a lesbian.
  • This is the basic premise of Heartbreakers. One con artist marries a wealthy man, then the second con artist seduces him, allowing the first con artist to divorce him on grounds of adultery and receive an enormous settlement.
  • Mail Order Bride: The title character is a Russian con artist who marries overseas men under a fake identity just to steal their money, then goes home and repeats the process with the next sucker.
  • The Parent Trap (1998): 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.
  • In The Princess Bride, Prince Humperdink's apparent political marriage to Buttercup is actually part of a Genghis Gambit; once she's captured the hearts of the populace, he intends to have her killed and frame Gilder for the assassination so he has a Pretext for War.
  • Katherine's plan in Son of Dracula is to marry Dracula, and kill him after he has turned her into a vampire.
  • Total Recall (1990): After he remembers part of his old identity, Quaid discovers that his entire marriage is a sham when his wife Lori tries to kill him. She is really part of a unit sent by the Martian governor to spy on him and is already married to the governor's Dragon, Richter, who despises Quaid because of this.

  • Agatha Christie wrote several novels in which it is revealed at the end that the culprit, or one of the culprits, only married their spouse in order to murder them and inherit their money. (Naming the specific titles in question would be too much of a spoiler since the knowledge that this trope is in them would give away the entire mystery.)
  • This is the con Gentleman and Sue are planning in Fingersmith: Sue, posing as a maidservant, convinces the sheltered heiress Maud to marry Gentleman, who then commits her to a Bedlam House and splits her money with Sue. Things don't go as planned... or rather, not as planned by Sue.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes mystery, "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton", Holmes himself goes in disguise as a plumber and gets close — in fact, engaged — to Milverton's housemaid to help him gain access to the house, and the vault in which Milverton keeps the blackmail material. Watson thinks Holmes went too far, but Holmes replies with I Did What I Had to Do.
    "But the girl, Holmes?"
    He shrugged his shoulders.
    "You can't help it, my dear Watson. You must play your cards as best you can when such a stake is on the table. However, I rejoice to say that I have a hated rival who will certainly cut me out the instant that my back is turned."
  • Rose Lerner's True Pretenses involves a con man wooing a wealthy heiress. The heiress figures out his scheme — but since she legally needs to marry to gain access to her full fortune, she chooses to go along with it and they agree to a marriage of convenience after which they can separate if they wish. Of course, this is a Romance Novel, so there's a Romantic Fake–Real Turn.

    Live-Action Television 
  • The Americans: Philip (under the alias Clark) is already seducing Martha and using the intel that she receives as Stan's secretary. At the end of Season 1, though, he proposes to her, in return for her planting a bug in Stan's office. They marry (with the help of the KGB) and she plants it. When the bug is discovered, Stan becomes suspicious of Martha and Philip reveals his true identity to Martha, then forces the USSR to help her escape to Russia, although he can never see her again.
  • Subverted in a Castle episode dealing with a murdered Con Man. The team initially suspects the victim was going to marry a mark, but then the father of the bride informs them that he'd had a private investigator look into the groom, who, when confronted, offered to sign a prenup voiding any claim to the family fortune. His partner in crime wasn't pleased about this and killed him as part of a scam against the fiancee.
  • Chuck: In the last few episodes, Quinn convinces an amnesiac Sarah that she's married Chuck as part of a CIA sting against him, and sends her "back" undercover with the eventual intention of killing him. She almost gives herself away several times, nearly kills Ellie, and finally leaves after realising Quinn has lied to her. She seems to fall in love with Chuck again over the final episode, but the series ending leaves it ambiguous whether she recovers her memories or not.
  • In an episode of CSI: NY, a young woman disguised as an old man is killed on a subway train at rush hour. The investigation soon reveals she's the daughter of an infamous scam artist. Her fiance, not knowing of her criminal past, is ruled out as a suspect. However, as the investigation unfolds, her ex-boyfriend is ruled a likely suspect, and when he's apprehended he tells the CSIs why he killed her. She had been working at a bar when they began dating, and she talked him into conning some regular customers; however, the con fell through and she said they would kill her if she didn't give them a large amount of money. To help her he emptied his bank account, cashed in his insurance, sold his truck, and talked his brother into loaning him money when that wasn't enough. After he handed her the money she disappeared, and the regular customers were just some random guys who did not have the resources she said she wanted to con them out of. Sometime later, he smelled her perfume, spotted a lock of hair coming out of her mask, and recognized the old cigar box she carried around. When he confronted her, he killed her in the scuffle. The fiance, who was asked to witness the confession behind a two-way mirror, is told that the ex was not the only victim and that he very likely would have been one as well.
  • Doctor Who: Played with in The Runaway Bride: Lance gets close to Donna in order to dose her with huon particles. However, marrying her was not part of the plan. She insisted and Lance went along with it to ensure that she didn't run off.
  • In Dollhouse, Sen. Perrin's wife is actually his Handler. He is an Active whose wealthy family had him imprinted in order to transform him from an alcoholic fuckup into a respected Senator, in exchange for letting the Rossum Company use him in a scheme to cover up their crimes.
  • This is con artist and spaceship thief Saffron's modus operandi in Firefly; at least twice during the show, she and Mal encounter her ex-"husbands".
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: The third-season episode "Mrs. Rosco P. Coltrane" sees a bank robber – who was married – pose as a bachelorette and fall for Rosco, Hazzard County's sheriff. Rosco is so smitten that he doesn't realize he's being played for a fool as she and her real husband and a third accomplice plot the robbery of Hazzard Bank. Bo and Luke Duke are suspicious of her all along and try to warn Rosco, but he promptly disinvites them to the wedding, hoping to pin a staged bank robbery plotted by Boss Hogg onto the Duke boys. In the end, Rosco learns the hard, cold truth and suffers great heartbreak as he is forced to arrest his "wife."
  • Used twice on Hawaii Five-0. Turns into In Love with the Mark both times.
    • "Lekio"note : A male scammer marries a young woman as part of a scam on her father, a rich radio personality. When he actually falls in love with his wife, his partner in crime loses patience and kills the radio personality.
    • "A ia la aku"note  starts with 5-0 tracking down a runaway bride who is spooked when an unidentified man showed up at her fancy wedding. Turns out he's her older brother, who used to partner with her in Honey Trap scams. Media coverage of her upcoming marriage to a wealthy young man allowed her brother to track her down and demand a cut of her future husband's money. Subverted because she didn't know about her husband's money when they met, and had no intent to swindle him.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
    • Downplayed in the episode "Astoria Helen"; a charming con man Joe Gallagher gets into a serious relationship with a woman so he can use her computer and get the schedule for an armored truck, which he and his associates then rob.
    • In the episode "Grow", Goren's nemesis and notorious con artist and murderer Nicole Wallace was actually the victim of this trope - her latest husband knew her real identity and history and was intending to kill his daughter for her trust fund and frame her for the murder.
  • Law & Order: SVU. In the episode "Greed", a con man steals the identity of a rich restaurateur to marry a rich widow, and he funnels the money she loans him to open a new restaurant into his own offshore accounts. His ultimate plan involves his partner beating the wife so she'll be dependent and he can steal all of her money, and possibly kill her for it. (The partner has married her own mark - she uses her husband's semen to make the beating look like an attack by a serial rapist.)
  • Leverage: The team uncovers a ring of Black Widows whose M.O. is basically quickly seducing wealthy men, marrying them, then murder. How? One of the ringmembers ran away after ending up in love with her target for real. Said target goes to the Leverage team to locate her, going into Ain't Too Proud to Beg as he is a wealthy businessman, the kind of person the Leverage team usually takes down.
  • Life: This was the intended plan by a con artist couple. The girl was going to marry a multimillionaire lottery winner, but in order to sell the con, she had a tattoo with her boyfriend's name removed. He thought that meant she didn't love him anymore and killed her.
  • In the short-lived series Lone Star, the protagonist was a conman who specialized in these types of cons. At the start of the series, he was running two instances of this at the same time. He was married to the daughter of an oil tycoon with the intent to steal her father's money. He was also married to the daughter of a working-class man with the intention of running a larger-scale investment scam on her family and neighbors.
  • Lost: Nikki (of Nikki and Paolo) is in a relationship with the producer of her tv show. She and Paolo are actually a couple and plan to murder the producer and steal his diamonds.
  • In MacGyver (2016), Murdoc claimed that this was how his son was born - he fell in love with a target, married her, and then, shortly after their child was born, decided to complete the contract. Then it turned out to be another one of his Multiple-Choice Past lies - the boy's real mother was a fellow assassin, who was still alive and in her own way just as evil and crazy as him.
  • In Revenge Emily begins to date and then agrees 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.
  • Shakespeare And Hathaway: This turned out to be Luella's husband's MO in the pilot, where he would fake his own death on his honeymoons and take all his wife's money. He was killed at the wedding by one of his "ex"-wives.
  • In the Sherlock episode "His Last Vow", which is somewhat inspired by the Holmes story "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton", Sherlock romances and gets engaged to a young woman named Janine, who happens to be the personal assistant to media mogul (and master blackmailer) Charles Augustus Magnussen. He uses this to gain access to his office early in the episode. Later on, she calls him out on this, calling him a "no-good, backstabbing, manipulative bastard."
  • Tales from the Crypt: In the episode "Dead Right", a Gold Digger learns from a medium that a certain man will soon inherit a fortune and then die, so she marries him. The man is both grotesque and abusive, so she is miserable in the marriage. When she wins millions in the lottery she decides to end the marriage. He murders her in a fit of rage, inherits her money, then is executed for the crime.
  • Treadstone. Samantha was a nurse who worked in Treadstone's brainwashing program. She fell in love with Doug and after the program was abandoned, tracked him down and started a relationship with him, eventually going so far as to marry him.
  • Two and a Half Men almost had a two-fer: Evelyn had just married Teddy, and Charlie was about to marry Courtney, when "Fish in a Drawer" (S 5 E 17)showed that Teddy and Courtney were con artists after Evelyn and Charlie's money, as well as father and daughter.
  • In White Collar, Mozzie marries a woman pulling the "Sweetheart Con"; he pretends to be a millionaire, finds a real millionaire, woos her, marries her, and makes off with a lot of her money. Except it turns out the mark in this case is not only not a millionaire or even rich; she was pulling the exact same con on him. Naturally, they're perfect for each other.

  • Angel Street is the play Gaslight (see the Film example, above) was based on. A man marries a woman to get access to her house, where priceless jewels are hidden.

    Video Games 
  • Alain Dufont from the Dark Brotherhood questline of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim seduced your client Muiri, who was a good friend of Windhelm's Shatter-Shield family (in particular Nilsine, who lost her sister to the Serial Killer running around the city), so that he could get into the Shatter-Shield home, rob them blind and then make Muiri take the fall for it. This heartless betrayal not only costs Muiri any good will she may have had with the Shatter-Shields, but leaves her very, very pissed off at Alain, such that she wants him dead.
  • Variant in Final Fantasy X: Yuna marries Seymour as part of a ploy to get him Sent (the only way to kill someone off for good in that 'verse), she figures he'll be too... "distracted" to put a stop to her until it's too late. And Seymour himself is marrying Yuna as part of a ploy to get her to become attached to him, as he knows that only The Power of Love can kill Sin, and thus, once he gets Yuna to love him, he will become her Final Aeon and become Sin, which will kill Yuna in the process. So, in short, both of them are planning to off the other.
  • Tekken 7:
    • This game reveals that the Hachijo clan's modus operandi is to marry their daughters to powerful men to kill them when they get too powerful and/or ambitious. Kazumi Mishima, wife of Heihachi and mother of Kazuya, married him and even had a child for the explicit purpose of assassinating Heihachi and preventing him from threatening the world. Though internally conflicted, she still made the attempt on Heihachi's life when the time came...which not only failed but helped turn Heihachi into the monster he would become.
    • In addition to making her own attempt to kill him, Kazumi also told an old acquaintance of hers (Akuma/Gouki of Street Fighter fame) to murder both Heihachi and her own son Kazuya if her own attempt failed.
  • In the Samurai Warriors series, Noh’s Arranged Marriage to Oda Nobunaga is specifically so she can kill him. She has a complicated dynamic, where she is In Love with the Mark, but still wishes to kill him, and is quite possessive of her role. In the first game’s Honnoji stages, when approached by Nobunaga in his move to escape, she may agree to escape with him, or suddenly defect, so she can kill him before any of Mitsuhide’s forces can.
    Noh: You came for me, my love. I can’t bear the thought of your life being taken by another.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Liar! Uncover the Truth, Azusa Kurono turns out to be a con artist who enters relationships with women to get money from them before abandoning them.

  • Exaggerated in xkcd, when a football player somehow manages to insert an entire fake relationship into a misdirection play — taking the other player all the way to a fake wedding before finally revealing the deception and dashing unimpeded to the end zone while the erstwhile groom looks on in shock.
  • The Draketooth family in The Order of the Stick keep their clan up by getting into relationships with various people, then once they have a child, they disappear with the child.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Beautiful Gorgeous seduces Jet Fusion into marriage in the The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius episode "My Big Fat Spy Wedding." She enlists Jimmy as ring bearer, then hypnotizes Jet to attack anybody who says "I have the ring," so Jet will attack Jimmy at the wedding. The plan falls apart at the wedding when all of Jimmy's friends say (and sing!) "I have the ring" so Jet gets confused trying to attack them all.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: There was an episode where Poison Ivy creates a bunch of Trophy Wife plant people who control the rich and powerful men of Gotham via spores, Bruce Wayne among them.
  • DuckTales (1987): There was an episode where Ma Beagle faked a marriage with Scrooge for his money. Scrooge fakes his own death by diving into the money vault, and the servant accused the wife of killing Scrooge for the money. She quickly backpedals about being married, with Scrooge confirming the denial a few seconds later.
  • Played with in the Sponge Bob Squarepants episode "Enemy In-Law" when Plankton begins courting Betsy Krabs. Plankton falls for her without realizing she's Mr. Krabs' mother, but Mr. Krabs is suspicious that Plankton is using her to get access to the Krabby Patty formula, inadvertently giving Plankton the idea to do just that. Plankton proposes marriage, but Betsy rejects him; when Plankton demands the formula as compensation for rejection, Betsy becomes angry and punches him back home.
  • Final Space has Sheryl Goodspeed, a member of an anti-Infinity Guard faction who seduced and later married John Goodspeed, a member of the Infinity Guard, in order to learn about an anti-matter bomb that the Infinity Guard were building. Unfortunately, despite eventually growing to love him (and even having a child with him), he eventually learned of her true alliance and forced her to leave.