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Rejected Marriage Proposal

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Simon: Let's get married, Nia.
[beat]
Nia: No way!

A situation in which a character proposes marriage to another character, only to be turned down. Due to cultural traditions and customs around proposing, it's almost always a woman rejecting a man, though there are rare exceptions. There can be many different reasons for a marriage proposal being rejected. Maybe she doesn't love him or had ulterior motives for being with him from the start. Maybe she does love him but thinks he deserves better or that marrying her would screw his life up. She could've forgotten she was already married. Perhaps the timing isn't right. Or maybe she just didn't like the ring.

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Which of the two characters is presented more sympathetically depends on a number of factors. If the one being proposed to is excessively harsh in their rejection, or was being intentionally deceptive about their feelings, they will usually be portrayed as unsympathetic. If the one proposing is an Abhorrent Admirer, is trying to force or coerce someone into marriage, or is overly pushy about it even after being rejected, they're usually the unsympathetic one. In other cases, they're both presented sympathetically and it's simply a matter of them misunderstanding where their relationship currently stands. Either way, a proposal being turned down is often an embarrassing and upsetting situation for both parties; it's exceptionally awkward if the proposal and subsequent rejection occur in a public place. Within the story, the rejection can be played for laughs, drama, or sometimes both at once depending on the tone, context and who we're intended to sympathize with.

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A failed proposal can result in a couple breaking up or a romantic pairing being permanently sunk, though this isn't always the case. Sometimes, the rejected proposer will wallow in misery for a bit, only to realize that they're actually better off without getting married (or at least to this particular person). It's not unheard of for someone to get rejected and then meet a new love interest who they're actually more compatible with. It's also not uncommon for the one doing the rejecting to do so because the proposal triggered a Love Epiphany in regards to another character. In other cases, it will make the rejected party more determined to prove their worthiness as a spouse; sometimes the rejecter will set them an Engagement Challenge to be completed and only then will they accept. It varies as to whether these attempts are successful.

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It can definitely be Truth in Television and is likely as old as the institution of marriage itself. Compare Runaway Fiancé, where someone flees an Arranged Marriage before the big day, and Runaway Bride, in which the bride or groom calls it off on the day of the wedding. Compare and contrast Accidental Proposal, in which someone mistakenly believes another character is asking them to marry them. Can be related to Commitment Issues and Differing Priorities Breakup. It's a common outcome to And Now You Must Marry Me. See also Child Marriage Veto, in which a character refuses a marriage proposal set up for them by their parents.

Due to potentially involving Ship Sinking or a relationship changing significantly, there may be some unmarked spoilers ahead.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • One Piece has "Marriage Proposal" Lola, who asks any man she encounters to marry her only to be rejected. According to her crew members, she has been rejected 4452 times. The zombie created from her shadow also has her proposals constantly rejected by Absalom.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Initially, Nia rejects Simon's marriage proposal, due to not fully understanding it. This is then subverted, as once she learns what Simon really means, she agrees to marry him.

    Comic Books 
  • In Doctor Doom (2019), Victor proposes to Fruzsina within five minutes of meeting her. She replies that she would never even consider marrying him.
  • The Phantom: Diana had to turn down several proposals from various villains and Romantic False Leads before she married Kit. She even turned down at least one proposal from Kit, because she'd found out that he'd been unthinkingly assuming she'd be a stay-at-home mom once they married, and she refused to marry him until he updated his thinking.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Diana turns down quite a few proposals from Steve Trevor, but he keeps asking because they're dating and they both want to get married. It's just that as the Amazon Champion she's not supposed to get married until she finishes her never-ending mission. As there are loopholes in the rules, like her having to keep her word if she promises to marry him if he beats her in a contest, they do eventually get married.
  • Scott Summers and Jean Grey of X-Men have a complicated history with marriage proposals. When Scott proposes to Jean in X-Factor #53, Jean can't overlook her absorbed memories of Scott's previous proposals to Phoenix, the cosmic entity that lived as Jean while Jean was in a healing coma, and Madelyne Pryor, Jean's clone whom Scott married and had a child with after Phoenix's apparent death. With those intrusive memories, the expectations of their friends, and feeling like she's a Cosmic Plaything weighing on her, Jean rejects his proposal. A few years later, Jean proposes to Scott and he accepts.

    Films — Animation 
  • Aladdin: Jasmine vigorously rejects Jafar's marriage proposal twice. The first time, she says no, then rushes to her father and tells him she wants to marry Prince Ali (Aladdin) instead. Aladdin's arrival and Jafar being exposed as a traitor straight after leads to the latter having to exit the scene suddenly. The second time, Jafar has taken over after he stole the lamp. Even though refusing could be very dangerous for her this time, Jasmine yells this won't happen and uses Food Slap to emphasize her refusal.
  • The plot of Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus is kickstarted by Princess Annika rejecting a marriage proposal from the Evil Sorcerer, Wenlock; he just turns up out of the blue to pop the question, so it's unsurprising she says no. In retaliation, he turns her parents and people to stone and threatens that unless she accepts in three days' time, they'll be stuck that way forever. It later turns out that Brietta is Annika's sister, who also refused to marry Wenlock and so was cursed to become a Pegasus.
  • This trope is at the crux of a lot of the plot in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Before he was fully committed to fighting crime, Bruce Wayne proposed to Andrea Beaumont and she initially accepted...but shortly afterwards she sent the ring back to Bruce with a letter saying she wasn't ready, intended to go to Europe with her father and Bruce should forget about her. Losing Andrea was the catalyst for Bruce becoming Batman, as he felt had nothing else important left in his life. It's later revealed Andrea would've happily married Bruce, but she was forced to go into hiding in Europe because her father owed money to gangsters who would've killed them. Her grief and anger at losing the life she and Bruce could've had is partly what fuels her quest for vengeance.
  • Early in Beauty and the Beast, Belle rejects Gaston's marriage proposal. She is portrayed completely sympathetically, as Gaston is a loutish, arrogant jerk who feels entitled to her and she has zero interest in him. She pretends to be flattered and manages to kick him out of her house while telling him "I just don't deserve you". Gaston ends up humiliating himself in front of several people, he having been so certain Belle would accept his proposal he'd already set up the wedding ceremony. Subsequently, he is driven to extreme measures to gain her hand in marriage, including threatening to send her father to an asylum unless she accepts.
  • The Lion King originally had a scene including a song called "The Madness of King Scar", which involved Scar basically proposing to Nala in song-form. She is at first confused because she had gone to him to complain about the state of the Pride Lands, only for him to start going on about her becoming his queen and giving him cubs; she then becomes creeped out and scratches his face when he gets too close to her. Besides being a selfish and incompetent monarch (and that's only the stuff the pride knows about), Scar is old enough to be Nala's father and would've been her uncle-in-law if she'd been able to marry Simba. The scene was removed from the final film for being perceived as too creepy for a family film, although it is included in the stage musical. Eduardo Quintana also made an animated fan-version for the film's 20th anniversary.
    • In an early draft of the scene, which included an older version of "Be Prepared", Scar publicly declares that Nala will be his queen and that she has no choice. She still rejects him and Scar banishes her, which precipitates her travelling to the jungle and finding Simba still alive.
  • The Lion King (2019) (the CGI remake of the 1994 film) includes a similar scene to "The Madness of King Scar" sequence, though without the song, in which Scar asks Sarabi rather than Nala to become his queen. It's indicated that Scar has been attracted to her for years, but she chose his brother Mufasa; Scar also believes that with Sarabi at his side, the rest of the pride will respect him more. Sarabi refuses, prompting Scar to decree that the lionesses will eat after the hyenas from now on "and they don't leave much behind".
  • The Swan Princess:
    • Derek announces publicly he wants to marry Odette after seeing She Is All Grown Up, which is what both their parents had hoped for ever since they were children. However, Odette doesn't immediately accept, as she wants to know why Derek wants to marry her. When Derek goofs and accidentally insinuates he's mostly interested in her beauty, she rejects him because she wants him to love her for herself. Eventually, Derek is able to prove his love for her is genuine and they get married.
    • Rothbart kidnaps Odette and proposes every night that they marry, so he can legally take over her late father's kingdom. Odette vehemently refuses each time (not least because Rothbart killed her father), even when Rothbart curses her to turn into a swan each night.
  • Played for Laughs at the end of Tangled. In a voiceover, Eugene states that after years of asking, he finally agreed to marry Rapunzel; after some prompting from Rapunzel, however, he admits he was the one asking her. Presumably, Rapunzel didn't want to get hitched right away, as she'd only just discovered her true identity and been reunited with her real parents, which is a lot to take in; this is further elaborated on in the series.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Alice in Wonderland (2010): Early on, Alice is proposed to by Upper-Class Twit Hamish in front of dozens of people, including their parents (although she had found out he was going to ask her to marry him beforehand, so she wasn't completely unprepared). Alice clearly doesn't want to marry him but feels pressured to do so, especially because marrying Hamish would secure her and her mother financially. Instead of giving a definitive answer, she says she needs some time and runs off after the White Rabbit. At the end of the film, after she returns from her adventures in Wonderland (only a few minutes have passed in the normal world), Alice refuses Hamish's proposal and instead goes into business with his father, Lord Ascot, to support herself.
  • At the end of Conan the Destroyer, Jehnna asks Conan to marry her and rule Shadizar at her side, but he declines to keep having adventures and because he still isn't over his deceased love Valeria.
  • In Crazy Rich Asians, Rachel refuses Nick's proposal despite being in love with him, because his mother Eleanor does not approve of Rachel and she doesn't want Nick to have to choose between her and his family. However, she does make a point of telling Eleanor that when Nick finally marries a woman Eleanor approves of, it will because of the sacrifice Rachel – someone she looks down upon – made. This causes Eleanor to re-evaluate her opinion of Rachel; Nick ends up Racing For Your Love to propose to Rachel again, this time with Eleanor's ring, revealing she has now given the marriage her blessing. Rachel accepts the second proposal.
  • Downplayed in The Dark Knight. Harvey Dent proposes to Rachel Dawes and she tells him she "doesn't have an answer" and needs time to think it over. This is due to her also having feelings for childhood friend Bruce Wayne, whom she had previously promised to wait for until he stopped being Batman so they could be together. She eventually tells Harvey she accepts his proposal...shortly before she's killed in an explosion set up by the Joker. Harvey really doesn't take it well. Bruce is left with the impression she was still going to wait for him and Alfred burns a letter from Rachel telling him she's actually going to marry Harvey in an attempt to spare him more pain.
  • In Dawn of the Dead (1978): Stephen proposes to Fran during a small romantic dinner, but she immediately returns the ring to him. With rampaging hordes of zombies outside, she's clearly reluctant to make such a commitment, although they remain intimate and Fran is already pregnant with their child.
  • Played with in Ella Enchanted. When Char proposes to Ella at midnight, she bursts into tears and utters a Rapid-Fire "No!", which he understandably takes as a rejection. He tries to reassure her he loves her and doesn't care about her humble background; however Ella's reaction is actually because Edgar had ordered her to murder Char at midnight, and she's unable to disobey or warn Char because she's cursed to be obedient. In the end when Char proposes to Ella again, she happily accepts. Her stepsister tries to order her to reject him out of spite and Ella initially plays along, only to gleefully reveal she's broken the curse
  • In Fantasy Island (2020), Gwen's biggest regret is turning down her boyfriend's marriage proposal five years ago; she uses the island's power to live out a fantasy in which she accepted his proposal and has a family with him. However, she eventually becomes disilluisoned with the fantasy and realizes her biggest regret is actually not saving her neighbor from a fire she accidentally caused.
  • The Finest Hours: At a dance early in the movie, Miriam suddenly asks Bernie to marry her. He's so taken aback, he reflexively says "no". Hurt, Miriam rushes out into the parking lot, where he catches up with her and eventually agrees to it after he clears it with his commanding officer.
  • The plot of Housesitter begins with architect Newton Davis surprising his girlfriend with the dream house he built for the two of them and asking her to marry him, only for her to turn him down flat because she thinks he's too much of a dreamer.
  • The first scene of A Recipe for Seduction involves Billy proposing to Jessica at a dinner party, which flusters her and makes her leave. Her mother and Billy are not happy she chose to run off the way she did.

    Literature 
  • In Anna Karenina, Kitty very awkwardly rejects Levin's initial marriage proposal, because she is hoping the more dashing Vronsky will propose to her instead. Unfortunately, Vronsky was only playing around with her and does not propose, leaving Kitty with no romantic prospects. This sends both of them into despair; Kitty falls ill and has to leave the country to recover, while Levin retreats from society to isolate himself at his country house. The embarrassment of this rejection keeps both of them from getting together for most of the book, despite their mutual interest in each other.
  • Jane Austen is fond of this trope in her novels:
    • Emma:
      • Emma persuades her friend Harriet to reject a marriage proposal from Robert Martin, a gentleman farmer, even though she is fond of him because Emma is convinced Harriet's a better match with Mr Elton, a local clergyman. But...
      • Mr Elton then proposes marriage to Emma, believing her in love with him; Emma is offended and declines, explaining she thought he was interested in Harriet. Mr Elton dismisses Harriet as being beneath him, upsetting Harriet and leaving Emma ashamed at her misjudgment of the situation.
    • Mansfield Park: Henry Crawford tries to impress and court favour with Fanny Price, unable to stand the fact that she's indifferent to his charms. When he genuinely falls in love with her, he proposes only to be rejected. He visits Sir Thomas, Fanny's uncle, to ask his consent to the marriage. Subsequently, Fanny has to explain her rejection to her uncle, citing Henry's immoral and flirtatious character, but Sir Thomas finds it ridiculous that she would reject such an advantageous marriage. At this point, Fanny is secretly in love with her cousin Edmund, which is another reason why she's reluctant to accept Henry's proposal; nor can she be completely honest about the extent of his rakish behaviour in order to protect the reputation of her cousins, Maria and Julia, with whom he had also flirted. Fanny is viewed with disdain for rejecting Henry, until he runs off with the now-married Maria, at which point everyone realises Fanny was right about him.
    • Persuasion: At nineteen, Anne Elliot was engaged to Captain Wentworth, but was persuaded to call it off despite loving him. At twenty-two, she was proposed to by Mr Charles Musgrove, but Anne refused him because she still loved Wentworth.
    • Pride and Prejudice:
      • One of the most famous scenes in the novel involves this. Mr Darcy's first proposal to Elizabeth Bennet is soundly rejected and comes with a "Reason You Suck" Speech to boot; she tells him she despises him for being so arrogant and callous, treating Mr Wickham so poorly, and ruining her sister Jane's chances of marrying his friend, Mr Bingley, making him "the last man in the world whom [she] could ever be prevailed upon to marry." It doesn't help that Darcy insults her and her family during his speech. Elizabeth later discovers that Darcy isn't actually as bad as she first believed and she eventually falls in love with him but thinks there's no way she'll be getting a second proposal after her scathing rejection. Luckily, she's wrong.
      • Elizabeth rejects the proposal of Mr Collins, who's a pompous twerp and only asks her because Jane is ostensibly unavailable. He thinks she's just being modest and so proposes again (which is admittedly normal for the time period). She rejects him until he finally gets the message that she's genuinely uninterested. Her mother is displeased because marrying Mr Collins would've secured her financially, while her father just wants her to be happy. Mr Collins proposes Elizabeth's friend Charlotte a few days later and spends the rest of the novel trying to make Elizabeth regret refusing him, unsuccessfully because Elizabeth thinks he's a joke.
  • Blood and Chocolate has a bizarre inversion of sorts, combined with Accidental Proposal. Vivian, a loup-garoux, inadvertently wins the Bitches Dance, a fight between the females of the pack where the victor becomes the new pack leader's mate. Vivian wasn't actually participating and only gets involved to protect her mother but as a result, she's declared the winner. The pack leader, Gabriel, is fine with it as he's in love with Vivian, but Vivian herself is horrified and refuses to become his mate, not least because she's already got a boyfriend, Aiden. However, she eventually comes around and they up being happy together.
  • In Dracula, Lucy Westenra gets three marriage proposals in one day from Quincey Morris, Arthur Holmwood, and Dr John Seward. Although she's fond of all her suitors, she declines Morris and Seward's proposals and chooses to marry Holmwood; unfortunately, she dies and comes back as a vampire before the wedding can take place. Even though she rejected them, Morris and Seward still love Lucy; Seward does what he can to nurse Lucy when she falls gravely ill after being fed on by Count Dracula, and Morris also donates blood to her. Seward and Morris join forces with Holmwood and Van Helsing to kill the vampirized Lucy so her soul can rest (they let Holmwood be the one to stake Lucy as he was her betrothed). The three suitors then help hunt down Dracula partly to avenge the woman they all loved.
  • In Earth's Children, Jondalar suggests he and Serenio become mates, as they've lived together for nearly two years and a lot of people expect them to. She turns him down and explains it's not because she doesn't want to be his mate, but rather it's because she's in love with him while he would just be settling, she knows she'd eventually resent him for it and she thinks they both deserve better. Jondalar comes to agree and they amicably part ways. Jondalar goes on to meet the love of his life, Ayla, while it's later revealed Serenio fell in mutual love with a man named Gulec and is now happily mated to him.
  • Downplayed in Fifty Shades Darker. Christian spontaneously proposes to Ana, but she says she needs time to think about it because they haven't known each other that long (about a month) and she's worried he's only proposing because she was considering leaving him, believing they're incompatible. Not long after though, she tells Christian she accepts and they announce they're engaged at his birthday party. Despite this, Christian still proposes to Ana 'properly' with a ring as well.
  • The title character of Jane Eyre turns down St. John's proposal that they marry, saying they should go to India as friends because she loves him more like a brother and he only wants to marry her because he thinks she'll make a good missionary's wife than from love. He argues that they would be happy enough once they got married, but Jane is decidedly unconvinced. Just when she's considering giving in, she inexplicably hears her true love, Mr Rochester, calling to her and decides to return to him.
  • Little Women: Jo March and Theodore "Laurie" Lawrence grew up together and it looks like they might end up having a Childhood Friend Romance. However, when Laurie proposes to Jo she tells him at length how she thinks they're Like Brother and Sister, how unsuitable both she and her mother think such a marriage would be, breaks down every point he tries using to convince her and tells him she thinks she'll never marry anyone. Despite many readers shipping them together when the story was being released, Jo's rejection of Laurie made it pretty clear Louisa May Alcott disagreed.
  • North and South: After Margaret is injured shielding Mr. Thornton from a rioting mob, he believes that she has come to love him too and visits her home later to propose to her. Since she doesn't have a high opinion of him among other factors, Margaret rejects him, explaining she would've shielded any "poor desperate man in that crowd", rather than specifically doing it out of love for him. By the end of the novel, she has fallen in love with him and accepts his second proposal.
  • The Odyssey features one of the oldest and most extreme examples. After her husband Odysseus disappears on a long sea voyage, Penelope spends two decades being badgered to marry one of many suitors - no fewer than 108 in fact - as they're convinced Odysseus is long dead. She turns them all down because she loves her husband and has faith he will return to her. When her suitors persist even after being rejected, she has to get creative about staving them off.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Highlord Sebarial's mistress Palona mentions in Words of Radiance that she's turned down his marriage proposals before, for reasons she doesn't explain. Despite this and the large caste gap between them, they have a happy relationship and Palona is acknowledged as de facto nobility by most of the Court.
  • Temeraire: Laurence the 19th Century Officer and a Gentleman tries to make an Honorable Marriage Proposal to his lover, Admiral Roland. Not sharing his concerns about her not being an "honest woman", she nonchalantly turns him down and returns to their earlier conversation, leaving him slightly bemused.
    "Why no, dear fellow. It would be a puzzle to give you orders, you know, if I had vowed to obey; it could hardly be comfortable. But it is very handsome of you to have offered."
  • A heart-wrenching example occurs in A Thousand Splendid Suns. After learning his family is moving away from Kabul because of the war, Laila ends up having sex with her childhood best friend, Tariq. Afterwards, he proposes they marry and leave together. She is seriously tempted, but can't bear the thought of leaving her parents behind, especially her father (he would stay out of loyalty to her mother, who stubbornly refuses to leave). In the end, she has to lock Tariq out of her house, crying, while he begs her to reconsider before promising to return for her. She subsequently finds out he died in a refugee camp and that she's pregnant with his child. Fortunately, years later it turns out he's actually alive and they finally get their happy ending.
  • At the end of the second Twilight novel, Edward asks Bella to marry him, saying it's his condition for him turning her into a vampire. She rejects him because she thinks eighteen is too young to get married, especially as her mother drilled into her that getting married too young like she did is a terrible mistake. Edward continues to suggest it throughout the third book, but Bella remains reluctant, though she does try negotiating that Edward have sex with her while she's still human in exchange for marriage. However, Edward is iffy about this because he's old-fashioned and doesn't believe in sex before marriage. Bella finally accepts when Edward agrees they can consummate the marriage before she becomes a vampire (and he formally proposes with a ring).
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga, Ekaterin turns down marriage proposals from Venier in Komar and from Alex Vormoncrief in A Civil Campaign. In fact, she turns down proposals from Vormoncrief twice, the second time hitting him in the nose when he grabs hold of her. She also storms out of a large dinner party after a horribly awkward proposal from Miles - but without actually saying "no", a fact that both Ekaterin's aunt and Miles find to be highly significant. Ekaterin later proposes to Miles in an even more public setting and Miles accepts.
  • In the Warrior Cats book Path of Stars, the first time we see Violet is when the villain Slash asks her to be his mate. Her reply is "Never!"

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Big Bang Theory, a Running Gag involves Leonard and Penny's repeated abortive attempts to propose to each other. Penny turns Leonard down twice, and when the roles are reversed and she tries to propose to him, even this goes wrong; Leonard is so surprised he hesitates, and Penny takes this as a rejection and feels insulted.
  • Bones:
    • In Booth's backstory, his son's mother, Rebecca, rejected his proposal after she got pregnant. When Brennan corners her and asks about it, she says she was always very independant and didn't want to be seen as needing a man to help with the baby. By the time she realized she could still be the same person even married, it was too late.
    • Hodgins' proposals to Angela are rejected several times before she finally says yes. It's still a long road after that, with a temporary break up, but they do eventually get married.
    • Booth is forced to reject Brennan's proposal by Christopher Pelant, who threatens to kill five random people if Booth doesn't reject her without explanation. His friend suggests getting her lost in a cave away from any technology Pelant could hack and telling her, but Booth knows she's a bad actress and fears she wouldn't be able to keep the secret. He waits to tell the truth until he's finally able to kill Pelant and they get engaged almost immediately and married a couple episodes later.
    • Hannah rejects Booth in season 6. He was getting desperate to show Brennan he could be happy after she didn’t want to date him and ended up pushing Hannah a bit. Fortunately he and Brennan do get together soon after.
  • In Criminal Minds, Penelope Garcia goes a step further and confronts her boyfriend Kevin Lynch about not wanting to get married before he formally pops the question, after she sees from his online activity he's been looking at rings. Garcia argues that she's not ready to get married, but she does love him and is happy with their relationship as it is. Unfortunately, Kevin disagrees and they subsequently break-up.
  • In CSI: NY, Lindsay Monroe rejects the marriage proposal of Danny Messer when she is pregnant with their daughter Lucy as she feels he only proposed to her because he considered it his "duty" instead of genuine love. Right before she goes on maternity leave, he proposes to her again - and this time, she accepts.
  • In Game of Thrones, Gendry proposes to Arya after he's legitimized by Daenerys, as they're now of the same social standing. However, although Arya has feelings for Gendry, she refuses to marry him because she doesn't want to be a lord's wife and she's ill-suited to the lifestyle. Gendry is understandably upset but doesn't hold it against her, and Arya gets to live her life the way she wants.
  • In the final season of Gilmore Girls, Logan proposes to Rory in front of all their friends and relatives, but she says she needs time to think it over. She later tells him she's rejecting the proposal, as she wants to pursue her career in journalism and not get married straight after graduation. She suggests a Long-Distance Relationship, but Logan doesn't think there's any point if she won't marry him and they break up.
  • In the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "The Nightman Cometh", Charlie writes the titular play as a plan to propose The Waitress. Due to the latter hating the former for being a creepy Stalker with a Crush, she promptly rejects him in front of the whole theater. What makes this funnier in a meta way is the actors playing Charlie and the Waitress are actually married in real life.
  • On Living Single, part of Overton's backstory had him setting up an elaborate proposal to his then-girlfriend on the big screen at a basketball game, only for her to reject him due to finding him "too simple", leading to him breaking up with her soon after. Making the situation worse was the referee deciding to mock the rejection by calling it an "incomplete pass".
  • An episode of Melrose Place has Jake's slimy brother, Jess, engaging in a whirlwind romance with Jo. He proposes marriage to her, but she declines because they don't know each other that well, prompting him to beat her to a pulp while demanding she accept. When Jake finds out what happened, it culminates in he and Jess settling their differences once and for all.
  • The Nanny: In the last season, Niles proposes to C.C. Babcock several times, but she turns him down repeatedly. C.C. is a Rich Bitch who doesn't want to marry a butler, though it's also justified because at the time she and Niles aren't even dating. However, they start a real relationship very soon, and in the finale, C.C. eventually accepts his proposal.
  • On The Office, the Dunder Mifflin crew is invited to a big Diwali party by Indian-American customer service rep Kelly. As his date, Michael brings along Carol, his former real estate agent whom he recently started dating. In talking with Kelly's parents, Michael learns that they had an Arranged Marriage and didn't know each other too well when they got married. Michael, who Thinks Like a Romance Novel, is inspired to take the mic and propose to Carol. An utterly stunned Carol can only respond by saying "Can we talk about this in private?" Outside the high school where the party is being held, Carol basically has a You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me! reaction and leaves...which is a problem for Michael since he rode to the party with her. A few episodes later, another Didn't Think This Through moment from Michael (he sends out a picture of Carol and her kids with his face Photoshopped onto the body of Carol's ex-husband as his Christmas card) prompts her to break up with him for good.
  • In Peaky Blinders, Inspector Campbell proposes to Grace after she hands in her resignation, meaning he is no longer her superior officer. She gently declines, saying he "deserves better", though it's actually because she's fallen in love with Thomas Shelby; well, that and Campbell is decades older and is more of a father figure to her. Unfortunately, Campbell immediately deduces this and really doesn't take Grace's rejection well. After he sees her and Thomas dancing together, Campbell writes her a letter basically telling her she's a whore and that her late father would be ashamed of her. He later follows Grace to the train station and attempts to shoot her partly from jealousy, though she manages to shoot him first and escapes.
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody: In the episode “Volley Dad”, Carey’s new boyfriend Harvey proposes to her, but she turns him down because they’ve only been together a month, and it’s going too fast. This upsets Zack (who was excited at getting a wealthy stepdad) and Mr. Moseby (who was ecstatic at the idea of the twins moving out to live with Harvey and being out of his hair-figuratively, as he is bald) more than it upsets Harvey.
  • In True Jackson, VP, Max proposes to his girlfriend and she says no because she wants a Wacky Marriage Proposal.
  • A Running Gag in Worzel Gummidge is Worzel (a scarecrow) proposing to Aunt Sally (a life-sized wooden doll) only for her to laugh at the possibility of getting married. In one episode, she proposes to him because she wants his fish and chips, but he says no because there's no way he's marrying someone who only marries him for his fish and chips.

    Music 
  • "champagne problems" by Taylor Swift's evermore is from the perspective of a woman whose boyfriend pops the question in front of his whole family just before Christmas, and she turns him down, ripping his heart out in the process. Curiously, she never actually explains why she says no, just that she feels she must; all the lyrics indicate her boyfriend is a perfectly nice guy and she hopes he'll find someone else after he recovers from the breakup. It's implied she has some mental health problems that make her feel like she isn't suited for a lifetime commitment, or that he deserves better than her.
    One for the money, two for the show
    I never was ready so I watch you go
    Sometimes you just don't know the answer
    'Til someone's on their knees and asks you
    "She would've made such a lovely bride
    What a shame she's fucked in the head," they said
    But you'll find the real thing instead
    She'll patch up your tapestry that I shred

    Video Games 
  • King's Quest IV: Part of Rosella and Edgar's game of pinball when it comes to Standard Hero Reward. Lolotte tried to invoke this and a cross of And Now You Must Marry Me when it came to marrying Rosella (disguised as a peasant) to her hunchbacked "son" Edgar. Turns out Edgar was Good All Along and helped Rosella escape due to I Want My Beloved to Be Happy. After Lolotte was killed, her rival Genesta restored Edgar to his true form of a handsome fairy prince. Edgar offered himself as Standard Hero Reward for Rosella, but she had to turn him down ("Sorry, Eddie. Gotta get the magic fruit to my sick dad...") Wisely, when they meet again in the seventh game, he merely asks for a proper courtship. Both the Fan Sequel and the Telltale Games version sow that They Do.
  • In The Sims, any installment where Sims can propose marriage can potentially have their proposal be rejected, including The Sims 2, The Sims 3 and The Sims 4 (Sims can get married in The Sims, but they wouldn't get engaged first; instead a dialogue box would pop up suggesting the couple get married and the Sims would then marry on the spot). Generally, a Sim will reject a marriage proposal if the relationship between them and the proposer isn't high enough, and/or at least one of them is in a bad mood. In The Sims 3, Sims with the personality trait "Commitment Issues" are more likely to reject a proposal for, well, obvious reasons. Ditto for Sims with the "Noncommittal" trait in The Sims 4.
  • In the Story of Seasons franchise, if you attempt to propose to a Love Interest without fulfilling the requirements to get married, they'll turn you down. Very often, you can also propose to almost any townspeople, and those who aren't eligible will often turn you down in humorous ways.
  • Tamagotchi: If you choose to propose to one of the Tamagotchis you meet with Tamagotchi On, there's a 50/50 chance this will happen. Generally they're more willing to reject if their friendship level isn't high enough.

    Web Comics 
  • Cheating Men Must Die:
    • Subverted in the second arc. Gu Chen publicly proposes to Su Lüxia at an awards ceremony and she turns him down, suggesting that they try dating first. They share The Big Damn Kiss, and she marries him three years later.
    • In the eighth arc, the Ling family sends betrothal gifts to the Su family as part of an Honorable Marriage Proposal after Su Lüxia is caught with the second Ling son. Since the scandal was engineered, she's able to swear truthfully that there's nothing going on between her and second young master Ling, and her relieved father orders the betrothal gifts to be thrown out.
    • The male lead of the tenth arc proposes to Su Lüxia out of desperation, knowing that she knows he's a cheating scumbag. Her rejection is played absolutely straight.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • When Durkon asks to marry Hilgya to make up for accidentally abandoning her after getting her pregnant, her response is to kill him with a Flame Strike. And then bring him back to life, since he is kinda necessary under the circumstances. She doesn't actually say "no", but as his mother points out later, the implication is obvious.
    • As he brings up the above subject to his mother, she reminds him of punching a tooth out of one of her old friends for proposing to her.

    Western Animation 
  • Played for comedy in the Robot Chicken sketch "A Modest Proposal", where a guy attempts to propose to his girlfriend on top of a stopped Ferris Wheel. She rejects him, leading to an awkward silence, as the two are now stuck together on the not-moving Ferris Wheel.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "There's Something About Marrying" features Patty attempting to get married to her girlfriend, Veronica. However, it is revealed in the final act that Veronica is actually a man named Leslie Robin Swisher, dressed up as a woman in order to participate in an LPGA tournament. When Marge reveals his true gender to everyone at the wedding, Leslie attempts to propose to Patty as a man. She promptly rejects it:
    Patty: Hell, no, I like girls!
    • The earlier episode "Principal Charming" has Patty dating Seymour Skinner (This was before she came out as a lesbian). Eventually, Seymour proposes to her but Patty rejects him. Not because she didn't love him but because being a twin, she did everything with her sister Selma and couldn't leave her behind.
    • "A Milhouse Divided" has Milhouse's parents, Kirk and Luann, divorcing in the midst of a dinner party Homer and Marge threw. At the reception of the latter couple's remarriage, Kirk, realizing his past mistakes and infused with love due to the circumstances, serenades Luann and proposes to her. However, by this point Luann's already moved on with a new lover and is satisfied with her newly divorced life, so she turns him down flat.
  • In the Steven Universe: Future episode "Together Forever", Steven proposes to Connie. She gently rejects him, saying that while she does care about him, she thinks it's way too soon in both of their lives to consider it (Steven's only sixteen years old and Connie is even younger than he is). Steven suggesting that they spend all their time fused together doesn't help, as Connie wants to be her own person. Steven is upset but accepts her rejection graciously. It's indicated that Steven mostly asked Connie to marry him as a poor attempt to cope with his trauma, as he was afraid of losing Connie when she revealed she was leaving to attend college.
  • Tangled: The Series elaborates upon the film's gag about Eugene attempting to propose to Rapunzel; it forms a minor subplot although it's played for a bit more drama here. Most noticeably, in the pilot Eugene attempts to propose to Rapunzel before her coronation in front of the whole court, but she rejects him as she isn't ready for it and is afraid that it'll lead to her being trapped once more after she spent eighteen years locked up by Mother Gothel.

 
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Rapunzel Says No

When Eugene proposes to Rapunzel before her coronation, she is initially delighted, but fearing she'll be locked up again after all those years spent in the tower, she rejects.

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