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Sham Wedding

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Alcazar: We all have needs. I needed five weirdos to scrub my five castles. [...]
Leela: But why all five weddings on the same day?
Alcazar: Hey lady, you got any idea how much it costs to rent a tux that changes shape?

Congratulations! Two lovers have just tied the knot... Except it turns out they haven't really. The wedding was not real and the marriage is therefore not valid.

Either the bride or the groom was tricked by the other into believing the wedding was real. It gets revealed it was all a sham and the wronged party feels terribly betrayed. One potential reason for this is that one party is already married or has a second family: in most countries that have bigamy laws, the second marriage is automatically void.

In cases of a fake wedding done for tricking the parents who for some reason want their child to be married (and where both the bride and the groom know it is a fake ceremony), or to milk their family and friends for nice presents. However, they don't get married for real.

Subtrope of Sham Ceremony.

Relational troping:

  • Fake Relationship: Can be faked by both parties involved, or can be fake from one side only.
  • Marriage of Convenience: People get married for various reasons (social standing, reputation, money, citizenship, political marriage, to play gay/straight, to help a single parent, for practicalities, as a back-up plan, to please parents etc.) but in this case, the wedding and the marriage are real.
  • "Not Really Married" Plot: A comedy trope when a married couple discovers they were actually never legally married.
  • Oops! I Forgot I Was Married: The character genuinely assumes that whatever wedding ceremony they had, it didn't count, or they conveniently forgot to mention the wedding to friends and close ones and they never bothered to get an annulment or a divorce.
  • Real Fake Wedding is the inversion: a real wedding is held on the pretence of it being a fake one, but the characters are tricked into marrying for real, often to someone they didn't intend.
  • Smithical Marriage: The fake couple may hold the ceremony or make reservations at a hotel as "Mr. & Mrs. Smith"
  • Undercover as Lovers: The characters may hold a sham marriage as part of their disguise.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Inverted in I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying. Hajime's father was under the impression that Hajime and Kaoru's wedding was actually an elaborate hoax, not realizing the truth until the two come to visit for New Years several months later. No one actually tried to trick him, he just didn't believe that his son would be able to find a wife.
  • In Lupin III: Part II episode "The Chewing Gum Disguise Operation", Gasper has a history of setting them up to scam potential grooms out of money. He and Amore set one up to con Lupin; Lupin, of course, sees it coming a mile away and turns the tables.
  • In One Piece, Sanji gets roped into a sham wedding as part of a political deal between his father Judge and Big Mom. However, Big Mom planned on double-crossing Judge the entire time and tried to have her daughter Pudding assassinate Sanji at the altar. But these plans went to hell after Sanji complimented Pudding's third eye, which made her break down as Bege attempted to assassinate Big Mom.

    Comic Books 
  • In one old Robin Hood comic, the Norman villain kidnaps a lady and forces her to marry him. When the heroes rescue her, it's revealed that the priest wasn't a real priest.
  • Star Wars (Marvel 2015): This ultimately turns out to be the case between Han and Sana. While technically their marriage was legally binding, the whole thing was just meant as a cover for a con, and neither of them consider it to be legitimate.
  • In Action Comics #338, Supergirl gets stalked by an alien named Raspor, who is convinced that she'll marry him because his precognition says so, even though she already hated his misogynist self well before finding out that he's a murderous criminal. Nonetheless, when Raspor proudly (and falsely) claims to be the one who destroyed Krypton, Supergirl suddenly insists on getting married to him in a planet of her choice. After the "wedding" she reveals the "preacher" performing the ceremony was a three-dimensional projection, and her real goal was to lure him into a faraway, deserted planet to leave him stranded in punishment for his crimes.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Hefty, The Luckiest Smurf", Smurfette is marrying Hefty at the beginning of the story, with Empath watching them happily getting hitched...except that it turns out to be an Imaginarium fantasy setting, where Smurfette wanted to explore that moment of being married to Hefty at the altar. Both Empath and Smurfette knew it wasn't real, but Empath wanted to give Smurfette something special for Valentine's Day.
  • How to Fake a Marriage, a Miraculous Ladybug fanfic by quicksilversquared, starts with Adrien arriving in London to study for a Physics degree and running into Marinette. Adrien's father had banned him from dating while in London, and once Marinette hears about that, they both decide to stage a fake wedding to prank Gabriel, since he didn't ban marrying. Leads to quite a bit of skepticism from others once Adrien finishes his degree and the two announce their real engagement.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Justice League: Gods and Monsters, Bekka is set to marry Orion, son of Darkseid, as part of a peace brokerage between Apokolips and New Genesis. While she's initially disdainful of the idea, she realizes that Orion has potential to be more than the monster his father was. Unbeknownst to Bekka, the wedding was a ruse designed to gather Apokolip's leadership in one place for assassination. After Darkseid, Orion, and the rest of Apokolip's elites are dead, Bekka is so disgusted with Highfather that she uses her betrothal gift, a sword-shaped Mother Box, to flee to Earth, becoming Wonder Woman.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022), it's revealed that Tom's brother-in-law was an undercover G.U.N. agent alongside with everyone involved in the wedding outside of the family as part of a ploy to capture Sonic. However, he ends up pulling a Romantic Fake–Real Turn.
  • In Way Down East, Lennox and Annie have a wedding ceremony, which Lennox later reveals was a sham and not legally binding. The whole thing was a sham to get in her pants, and Lennox leaves her after the reveal.

  • Clue: Book #9, chapter 7 ("There Went the Bride") is about setting up one of these - Miss Scarlet announces she's getting married, but it turns out there was never a real groom - the whole thing was just a scheme on Scarlet's part to get valuable wedding gifts and then run off with them.
  • Hannah Swensen:
    • In Candy Cane Murder, it's revealed that Wayne Bergstrom's second marriage wasn't legitimate, because his new wife Melinda was still married to her husband Cory; the sham marriage effectively allowed them to mooch off him. When an unknowing Wayne decided to "divorce" Melinda, Cory killed him to prevent him from doing so.
    • Having married Ross Barton in Wedding Cake Murder, Hannah later finds out that he was actually still married to his first wife, meaning her marriage wasn't legitimate.
  • Jane Eyre: Jane Eyre's wedding to Edward Rochester gets interrupted when somebody speaks up in the Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace moment: It turns out that Mr Rochester is already married. Had the ceremony proceeded, their marriage wouldn't have been legal and Rochester would have been guilty of bigamy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Drew Carey Show: In "Drew's Inheritance", Drew and Kate throw together a fake wedding to try and claim an inheritance from Drew's uncle.
  • When General Hospital's Ned Ashton realized that local schemer Katherine Bell was going to be able to blackmail him into marrying her, he quickly eloped with his girlfriend Lois so that he would at least be legally married to her. Katherine went through hers and Ned's ceremony with nary an idea that it was all for nothing.
  • At the end of Joe Schmo 2, the second season of The Joe Schmo Show, when Austin Newton-Rice and Piper Davidson decide to renew their commitment to each other, host Derek Newcastle ("Ralph Garman") suggests that he marry them right then and there on national television. He gets as far as the Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace bit when Bryce, who was eliminated from the show for killing the falcon Montecore, bursts in to say that he can't marry them because they're both actors and so is everyone else on the show, including himself, except for the two chosen schmoes.
  • In Samurai Sentai Shinkenger and it's American adaptation, Power Rangers Samurai, an episode involves the villains abducting women at their weddings. So the Rangers arrange a fake ceremony between two of their teammates to lure the monsters to them.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • A.J. Lee tricked Daniel Bryan onto being married, only for the marriage itself to be a lie because, when AJ said that she accepts, she was responding to Vince McMahon's offer for her to be a General Manager.

  • A Mirror: The play, which has No Fourth Wall, is initially presented as "The Wedding of Leyla & Joel" at Vorbak Memorial Hall, in the capital city of an unnamed country with a repressive regime. The audience are handed an order of service as they take their seats, awaiting the bride's arrival. One of the guests - a secret police officer - leaves a couple of minutes into the ceremony. As soon as everyone's sure he's really gone, the cast scraps the pretence that it's a wedding and starts to perform an illegal, unsanctioned play instead.

    Video Games 
  • In Final Fantasy IX, when the party arrives at Conde Petie, the residents tell them that the destination they need to travel to continue their journey is a sacred area that only newlyweds are allowed to venture to. Garnet immediately drags Zidane to the altar and the two undergo a wedding right on the spot. Zidane doesn't realize her plan and thinks it's real, but as soon as the priest declares them unified in marriage, Zidane finds himself kissing the space where Garnet used to be, who has already moved on ahead.

    Web Comics 

    Web Video 
  • Kitboga is a scambaiter popular on YouTube and Twitch. In "I Got Married... To a Scammer!", Kitboga, well, gets married to a scammer. Except, of course, that his guest, MiltonTPike, isn't actually a priest or any sort of official and can't actually marry anyone. And, of course, that it's not possible to marry someone over the phone without any documentation or an actual ceremony. And that none of the people on the line are who they actually claim to be.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama, "A Bicyclops Built for Two": Alcazar has five fantastic castles and he needs five wives to take care of them. So he goes out and finds five women who are the last of their kind and courts them, including Leela. Fry and Bender expose him, and his five brides are furious, beating him up and cancelling the marriage.
  • In The Great North, Season 1 "My Fart Will Go on Advenutre", when Kathleen considers going to Wolf and Honeybee's wedding, Judy considers having a "shadow wedding" to lure her away from the real wedding so she doesn't ruin it due to her being a wrecking ball at big events and she can't stand it if it's not about her. However, after the Shaws find out about Kathleen possibly showing up to the wedding, Honeybee points out that they shouldn't let her try to ruin the wedding whether or not she does show up, allowing the real wedding to go on as planned.
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series: In "Fibber", Pleakley convinces his family that he has a fiancée, only for them to come over expecting him to marry said girl. Pleakley needs the help of his ʻohananote  to fake a wedding to get his family off his back. Jumba acts as the bride because Nani refuses to do it even if it was fake. However, Pleakley's lie is revealed after Gantu brings up Fibber who had been buzzing the entire episode because of Pleakley's lie.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "The Real Housewives of Fat Tony", Selma marries Fat Tony, the local mafia boss. However, it turns out the wedding wasn't real and the ceremony was held in Italian (which Selma doesn't know), and she only agreed to be Tony's house mistress. Fat Tony's real wife laughs at the size of Selma's ring.
    • In "The Wandering Juvie", Bart arranges a fake wedding for himself and "Lotta Cooties" (there is no such a girl/woman) so he can return the gifts the invited guests will bring for store credit. He ends up getting busted and sent to juvenile hall.


Video Example(s):


Just Like I'm an Actor

In the season finale of "Joe Schmo 2," the second season of "The Joe Schmo Show," host Derek Newcastle (Ralph Garman) proposes that Austin Newton Rice and Piper Davidson get married, right there on national television. Thing is - both of them are actors, as is he, and everything that's been happening on the show has been scripted for the benefit of Tim Walsh and Amanda Naughton (the show's "Joe and Jane Schmo") characters, as they're about to find out.

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Example of:

Main / ShamWedding

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