In your wedding suit today
Like on the big day
Yes you're looking fine
The big day
Sign on the dotted line
The big day
It's your wedding march today"
Since getting married is a powerful force in human life, and since a wedding is one of the most grandiose events many people put together in their lives, it shouldn't be surprising that it is also a powerful force in fiction as well. All its trappings are familiar to us: the bride in her flowing white dress, the groom in his black tuxedo or pastel suit, the ginormous white wedding cake, etc. Whether or not the lovebirds stick to these traditions or eschew them for their own vision can be the story in and of itself.
Traditionally (and still, throughout most of the world) marriage was always between man and woman, since its primary purpose was to create a stable family with children. However, as the contemporary Western world has adopted more individualistic attitudes and made marrying for romance its ideal, many people came to feel that this was unfair to homosexuals. Same-sex marriage is now legally recognized in many countries, and this has filtered through into pop culture. Thus, while the groom-bride combination is obviously still the most common, weddings in modern fiction may also have two grooms, two brides in white, or even a seemingly straight couple where the handsome groom or beautiful bride is really a crossdressing same-sex partner.
Even for hetero couples, many aspects of the wedding are Newer Than They Think. Most wedding traditions in the Western world, such as the big white dress and the big white figurine-topped wedding cake, are derived from Queen Victoria's wedding to Prince Albert in 1840. Before then, most people just wore their Sunday best to get married and threw a party afterwards, with the look and traditions varying by region and culture. Queen Vicky's white wedding was outlandishly grandiose for its time, meant to show off the Crown's wealth. White may represent purity in the abstract sense, but it also represented luxury in the practical sense. White fabric was nearly impossible to keep clean, meaning she bought a lavish gown just to wear it once, and white sugar was an expensive delicacy, meaning a multi-tiered white cake with all-white frosting was the height of opulence. The British aristocracy (as well as Victoria's children) copied these traits for their own weddings to display their own wealth, and as these materials became cheaper, the lower classes followed suit, to feel glamorous for a day if nothing else. Within a few decades, it became the new tradition.
So, anyone want to go to a wedding?
- Accidental Marriage: An innocent action results in a character being married.
- Accidental Proposal: A character carries out an action which is misinterpreted as a wedding proposal by another character.
- Altar Diplomacy: A marriage set up to form alliances and end feuds.
- Altar the Speed: The act of moving up a wedding date due to extenuating circumstances.
- And Now You Must Marry Me: Forcing someone to marry you.
- Arranged Marriage: A marriage set up between two people who may or may not love each other, often due to political or financial reasons.
- Best Woman: The bride and groom have friends of the opposite sex fill the role of best man and maid of honor.
- Bitter Wedding Speech: A speech that embarrasses, insults, and/or attacks one or both of the newlyweds.
- Blood-Splattered Wedding Dress: The dress is ruined, and that's the least of her problems.
- Bouquet Toss: The bride tosses her wedding bouquet and every currently single woman will literally fight to catch the bouquet and be the one who's next in line.
- Breach of Promise of Marriage: A potential marriage is broken off after the man doesn't pay up his end of the bargain.
- Bride and Switch: The bride isn't who the groom thinks she is.
- The Bride with a Past: A plot about a bride with a hidden past or identity that the groom may or may not be aware of.
- Bridezilla: Planning the perfect wedding brings out a bride's absolute worst.
- Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: A government or religiously mandated marriage.
- Cake Toppers: The little bride and groom figures that are put on top of a wedding cake.
- Childhood Marriage Promise: Two kids promise to marry each other when they grow up.
- Child Marriage Veto: A character refuses an Arranged Marriage set up by their parents.
- Citizenship Marriage: A character gets married in order to avoid being deported out of the country.
- Common Law Marriage (often): A couple are married in every sense of the word but legal.
- Consummation Counterfeit: Blood is placed on the sheets of a couple's bed in order to fool people into believing they consummated their marriage or that the bride was a virgin on her wedding night.
- Deconfirmed Bachelor: Character who previously refused to get married changes their mind upon meeting the love of their life.
- Dowry Dilemma: Inability to afford a suitable dowry gets in the way of a potential courtship or wedding.
- Elopement: A couple runs away to get married because that's the only way they can.
- Engagement Challenge: A set of rules, tests or tasks that one must meet in order to prove worthy of a spouse as their prize.
- Engaging Conversation: Suddenly proposing to someone almost immediately after meeting them.
- Enormous Engagement Ring: A woman receives an engagement ring, and it's huge, so much so that she has a major reaction to it.
- Fairytale Wedding Dress (although the bride isn't always the only one in a Pimped-Out Dress): A giant fancy old-fashioned wedding dress.
- Fallback Marriage Pact: Two good friends decide to marry each other if they're still single by a certain age.
- Fourth-Date Marriage: Two people marry shortly after meeting.
- Gay Groom in a White Tux: Two men get married and one of them will be wearing a white tuxedo, and the other a black tuxedo.
- Give Away the Bride: The bride's father (or another character standing in for the father) walks her down the aisle to the altar where he would formally offer her to the groom.
- "The Graduate" Homage Shot: Banging on the church windows and shouting the bride's name to try and stop the wedding.
- Guess Who I'm Marrying?: A single parent plans to marry an obvious Devil in Plain Sight.
- Heirloom Engagement Ring: Someone uses a family member's ring for a proposal.
- Honorable Marriage Proposal: A man offers to marry a woman in order to salvage her reputation.
- Horrible Honeymoon: The newlyweds' honeymoon goes horribly wrong.
- Last Wish Marriage: A dying character opts to get married while they still live.
- Lohengrin and Mendelssohn: Two musical pieces that commonly play during wedding marches.
- Lonely Bachelor Pad: An unfurnished or minimally furnished apartment to show the loneliness of the resident.
- Lost Wedding Ring: The ring goes missing right before the wedding.
- The Maiden Name Debate: A soon-to-be married woman has a hard time deciding whether to keep her own last name or change to her new spouse's last name.
- Mail-Order Bride: "Ordering" a spouse over the Internet.
- Married at Sea: A sea captain legally marries a couple.
- Marry for Love: Marrying someone out of genuine love rather than for money or status.
- Marry Them All: The lead character decides to hook up with all of their prospective Love Interests.
- Metaphorical Marriage: They can't or don't want to get married legally, but consider themselves as good as married and committed for life.
- MRS Degree: A woman goes to college to find a husband.
- My Own Private "I Do": A couple marries before having a big wedding.
- Nobility Marries Money: Highborn people marry rich people.
- "Not Really Married" Plot: A couple finds out that they were never legally married.
- Old Man Marrying a Child: A young girl is married off to an older man.
- Old, New, Borrowed and Blue: The traditional four things a bride must carry at her wedding.
- Oops! I Forgot I Was Married: A character finds out they're in a marriage they were unaware was legal.
- Parental Marriage Veto: A parent is against their child's marriage.
- Perilous Marriage Proposal: Wedding proposals occur either during, just before, or after a dangerous situation.
- Perfectly Arranged Marriage: The participants in an Arranged Marriage genuinely love each other.
- Prenup Blowup: A standard plot device to break up an engaged couple or to introduce a conflict for them to overcome.
- Quitting to Get Married: A character quits their job when they get married.
- Real Fake Wedding: Someone attempts to trick someone into marrying them by staging a fake wedding with their intended partner then replacing the fake celebrant with real celebrant.
- Rejected Marriage Proposal: Someone tries to propose marriage to another character, but gets turned down.
- Remarried to the Mistress: A character gets remarried to someone they were having an affair with.
- Returning the Wedding Ring: If an engagement/wedding ring is returned, that means a marriage is over.
- Ring on a Necklace: If a marriage or engagement is being kept secret, then the characters may wear their rings like this rather than on their fingers.
- Runaway Bride: A bride who abandons her groom at the altar.
- Runaway Fiancée: A person who runs away from an Arranged Marriage.
- Sad Bollywood Wedding: Crying at your wedding either because you're marrying someone you don't love or something else bad is happening.
- Sham Wedding: A wedding that turns out to be fake.
- Shotgun Wedding: A (usually forced) marriage occurring upon the discovery that the groom impregnated the bride.
- Skip to the End: The act of shortening a marriage ceremony due to outside circumstances.
- Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: A line said by the priest in order for someone to give a reason the couple should not be married.
- Stag Party: A wild party held for the groom before his wedding day.
- Standard Hero Reward: Save the kingdom, get to marry the princess.
- Starter Marriage: A first marriage that doesn't last for very long.
- Suddenly Suitable Suitor: A person of nobility/royalty's commoner Love Interest is revealed to be of royal background, thus making them suitable to marry them.
- Themed Wedding: Weddings with a theme.
- Third-Party Deal Breaker: If a third party such as a parent or lover interferes in the wedding.
- Unable to Support a Wife: A man can't afford to get married and care for a wife.
- Unconventional Wedding Dress: The bride wears a dress that is non-traditional.
- Virgin in a White Dress: If the bride is a virgin, she will wear a white wedding dress.
- Wacky Marriage Proposal: An unconventional marriage proposal.
- Wartime Wedding: A couple gets married during a time of great war and strife.
- Wedding Bells... for Someone Else: Two people look like they are about to be married, only for it to turn out they're guests at someone else's wedding.
- Wedding Deadline: The Hero must get to their true love before they say "I do" at their wedding to someone else.
- Wedding/Death Juxtaposition: The happiness of a wedding in close narrative proximity to the sadness of a death.
- Wedding Episode: An installment centered around someone getting married.
- Wedding Finale: The story ends with a character's wedding.
- Weddings for Everyone: Multiple couples get married at the end of the story.
- Weddings in Japan: Getting married in Japan.
- Wedding Ring Defense: Wearing a wedding ring to fool people into thinking that you're married, often to shoo away unwanted suitors.
- Wedding Ring Removal: A character takes off their wedding ring before they cheat on their spouse.
- Wedding Smashers: A person or a group interrupts a wedding.
- Why Waste a Wedding?: When a couple decide not to get married after all, another couple attending the wedding decide to get married at that moment.
- Widowed at the Wedding: The bride or groom is killed immediately after the wedding.
- Wight in a Wedding Dress: Apparitions and other undead notable for being in a wedding dress.
- With This Ring: When a man proposes, anything can go wrong with securing the ring.
- Worst Wedding Ever: Unfortunate mishaps ruin or undermine a wedding day.
- You Have Waited Long Enough: A character is forced to marry someone else when the one they love doesn't come right back to them.