You only have a couple of pages to finish and the book is about to end... Or there are only a few minutes left from the screen time of the movie... Or you are pumped for this sit-com rom-com season finale. Aww, look! The guy and his crush are finally together. Their unresolved sexual tension is getting resolved. After all that Will They or Won't They? we are happy to find out that they will. Or perhaps the sweethearts made up after their Second-Act Breakup. Perhaps the girl unsure about her Arranged Marriage has finally decided to go through with it. And look, the happy couple is even tying the knot.
A perfect Happily Ever After, right? Wait, what? It is not them who are getting married! These wedding bells are for somebody else.
Turns out the happy occasion is being thrown for the Beta Couple or any other couple who is close enough to the assumed lovebirds. They are family or friends — close enough to be their wedding guests. Who we assumed were bride and groom are only members of the wedding party, possibly best man and maid of honor or official witnesses to certify the ceremony, which explains their festive clothes or almost-bride-and-groom attire.
Simply put, viewers or readers have been tricked with a Bait-and-Switch trope. In filmed visual media, this trope will usually make use of the Reveal Shot when the camera goes slowly off the assumed couple, shifts the view and pans on the true bride and groom. Alternatively, the actual bride and groom will look a lot like the assumed bride and groom, so much so that they will be mistaken for them at first glance, or the couple will be shot from behind as they walk up the aisle, obscuring their faces. Another common device is to switch from something like The Big Damn Kiss to an establishing shot of a church, with a crowd waiting to greet the newlyweds, and the reveal is made when the other couple emerges from the doors instead.
Generally speaking, this trope is usually connected to the Official Couple, or couple-to-be, but it can also concern any other couple from the ensemble cast. The important part is that the audience is led to believe that somebody is about to be married, but they are not really.
This is a subtrope of Wedding Finale. It's usually an Ending spoiler trope played for laughs. Often used to subvert Fourth-Date Marriage — in cases where it would be silly for our only-just-met/only-just-got-together central couple to be getting married themselves, we can be teased with that possibility, while still getting a schmaltzy happy ending and confirmation that they're enough of an established couple to be invited to weddings together. Compare Why Waste a Wedding?.
SPOILERS AHOY! Beware, major spoilers are unmarked.
- In volume 7 of Goblin Slayer, High Elf Archer receives a letter from home and suddenly start talking about marriage. After a series of misunderstandings from the party and several onlookers, Goblin Slayer is actually the first one to realize that she isn't talking about herself. Turns out it's her older sister and they are all invited.
- The RWBY fanfic Inch is a non-linear chronicle of the relationship between Jaune and Weiss throughout their teenage and adult years, as they become friends, fall in love, and breakup. One of the penultimate chapters ends with the two talking for the first time after years of estrangement, leading into the final chapter where Jaune is preparing for a wedding. Given what they had recently read, the audience is led to believe that he and Weiss managed to rekindle their romance and are getting married, only for it to turn out that she's the Maid of Honor. He's actually marrying their mutual lifelong friend Ruby, though they briefly muse that this could have been their wedding if things went a bit differently.
- Uncertainty Principle ends with Lars preparing to propose to Rhen. The one-shot epilogue goes on to describe a grand wedding that is quickly revealed to one for Devin and Talia instead. The story then proceeds to fast-forward several years to Lars and Rhen's daughter revealing to them that she just got back from eloping and having her own wedding (with the son of Rhen's old flame, no less).
- Walking Down the Aisle has Claire monologue about Dr. Trent at his wedding and reminisces the tender moments they've shared in the past. Then it is revealed that the doctor is marrying Elli, not Claire.
- Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa: The film ends with Alex's father Zuba officiating a wedding ceremony. The audience is led to believe it's between Melman and Gloria, who confessed their love during the film. Turns out the ones getting married are instead Skipper the penguin and Lola the bobblehead hula doll from the plane.
- Bad Girl: A spin on this has the heroine getting helped into a wedding dress as she talks about how nervous she is. "Here Comes the Bride" plays, she steps out of the changing room—and she joins a line of women all wearing wedding dresses. She is actually modeling a wedding dress at a department store.
- Bridget Jones: At the end of the second movie, Bridget asks Mark to take her back. Mark does, he proposes and she happily accepts. One of the final shots of the movie has them standing in front of the altar... Except the wedding ceremony is for Bridget's parents who are renewing their vows. At least Bridget catches the bouquet.
- At the end of Clueless, after Cher and Josh get a Relationship Upgrade, Cher's narration says that the viewer can probably guess what happened next. The scene then cuts to a wedding... but it's not theirs. The bride and groom are the teachers Cher has been matchmaking throughout the film and she berates the viewer for thinking the former.
Cher's narration: As if! I'm only 16. This is California, not Kentucky.
- In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Stephen rushes into a wedding, wearing a subdued, but nicely tailored tuxedo. As he enters he looks around, then slips into one of the pews. The bride enters and it's Christine Palmer, marrying another man.
- Grumpier Old Men: At the end, after Jacob and Melanie have reconciled, the kids rush to a wedding. It initially appears to be Jacob's but is revealed to be Max and Maria's.
- In & Out has a big fake-out at the end where we're led to believe that Howard and Peter are getting married (they're fussing over their tuxes right before, the minister's voice-over notes that the big day involves "such an unusual couple", etc.)... only for the pan across the church to reveal the couple is Howard's parents doing a belated Why Waste a Wedding? by renewing their vows. Well, someone having to get married was most of her character through the events of the movie.
- The Love Bug (1997) ends with a photoshoot of bride and groom in Herbie. They vaguely resemble the main couple. At least the main couple is about to leave on a date. They don't know where they're going; Herbie will decide, just like the honeymoon at the end of the original movie.
- At the end of Return to Me, leads Bob and Grace have finally reconciled with a kiss. Then, as the credits start to roll, we see them standing together at the restaurant owned by Grace's grandfathers, as someone says, "Make way for the bride and groom!". It turns out two of the middle-aged restaurant workers who had some minor Ship Tease throughout the film are the ones who married.
- Sprung: The movie begins with best friends Montel and Clyde preparing for the former's wedding to Brandi, which leads to the movie essentially being a flashback to how they got to this point. At the end of the movie, it turns out that the wedding is actually for Clyde and Brandi's best friend Adina. The irony is that Clyde and Adina's mutual hatred of each other was the reason why they tried to sabotage Montel and Brandi's relationship in the first place so that they didn't have to see each other more than they had to.
- Summer Spent With A Cowboy (original title Leto s kovbojem): Honza proposes to Doubravka in front of her disapproving mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, who all answer in turn: "Never!" — "Never." — "Never?" The bride-to-be doesn't say anything. Next shot of the film is at the wedding, Doubravka and Honza stand together side by side. She's in a white simple dress, he's in a black suit, the wedding music is playing... Turns out the groom is Honza's brother who is marrying his girlfriend. Honza and Doubravka are their witnesses.
- Saturnin: The book ends with the nameless narrator nervously asking out his crush Miss Barbora. She doesn't make it easy for him, but she accepts and he's beyond happy. All previous chapters have a summary of the chapter, in the 'In Which a Trope Is Described' style. The very last chapter is very brief (One-Paragraph Chapter brief) and resembles just the summary. The narrator says he knows that every good story needs a satisfying ending and that there is no happy ending like a wedding. Everyone expects it's him and the lovely Barbora. He's glad he will not disappoint his readers because his widowed aunt Katerina got married to a rich gentleman.
- In The Westing Game, Angela spends the book unsure about her upcoming marriage to Dr. Deere. At the end, all of the characters attend a wedding implied to be theirs until it's revealed to actually be for Otis and Crow, as Angela had called off the engagement. (It is stated that she does marry Deere later, but on her own terms.)
- A comedic example in Series 2, episode 4 of Derry Girls. The episode begins with single mother Sarah walking down the aisle in a white dress, apparently getting married at last. However, a pan-out reveals that she is actually a guest at a relative's wedding, and committed the fashion faux-pas of wearing white.
- In How I Met Your Mother, the entire final season takes place at Barney and Robin's wedding. However, the prior seasons faked out the identity of both the bride and the groom when they had flash forwards to the time of the final season.
- Season 6 opens with Ted talking about the two important days in a relationship: the day you meet a girl and the day you marry her. Cut to Ted in a tuxedo and Marshall approaching him and asking if he's nervous. The implication here is clearly that this is Ted's wedding day and that he's marrying the mother of his kids. The season finale reveals it's their friend Barney's wedding and Ted's nervous because of his best man duties.
- Season 7 ends with Barney (already revealed to be the groom) proposing to his girlfriend, Quinn. However, the very last scene reveals the bride to not be Quinn, but Robin, Barney's ex-girlfriend (and also Ted's ex-girlfriend and big love of his life).
- In the live-action adaptation of Saturnin, Jiri Oulicky (the protagonist narrator from the book Named by the Adaptation) has a date with Barbora near the end of the TV film/miniseries and proceeds to narrate that he knows every good story ends with a wedding. The scene is set at church, Lohengrin and Mendelssohn is playing, the camera pans to Barbora and Jiri standing before the altar... but as the first couple among the wedding guests. The bride is actually Jiri's gold-digging aunt Katerina.
- The ShakespeaReTold adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing ends with Claudio and Benedick standing at the altar, having a quiet discussion that suggests Claudio and Hero are about to embark on their second attempt at getting married. Just as the bridal party arrives, the two realise that they're standing in the wrong places and switch around, at which point it becomes clear that Benedick is the groom and Claudio is the best man. A moment later, Beatrice enters wearing a wedding dress, followed by Hero and the other bridesmaids. (In a significant change to the source material, Hero and Claudio do not get back together at the end of this version.)
- "Marry Me" by Thomas Rhett. The song sounds like it's setting up a wedding between the narrator and his lover... until the line "She wanna get married, but she don't wanna marry me" reveals that she's marrying someone else because they are Just Friends and he never worked up the courage to tell her he loved her.
- "I Was There" by The Statler Brothers begins by describing an adolescent romance between the singer and a neighbor girl that seems to be heading to the altar. And on the wedding day, the singer takes his place ... with the friends of the bride.
- If/Then deals with a woman named Elizabeth whose life goes in two different directions based on her decision to reinvent herself as Liz or Beth upon returning to New York. While Beth dives into her work and neglects her love life, Liz meets and marries the man of her dreams. The song "This Day/Walking By a Wedding" juxtaposes Liz's happiness on her wedding day with Beth's despondence as she walks past an unrelated wedding happening on the same day in her timeline.
- Root Letter does this retroactively. The Bond of Marriage route in the original VN ends with Max and Shiori having reunited for some time, and a wedding invitation can be seen on their desk, clearly indicating that the two are about to get married. The Last Answer Sequel Arc reveals that the invitation is actually for Misaki's wedding, while Max has yet to propose. He does do so by the end, however, and naturally she accepts.
- A 2015 story arc in Dork Tower has The Bus Come Back for Gilly the Perky Goth, who's talking about marrying someone in three days and having to write vows, but never actually mentioning the groom. It turns out she's officiating at her brother's wedding.
- Insecticomics: Invoked in the volume 5 arc "Come For The Wedding, Stay For The Open Bar!". Kickback and Lazorbeak decide to have a wedding in protest of events from For Better or for Worse, because "the strip is ending when the one-interesting older daughter marries her emotionally-manipulative creepo high school fling. On the anniversary of when the creepo married his first wife, no less." Bombshell and Elita assume Kickback and Lazorbeak are the ones getting married; it's not until the ceremony that they learn the former two are just hosting, and the whole thing is actually the Earth-legal marriage of Stryka and Obsidian (apparently, Earth doesn't recognize Cybertronian bond-relationships, and being recognized as married is important to the pair).
- The Legostar Galactica Season 10 episode "When You're Right, Shut Up" opens with Bob and Marty, dressed in tuxes, commenting on how it seems to have gone so fast, and they're not sure they're ready for the change that a marriage will bring. This leads to the assumption that the wedding is either for Official Couple Bob and Shauna, who have been together since Season 1, or the far more recent pairing of Marty and Adani, but within a few pages it's revealed that Bob and Marty are just groomsmen for the actual groom: Ensign Red Shirt, who is getting married to Ensign Cindy Wright.
- The Order of the Stick: "Dream Wedding". The villains are defeated, the heroes get a happy ending, and Elan prepares for a wedding. His wedding to Haley, right? No, it's his divorced parents getting re-married — an event so improbable, it causes Elan to realize that he's trapped in an illusion and none of these events actually happened, up to and including defeating the villains.
- In the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue of the Dragons: Riders of Berk series finale, the riders are all attending Dagur and Mala's wedding, the framing and Hiccup's voiceover implying it to be his and Astrid's wedding before panning out and proving otherwise. That being said, Hiccup and Astrid would end up getting married; it just took them a bit longer to get to it.
- An episode of The Flintstones had Fred dreaming that he's elderly and Pebbles is grown up and about to get married to Arnold the paper boy (or at least that's what he assumes). He runs into a chapel about to stop what he thinks is the wedding but it was actually Barney and Betty renewing their wedding vows.