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A Brief History of Film Weddings: Part 1

All mentioned films in article
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As Nia Vardalos's My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 goes on general release and fashion writers swoon over the wedding dress worn by Venice Best Actress winner Cailee Spaeny in Sofia Coppola's Priscilla, Cinema Paradiso takes the first of two looks back at the best nuptial moments in screen history.

Given how central the prospect of matrimony was to the Hollywood happy ending, it's surprising how few weddings there actually were in the classic films of the studio era. American cinema during this period was bankrolled by conservative social, political, and religious forces who wished to encourage conformity in every aspect of life. It was a patriarchal perspective that posited that even the scattiest screwball heroine longed to settle down with Mr Right and raise babies in a cosy little home with a white picket fence. Thus, film-makers were urged to fade out on the post-proposal kiss and leave everyone in the auditorium sharing in the optimism of an idyllic future.

During the Great Depression, the studios tended not to depict weddings, as the average American would almost certainly not have been able to afford the kind of white-gowned glamour that we now take for granted. Similarly, during the Second World War, when many couples married in haste before the groom went off to fight, it was decided that nuptial ostentation was bad for morale. Indeed, it was only during the consumer boom of the 1950s that the bridal business began to blossom and Hollywood started to devote entire films to the arrangements, anticipation, and anxieties leading up to the big day.

A still from 112 Weddings (2014)
A still from 112 Weddings (2014)

Subsequently, screen weddings have come in all shapes and sizes. They have cropped up across the generic range, but the majority have graced romantic comedies, in which the comings together of two sets of family and friends can be drolly exploited for their myriad unpredictabilities. There have been hundreds of screen weddings and this two-part Cinema Paradiso survey will seek to recall as many of them as possible in suggesting something old, new, borrowed, and blue. But we won't be following the example of part-time wedding videographer Doug Black's sobering documentary, 112 Weddings (2014), by lifting the veil on what happens after the honeymoon is over.

All-Day Affairs

Ambitious doctor Gordon Jackson endures an unusual start to married life in Montgomery Tully's Two Wives At One Wedding (1961), when Frenchwoman Lisa Daniely arrives at the reception and declares that she had married him after nursing him in wartime Normandy. This thriller is available from Cinema Paradiso, unlike Nagisa Oshima's The Ceremony (1971) and Andrzej Wajda's compelling adaptation of Stanislaw Wyspianski's 1901 play, The Wedding (1973). A vein of drunken farce courses through compatriot Wojciech Smarzowski's satire, The Wedding (2018), and all three films really should be on disc. But we can bring you Therese Connelly's Polish Wedding (1998), in which Lena Olin strives to ensure that pregnant daughter Claire Danes gets married in her local church in Hamtramck, Michigan.

Frustratingly, the Palestinian duo of Michel Khleifi's Wedding in Galilee (1987) and Hany Abu-Assad's Rana's Wedding (2002) is currently unavailable. But Noa Koler's award-winning performance in Rama Burshtein's Through the Wall (aka The Wedding Plan, 2016) more than atones, as her thirtysomething Orthodox Jew fervently believes she will get married if she books a discounted wedding hall.

The Louisville mansion of a nouveau riche Kentucky family provides the setting for Robert Altman's A Wedding (1978), a typically intricate satire in which the reception for Muffin Brenner (Amy Stryker) and Dino Corelli (Desi Arnaz, Jr.) is complicated by the death of her grandmother (Lillian Gish) and his clan's connections with the Chicago mob. And Long Island construction contractor Eddie Hopper (Alan Alda) has to rely on crooked brother Oscar (Joe Pesci) in order to do his daughter (Molly Ringwald) proud when she marries above her station in Alan Alda's Betsy's Wedding (1990).

A still from The Wedding Weekend (2008)
A still from The Wedding Weekend (2008)

Elizabeth Young's novel, Asking For Trouble, underpins Clare Kilner's The Wedding Date (2005), which sees New Yorker Debra Messing travel to London for half-sister Amy Adams's wedding with escort Dermot Mulroney posing as her beau in order to make an old flame jealous. Writer Nicole Kidman is dead against sister Jennifer Jason Leigh's marriage to musician Jack Black and tensions mount when she descends on the family's Long Island home in Noah Baumbach's Margot At the Wedding (2007). Singing also plays a pivotal part in Bruce Leddy's The Wedding Weekend (2008), as an a cappella group reforms after 15 years as a favour for a friend. However, the picture is stolen by Molly Shannon, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Liz Stauber in supporting roles. There's plenty of scene stealing in Nigel Cole's found footage frolic, The Wedding Video (2012), as Rufus Hound attempts to record Robert Webb's union with Lucy Punch and falls foul of her uncompromising grandmother, Miriam Margolyes.

Singing also plays a pivotal part in Bruce Leddy's The Wedding Weekend (2008), as an a cappella group reforms after 15 years as a favour for a friend. However, the picture is stolen by Molly Shannon, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Liz Stauber in supporting roles. There's plenty of scene stealing in Nigel Cole's found footage frolic, The Wedding Video (2012), as Rufus Hound attempts to record Robert Webb's union with Lucy Punch and falls foul of her uncompromising grandmother, Miriam Margolyes.

Staying in Blighty, a 1932 novella by Julia Strachey inspires Donald Rice's Cheerful Weather For the Wedding (2012), which follows bride-to-be Felicity Jones's travails, as mother Elizabeth McGovern worries that she's going to leave her fiancé at the altar to run off with summer fling Luke Treadwaay. A story by Mumblecore stalwart Jay and Mark Duplass informs Jeffrey Blitz's Table 19 (2017), which joins Anna Kendrick at her best friend's wedding, where she finds herself seated with fellow misfits Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson, and Stephen Merchant.

Things get weirder in Jeff Tomsic's Tag (2018), as groom Jeremy Renner has been involved in a game of tick with his friends since 1983 and they want to make him 'it' for the first time before his wedding. But this curio based on a Wall Street Journal story seems normal compared to Max Babakow's Palm Springs (2020), in which guests Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti become trapped Groundhog Day-style at a nightmare reception. Shame it's not on disc, as this is a wonderful oddity. But Cinema Paradiso ends this section on a high, as Julia Roberts and George Clooney try to put decades of loathing behind them in Ol Parker's Ticket to Paradise (2022) in an effort to prevent their daughter from marrying a Balinese seaweed diver.

Happily Ever After?

As we have already seen, wedding days don't always go according to plan. Polish migrant Anna Sten confides her misgivings about marrying her father's choice to novelist Gary Cooper in King Vidor's The Wedding Night (1935), which won the director a prize at the Venice Film Festival. While Cinema Paradiso users wait for it to come to disc in the UK, they can put their tissues to use while reminding themselves of the tearjerking brilliance of Herbert Ross's Steel Magnolias (1989), a stellar adaptation of a Robert Harling play that sees the clients at the beauty salon run by Truvy Jones (Dolly Parton) in Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana rally round diabetic Shelby Eatenton (Julia Roberts) on her big day.

A still from Prelude to a Kiss (1992)
A still from Prelude to a Kiss (1992)

Norman René's Prelude to a Kiss (1992) also started out on the stage, with playwright Craig Lucas's drama revealing how bashful book publisher Alec Baldwin seeks to recover free-spirited new wife Meg Ryan after her soul switches with that of the elderly Sydney Walker after he requests a wedding day kiss. There are numerous complications to be overcome before sisters Elinor (Emma Thompson) and Marianne Dashwood (Kate Winslet) can enjoy a double wedding in Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility (1996), which not only won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, but also the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The altar is also the final destination in two adaptations of another Jane Austen classic, as Emma Woodhouse (respectively Gwyneth Paltrow and Anya Taylor-Joy) has to learn to stop meddling in other people's affairs in Douglas McGrath's Emma (1996) and Autumn de Wilde's Emma (2020). The latter was Oscar-nominated for its costumes and hair and make-up, but Charles Burnett's mini-series, The Wedding (1998), made markedly less impact, in spite of the fine performances of Halle Berry and Eric Thai, as the couple seeking to defy racial prejudice in 1950s America.

The same theme is discussed in Kevin Rodney Sullivan's Guess Who (2005), which reworks Stanley Kramer's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), with Zoe Saldana as the African American introducing white boyfriend Ashton Kutcher to parents Bernie Mac and Judith Scott, who are just about to renew their marriage vows. Suffice to say the problems confronting Sarah Paulson and Eric Mabius in Michael Zinberg's A Christmas Wedding (2006) and Kam Heskin and Luke Mably in Catherine Cyran's The Prince and Me 2: The Royal Wedding (2006) seem like hills of beans by comparison. Jewish and Muslim best friends Myriam (Lizzie Brocheré) and Nour (Olympe Borval) are appalled when they are lined up for arranged marriages in wartime Tunisia in Karin Albou's The Wedding Song (2008). A happy marriage is undone by fate in Michael Sucsy's The Vow (2011), a fact-based story that follows how Rachel McAdams comes to rediscover husband Channing Tatum after she's placed in an induced coma following a traffic accident shortly after their wedding.

A still from The Prince and Me 2: The Royal Wedding (2006)
A still from The Prince and Me 2: The Royal Wedding (2006)

A car collision of a less violent nature proves equally momentous for unhappily married Trine Dyrholm and widower Pierce Brosnan whey they realise that her daughter is about to marry his son after a whirlwind romance in Susanne Bier's Love Is All You Need (2012). The wedding is confined to a film-within-the-film in Mia Hansen-Løve's Bergman Island (2021), as Vicky Krieps discovers that husband Tim Roth is planning a drama about a bride on the eve of her marriage when they travel to Fårö, the Swedish island synonymous with director Ingmar Bergman.

Happy endings were rare in Bergman's oeuvre, but they tend to be de rigueur in fairytales. Take such film versions of Charles Perrault's perennial favourite as James Kirkwood's Cinderella (1914), Clyde Geronomi's Cinderella (1950), Bryan Forbes's The Slipper and the Rose (1976), and Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella (2015), which all conclude with a lavish wedding. Lily James's dress in the latter turned heads, which would have drawn admiring glances from Camila Cabello in Kay Cannon's Cinderella (2021), as she wanted to be a dressmaker before meeting prince Nicholas Galitzine.

Music plays a key role in this lively rendition and Elton John and Kiki Dee's chart-topper, 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart', gets dusted down for a rousing nuptial finale in Tommy O'Haver's Ella Enchanted (2004), as the ever-obedient Anne Hathaway seeks eccentric fairy Vivica A. Fox to lift a curse so she can defy her stepmother and marry the princely Hugh Dancy.

Hathaway's Princess Mia has just 30 days to find a husband or forfeit the chance to succeed grandmother Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews) on the throne of Genovia in Garry Marshall's The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004). But we won't spoil things by saying which woman becomes the bride in this quaint modern spin on the classic fairytale format, which would make a splendid Cinema Paradiso double bill with Kevin Lima's Enchanted (2007), in which Giselle (Amy Adams) is forced to leave her animated realm by evil Queen Larissa (Susan Sarandon) and survive in New York City with the help of Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his former fiancée, Nancy (Idina Menzel). But will she get back home to marry Prince Edward (James Marsden) ?

Ella (Sarah Michelle Geller) has her destiny disturbed by a wizard's bungling assistants (Andy Dick and Wallace Shawn) in Paul Bolger's Happily N'Ever After (2007) and she has to pick her way through several other fairytale plotlines in order to wed the prince's servant, Rick (Freddie Prinze, Jr.).

A still from The Princess Bride (1987) With Robin Wright
A still from The Princess Bride (1987) With Robin Wright

The notion of tweaking fairytale formats had been around long before William Goldman wrote the screenplay for Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride (1987). But few have done it better since, with the wedding sequence being an absolute gem, as the waffling of the Impressive Clergyman (Peter Cook) affords Florin farmboy Westley (Cary Elwes) and outlaw Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) the chance to prevent the obnoxious Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) from forcibly marrying Buttercup (Robin Wright).

Everything also turns out shipshape in John Musker and Ron Clements's The Little Mermaid (1989), but not before Prince Eric almost ties the knot with Vanessa and Ariel has to make some life-changing decisions in this classic Disney take on a Hans Christian Andersen fable, which received a live-action makeover from Rob Marshall in 2023, with Halle Bailey in the title role of The Little Mermaid. Staying with Disney, the wedding of Aladdin and Jasmine opens Todd Stones's Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996), although it's interrupted by the Forty Thieves attempting to steal a magical staff.

Where animated weddings are concerned, vows are rarely exchanged without some sort of intrusion. In Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson's Shrek (2001), for example, the eponymous ogre (Mike Myers) stops Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from marrying Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) with a little help from Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and a chorus of 'I'm a Believer'. Keep watching to see who catches the bouquet. Just to be on the safe side, Tiana and Naveen get married in ranine and human form in Ron Clements's The Princess and the Frog (2009), which was first Disney animation to have a Black princess and also included a 'nearly wedding' when the disguised Lawrence proposes to Charlotte and she makes plans to get hitched during the Mardi Gras parade.

Gaston creepily lays on a surprise wedding for Belle in Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise's Beauty and the Beast (1991), while things go badly wrong for Dr Brad Scott and Sergeant Calhoun in Rich Moore's Wreck-It Ralph (2012). But Disney weddings are usually the acme of fairytale feel-good, as is the case with Roger and Anita and Pongo and Perdita's double wedding in Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, and Wolfgang Reitherman's 101 Dalmatians (1961); Robin Hood and Maid Marian's union in Reitherman's Robin Hood (1973); Mr Incredible and Elastigirl's exchange of vows in Brad Bird's The Incredibles (2004); Kronk and Miss Bardwell's first dance in Saul Blinkoff and Elliot M. Baur's Kronk's New Groove (2005); and Prince Edward and Nancy Tremaine's phone-free ceremony in a golden chapel in Enchanted. But our favourite has to be the fleeting glimpse in the flashback montage of the happiest day in Carl and Ellie's lives in Pete Docter's Up (2009), as relatives on either side of the tiny church greet their first kiss with contrasting levels of enthusiasm before he carries her over the threshold to start work on their beloved nest without bothering to change out of their glad rags.

Passing Matrimonials

Movie marriages aren't always the be all and end all. Indeed, weddings scenes can often just be part of the passing parade, even in a film with a title like The Wedding March (1928), in which Viennese butcher Matthew Betz threatens to shoot impoverished Austrian aristocrat Erich von Stroheim on his wedding day unless limping waif Fay Wray agrees to become his wife. Compare this tawdry scene with the splendour of the setting in Ernst Marischka's Sissi (1955), as Emperor Franz Josef (Karlheinz Böhm) marries Princess Elisabeth of Bavaria (Romy Schneider).

Socialite Claudette Colbert goes on the run after leaving her fiancé at the altar, only for reporter Clark Gable to latch on to her in Frank Capra's It Happened One Night (1934), the first film to land the Big Five Oscars. Capra also slipped a fond memory of James Stewart and Donna Reed's wedding day into the flashback segment of It's a Wonderful Life (1946). Gable's Rhett Butler is also on hand to become the third husband of Vivien Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara in Victor Fleming's Osca-laden adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's bestseller, Gone With the Wind (1939).

Oscar winner and real-life war hero Harold Russell triumphs over serious injury to marry loyal sweetheart Cathy O'Donnell at the end of William Wyler's epic civvy street saga, The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). But Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan's match causes no end of bureaucratic snafus in Howard Hawks's I Was a Male War Bride (1949), while Anna Friel and Julie Cox find life a struggle in postwar Canada after they marry in haste in bombed-out London in Lyndon Chubbock's The War Bride (2001).

Newlyweds Loco Dempsey (Betty Grable) and Pola Debevoise (Marilyn Monroe) are about to serve as bridesmaids to buddy Schatze Page (Lauren Bacall) when she has second thoughts about marrying J.D. Hanley (William Powell) in Jean Negulesco's musical comedy, How to Marry a Millionaire (1953). A change of heart on the part of playboy William Holden leaves brother Humphrey Bogart free to marry chauffeur's daughter Audrey Hepburn in Billy Wilder's Sabrina (1954).

Jud Fry (Rod Steiger) has no intention of letting Curly McLain (Gordon McRae) marry Laurey Williams (Shirley Jones) in Fred Zinnemanm's Todd-AO version of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's landmark musical, Oklahoma! (1955). But his violent scheme backfires and the happy couple get to belt out the title track with their guests. There's less sense of a happy tomorrow when Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) marries Leslie Lynnton (Elizabeth Taylor) on a Texas estate in George Stevens's Giant (1956) and it's not long before she catches the eye of ranch hand Jett Rink (James Dean).

A still from Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
A still from Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

The ceremony is of the homemade variety in Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins's West Side Story (1961), as Tony (Richard Behmer) and Maria (Natalie Wood) sing 'One Hand, One Heart' while dreaming about their wedding day in the bridal shop where she works. Of course, this timeless musical took its cues from a 1597 play and the teenagers are secretly married in the friar's cell in both Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet (1968) and Baz Luhrmann's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996). Another bit of Bard with a screen wedding is Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing (1993), which sees Count Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard) humiliate Hero (Kate Beckinsale) with groundless accusations after he is duped by the malicious Don John (Keanu Reeves). Pealing bells bookend the wedding between Maria (Julie Andrews) and Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) in Robert Wise's The Sound of Music (1965), with top shots showing off the dress and the majesty of the cathedral, as the nuns provide a choral reprise of Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'Maria'. If this doesn't have you welling up, try watching Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O'Neal) and Jennifer Cavilleri (Ali MacGraw) exchanging views in a library in Arthur Hiller's Love Story (1970) without a lip quivering.

Changing the tone, there are two standout weddings in Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-74), 'A Scotsman on a Horse' and 'Happy Valley', neither of which ends as one might expect. But at least they reached the altar, which is more than can be said about the planned ceremony at Swamp Castle, which is curtailed in the most brutal fashion by Sir Lancelot (John Cleese) in Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam's Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975).

Navin (Steve Martin) and Marie (Bernadette Peters) are lucky to find a certified priest to marry them in Carl Reiner's The Jerk (1979), while Elyse (Sharon Ziman) benefits from Eddie (Steve Guttenberg) letting her off two failed NFL questions so that their Baltimore Colts-themed wedding can go ahead in Barry Levinson's Diner (1982).

Having had her birthday forgotten by her entire family because her sister is getting married, Sam Baker (Molly Ringwald) has the dubious pleasure of seeing Ginny (Blanche Baker) stagger into the church the worse for painkillers in John Hughes's Sixteen Candles (1984). However, the wedding of that particular year saw Kermit and Miss Piggy get spliced on a Broadway stage at the end of Frank Oz's The Muppets Take Manhattan.

You'll need to pay attention to catch the marriage between Karen Dinesen (Meryl Streep) and Baron Bror von Blixen (Klaus Maria Brandaue) in Sydney Pollack's Best Picture-winning Out of Africa (1985). The same year saw Peter Segal linger longer over Brian Dennehy's extremely short marrige to Bo Derek in Tommy Boy (1985), but Kathleen Turner's 1960 shotgun wedding to Nicolas Cage barely gets a look in outside the title in Francis Ford Coppola's Peggy Sue Got Married (1986).

A still from When Harry Met Sally (1989) With Bruno Kirby And Carrie Fisher
A still from When Harry Met Sally (1989) With Bruno Kirby And Carrie Fisher

After a wedding attended by guests sporting police uniforms and Hawaiian shirts, Nicolas Cage proves a better husband as Herbert I. McDunnough in Joel and Ethan Coen's Raising Arizona (1987) after meeting cop Edwina (Holly Hunter) while she's taking his mug shot. Things are awkward between Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) when they attend the wedding of Marie (Carrie Fisher) and Jess (Bruno Kirby) and the ensuing heated row does little to improve matters in Rob Reiner's When Harry Met Sally... (1989).

Kevin Costner treated himself to a pair of winsome nuptials in the self-directed Best Picture winner, Dances With Wolves (1990), and in Kevin Reynolds's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991). In the first, John Dunbar becomes a Sioux husband when Stands With a Fist (Mary McDonnell) takes his hands, while the second sees King Richard (Sean Connery) gatecrash proceedings in Sherwood Forest to give away the bride, Maid Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), to Robin of Locksley.

Amy Yasbeck's Marian of Bagelle is spared being conjoined to a wicked sheriff named Mervyn (Roger Rees) in Mel Brooks's Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), although she needs the help of a locksmith before she can consummate her wedding to Robin of Loxley (Cary Elwes). Brooks also slipped a wedding finale into Spaceballs (1987), as Lone Star (Bill Pullman in a splendid space tuxedo) proves his worth to prevent Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) from being becoming Mrs Prince Valium (Jim J. Bullock).

Few can boast of having a flight of skydiving Elvises as wedding guests, but that's how things work out for Nicolas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker after a brush with the grieving James Caan in Andrew Bergman's Honeymoon in Vegas (1992). The Nevada desert city has hosted many a movie wedding, including those in Andy Tennant's Fools Rush In (1997), Brian Levant's The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000), Tom Vaughan's What Happens in Vegas (2008), and Tim Story's Think Like a Man (2012), which followed up its firework finale with a simple bit of hand-holding in Think Like a Man Too (2014).

Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) get married accidentally in Vegas in an episode of The Big Bang Theory (2007-19) before tying the knot for real with the lyrics of 'You Got a Friend in Me' from Toy Story (1995) supplying some ad hoc vows. Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Amy (Mayim Bialik) also married during the 279-episode run. And mention of Fools Rush In reminds us of Matthew Perry's Chandler Bing marrying Monica Geller (Courteney Cox) in Friends (1994-2004) before Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow) bafflingly threw in her lot with the dreary Mike Hannigan (Paul Rudd). Rent the whole of Season 10 from Cinema Paradiso and tell us we're wrong!

The most famous wedding interruption in screen history gets spoofed twice and in the same church, as Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) channels his inner Benjamin Braddock to prevent Cassandra Wong (Tia Carrere) from marrying Bobby Cahn (Christopher Walken) in Stephen Surjik's Wayne's World 2 (1993). But nothing can prevent Forrest (Tom Hanks) from marrying his Jenny (Robin Wright) in a small cemetery under a bower on the lawn overlooking the lake in Robert Zemeckis's Forrest Gump (1994).

It's only on the day she's due to marry longtime coma victim Peter Gallagher that Sandra Bullock deigns to tell the truth about how they met to his brother Bill Pullman and the assembled guests in Jon Turtletaub's While You Were Sleeping. And, in case no one quite believed her, fiancée Ally Walker turns up in a huff to demand the ceremony is stopped. No one, however, would want to interrupt the poignant exchange of vows between William Wallace (Mel Gibson) and childhood sweetheart Murron MacClannough (Catherine McCormack) in Gibson's Best Picture winner, Braveheart (both 1995).

Big Mama (Irma P. Hall) steps in to prevent a murder on the dance floor in George Tillman Jr.'s Soul Foo, as new bride Bird (Nia Long) and sisters Teri (Vanessa Williams) and Maxine (Vivica A. Fox) are about to scrag groom Lem (Mekhi Phifer) for dancing provocatively with another woman at the reception. It's all sweetness and light, however, as Jerry (Tom Cruise) and Dorothy (Renée Zellwegger) plight their troth - with a little help from over-enthusiastic ring bearer, Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki) - before Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) belts out Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On' with mariachi backing in Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire (both 1997).

A still from Rugrats in Paris: The Movie (2000)
A still from Rugrats in Paris: The Movie (2000)

The tune that causes the trouble in John Fortenberry's A Night At the Roxbury (1998) is Haddaway's 'What Is Love', which Chris Kattan plays on a boom box held above his head in order to stop brother Will Ferrell from following father Dan Hedaya's dictate to marry the wealthy Molly Shannon. A dance at the wedding of Lou Pickles and Lulu causes Chuckie Finster to realise how much he misses his mother in Stig Bergqvist's Rugrats in Paris: The Movie (2000), However, when he discovers the truth about stepmom-to-be, Coco LaBouche (a splendid Susan Sarandon), the animated infant vows to prevent the glitzy wedding.

After everything that happens in the run up to the wedding of Etheline (Anjelica Huston) and Eli (Danny Glover), the ceremony itself feels both anti-climactic and cathartic in Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). Anderson clearly enjoys an offbeat wedding, hence Ben (Jason Schwartzman) officiating in a non-legally binding capacity for 12 year-olds Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) before they head off to an island in a crabbing boat in Moonrise Kingdom (2012). Equally intimate is the union of Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) and Zero (Tony Revolori), as they're surrounded by workmates against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).

Melanie (Reese Witherspoon) has a busy afternoon in Andy Tennant's Sweet Home Alabama, as she has to halt her wedding to Andrew (Patrick Dempsey) because she had failed to sign the papers divorcing her from Jack (Josh Lucas). So, she socks no longer mother-in-law-to-be Kate (Candice Bergen) and rushes to the beach to persuade her spouse to give things another try. To be fair, Jess Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) also has a lot on her plate in Gurindar Chada's Bend It Like Beckham, as she's got to get from the wedding of her sister, Pinky (Archie Panjabi), change out of her bridesmaid dress and into her kit, and win a big football match in the same afternoon. But the screen match of 2002 had to be between Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) in George Lucas's Star Wars: Episode 2 - Attack of the Clones (2002), if only because the pair gave each other R2-D2 and C-3PO as wedding gifts.

Hankies ready for the wedding of Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore) and Landon Carter (Shane West) in the same church in which her parents had married in Adam Shankman's A Walk to Remember (2002). A park in Washington D.C. (complete with the home plate from Fenway Park) provides the picturesque setting for Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) and Emmett Richmond (Luke Wilson) to tie up the loose ends in Charles Herman-Mumfield's Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde. But they're kind of upstaged by the 'All You Need Is Love' surprise that best man Andrew Lincoln springs on Chiwetel Ejiofor and Keira Knightley in Richard Curtis's Love Actually (both 2003).

A still from 13 Going on 30 (2004)
A still from 13 Going on 30 (2004)

As they've somehow switched bodies, teenager Lindsay Lohan is desperate to prevent widowed mother Jamie Lee Curtis's wedding to Mark Harmon and uses the rehearsal dinner to try and talk him into a postponement in Mark Waters's Freaky Friday. The couple eventually get their big day, as do Brittany Murphy and Ashton Kutcher in Shawn Levy's Just Married (both 2003), but things soon start to go serially wrong. By contrast, Jenna Rink (Jennifer Garner) and Matty Flamhaff (Mark Ruffalo) couldn't be happier after a little magic dust is sprinkled on their big day in Gary Winick's 13 Going on 30 (2004).

After an eventful bachelor trip into California wine country, struggling actor Thomas Hayden Church gets married in Alexander Payne's Sideways and, at the reception, travelling companion Paul Giamatti comes to terms with the fact that his ex-wife is happier without him. Director Jared Hess finds room in the credit crawl for the wedding of chatroom lovebirds Kip (Aaron Ruell) and LaFawnduh (Shondrella Avery) in Napoleon Dynamite (both 2004), which is interrupted by Napoleon (Jon Heder) and a horse. Kip's song is delightful, but Judd Apatow goes for a big production number from Hair at the end of The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005), after Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) sells his rare toy collection to give Trish Piedmont (Catherine Keener) a day she'll never forget.

Kevin James and Amber Valletta also let the sunshine in during their wedding at the end of Andy Tennant's Hitch, although the former does rip his pants on the dance floor. A food fight breaks out after Cedric Brown (Colin Firth) marries Selma Quickly (Celia Imre) in Kirk Jones's Nanny McPhee (2005). But he realises his mistake in time to wed Evangeline (Kelly MacDonald) instead, as Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) creates snow in August to make the occasion extra special.

Blink and you miss the two Hawaiian weddings in Nicholas Stoller's Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2006), although Jason Segal does linger long enough to reassure a groom suffering from first-night nerves. But the Pacific is front and centre as property tycoon Michael Douglas gives daughter Kate Hudson to employee Matt Dawson in the opening moments of Anthony Russo's You, Me and Dupree (2006).

Nanny Adriana Barraza gets herself to the Mexican border in time to celebrate her son's wedding with the wildly excited local community in Alejandro González Iñárritu's Babel (2006). The frontier preoccupying Denzel Washington on his wedding day to Lymari Nadal lies somewhere in South-East Asia, however, as his minions are busy smuggling heroin while he is donning a sharp suit in Ridley Scott's American Gangster (2007).

Having met at a wedding and agreed to disliking arranged matches, Esha Deol and Fardeen Khan go along with the charade when their parents pick them for each other in Meghna Gulzar's Bollywood comedy, Just Married (2007). Parents also do the darnedest things in Adam McKay's Step Brothers (2008), as spoilt middle-aged brats Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly do everything to sabotage the marriage of Ferrell's mother (Mary Steenburgen) and Reilly's father (Richard Jenkins) in order to avoid having to share a house.

Heading upmarket, Georgiana Spencer (Keira Knightley) endures being put on display as she enters into a contractual marriage with William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire in Saul Dibb's 18th-century biopic, The Duchess (2008). However, the queen (Emily Blunt) is far happier at the prospect of marrying Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) in Jean-Marc Vallée's The Young Victoria (2009). If there's one thing the Royals do well, it's weddings, and there are plenty to keep loyal subjects and sceptics alike happy in The Crown (2016-).

Having just been spliced, Mandy Moore and Kellan Lutz decide to throw a 30th anniversary party for her parents, Jane Seymour and James Brolin, and open several cans of worms in the process in Dermot Mulroney's directorial debut, Love, Wedding, Marriage (2011). Despite the urging of Angela Bassett, Paula Patton and Laz Alonso are reluctant to engage in an old African American wedding custom in Salim Akil's Jumping the Broom (2011). But it's Uncle Sam who stands between Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones after they marry in a London registry office in the hope of overturning her US deportation in Drake Doremus's fact-based dramedy, Like Crazy (2011).

A doctor based in London heads to India in search of bride and finds himself in a love-hate triangle in Aanand Rai's Tanu Weds Manu (2011), which has more cancelled ceremonies than actual ones. However, Manu (R. Madhavan) refuses to give up and Tanu (Kangana Ranaut) is eventually persuaded to ditch Raja (Jimmy Sheirgill) and tie the knot in Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015). Sticking with Bollywood, doctor Deepika Padukone and videographer Ranbir Kapoor re-meet at a wedding and wonder whether they have wasted the eight years since they met on a Himalayan trek in Ayan Mukerji's Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (aka This Youth Is Crazy, 2013), which includes a pulsatingly elaborate nuptial dance routine to the song 'Kabira'.

A still from The Great Gatsby (2013) With Leonardo DiCaprio And Carey Mulligan
A still from The Great Gatsby (2013) With Leonardo DiCaprio And Carey Mulligan

Oh to see the guests assembled in Louisville in 1920 throwing similar shapes. But there's not a lot of joy to spare when Daisy (Carey Mulligan) marries Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) in Baz Luhrman's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (2013). The Thénardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter) do their best to ruin the wedding of Marius (Eddie Redmayne) and Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), only to bring the couple back in touch with Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) in the affecting denouement of Tom Hooper's Les Misérables (2012).

Even with storm clouds gathering, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) and Mary (Rachel McAdam) wouldn't change a detail of their wedding day, even if they knew how (and he does) in Richard Curtis's romcom, About Time (2013), which was notable for the bride's choice of a red dress. Having married Naomi (Margot Robbie) in an ocean-side ceremony, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) meets her Aunt Emma (Joanna Lumley), dances the night away, and gives the bride a yacht in Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).

Desperate to rouse an unconscious Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) reminds him of their wedding (to which he wore a white vest with matching pants) in James Wan's Fast and Furious 7 (aka Furious 7, 2015). Suffice to say, things are a little classier for Bridget Rose Jones (Renée Zellwegger) and Mark Fitzwilliam Darcy (Colin Firth) in the picturesque church in Sharon Maguire's Bridget Jones's Baby (2016). Nevertheless, the bride's veil still flies away on the breeze at her swish outdoor reception.

Actor Norman Maine (Fredric March) and thesping wannabe Esther Blodgett (Janet Gaynor) elope in William A. Wellman's A Star Is Born (1937), while Norman (James Mason) and Esther (Judy Garland) slope off to San Verdo for a quiet wedding in George Cukor's 1954 remake. In playing Esther in Frank Pierson's 1976 version, Barbara Streisand wore her own wedding dress as aspiring singer Esther Hoffman marrying Kris Kristofferson's fading rocker, John Norman Howard. But they're all outdone by Jackson (Bradley Cooper) and Ally Maine (Lady Gaga) in A Star Is Born (2018), who marry within hours of an impromptu proposal with a guitar-string ring and indulge in a food fight before dancing the night away to Ally's rendition 'I Don't Know What Love Is'.

A still from A Star Is Born (1976)
A still from A Star Is Born (1976)

A little decorum is restored in Greta Gerwig's adaptation of Louisa M. Alcott's Little Women (2019), as Meg (Emma Watson) and John Brooke (James Norton) marry outside the family home in golden light and are too happy to take seriously the grumbling of Aunt March (Meryl Streep), who thinks they've ruined their lives. What would she have made of the wedding between Elvis Presley (Jacob Elordi) and the teenage Priscilla Beaulieu (Cailee Spaeny) in Sofia Coppola's Priscilla (2023), which earned its star the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival?

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