“And if any person here should know of just cause why this couple may not lawfully be joined together in holy matrimony let them speak now or forever hold their peace.” Surely anyone who has ever attended a wedding has prayed at this for someone to shout ‘Yes!’ but it never happens; not in real life. But it did in Condorman!
In movies, weddings rarely go off without a hitch. If drama = conflict, then wedding ceremonies are pure catnip to scriptwriters because with so many micro-managed elements to get right on the big day, there’s a limitless number of things that can and will go hilariously wrong.
Then again, weddings are ultimately a celebration of love and romance. They represent a dream ambition for many people and Hollywood is all about making dreams come true – eventually, and only after many trials, tribulations and in the case of The Hangover, a missing groom and the needless removal of a perfectly healthy tooth.
Today HeyUGuys takes you down the aisle to revisit some of cinema’s most memorable knot-tying episodes.
The Godfather (1972)
You are cordially invited to the wedding of Connie Corleone to Carlo Rizzi
Pity the Sicilian-born Don Vito Corleone. As the father of the bride he not only has to shell out for his daughter’s wedding but Sicilian tradition also dictates that on this day, he cannot refuse a request. And so, while his guests frolic and jape around outside at his expense, he has to stay in his office and negotiate with people who want enemies murdered while engineering the career comeback of his godson via the use of a decapitated horse. For most dads on such a day, it’s hard enough having to deal with the caterers.
The Fifties-set, sun-kissed wedding that opens Coppola’s gangster masterpiece is like a mini-film in its own right. It is the perfect example of why weddings work so well as a dramatic device: they gather all the major characters together in one place at the same time.
Here, the individual Corleone family members are introduced to us via their character traits. Fiery, irresponsible Sonny (James Caan) is hard at work banging a bridesmaid, while pathetic and useless Fredo (John Cazale) is three sheets to the wind and already an embarrassment. Only little Michael (Al Pacino) is an oasis of calm and sanity.
By the end of the film though, he will have arranged to have had the groom garroted in his own car, thus rendering the entire wedding a pointless extravagance.
The Princess Bride (1987)
You are cordially invited to the wedding of Buttercup to Prince Humperdinck
Along with forgetting the rings and inappropriate sexual advances towards the bride’s mother, one of the great comedy wedding traditions is the jilting of the bride or groom at the last minute. Cinema has a fine tradition of nearly-weddings. Runaway Bride managed to stretch the idea into an entire film. Remember Dustin Hoffman dragging Katherine Ross from the church at the end of The Graduate? Or how about Shrek’s uninvited appearance at the wedding of Lord Farquaad to his beloved Princess Fiona?
The live-action precursor to Shrek’s postmodern fairy tale meta-schtick was Rob Reiner’s beloved comic romance starring Robin Wright, House of Card’s First Lady, in her impossibly beautiful mainstream debut. Like Princess Fiona, she is being wed against her will to a dastardly villain. Despite the bishop’s ceremony-lengthening speech impediment – “Mawwige is what bwings us here todaaaaahh.” – Buttercup’s beau, Westley fails to arrive in time to stop the wedding. However, as Westley points out, she never actually said “I do,” and so it is he and not Prince Humperdink who gets to join Buttercup in the bridal suite and live happily ever after.
The jilted prince has to spend his wedding night tied to a chair instead. Not, I suspect, as he wished.
A Wedding (1978)
You are cordially invited to the wedding of Muffin Brenner to Dino Corelli
Weddings are such hotbeds for incident that they often take up huge swathes of a film’s running time. In the case of The Godfather or The Deer Hunter, the wedding scene makes up pretty much the entire first act. Robert Altman went one step further with A Wedding by giving up a whole movie to the big day.
An unmatched choreographer of movie ensembles, Altman leads a cast of nearly 50 main characters through their paces during the perpetually disastrous coming together of two wealthy, influential and privately screwed-up families – the kind of people that call their daughters Bunny and Muffin.
Never a great proponent of ‘Plot,’ Altman just lets everyone get on with it, knowing that the relationship between each and every character here is but one spiky comment away from a canapé-hurling meltdown. Pretty much everyone is hiding something – a drug addiction, an affair, a dead body – and the spectacle of America’s elite trying to keep a lid on their private failings is a pure joy.
This kind of satire can often be tediously blunt and obvious but Altman balances it out with moments of tragedy and genuine sweetness, most notably in the burgeoning affair between the bride’s hysterically tense mother, Tulip (Carol Burnett) and the clumsy and inept Pat McCormick, who went on to achieve greatness playing Big Enos in Smokey & The Bandit. The melancholic, darkly comic ripple effects of A Wedding are clearly visible in more recent nuptial disasters like Margot at The Wedding (2007) and Rachel Getting Married (2008).
Four Weddings and A Funeral (1994)
You are cordially invited to the wedding of Lydia John…JANE Hibbert to Bernard Godfrey…GEOFFREY Ssssijjjjinnn…ST. JOHN Delaney
I Give It A Year’s Stephen Merchant might just have pipped the competition for the most hilariously cringeworthy Best Man’s speech in cinema – “I’ve got no idea why her previous boyfriend cheated on her but I’m glad he did. Seriously, Nat you’re a real “eight out of ten” love, I mean that sincerely.” – but James Fleet’s compendium of foot-chewing clunkers is one of the great highlights of this, the second of the four weddings. “When Bernard told me that he was going to marry Lydia, I congratulated him because all his other girlfriends had been such complete dogs – although may I say how lovely it is to see so many of them here this evening.”
Despite humble origins, Mike Newell’s comedy was a national event of a film. It became the most successful British comedy ever made, launched Kristen Scott Thomas, Hugh Grant (and by dint of its premiere snapshots, Elizabeth Hurley) into the big league, and provided a tidy fortune for Wet Wet Wet. It also made the UK the de facto location for American couples to tie the knot for the next few years and made it impossible for anyone to get buried for a while without someone bleating out WH Auden’s Funeral Blues during the service.
On a private note, I once made a friend for life at a wedding banquet when he turned to me and for no good reason quoted the Four Weddings line, “…And that doesn’t include any of the so-called fruit teas.” Such is the mystifying power of cinema.
Muriel’s Wedding (1994)
You are cordially invited to the sham wedding of Muriel Heslop to David Van Arkle
Inherent drama aside, Wedding movies are generally upbeat affairs. Generic tropes usually include a white-background poster with confetti on it (and if it’s a British comedy, an inflatable doll or a farm animal). There’s lots of laughing and excitable screaming and enough colour and sparkle to remind everyone that at its heart, a wedding movie is about the happiest moment in a girl’s life – supposedly. One could say that the ultimate wedding movie is actually Mama Mia!: the result of a wedding video being sent through a Brundle-teleporter along with a Greek holiday brochure and an ABBA greatest hits album.
Those sequined 1970s Swedish pop balladeers play a vital role in Muriel’s Wedding. Their songs provide a balming interior soundtrack to the life of sweet-natured overweight social incape, Muriel Heslop. Muriel’s life in Porpoise Spit, Australia is a tedious existence, surrounded by the bitchiest ‘friends’ imaginable, and where the only respite comes in the form of some occasional shoplifting. The only thing keeping her going apart from ‘Dancing Queen’, is her fixation on getting married one day.
When Muriel finally gets to walk down the aisle, to ‘I Do I Do I Do’ (naturally), her face is a bright star of smiles glittering with tears of limitless joy. The fact that no one else there is smiling, not even the groom – a South African swimmer in need of a visa – who can’t hide his disgust and terror, makes the scene punishingly hard to watch.
The final gut-punch comes from Muriel’s porcine clod of a father who leads her grudgingly to the alter and tells her future husband, “She’s all yours, mate,” as though he were dropping off a second-hand carpet cleaner.
The Wedding Ringer (2015)
You are cordially invited to the wedding of Gretchen Palmer to Doug Harris.
Feted to be forever bought in error by short sighted fans of Adam Sandler’s The Wedding Singer (or even clueless fans of misbegotten Farrelly Bros. comedy The Ringer), The Wedding Ringer is a curious hybrid of two recent movies. The problem at the heart of I Love You, Man – a man is so friendless that he can’t find anyone to be his best man – is solved via a Hitch-style supply agency. Instead of Will Smith’s smooth-talking romantic advisor, here we have Kevin Hart, CEO of The Best Man Inc. Hart’s latest client is the bumbling Doug Harris (Josh Gad), who needs to magic seven groomsmen out of thin air, even though he isn’t on first-name terms with another male human being
Father’s Little Dividend this is not. The Wedding Ringer is broad, bawdy fun: its modus operandi best exemplified in the genuinely funny bachelor party that starts with a botched kidnapping, and eventually ends up with a novel way to use up any leftover peanut butter you might have in your cupboards (one that you won’t find recommended by the good people at Sun-Pat, I’ll wager).
There is, however, an unexpected sweetness in the lengths that Hart’s misfit groomsmen go to to get Doug to the church on time. If any parents with young daughters are wondering why they find themselves sweating and itching whenever Josh Gad opens his mouth, its because he is the voice of Olaf the Snowman in Frozen, which your kid has now made you watch so often that you’ve had to stop counting.