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Dearly Beloved Wedding Tropes

Weddings can happen at any time of the year, but there is a noticeable surge around late spring that runs through October. Given the warmer weather and longer days, the ease of travel you don't always have in the winter, the options available for bouquets, and so many other reasons, it makes sense that this time of year is so popular for nuptials.

Weddings are frequently seen in fiction, especially in romances or where romantic subplots are present. As a writer of historical romances, I've included my fair share in my own works.

Though they typically signify Happily Ever After, weddings are also the start of something new—and can be so versatile. They may be bittersweet or somber if your character watches the one that got away wed another and drudges up lingering feelings of unrequited love. Or they could be a moment of triumph if the character decides not to go through with the marriage because they realize they just simply aren't ready to settle down.

Weddings can also be the launching point for a story. Plenty of meet-cutes involve being part of a wedding party or crossing paths at the reception. Or they might be a source of conflict with all of the chaos bound to happen in preparing for the big day.

With wedding season winding down, it's time to round up some of my favorite wedding tropes in fiction.

Industrial Inspiration

Among the most frequent sources of inspiration for my stories is the professions and trades of my characters.

I enjoy going behind the scenes of these jobs and finding ways to connect them to the overall story or exploring how they affect the character's personality or outlook on life.

The wedding industry is made up of many different careers including and not limited to:

  • Bridal Shops and Boutiques

  • Florists

  • Photographers and Videographers

  • Hairstylists and Makeup Artists

  • Wedding Planners

  • DJs and Musicians

  • Caterers

  • Bakers and Cake Decorators

  • Venue Personnel

and so many others. In addition to these well-known careers, new ones continue to emerge such as traveling tattoo parlors, hiring food or ice cream trucks for the reception, and my personal favorite I hope one day have for my own wedding: live paintings, in which an artist completes a portrait as the day goes on, captures memories like the first kiss or leaving the ceremony as newlyweds.

You may even invent a new trade for your own WIP based around these more modern trends. The possibilities are endless.

I could—and likely will—dedicate a whole separate blog post to the reasons I am partial to writing characters involved in particular trades, but as far as the wedding industry goes, it can provide a unique perspective.

You could write a character whose employment at a bridal shop has them dreaming of the day they can wear the gown they've been eyeing since their first shift. Or you might have a wedding planner who loves putting future mothers-in-law in their place and the problem-solving aspect of the work that always keeps them on their toes.

There is a lot that happens behind the scenes at a wedding and in the months leading up to it. Pulling back the curtain on the industry not only offers readers a new insight into those careers, but can highlight some unsung heroes of the big day.

Run Away With Me

One element you'll see me use a fair amount across my ongoing historical romance projects is elopement. Against His Vows sees William giving up everything to run away and marry Miranda at Gretna Green, while Bound to the Heart involves Zach giving chase in the hope of preventing his sister from marrying a distrusted suitor believed to have taken advantage of her.

Elopement is surely a trope that can be written from multiple standpoints, and that's one of the reasons I not only love seeing it come up in fiction, but incorporating it in my own.

It can also raise the stakes.

Elopements were often a cause for scandal back in the day—but for some couples, it was the only choice.

To give a brief historical context, The Hardwicke Act placed a number of restrictions on marriages, setting defined stern rules over how it could be done and who could be wed. People under twenty-one years of age were required to have parental consent. Additionally, you could not be married if you had already been promised to someone else.

Since the rules were a little more relaxed in Scotland, with a minimum age requirement of sixteen years and two witnesses, the most daring or desperate of English couples would marry there. Gretna Green is the most famous destination, just a mile over the border between England and Scotland.

The ceremony would often be officiated by a blacksmith, sparking the term, "married over the anvil."

Elopements were also an option for those looking to marry quickly due to finances, pregnancy, and a whole host of other circumstances and did not have the means to afford a special license or time enough to skip the banns being read.

It may have been a means to resolving a problem, but there is something about elopements in historical romances that feels so, well, romantic to me. Risking your reputations, relationships, your futures—everything—to run away together, that if all you have in the world amid the fallout is just each other, that's okay.

And believe me, once the rumors started to fly, it could be disastrous for anyone even remotely connected to the elopement.

Elopements can also work in contemporary romances. Las Vegas is a go-to hotspot, with countless chapels and an infamous league Elvis impersonators serving as officiants that can work especially well in a RomCom or in a book where you just want a quirkier wedding ceremony for your characters.

On a similar note, destination weddings are also popular. Although they do not always involve elopements, they can be a fun backdrop in fiction between the havoc of weddings and overall travel shenanigans.

I Don't

Calling off a wedding is an inclusion on this list of favorite tropes that may surprise you, but there are occasions where it can work well—and it's actually the catalyst for many of the events in one of my own WIPs, Against His Vows.

As with many tropes, a character being jilted at the altar or leaving their would-be spouse can be a hit or miss on a few factors such as the genre and when in the story it happens. A romance novel ending with the central couple breaking up might disappoint readers, but the opening chapter introducing a character reckoning with being dumped before the vows can set up an intriguing narrative about regaining trust in love.

Secondly, the success of saying "I Don't" can also be dependent on why the nuptials are a no-go.

It could be a realization that the bride and groom's long-term goals simply don't align, giving a somber and bittersweet tone. Calling it off might also be a decadent taste of one's own medicine in the wake of the character learning of their now-ex's infidelity. Readers might cheer on the character if a thread of internal conflict has revolved around feeling held back in their self-discovery or fears of delaying their life goals by being tied down.

It may even feel like a victory if the breakup is the thing that sends one character running to confess their true feelings to the other half of your readers' OTP.

Be warned, however, that saying "I Don't" can also pose the risk of leaving an unfavorable impression. For one thing, it may make the character seem like a jerk or as if it were done for shock value alone if there is not enough build-up.

The main thing to keep in mind about the "I Don't" trope is that it's not the trope itself that matters, but how it's used, when, and why.

27 Dresses

While it can come with a disheartening or pitying connotation, Always a Bridesmaid, Never A Bride is a favorite of mine.

The phrase is typically used in relation to that one (often female) relative or member of a friend group who is not in a relationship while everyone around her is engaged or getting married.

Think of those group photos where there are a bunch of couples lined up showing off engagement rings, while one individual is posed with a bottle of beer or petting a dog.

However, while these examples are typically more comical, Always a Bridesmaid tends to be accompanied by a worry that the "poor girl" will end up a sad spinster collecting dust on the shelf.

Lovely sentiment, isn't it?

My love of this trope is not for what it is, but what it could be. All of the different ways it can be made into something that goes beyond patronizing the singletons.

For one thing, it's actually pretty relatable.

Coming from someone who didn't date at all in her teen and college years, it can feel a little strange seeing wedding photos and engagement announcements from your peers. This year, four former classmates got married in October alone!

I wouldn't describe it as FOMO, but there are times you might find yourself wondering if you're doing something wrong because you haven't settled down yet.

But that's not the case for everyone!

Some people decide to take a little more time to focus on their careers or figure out what they want as an adult before putting themselves out in the dating world or getting into a new romance. They might also still be grieving the loss of a loved one or healing from a toxic relationship. There is also the possibility they are exploring their sexuality or do not feel ready to come out just yet.

Or, hey, they just have zero interest in dating and marriage, and no further explanation is needed!

It's all valid!

Being single often isn't because you're undesirable or not handsome enough to tempt those around them, but that's how it is so often portrayed when it comes to the Always a Bridesmaid trope.

I would love to see it taken in a new direction, where we don't see those around the main character implying that they are missing out by not being married yet or are not as successful. Instead, let's go deeper into the reasons a character might choose to stay single, even if they do end up in a relationship by the end of their story.

Additionally, I think it could be great to gender-bend Always a Bridesmaid and write Always a Groomsman. The trope seems so heavily focused on the ladies, especially, so it would be great to see more masculine characters pining for marriage as their closest friends say "I Do."

Don't be surprised if you see this take popping up in a novel from me someday...

Weddings can make for fond memories and great stories to tell for years to come. The way everything leading up to the big day can be tailored to the tastes of every bride and groom offers a plethora of ways for writers to make their stories unique.

Whether it's the HEA of a romance novel or the source for conflict in a family drama, weddings in fiction have a lot to fall in love with and say "I Do" to.



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