Dying Alone: A Girl's Guide to Wedding Movies
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Dying Alone: A Girl's Guide to Wedding Movies

By Amanda Mae Meyncke | Seriously Random Lists | October 24, 2012 | Comments ()


The last wedding I attended, two people told me I was "so brave" for attending alone, and one firmly patted my shoulder and told me my time would come. I nodded and tried to be polite, because such doddering folk don't deserve the kind of casual vitriol that marks my every day life. I made some nonsensical statement in response and wandered off to stand alone somewhere. When it came time for the dancing, I grabbed a bottle of champagne for the couples dance. The best sort of date -- bubbly, not much with the small talk and can't step on your feet.

Movies about weddings tend to be tedious for a variety of reasons. If you've already had one, then all you can do is chortle at the antics and judge the cinema brides for having terrible taste. If you haven't had one, you are supposed to feel either jealousy or disgust, or some sort of vaguely neutral "Maybe it will happen for me!" stance in between, and judge the cinema brides for having terrible taste. They tend to follow a few basic formulas, and seemingly normal women acting insane over a big party is a heavy hitter in this game.

Well, what of the movie that neither celebrates nor promotes marriage necessarily, but uses a wedding to tell a different kind of story? Weddings bring together family members that might not normally be present in every day life, and naturally seem to add stress into already stressful situations, making weddings ripe for the kind of familial and relationship drama that fuels the best films. Can wedding movies teach us something more, something about ourselves we may have forgotten? The best kinds of films and television are about things other than they appear to be about, as if they've fooled almost everyone else but you can get at a secondary meaning that hovers beneath the surface.

In honor of Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel's nuptials, and because why not, we present our favorite wedding movies that have a little more to say.


10. The Wedding Planner

The one wedding rom com that I'll allow, Jennifer Lopez plays a wedding planner who falls in love with one of the grooms (Matthew McConaughey) that she's planning a wedding for. There's something ridiculous about this, but also the wedding of a woman who has planned weddings for hundreds of brides is something to think about. Amusing performances all around condemn the insane big-wedding mentality and yes, though it still over idealizes the idea of even having a wedding, there's something gentle and sweet about this one.


9. The Graduate

If you've never seen it, you've seen a thousand parodies. If spoilers for a 40-year-old movie exist, then, spoilers ahead, beware. Dustin Hoffman bursting into the church at the end and running away with the bride, the two of them hysterical and giddy pushing onto the back of a bus, and then sitting, staring straight ahead, not even really looking at each other, this, this is the ultimate indictment of spontaneous bursts of love. Some might say they've made their escape, but escape from what? Escape to what? I half imagine that many people might feel the same way, driving away from their own wedding. Now what.

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8. Little Women

Not really about weddings per se, although there is a wedding in it, perhaps the simplest of the bunch as the guests join hands and circle around the bride and groom singing a hymn. These four girls are brought up thinking of marriage and their lives as wives, and still pursuing the good, the true and the beautiful as they attempt to become the fullest expressions of themselves. (Basically I could watch this movie over and over and have committed most of it to memory, "Oh Jo, your one beauty!" "I've had ever so many limes." "Cheap imitations of another man's genius.")

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7. Melancholia

A very strange wedding takes up the majority of the film, as things continually go awry because of Kirsten Dunst's depression that permeates and begins to unravel the entire proceedings. Beyond dream-like, the tedium and boredom that Dunst feels about her own excessively expensive wedding are the ultimate in modern malaise and perhaps even a commentary on the nature of modern marriage, all performative and half lacking in substance, given the high divorce rate. The ultimate in the "what next?" mentality that characterizes some relationships is a wedding that no one wants, not even the bride. In the second half of the film, the threat of total extinction looms even larger. (The world's crappiest game of "Would You Rather." Would you rather get married? Or have the world end? Same thing, ammiright? I'll be here all week, try the pomme frites.)

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6. Bridesmaids

This one is really about marriage as a reflection upon those who are not already married, as marriage can often cause women to think self-defeatist thoughts about themselves. If I'm not married, is that because there's something wrong with me? (Ha, ha, no, it means I'm able to take off a moment's notice, it means I can spend money on whatever I want, it means I don't have to put up with anything I don't want to, in short, it means I get to be as selfish as I want, a hundred times a day.) When a wedding seems to change the bride into someone we hardly recognize, it's even easier to become upset about the event itself. Enough of the "It's my day!" mentality. You're throwing a party for some people, not saving the damn world.


5. Save the Date

This movie could have been better, but I find myself thinking about it now and then despite the fact I didn't think it was very good at the time. A Sundance 2012 film that finds two sisters (Lizzy Caplan and Alison Brie) again preparing for the wedding of one, as Caplan attempts to navigate the ins and outs of her own break-up and the aftermath it wreaks on their small friend group. A wonderful representation about the importance a wedding can have to one person and how little it can matter to everyone else, as Brie is continually disappointed by Caplan's inabilities and shortcomings. Amusing performances from Geoffrey Arend, Martin Starr and Mark Webber as well.


4. The Five-Year Engagement
Violet (Emily Blunt) and Tom (Jason Segel) are engaged for a really long time, and must overcome various obstacles in their attempts to get married. This one annoys me a bit as it is pretty focused in on the wedding as some kind of ultimate symbol of love for the pair, even though the truth is that the marriage between two people who have decided to wed seems to occur in the decision itself and in the small moments of making decisions together, building a life, not in some grandiose party. All that said, the final wedding itself is perhaps one of my favorite on-screen weddings of all time, so simple and clever it's a shock no one has thought to commit it to screen before now.


3. Margot at the Wedding

Most people never saw this little film scripted by Noah Baumbach, about two sisters (Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh) attempting to reconcile as one of them is set to be married, and most of it is harsh and hard to love, but every time I want to dismiss Nicole Kidman as an actress, there's a moment that continues to haunt my mind, she closes her eyes, takes a breath and says, "Just then, I felt so much love for you," and there's something so true and real in that line and her reading of it that I can't dismiss the movie entirely.


2. Monsoon Wedding

Perhaps my favorite of all movies about weddings finds this sprawling Indian family preparing for the wedding of their daughter (Vasundhara Das) to a Westernized man. The perfect melding of old India and new, older generations contending with the demands of youth, desire and duty at odds with one another, and a wonderful exploration of the genuine and abiding love that families have for one another. Director Mira Nair skillfully weaves together image and music, and juggles various storylines with an absolute understanding of the needs of the story.


1. Rachel Getting Married

In the midst of wedding preparations for one of the best weddings ever (complete with interracial marriage, ripping off various religions and cultures in the pursuit of awesomeness, a performance by Robin Hitchcock and a host of other musicians), Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) and her sister Kym (Anne Hathaway) must deal with Kym's addictions and past mistakes that continue to haunt their family. This is without a doubt the strongest performance that Hathaway has ever done, if you're even the least bit a fan of hers, you owe it to yourself to explore this Jonathan Demme directed film. Every perfomance in the film is strong and the mood will stay with you long after the specifics of the story do.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • I attempt to spread the Monsoon Wedding love wherever I go so I'm glad it made the list here.

  • denesteak

    "The last wedding I attended, two people told me I was “so brave” for
    attending alone, and one firmly patted my shoulder and told me my time
    would come."

    i can't believe people actually do that!! Way to be a fucking cliche.

  • Fred

    You are so right about Rachel Getting Married

  • zeke_the_pig

    I'm no fan of weddings, and I am - by all (my own) accounts - a skeptic and a cynic, but I fucking loved Monsoon Wedding and Rachel Getting Married. Monsoon Wedding has gotta be one of the most visually stunning movies I've seen in at least 5 years, and emotionally devastating too. Rachel Getting Married had everything going against it, because Anne Hathaway plays a character that isn't a doe-eyed sparkle princess, but you know what, she sold it to me, and the wedding genuinely touched zeke's cold, barely beating heart. Fuck me right?

  • Nicole Kidman is so much better as a brunette.

    I love Anne Hathaway and she was really good in Rachel Getting Married. But damn that was a depressing movie. And I usually enjoy a melancholy tone or subject matter. Part of me wants to give it another chance. But most of me doesn't want to actively depress myself.

  • Dr Mo

    No Bend it like Beckham? For shame!

  • celery


  • Lee

    Monsoon Wedding is a movie I can watch over and over, and never get tired of it - so exuberant and wonderful! Bridesmaids was also a gem, though they caved into Hollywood shmaltz in the end, which sucked.

    Great list :)

  • pumpkin

    I agree about Monsoon Wedding. It's delicious.

  • Ash

    Is Lizzy Caplan the hottest girl ever? I think she is.

  • zeke_the_pig

    She's certainly fucking close at the moment. Those eyes drive me fucking insane.

  • This is a pretty awesome list, and one of the few where I've watched most of the movies. I recently watched "Monsoon Wedding" (it's on Netflix! Go watch it! Though watch out because the parts in Hindi aren't subtitled for some damn reason) and loved it even more. It made me ache for an Indian wedding. It looks so much damn fun.

    I was kind of surprised by how much I liked "Melancholia", and Kirsten Dunst in it. But it was pretty amazing.

    Finally I'd just add "Four Weddings and a Funeral". It's all about a group of unmarried friends going to weddings that always look mostly just like the previous ones, but they always have fun. Except Hugh Grant, who is just whiny.

  • Guest

    Confession: After 2 decades of thinking Grant = meh, I now have to cop to being a Hugh Grant fan. Dammit.

  • Three_nineteen

    If you're going to have a romcom on this list, it needs to be Four Weddings and a Funeral.

  • $27019454

    OH GOD Andie McDowell's wedding speech was WRETCHED BAD. UGH.

    But I love that movie.

  • Guest

    Agreed. Everything AROUND AMvcD is glorious.

  • The Pink Hulk

    Now I want to go home and watch "Muriel's Wedding" and "Father of the Bride," since they were forgotten.

    But instead, let's do the WORST movies about a wedding of all time...

    Let me start us off: "Bride Wars" and "The Wedding Date."

  • Father of the Bride! AAAAH I LOVE IT. I want to go watch it right this minute.

    I'd say "The Wedding Planner" was fucking awful. Mostly because McCoughnaheyheyhehey's character is a massive douche.

  • chanohack

    The Wedding Planner is one of those movies that I absolutely loved the first time I saw it, but after many rewatches I slowly admitted that it is indeed horrible and chastised my past self for being so taken by such a terrible movie. In fact, it is my go-to example of the "rewatch wisdom" phenomenon.

  • SorayaS

    I couldn't believe it when I came to the end of the list and there was no Muriel's Wedding!!

    27 Dresses is one of the worst movies I've ever seen, let alone worst wedding movie.

  • Bedewcrock

    I'd have to say that Made of Honor with Patrick Dempsey takes the cake as one of the worst pieces of romantic comedy that has ever been wroten. I spelled "wroten" wrong because the movie is that rottenly terrible it needed a pun adjective whatever thingy.

  • pumpkin

    I was expecting Muriel's Wedding, too!

  • Amanda Meyncke

    I've never seen Muriel's Wedding, and as for Father of the Bride -- I like the old one but haven't seen it in ages, and it's always on every list.

  • dizzylucy

    I'm sure I'm in the minority on this one, but I HATED Rachel Getting Married. Hathaway's performance was fantastic, I recognized that, but I hated everything else about it.

  • jennp421

    You're not alone. I hated the sister, Rachel, and thought she was just a stereotype of the annoying liberal who tries to be super culturally aware but just comes off as pretentious. "I'm part of an interracial couple and I'm wearing a sari even though I don't mention having ever been to India and seem to be Christian. But it just looks cool." I'm all for breaking tradition but shouldn't there then be some meaning to those choices? Also, in case it isn't obvious, I am a liberal, I am not annoyed with her being one, but with the fact that the character seems to be a stereotype. On the other hand, it was nice to have an interracial couple portrayed, especially since it seems like when there are portrayals of them, it tends to be white men and black women, not black men and white women.

  • chanohack

    I also liked that the interracial marriage was not the focus of the movie. In fact, I don't think any of the characters even mentioned that the groom was black. Nice.

  • apsutter

    Me too. This is also part of why I love Brad and Jane on Happy Endings. Fabulous show and those two are the best part of it.

  • dizzylucy

    That's pretty much exactly how I felt about it, like it was trying SO hard to be ultra liberal and multicultural that it started to feel unnatural and pretentious. It was less about "this is just our life" and more about "look how awesome we are for being so awesome." I too am pretty liberal, and had it felt more natural would have enjoyed seeing a family and wedding embracing all that, but it just left me cold. The more I imagined living in that family, the more I understood Anne Hathway's character self medicating!

  • KV

    "...it seems like when there are portrayals of them, it tends to be white men and black women, not black men and white women."

    If you look at the statistics for interracial marriages in this country, the dominant trend tends to be the union between white men and non-white women. May be that's the reason....

  • The Pink Hulk

    For what it's worth, I would have gone with "My Best Friend's Wedding" over "The Wedding Planner" as a rom-com choice. Any movie that almost makes me like Cameron Diaz has to be pretty good.

  • Rupert Everett for the motherfucking win.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Ack - I've actually never had a romantic date to a wedding - friend dates, gay dates, and gone single - but because my long-term relationships have been with actors, we managed never to be able to attend weddings together. I was ok with that.

    At my sister's wedding in June, a smallish affair with no dancing and just a restaurant reception, I was maid of honor. I actually thought having a guy there - as friend or as lover - would've gotten in the way of the time I spent with my sister helping her prepare, and the bonding moments we had up staying up the nights before her wedding.

    and fortunately - FORTUNATELY - my parents and extended family are not the type to tsk tsk or tell me my time will come.

  • $27019454

    Best decision I ever made was marrying my husband. Second best was waiting till I was an old maid (technical term...my grandmother used it on my o so often) to meet my husband (OK, so that wasn't my decision, but hey...).

    One regret I have is that there was too much emphasis on the wedding, and I had a small one by my family's crazy-lavish standards (we paid for it all by our bad selves). I look back and yes it was a lovely day but it was SO very unimportant in the grand scheme.

    I watch wedding-themed movies with a cynical eye, but many wedding movies do get it right...that they bring out the best and worst in people. THANK YOU for not including any of those horrendous Bitch Wedding-genre examples like that wretched thing with Kate Hudson or that icky one with Julia Roberts.

    Yes, I realize I need to narrow that down a little...

  • e jerry powell

    I still think that straght female wedding planners are like unicorns. Maybe straight women who double as caterers as well are more likely.

  • tamatha_uhmelmahaye

    I loved Monsoon Wedding, so visually stunning. And it has a fabulous soundtrack. And I agree that Rachel Getting Married is a great film.

  • Leelee

    I seem to have been to an inordinate number of weddings quite recently (possibly because I'm willing to work as a barmaid at the reception and be paid only in left over bottles of wine). The best one so far has been that of a family friend marrying for the first time to a delightful gentleman who lost his first wife about twenty years ago. They're both in their mid-seventies, and were as giddy as teenagers at the ceremony.
    I had quite a lot of dust in my eye that day.

  • TrinSpin

    I am surprised by the outpouring of praise for the wedding in "Five Year Engagement." As a big fan of Jason Segel's writing ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall" in particular), I was disappointed by this whole movie. I felt like the audience was told how in love the couple was and never shown how much they loved each other. Specifically, they didn't even have vows in the wedding. In their 'oh so cute, can only happen in the movies' ceremony, they are "too excited" to even pledge their love to each other. Where's the romance in that?
    To be fair, I am a bitter crone who will indeed die alone, but I need me some romance in my rom coms.

  • googergieger

    I feel the need to protest this list and march along an imaginary picket line.


  • Guest

    There is a third category: those of us who are married, but didn't have a wedding. Believe.

    I loved "Margot at the Wedding." Loved.

  • BWeaves

    And you're a lot richer for it. You're just as married without a wedding, with less debt, which makes for a happier ever after. Well, in my head it does.

  • jmd

    So at 40, with no prospects in sight, I think about this sometimes. Any fellow Pajibans want to start making deals to be the plus-ones and think about someone to take care of you/us when we get older? I think our community needs to band together for this.

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    Pajiba spin off meet-up! I like it.

  • Kris

    My husband was 44 with no prospects in sight when we met. I was 32 and had decided to be the most awesome spinster I could be. 4 years later, we're still together, and God is laughing his ass off.

  • Lee

    I am in the exact same position as you. Sounds wonderful :)

  • BWeaves

    I was surprised "In & Out" wasn't on this list.

  • Kala

    Haven't seen that film in years. I caught it on HBO a few nights ago and realized that Kevin Kline needs to be a greater presence in my life.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Because it's main character is a man. Duh.

  • BWeaves

    But the bride had a large role in the movie also. She kept striking out with all the wrong men. And then it was sweet when the actual wedding takes place and it's not who you think it would be.

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