Marrying Marriage Ceremonies to Literature

The wedding in A Walk to Remember‘s movie version. (Screen shot by me.)

I’ll be attending a family wedding this coming weekend, so naturally I’ll write today about…weddings in literature.

As in real life, fictional weddings can be wonderful and/or weird and/or lavish and/or bare bones and/or dramatic and/or problematic and/or heartwarming and/or…whatever.

One of the most famous fictional wedding ceremonies is that of the title character and Edward Rochester in Charlotte Bronte’s 1847 classic Jane Eyre. They are a couple very much in love, but, as many of you know, Rochester has quite a secret. Will it be revealed before the duo says “I do”?

Also memorable is the union of Gervaise and Coupeau in Emile Zola’s 1877 novel The Drinking Den. The couple spend more money on the nuptials than they can afford, the priest who marries them is surly, and the guests get lost in The Louvre museum while killing time between the ceremony and reception. Gervaise had been reluctant to marry Coupeau, or any man, and the imperfect wedding is a harbinger of the disasters that will follow after a few years of happiness.

Their daughter would meet with her own disasters in a subsequent Zola novel, 1880’s Nana.

In Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, the wedding of Claire and Jamie takes place not long after Claire involuntarily time-travels from the 1900s to the 1700s. The two barely know each other, and the union is basically forced — making for a tension-filled yet partly humorous situation. But, lo and behold, the 20th-century-born Claire and the 18th-century-born Jamie by chance end up being very compatible even as they face many daunting challenges in the rest of the novel and its sequels.

Claire and Jamie tied the knot in the first Outlander book, but sometimes it pays to build things up more gradually. For instance, Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe have like-dislike interactions in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and beyond. It’s not until the fourth sequel — Anne’s House of Dreams — that they marry. The wedding scene, and Montgomery’s writing of it, are worth the wait. As with Claire and Jamie, Anne and Gilbert are ultimately compatible.

Nicholas Sparks’ tear-jerker A Walk to Remember features the unexpected high-school-student relationship between the popular Landon and the ostracized Jamie, who’s immensely good-hearted but considered “uncool” for dressing poorly and being religious. We learn she is terminally ill, but the two teens marry anyway in a beautiful ceremony. The novel, whose story is told 40 years later by Landon, leaves things ambiguous as to whether Jamie died or not.

Then there’s the wedding element in Charles Dickens’ 1861 novel Great Expectations. Miss Havisham was jilted at the altar by a scoundrel, and becomes a bitter/depressed recluse who never gets over the traumatic nuptials experience she had as a young woman.

On a more upbeat note, Jane Austen novels are known for a number of “happy ending” weddings after complications and obstacles are overcome. The marriage ceremonies tend to be mentioned more than actually depicted.

Your thoughts about, and examples of, today’s theme?

My next blog post will run on Monday, May 8, rather than the usual Sunday.

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for every Thursday. The latest piece — about two Black firefighters suing over blatant racism in my town’s “leadership” — is here.

115 thoughts on “Marrying Marriage Ceremonies to Literature

  1. Having just finished “Mona”(orig title,pub 1961) aka “Grifter’s Game” by Lawrence Block, I can report another wedding in a fictional setting, but here, it is a union of 2 manipulative people who are intent to use each other for their own ends, though for a while it looks like love for at least one of the pair. By the novel’s end, there is something more essential than mere attraction that binds the newlyweds. It’s a simple, civil ceremony carried out with minimal fuss, but the cynicism and revenge at work in the preceding daze make it more than a bit ominous– and binding.

    Somehow, though I’ve read in the genre for decades, I missed Lawrence Block. He’s an updated James M. Cain sort of a sordid story teller, with characters to match. Not an extra word, nor a missed mark in the book. “Mona” is my first Block, but I will be on the lookout for any and all titles under his name.

    In the front pages of the republished paperback I read, Block gets raves from Stephen King, Jonathan Kellerman,Mike Lupica– and James M. Cain!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Hope you can find his stuff– the Block I read, as I wrote above, was a reprint. Haven’t tried to find him; “Grifter’s Game” was just another lurid paperback cover that looked promising when I spotted it on a card table on Broadway. The reprint was part of a series–Hard Case Crime– and was published in 2004. The publisher appears to still be in business– I just looked at the website, and there is at least one other Block there: “Sinner Man”. If your library ever buys paperbacks, you might get lucky!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, Dave, I think we can hardly imagine how much marriages can change one’s life’s. Especially women, who had to marry a determined person just to belong to a certain group!
    I would have liked to mention Jane Eyre and her interrupted marriage, but as I have seen you have already mentioned that one! Maybe I could add the book “Rebecca” by Daphne de Maurier and what consequences the marriage to Mr. de Winters had for his first and also his second wife.
    Enjoy yourself at the marriage ceremony at which you are taking place:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Martina! “Jane Eyre” and “Rebecca” are excellent examples of this theme. And, yes, marriage can be an especially complicated thing for women — especially decades or centuries ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So, 2 oldies.

    100 Years of Solitude
    Rebeca & Pietro Crespi are to be married at the same time as Remedios & Aureliano. Due to a fake letter, Rebeca & Pietro are not married. Then there is a series of obstacles and setbacks blocking Rebeca & Pietro’s marriage.
    Rebeca ends up having an affair with José Arcadio, and they end up getting married.

    Gone With the Wind:

    Scarlett is married 3 times. Once to Hamilton, Melanie’s brother, then to her sister’s beau, Frank Kennedy, then to Rhett Butler.

    As to exact ceremonies, I am fuzzy. It’s been years since I read these books, and I don’t want to rely on the movie of “Gone With the Wind”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Resa, for the vivid mentions of two novels with memorable marriage elements! The magnificent “One Hundred Years of Solitude” had something of everything — family relationships, romantic complications, tragedy, comedy, politics, etc. — and of course “magic realism.” Plus various confusing names for the English-language reader. 🙂


  4. Why it is that no more than this one ceremony comes trippingly to mind is probably a worthy subject for psychological inquiry, but I push on, unreflectively, to report that there is a wedding, and wedding prep aforehand, in Robert Galbraith’s “A Career of Evil”. In fact the prep starts pretty much at the start and the wedding takes up the last pages– in between there are a few murders and recriminations and dodgy witnesses and severed body parts arriving by messenger and inquiries leading seemingly nowhere that later prove fruitful, etc.– in short, the usual suspense materials employed by detective fiction writers.

    Most notable re the wedding plans and the wedding, aside from a few well-placed pre-nuptial regrets and recriminations: the father of the bride has nearly no time on stage, as it were, merely buzzing along in the background making supportive or hesitant noises as her mother practically handles everything and everybody. I suspect this aspect of the author’s nuptial storytelling is a sop to truth.

    Out of her Strike series, I have read only this novel to date, but Rowling (‘Galbraith’ a nom de plume) is a professional writer who makes a professional detective/suspense novel , well-paced, engaging and perfect for a long trip, size-wise. A little artsy in its Blue Oyster Cult quote-drops, but not distractingly so.

    Got another on the TBR pile toward which I am looking forward.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That psychological aspect of mine, I have been sweetly reminded by the author, has cropped up a cropper, in that I somehow forgot there is a wedding described and talked about after from the comfort of a sweltering steamboat deck, in Amanda Moores’ “Grail Nights”,in the chapter titled “The Last Dumb Supper”.

      Pretty sure in time I’ll be forgiven.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you, jhNY! Very glad you mentioned J.K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike/Robin Ellacott novels! I’ve read them all, and have enjoyed them immensely — whether the elements include a wedding or something else amid the crimes. Will there eventually be a romantic relationship and a wedding between co-private-investigators Cormoran and Robin? Who knows? But Rowling certainly offers plenty of sublimated romantic tension.

          I also really liked “Grail Nights” by Amanda Moores (your spouse). A terrific example in the category of “short stories as novel.”

          And repair made. 🙂


  5. Hi Dave, you have mentioned all three of the books that immediately sprang to my mind for this topic: Jane Eyre, Anne and Gilbert and Miss Haversham. I am not yet finished Rebecca but the wedding in that story didn’t attract undue notice from me. The housekeeper and West Wing are so creepy they overshadow everything else. Weddings that never happened resulting in disgrace are more in my mind for this. An example is Hector from The Scarlett letter. Another is Father Ralph and Maggie from The Thorn Birds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Robbie! You mentioned memorable books with memorable characters!

      And that’s a great, interesting angle on this — weddings that didn’t happen. Relationships can certainly be long and/or short and/or happy and/or painful and/or complicated, etc., without tying the knot. “The Scarlet Letter” and “The Thorn Birds” are excellent examples of that.


  6. Dave, Jane Austen`s Pride and Prejudice, at the end Austen describes a double wedding between Bennett’s sisters.

    Elizabeth and Jane marry Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley..

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Could not agree more that the Anne/Gilbert wedding is well worth the wait! 🙂 And all the sequels after that, depicting their lives together and their kids, are worth the wait as well. And yes – any Jane Austen wedding is bound to be a happy ending situation (although maybe not as much for Lydia and Wickham!). Weddings haven’t appeared much in my recent reads (although there was a very low-key courthouse one in a recent read), but I just started reading the Bridgerton series this past weekend. I’m not familiar with the series at all, but I’m already hearing some wedding bells… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, M.B.! I guess you do a lot of war- and military-related reading. Not exactly a topic area with a lot of weddings, but of course wars do force some couples to make decisions about marrying quicker than they might otherwise.

      And, yes, Anne and Gilbert’s wedding was worth the wait! I wish Anne had remained as feisty a character as she was when younger, but…

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I enjoyed this post, Dave. All I could come up with was the ill-fated, short-lived, heart-wrenching marriage of Inman and Ada in Cold Mountain, but the book version of their marriage is much more ambiguous than the lovely, romantic way they portrayed it in the movie (“I marry you, I marry you, I marry you.”). I loved that a proper ceremony didn’t matter much, after all they have been through to find one another. I reread the book last fall. It is such a bleak but beautiful story…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Patti! That’s an excellent mention! Such a long build-up to Inman and Ada getting together during the ultra-divisive, carnage-filled Civil War, and then…

      I also read the 1997-published “Cold Mountain” relatively recently — maybe three years ago?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier just popped into my head. Her importunate marriage in Monte Carlo leads to Cornwall and…well you know.. I must read “Anne of Green Gables” for happier outcomes. Thanks, Dave.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. You have great examples for this theme, Dave. I hope the wedding you’re attending is a good event and leads to a happily-ever-after marriage.

    I didn’t read the book, but I remember the movie, Goodbye, Columbus.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Not so much weddings, as marriages–Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge is about a man who ends up marrying the wrong sister and how that works out for him and the two sisters. Goudge’s books are too old-fashioned to be contemporary but not old enough to be classic, but this one is quite good.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. McCuller’s “The Member Of The Wedding”, which, on the whole of it, was rather sad although not tragic like with Jane Eyre or Miss Havisham. Grimms fairy tale, “Beauty And The Beast”. I must say the beast was certainly persistent about marrying Belle. In fact, he was like a dog with a bone as any beast would be. And then there’s one marriage, even though the wedding was a quick affair, that I still wonder about and that is DuMaurier’s “Rebecca”. I mean, come on, the second Mrs. DeWinter married a man who not only killed the first Mrs. DeWinter but also disposed of her body, and that never bothered her??? But then neither did the creepy Miss Danvers so there’s that. Hope you enjoy the festivities Dave and congrats to the couple. Susi

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Susi! I found “The Member of the Wedding” rather slow going, unlike more propulsive Carson McCullers works such as “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” and “Reflections in a Golden Eye,” but “Member” is a great example of this theme!

      I appreciate your other vivid mentions, too. 🙂

      Re “Rebecca,” too often love (or whatever) is blind, as the cliché goes.

      Liked by 2 people

      • True, love is blind, and deaf and dumb as well. Yet if Mr. DeWinter actually resembled Laurence Olivier, even I would find him hard to resist. Consequently, I may be a wee bit disingenuous when I tell my kids/grandkids that it’s okay to follow your heart as long as you take your brain with you. I know for a while after seeing the movie Rebecca, if I met some guy with a gold pinkie ring I would be instantly intrigued. Then there he was in Pride and Predjudice and again in Wurthering Heights, smoldering into our collective unconscious. Sorry, I was having a moment, ha!

        Liked by 3 people

        • Ha, Susi! 🙂 Yes, Laurence Olivier was quite a looker. Reminds me of how actors and actresses in screen adaptations of novels are often better-looking (and often more charismatic) than the characters they’re playing were in the book. That frequently does the novel a disservice, but that’s Hollywood…

          Liked by 1 person

  13. I don’t remember the details, but there was a vivid scene in Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” describing a Russian Orthodox wedding between Konstantine Levin and Kitty Shcherbatsky.

    Liked by 2 people

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