Now that the calendar has flipped to June, wedding season is in full swing. June brides and grooms abound, both in real life, and in fiction, but, in romance land, wedding season lasts all year long. So, how does a never-ending wedding season affect life in our favorite genre? Glad you asked, because it’s time to eat some cake, toss some rice, and get ready for some happily ever afters, romance novel style.
The first question that comes to mind is, does a romance novel have to have a wedding, to count as a romance novel? The answer to that is a resounding no. Though the two lovers do need to be together and happy about it, that can take a bunch of different forms. It’s not usually realistic, for example, for two high school students, especially with a year or more to go to graduation, to march down the aisle and set up housekeeping. That’s not to say it could never happen, but it’s not likely. Futuristic romances, or dystopian ones, may well not even have what we recognize as weddings, or at least a very different sort, but can the couple still be committed to each other? Heck yes. Historical romances with couples who lived before marriage equality, could also fall into this category, as would those with other impediments to their unions.
That said, most romance readers o like some sort of ceremony or celebration to mark the union of the two lovers, which may, in part, account for the popularity of weddings and/or babies in epilogues. The danger is past, the bad guys are vanquished, our lovers have each other, and a bright new future ahead, so of course it’s time to party. Consider these epilogues a wedding favor for the reader to take home and cherish, long after the day itself has passed. If the story is in a series, odds are high that this book’s lovers will reminisce about their special day, when they are guests at subsequent weddings of family and friends. Who knows, there may even be some in-universe traditions that carry from one wedding to the next, inviting the readers in on the fun.
Romance novel weddings, no matter the time or place, are a perfect chance to go hog wild with the wedding planning, for a budget of exactly zero. Outdoor tent, with fairy lights, live band, champagne fountains and dessert bar? You got it. Rustic barn with burlap and Mason jars filled with tea lights, and a bride in cowboy boots? Coming right up. Royal wedding of a small but luxurious Mediterranean kingdom, past, present, or future? Why not all three? Hollywood elite? Crowded church fellowship hall, with heat or air conditioning conking out at the worst moment? That, too. Destination weddings? Got a whole world of those, and, theoretically, we readers can go to every single one of them, without getting out of our comfy chairs, or into ugly but expensive bridesmaid dresses we are not going to wear again, thankyouverymuch….unless said ugly but expensive bridesmaid dress is part of the plot.
Let’s face it, a wedding that goes right is a beautiful thing. A wedding that goes wrong, on the other hand, well, that’s a guarantee for an interesting story. Hideous wedding party attire can open up a world of possibilities, especially out of context. Far more objections happen at fictional weddings, of any era, than in real life, and runaway brides/grooms? (Or both?) There could be a library, or at least a series, of books filled with them. Drunk, ill, missing (or dead) officiants, issues with legalities (oh, hello, not-so-dead-or-divorced-previous-spouse) family feuds escalating to fisticuffs or worse, shocking secrets coming to life, reluctant brides or grooms (or both) who go through with it anyway, or bolt at the last possible second, and that’s only scratching the surface. Play it for laughs or play it for pathos, a wedding disaster can be prime breeding ground for story success.
Most of the time, when we think of romance novel weddings, we think of two lovers, finally able to declare themselves publicly, in front of God, witnesses, the state, parish, or village they live in, and perhaps heads of state, if not the entirety of their small town. Maybe all of the above. On the other hand, there’s as much fun to be had with prospective spouses -not yet lovers, by any means- who meet at the altar (or the courthouse; it happens) and go straight from “hi” to “I do,” without any of the preliminaries. Mail order bride stories fit this trope, and arranged marriages from any time from the ancient world to present day fit right alongside them. How are these two strangers going to carve out forever together? We have a whole book to find out, but if our first impression of them is also their first impression of each other? Anything is possible.
That, perhaps, may be one of the best things about romance novel weddings. No matter how our lovers (or lovers to be) came to this point, they are headed into a whole new future, where nothing will ever be the same, and anything can happen.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Do you like to have weddings in your romance novels? What’s your favorite part? Do you have a favorite specific wedding that tops your list, or a favorite sort of wedding? Pull up a chair in the comments section and tell us all about it. If you’re more likely to decline a fictional RSVP, we want to hear about that, too. There’s room for everybody at this table.