Before there were movies, there were fairy tales that often ended with a wedding. Weddings are in the same category as the lost ark or the secret formula or the capturing of the bridge or winning the big game. Love is life’s big adventure and a wedding is the symbol of its ultimate expression. And it is also a lot of fun to see other cultures and traditions. Here are some of my favorite movie wedding scenes.
The Godfather (1972)
One of the greatest American films begins with a wedding reception that gives us unforgettable introductions to the entire cast, their values, and their relationships.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
An agonizing film about the impact of the Vietnam war on three friends begins with an extended wedding scene that establishes the foundation for what is to come by making us not just care about the characters; after that wedding reception, filmed with such intimacy, we almost feel like part of the family.
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
My all-time favorite movie is this sophisticated and witty story about the forthcoming wedding of a wealthy woman to an executive with political ambitions. Complications ensue when a reporter, a photographer, and her ex-husband show up for the festivities.
The Graduate (1967)
Very few movies seem to express and even shape the themes of their time. And a small fraction of those hold up over time as works of art. The Graduate leads that category with brilliant direction from Mike Nichols, a haunting soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel, and superb performances by Dustin Hoffman as Ben, the title character, who symbolizes the disaffection of his generation and Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson, the friend of his parents who symbolizes the emptiness of hers. When Ben finds something meaningful in a relationship with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, he ends up disrupting her wedding in a scene that has become iconic.
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
Screenwriter Richard Curtis based this on his own experience of finding himself at a seemingly endless stream of weddings. Charlie (Hugh Grant, in a star-making role) meets Carrie (Andie MacDowell) at the first of the weddings and their relationship evolves over the rest of the title ceremonies. But this is really the story of Charlie and his friends, all of whom find love by (but sometimes not until) the closing credits.
Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
Parminder Nagra plays Jesminder, the daughter of a traditional Punjabi Sikh family in London who wants to play soccer. Her sister’s wedding plans provide a context for her struggles against her family’s reluctance to let her play, especially when it turns out that the soccer finals are at the same time.
Lovers and Other Strangers (1970)
The wedding at the center of this film is the setting for a wide variety of happy and sad, healthy and dysfunctional love relationships among the extended family, played by a stand-out cast including Gig Young, Cloris Leachman, Anne Meara, Bea Arthur, and Anne Jackson. The Carpenters’ standard, “For All We Know” was written for this film.
Father of the Bride (1950)
There has never been a more beautiful bride than Elizabeth Taylor in this affectionate comedy about the impact of a wedding on the family. Spencer Tracy plays the beleaguered father who is expected to pay endless bills and endure endless relatives on both sides. The scene where he comforts her after she (briefly) breaks off the engagement is one of my very favorites.
Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
This classic musical is based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem about a small Jewish village in late nineteenth century Russia. The main character is a poor milkman who has a lot of challenges in marrying off three of his daughters. The themes of tradition and change in the romances of the three daughters and in the community at large come together in the warm and loving wedding celebration (with the lovely song “Sunrise, Sunset”).
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
Inspired by the real-life experience of Nia Vardalos, the daughter of Greek immigrants, this touching and hilarious story of a shy young woman in a big, noisy family who finds love with a kind-hearted teacher, leads to some confusion and misunderstandings but also a lot of laughter and new connections.
Originally published on Beliefnet.com