— Whether they’re the ones getting married or just standing by the bride, you’ve got to sympathize with the stars of wedding comedies. Sure, they usually end up in love, but they go through chaos to get there.
For more than 50 years, Hollywood has created a rulebook for on-screen weddings, and the rules all point to catastrophe. To see three examples of those wedding bell crazies, you can go to the movies this month. "Something Borrowed," starring Ginnifer Goodwin and Kate Hudson, and "Jumping the Broom," starring Paula Patton and Angela Bassett, opened May 6. And on May 13, "Bridesmaids," written by and starring Kristen Wiig, marches down theater aisles.
'If you’re attending a wedding this summer, you may want to see these movies and take notes. Or you can study the following highlights from the wedding comedy rulebook. If you notice any of the following at your own celebration, then check for cameras. You may have stumbled into a blockbuster.
Somebody must love the wrong person
In wedding comedies, lead characters almost always love someone who’s perfect for them, but who’s engaged to someone else.
Ginnifer Goodwin’s character in “Something Borrowed,” for instance, loves her best friend’s fiance. She’s similar to Julia Roberts in “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” Jennifer Lopez in “The Wedding Planner,” Adam Sandler in “The Wedding Singer,” and even Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate.”
In a way, these stories demonize weddings, making them cruel parades of loneliness for our heroes to endure. That is, until the heroes get married themselves, usually in the final 20 minutes. Then weddings transform into dreams come true.
If the movie is working, we can overlook that apparent contradiction because we’re rooting for the underdog who gets hitched. Most of us have felt lonely, so seeing a lonely character get married can salve our own memories of always being the bridesmaid and never the bride.
Families cannot get along — at first
Sometimes, the families in wedding comedies seem like the Hatfields and the McCoys. Take “Jumping the Broom,” where Paula Patton plays a wealthy woman who falls for a working-class man. When their relatives get together, judgments get passed and hair gets pulled.
That’s been a problem since at least 1950, when the original “Father of the Bride” united clashing clans. But since these movies are comedies and not “Romeo and Juliet,” the families almost always work out their differences. That helps us remember that love can overcome the craziest uncle or sassiest mother-in-law.
Female friends hate each other, then love each other
While families in wedding comedies tend to hate each other right off the bat, female characters begin on the best of terms with their girlfriends. They don’t start scrapping until something intense happens, like they both try to get married on the same day (“Bride Wars”) or one tells the other that marriage is stupid (“Sex and the City”).
But these are more than just catfights. They’re stand-ins for questions we all might ask: Will marriage make us forget who we used to be? Does starting a new chapter mean ripping out the old one?
When the friends make up — and they always do — we can rejoice in seeing that they can build new relationships without torching the old ones. It reminds us that we can do it, too.
There must be a zany friend
This rule isn’t so bad: Zany friends make a wedding better, and according to the movies, no ceremony is complete without one. It can be the bride's pal or the maid of honor's cousin or even the guy delivering the flowers, but there's got to be someone who can curse at the preacher or do the electric slide during the hora.
Zany friends are in wedding comedies for two reasons: They make us laugh, of course, but they also make the lead character seem more relatable.
When Judy Greer gets sassy in "The Wedding Planner" or "27 Dresses,” then Jennifer Lopez and Katherine Heigl (respectively) seem more down-to-earth. In the 1991 remake of "Father of the Bride," Martin Short's over-the-top wedding planner is screwball fun, and he lets Kimberly Williams, as the charming bride, seem even sweeter.
At first glance, you might think Kristin Wiig is playing the zany best friend in “Bridesmaids.” After all, she’s sarcastic and cool as a maid of honor who’s trying to navigate her best friend’s nuptials. But it turns out she’s the normal one and Melissa McCarthy (“Mike & Molly”) is the spitfire. In the trailer alone, McCarthy’s character cracks dirty jokes, belches in a fancy store, and threatens to start a “female Fight Club.”
That’s important because the movie wouldn’t work if Wiig’s character seemed wackier than everyone on screen and in the audience. If we can’t identify with the star of a movie like this, which is ultimately about the emotion behind a wedding, then it’s hard to care about her journey.
The only drawback to this rule is that the zany friends almost never get married themselves. They usually end up singing a karaoke song over the closing credits or eating cake out of a shoe. Here’s hoping Melissa McCarthy ends “Bridesmaids” with a man on one arm and a sack of “Fight Club” DVDs on the other.
A pretty lady must embarrass herself
In “Bridesmaids,” Wiig takes too many muscle relaxants and goes bonkers on an airplane. In both “Runaway Bride” and “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” Julia Roberts falls down. A lot. Before the pretty lady gets to be happy in a wedding comedy, she almost always has to embarrass herself.
You could make several arguments about the consequences of this rule: Maybe it makes female characters seem less dignified. Maybe it lets them seem more human and less “Hollywood perfect.”
There are mishaps in every wedding, whether it’s real or on screen, but if we’re trying to help the bride and we accidentally step on her dress, we can relax knowing that movie characters always have it worse. Their problems are so big and so bizarre that they make our own weddings seem like pieces of seven-tier cake.