TOTN Summer Movie Series: Agony, Ecstasy, Felony — It Must Be Matrimony

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

It's sort of embarrassing to me, as a woman and a human, that weddings excite us so much. They're like catnip for our ovaries. Add a big white dress and a tall cake, and we're utterly satisfied. Since I'm planning my own wedding at this moment, I'm looking a little more carefully at all my old favorite Hollywood weddings — mostly for dress ideas — and I have to say, I'm struck by two things. First, the heyday of the wedding movie, complete with the word "wedding" in the titleWedding Singer, My Best Friends Wedding, Monsoon Wedding — seems to be the mid to late '90s... and why not? Prosperity reigned — the Cold War was over, defense spending went down, and private consumption went up, balancing the books. Bridal magazines were thick, and brides were zilla'd. Contrast that with the most recent wedding movie I've seen — Sex and the City. It's strikingly fraught with financial anxiety, albeit slightly masked, (Carrie asking Big if they can afford the apartment, wearing "vintage" to City Hall in the final, "successful" wedding, after an opulent "failed" wedding. Never mind the seven hundred dollar shoes with the "vintage." Sigh.) Do a search on Amazon for wedding books written in the last year (you can also do a cursory search of my coffee table) and you'll find they're all about the DIY Bride or Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot. The economy seems to dictate more about our nuptials then we care to admit

My second point is that the old-school wedding movies (Father of the Bride, We're Not Married, Royal Wedding), have a lot in common with the wedding extravaganzas of the mid-'90's and afterwards. Gender roles haven't really gotten an update, which is — how shall I say it — bulls—tgalling. Marriage — and the wedding as an expression of matrimony — is still represented as the high point of a woman's life. Why would you shoot for any other dream besides Cinderella's? Oh, that's right. Because now, YOU CAN. (Insert for the 300th time — all my bosses are women.)

That doesn't mean you shouldn't have a wedding (thank god — anyone who has experience with JCrew wedding dresses please weigh in), nor does it mean you shouldn't enjoy Cinderella nailing her man. (Nailing the old fashioned way, never fear.) In the spirit of pure fun and wedding catnip — go ahead and soothe your addiction below.*

*At least Cinderella is awake when she meets the Prince! I've always maintained the Snow White is the misogynist's perfect bride — she's shut away with magical dwarves who hold no sexual interest for her, and she's asleep — read: NOT TALKING — when the Prince really falls for her. (I know one special fiance out there who might identify with Snow's Prince, but stands no chance of his chatty bride closing her piehole. Er... ever. Hi honey!)

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Hi Chatty!

Sent by Steve | 2:24 PM | 8-7-2008

Murials Wedding is my favortie. It is a funny drama that I can watch over and over again.

Sent by Sarah | 2:43 PM | 8-7-2008

Great wedding movie - The Graduate

Sent by Adam Engle | 2:44 PM | 8-7-2008

WEDDING CRASHERS!!!

Sent by Dennis | 2:44 PM | 8-7-2008

I recommend "Divorce Italian Style" as a finale to the program

Sent by Gabe Gross | 2:44 PM | 8-7-2008

My favorite wedding ceremony in a movie is from Princess Bride. I often say "Mayywigg" when referring to a wedding now. As a part-time wedding photographer, I have to say that weddings generally are exhausting social constructs that celebrate the union of two individuals in the most painful and laborious manner possible.

Sent by Leah in Oregon | 2:46 PM | 8-7-2008

Monsoon wedding hands down

Sent by anet | 2:47 PM | 8-7-2008

My Best Friend's Wedding!

That had everything. It was a star studden cast. It put Julia Roberts in a very appropriate role.

There was wit, sarcasm, and spontaneous breakouts of songs.

And then spending the entire movie trying to ruin the bride, only to end up not with the groom is an excellent twist.

I like that the heroine didn't get what she wanted. And I like even more that it was okay she didn't get the man.

And then, to make it all feel better, we get the editor, coming to sweep her off her feet....only literally. They won't be falling in love either.

Sent by Samantha | 2:50 PM | 8-7-2008

Wedding Banquet is one of my favorites...

Sent by Gloria | 2:50 PM | 8-7-2008

HEARTBURN with Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson... probably reflects my cynacism (or long time single status!)

Sent by Dorothy (Portland Or) | 2:51 PM | 8-7-2008

What about "Plaza Suite"?

Sent by Kathleen Bolduan | 2:52 PM | 8-7-2008

There is a great movie from 1985 called Fandango. It stars Kevin Costner and Judd Nelson. It really is a buddy road picture, but at the end of the movie there is one of the most beautiful weddings that i have ever seen. It is in the gazebo in a gorgeouspark in mexican.

Sent by Lisa | 2:52 PM | 8-7-2008

The Wedding, Robert Altman, director, is one of the funniest movies ever.

Sent by Judy Coby | 2:52 PM | 8-7-2008

My Big Fat Greek Wedding--family dynamics are great!

Sent by AZ | 2:52 PM | 8-7-2008

My all time favorite is "A Wedding for Bella". This small mostly unknown movie is so touching about our continual need to please our parents. It also helps you look at the priorities in your life! Very beautiful, sweet and I highly recommend it.

Sent by Maureen | 2:52 PM | 8-7-2008

How to Marry a Millionaire...when Lauren Bacall calls off the wedding to the old rich guy (William Powell) for the brash, (apparently broke)stud. If only.... ;-)

Sent by Janie Bygness | 2:53 PM | 8-7-2008

Meet Joe Black. The wedding was the settting for a much more thoughtful event, ones passing

Sent by Randy Reed | 2:53 PM | 8-7-2008

Its not an obvious choice but my pick is for the Muppets Take Manhattan. There is a great musical scene when Kermit and Miss Piggy get married. I can't stop singing the song! It was reference during my recent wedding ceremony.

Sent by Rebecca | 2:53 PM | 8-7-2008

The Steve Martin Father of the Bride cannot hold a candle to the original!!
Spencer Tracy, Joan Bennett and Elizabeth Taylor--need I say more!!??

Sent by Kim Markley | 2:54 PM | 8-7-2008

The wedding scene from The Sound of Music.

Sent by Holly | 2:54 PM | 8-7-2008

Allow me to offer another Spencer Tracy, et al. "wedding" movie "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"... another great performance ... by many!!!

Sent by Duncan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin | 2:55 PM | 8-7-2008

7 brides for 7 brothers... ahead of it's time in terms of feminist matromonial statements

Sent by Annie | 2:55 PM | 8-7-2008

My Big Fat Greek Wedding! I love all the strange relatives and I relate to the overwhelming-ness she felt!

Sent by Perri Spade | 2:55 PM | 8-7-2008

Corpse Bride by Tim Burton is by far the best animated wedding movie of all time (so far). The wedding goes wrong right off the bat by the dorky fish merchant, only to end up with great sacrifice, lost lovers returned, a sword fight and death. Who could ask for more?

Sent by Alexis Kirmaier | 2:55 PM | 8-7-2008

How about the funniest reality check of\g all: IN & OUT

Sent by B??la Dornon | 2:55 PM | 8-7-2008

How about "Bend it Like Beckham"? It's more about the wedding than soccer.

Sent by Jon | 2:55 PM | 8-7-2008

Monsoon Wedding
brilliantly directed with political/social messages

Sent by Sue | 2:56 PM | 8-7-2008

The Long, Long Trailer with Lucille Ball and Dezi Arnez. Fantasticly funny!

Sent by Joel Barrett | 2:56 PM | 8-7-2008

Serpentine Shelly!! Serpentine!!

Sent by Pat Dailey | 2:56 PM | 8-7-2008

Four Weddings & a Funeral is my absolute favorite wedding movie...

Sent by Racheal | 2:56 PM | 8-7-2008

I'm an old person, so the wedding movie that comes to mind is "It Happened One Night."

Sent by Rebecca | 2:57 PM | 8-7-2008

A little known movie called "Best Friends" - Burt Reynold & Goldie Hawn.

Sent by Anne | 2:57 PM | 8-7-2008

For the funniest - I would say that Four Weddings and a Funeral is a great one. The part where Rowan Atkinson says, "In the name of the father, the son, and the holy spigot" is HILARIOUS!!! I think that at another point in the movie he says "holy goat" instead of "holy ghost". Barrels of laughter.

Sent by stephanie in alabama | 2:57 PM | 8-7-2008

ALTMAN'S A WEDDING...SHAMEFUL IT HASN'T BEEN MENTIONED...CLEARLY THE BEST EVER MADE....classic Altman...

Sent by Marina Kelly | 2:57 PM | 8-7-2008

My favorite wedding scene is from The Deer Hunter. Of course the movie is not the main theme of the movie but it perfectly portrays Western Pennsylvania marriages. My sister was married in Hostetter in a carnival scene similar.

Sent by elizabeth woodside | 2:57 PM | 8-7-2008

Also, forgot to mention "Meet the Fockers." How can you beat Robert DiNiro and Blythe Danner meet Barbara Streisand and Dustin Hoffman as inlaws?

Sent by AZ | 2:57 PM | 8-7-2008

Meet the Parents?

Sent by Dave | 2:57 PM | 8-7-2008

Cannot help but to recognize that most are focusing on movies that highlight Caucasian characters only. What about:
Bestman
Coming to America
The Wood
Monsoon Wedding

Or even,

The Bride of Chucky

Sent by Shaan Trotter | 2:57 PM | 8-7-2008

"I Married a Witch." This was a 30s movie. The plot line of the "Bewitched" TV show was very similar and may have had the same basis. I will never think of "I Love You Truly" in the same way. The soloist sang yet another verse to avoid audience panic.

Sent by Richard Lakin | 2:57 PM | 8-7-2008

Thank God somebody mentioned Wedding Crashers. This sap-fest needs a little shot of flavor.

Sent by Ken Hutchinson | 2:57 PM | 8-7-2008

I love the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". It shows, with great humor, the difficulties of blending 2 different cultures. I do relate to this movie as my husband and I are from different countries.

Sent by Carla | 2:57 PM | 8-7-2008

16 Candles...where else do you see a wedding, prom, and the creepy lady from Poltergeist.

Sent by Jennifer | 2:58 PM | 8-7-2008

Don't forget Four Weddings and a Funeral!

Sent by Elisabeth | 2:58 PM | 8-7-2008

My favorite is 16 Candles

Sent by Susan | 2:58 PM | 8-7-2008

what about SteelMagnolias? And the peptobismal pink . . .all fabulous women where a hoot.

Sent by summer schippers | 2:58 PM | 8-7-2008

The Beetle Juice wedding is a wonderful spoof.

Sent by Barbara Jernigan | 2:59 PM | 8-7-2008

Even though a wedding ceremony was not in the movie, I think How Harry Met Sally, is a great "relationship" movie of finding your true love

Sent by Carol McLeod | 3:00 PM | 8-7-2008

"4 Weddings and a Funeral" is a GREAT wedding movie and one of the only wedding movies that guys actually like. I also think "Philadelphia Story" is a timelessly funny wedding movie.

Sent by Rachel | 3:02 PM | 8-7-2008

I can't believe you didn't even mention Four Weddings and a Funeral! It is not only a GREAT wedding movie, it is one of the best romantic comedies of all time. Which reminds me of another movie I can't believe you missed (especially since you were discussing the wedding-as-plot-device) - It Happened One Night! That movie still stands up after all these years and has inspired more "homages" (and downright rip-offs) than any other wedding movie I can think of (including a HORRIBLE Jack Lemon remake.)

Sent by Janis Powers | 3:03 PM | 8-7-2008

My Big Fat Greek Wedding - What a great, entertaining movie! :)

Sent by Melissa Doupe | 3:05 PM | 8-7-2008

But there are popular "wedding movies" that wind up subverting the notion that a wedding is the peak experience of a woman's life. That's the point of Muriel's Wedding -- what really matters in the end is her friendship, not the wedding (which is a completely hollow experience). And Four Weddings and a Funeral ends with a proposal NOT to get married.

Sent by ellen from NJ | 3:05 PM | 8-7-2008

What about 4 Weddings and a Funeral? I didn't hear the complete show today. Did anyone mention that? It has one of the funniest moments I remember in a wedding movie with "Mr. Bean" ( Roald Ackinson ?) playing the minister.

Sent by Sunny Murphy | 3:06 PM | 8-7-2008

How can anyone even THINK of this topic without mentioning the best wedding movie ever -- "The Philadelphia Story"

Sent by brooks | 3:09 PM | 8-7-2008

Off the top of my head, it's not all about a wedding but I love the wedding scene in The Sound Of Music! Pure grace and beauty, although I'd be awfully embarrassed if a bunch of nuns were singing a song about how to 'solve a problem about' me! Nuns aside, Maria's walk down the aisle in the grand cathedral is the stuff of fantasy, and it doesn't hurt that Christopher Plummer is standing so handsome, proud, and dignified at the altar.

Sent by Therese | 3:09 PM | 8-7-2008

It took me the entire time of broadcast on this subject to recall the title of a fine wedding film: "Lovers and Other Strangers." Check it out. You will remember it more quickly than I.

Sent by J. W. Harrison | 3:10 PM | 8-7-2008

Four Weddings and a Funeral was a super flick with a great story, script and cast. Simon Callow was just smashing. I believ it was his last film.

Sent by Bill Giegerich | 3:36 PM | 8-7-2008

I like "While You Were Sleeping."

Sent by AMD | 3:38 PM | 8-7-2008

I love The Philadelphia Story too, Kate, Cary,and Jimmy have such wonderful dialog and it's just one of the best scripts ever.

Sent by Therese | 3:54 PM | 8-7-2008

My favorite wedding: Fraulein Maria and Captain Von Trap. Her train, the nuns singing, the children, the love!

Sent by Kate | 3:54 PM | 8-7-2008

Two foreign films with great wedding scenes are "The Story of Boys and Girls" (Italian) or as the NY Times movie review billed it, "Future In-Laws Meet And Eat and Eat and Eat," and "Mostly Martha," (German) which ends with an absolutely lovely wedding feast.

Sent by AZ | 4:12 PM | 8-7-2008

The British "Four Weddings and a Funeral" is my favorite. It has meat and guts for content; it has Hugh Grant (a wonderful comedic actor and cute to boot;never mind his behavior with women in real life) and other incredible actors in every role, and it ends with an Auden poem that everyone I knew wanted to have a copy of (I cite Winston Churchill on grammar here). It was joyous and serious in one fell. Would watch it again, with glee in every moment, any day, any time.

Sent by Roberta Burnett | 4:15 PM | 8-7-2008

I love Debra Messing and who couldn't love Dermot Mulroney.. so my favorite wedding movie would have to be "The Wedding Date".

Sent by Roxanne | 4:41 PM | 8-7-2008

Robert Altman's A Wedding is the best!

Sent by Amanda Spivey | 4:50 PM | 8-7-2008

Meet the Parents is such a classic wedding movie. Wedding Crashers is one of the funniest movies ever made. Father of the Bride is awesome, and thank you Neal for mentioning the Godfather. That was the first one that popped in my head.

Sent by Joshua Heizer | 8:16 AM | 8-8-2008

The original Father of the Bride came out in 1950, not 1958.

Sent by JKB | 10:12 AM | 8-8-2008

Betsy's Wedding with Alan Alda, Madeline Kahn, Joe Pesci, Catherine O'Hara and Anthony La Paglia. Plus: Joey Bishop! Fun. Just fun.
It was written and directed by Alda and featured some of the most hideous outfits ever captured on film, courtesy of young Molly Ringwald's titular fashion school bride-to-be.

Sent by Ryan | 3:10 PM | 8-8-2008

My fave wedding movie is Wedding Crashers. Why? OWEN WILSON!

Sent by Sherrie | 7:46 AM | 8-9-2008

The Best Man with Sanaa Latham and Taye Diggs, Muriel's Wedding, and Four Weddings and Funeral are my top three. Each has humor, romance, mishaps, great music, sex, and love... some of the best elements for real weddings!

Sent by Dana D. | 1:39 AM | 8-12-2008

Best wedding scene--although short is in Steel Magnolias

Sent by Nicole | 8:24 PM | 8-14-2008