We’ve all heard a story or two about wedding drama playing out for everyone to see. Maybe the bride throws a fit, maybe some relative gets too drunk and spills a family secret or two… but sometimes you get a wedding which is big or dramatic enough to find its way into the history books. From royal mishaps to wartime unions, here are 50 facts about history’s most dramatic weddings.
1. Toxic Tradition
In many patriarchal societies throughout history, many weddings have been, to put it bluntly, non-consensual. The tradition of women leaving her own family to join her groom’s family was taken to its extreme by having men kidnap women they fancied and abducting them from their homes. Although it’s now often labeled a crime, bride kidnapping continues around the world to this day.
2. Who Needs a Crown Anyway?
Princess Sayako of Japan faced a horrible dilemma when she wanted to marry Yoshiki Kuroda—she was forced to choose between love and duty. Due to his non-royal status, Sayako was threatened with the removal of her own royal status if she followed her heart. This didn’t stop her from choosing Kuroda. The couple were married in 2005 and are still together to this day.
3. Most Unorthodox!
After becoming King of England in 1936, Edward VIII expressed his desire to marry Wallis Simpson. Every king needs a queen, or at the least, consort, right? Dead wrong. This caused a great scandal, as the Church of England was opposed to the King marrying Simpson, as she was a divorcee. Simpson wasn’t even finished divorcing her second husband when Edward proposed!
4. Heart Comes First
Just months into his reign as King of England, Edward VIII faced a serious dilemma: if he married Wallis Simpson, he’d cause a constitutional crisis, so he’d have to abdicate his throne to marry her. To England’s great shock, Edward set aside all his royal titles to marry “the woman [he loved].” However, due to her second divorce, he had to wait another seven months before they could tie the knot!
5. Round Two!
In 1915, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson proposed marriage to businesswoman Edith Bolling Galt. While Wilson was deeply in love, his friends and family were less than enthusiastic. Political allies were concerned because they feared Wilson’s hasty second marriage, so soon after his first wife’s death, would badly damage his reputation—but good luck telling him that!
6. Dirty Work Afoot
Instead of expressing their concerns to Woodrow Wilson over his quick rebound, his allies used an utterly devious strategy. During Wilson’s first marriage, he’d had a long affair with Mary Hulbert Peck, who possessed a lot of steamy love letters written by Wilson. Wilson was told by his son-in-law that Hulbert Peck would publish all his letters if Wilson continued with his engagement!
7. Much Ado About Nothing
As you can imagine, Woodrow Wilson was alarmed at this threat of blackmail to his reputation, but his response wasn’t what his allies expected. Wilson went straight to his new fiancée, Edith Bolling Galt, and confessed everything about his previous affair with Mary Hulbert Peck. Surprisingly, Galt proved very understanding about the whole thing and forgave Wilson.
What Wilson didn’t know, however, was that Hulbert Peck had never made any such threat against him. The whole thing was a hoax to scare him, but he’d called their bluff. Ironically, Wilson’s political reputation wasn’t hurt by his second marriage, and he won a second term anyway! Wilson only found out the truth years later, and we can only imagine what his reaction was.
8. Don’t Make Us Ask Again!
One form of forced marriage which was common in 18th century UK was known as a “knobstick wedding.” Since illegitimate kids were the Church’s responsibility, they were invested in wedding unmarried pregnant women to the fathers of their children. Usually, it was done with payment, but one case involved a man being threatened with hanging if he didn’t make an honest woman of his baby mama!
9. Trouble in Bed
If there’s one thing worse than a wedding going wrong, it’s having everyone in your life give you advice you didn’t request. Both happened to Isabella of Aragon and her new husband, Duke Gian Sforza of Milan. In 1489, the two of them got married, but things took a turn for the worse on their wedding night. Gian couldn’t consummate the marriage.
10. Mind Your Own Business!
Gian couldn’t consummate the marriage that night. People found out about what had happened and the newlyweds spent the next year getting nagged, mocked, and advised on how to make things work between them. People got so invested in Gian and Isabella getting down that when the couple finally did bump uglies, parties were thrown.
Even the Pope himself applauded them—presumably afterward, we hope.
11. Cruel Context
On December 20, 1993, businessman and future US President Donald Trump married actress Marla Maples in a lavish ceremony held at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. They were joined by over 1,000 guests. However, the decadent wedding was preceded by a very bitter timeline. Trump and Maples had begun an affair when Trump was still married to his first wife, Ivana.
Ivana divorced Trump in 1991, even as the tabloids had a field day covering rumors of Trump’s infidelity. Ivana didn’t keep quiet either, especially where her children were concerned. At one point, Ivana claimed “Ivanka now comes home from school crying, ‘Mommy, does it mean I’m not going to be Ivanka Trump anymore?’ Little Eric asks me, ‘Is it true you are going away and not coming back?'”
12. If Only They Knew
Speaking of Trump and Maples’ wedding, one of the guests in attendance was none other than football star and film actor O.J. Simpson. Just over six months after that wedding, Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend, Ron Goldman, were found dead in Brentwood, prompting Simpson’s infamous police chase and trial.
13. Sounds Like a Bargain!
We’ve all heard stories about weddings staying small to cut costs, but would you consider getting married in prison? In the 18th century, lots of people were thrown into debtors’ prison because they didn’t pay what they owed. Since those debtors included priests, it became a popular trend to help bail a priest out if they performed your marriage ceremony for cheap!
14. Forbidden Love, Part I
Naturally, another benefit to hiring a priest in debtors’ prison was their lack of scruples. One of the most famous cases of this arrangement was none other than the son and heir to George III of England! In the 1780s, George Jr. fell head over heels for Maria Fitzherbert, but the world was determined to keep them apart.
Because he was under 25, he had to ask permission to marry, and because Fitzherbert was Catholic, he was sure to be refused.
15. Forbidden Love, Part II
Despite the odds against them, Maria Fitzherbert and George, the Prince of Wales, got married in 1785. In contrast to the royal weddings we’re used to, George married his beloved in her home, with a priest whom they bailed out of debtors’ prison to perform the ceremony. Sadly, for them, George’s father split them up and declared the marriage illegal and invalid.
16. Victim of Love
When you’re the son of a powerful monarch, there’s a lot of ways you can rebel against the system. In 1318, James of Aragon married Eleanor of Castile, but it wasn’t his choice. Prior to the wedding, he claimed that he wanted to become a monk and give up his royal title, much to his father’s fury. James went through with the wedding, but he wasn’t backing down.
After the formalities were finished, James left his new bride and refused to consummate the marriage—certainly a good thing, since Eleanor was only 13 at the time. James doubled down on his defiance until his father gave up. The marriage was annulled, and James took monastic vows. As for Eleanor, she ended up getting married to Edward I of England, so it worked out for them both.
17. Take Off That Uniform!
Speaking of James of Aragon abandoning his marriage for a monastery, the exact opposite thing occurred in the Byzantine Empire during the 9th century. Emperor Michael II had just buried his first wife, and he wanted to secure his throne by marrying Euphrosyne, the daughter of one of his predecessors. The problem? Euphrosyne was living as a nun in a convent at the time.
Undeterred, Michael II ordered Euphrosyne to leave the convent and marry him. We don’t know if she willingly left or if she was taken by force, but either way, Euphrosyne and Michael II got hitched. However, the two of them didn’t have any children together, and when Michael II died, Euphrosyne hightailed it right back to the convent where she’d been living before the whole thing.
18. Not Much in Common
Political marriages make for strange bedfellows, and Catherine de Valois’s marriage to Henry V of England in 1420 was no different. Prior to their wedding, Henry had led an army across France, devastating the country and taking out thousands of Frenchmen, particularly at the Battle of Agincourt. He was also 14 years older than Catherine and had been betrothed to her older sister.
19. Easy Anniversary Date
Ozzy Osbourne and his wife, businesswoman Sharon Osbourne, have been married since July 4, 1982. That wasn’t a coincidence, either. Ozzy admitted that he picked Independence Day as his wedding day so that it would be easier to remember! Given his propensity for memory loss and substance use, we’re not surprised!
20. That Old Story…
In the 1820s, single mother Maria Marten began a relationship with William Corder. While Corder had a shady reputation as a trickster—not to mention a few brushes with the law—Marten didn’t seem to mind, even when Corder wanted to keep their relationship a secret. This desire for secrecy flew out the window when Marten became pregnant with Corder’s child.
21. … With a Horrible Twist
With a child in the mix, Maria Marten wanted William Corder to tie the knot. In 1827, Corder visited Marten in her stepmother’s company and suggested they elope, since the law wasn’t happy with her having illegitimate kids. Marten agreed to his directions to flee to the Red Barn on Barnfield Hill in disguise, so nobody would notice her. Tragically, she was never seen alive again.
22. No Happy Endings
As time passed, Maria Marten’s family demanded that William Corder tell them where Marten was. Corder held people at arm’s length before leaving town, all while claiming his wife was alive and well with him. However, an investigation of the Red Barn by Marten’s father and stepmother quickly produced Marten’s corpse, with Corder’s green handkerchief around her neck.
As for Corder, he was quickly arrested in Brentford, where he was running a boarding house…with his new wife, Mary Moore. Corder maintained his innocence, but he was found guilty anyway and sentenced to hang. Reportedly, he finally repented, confessing on the scaffold: “I am guilty; my sentence is just; I deserve my fate; and, may God have mercy on my soul.”
23. Well, this is Awkward
It isn’t easy when you’re the family black sheep, as Sarah Ferguson could certainly attest. The outspoken and controversial figure in the British royal family found out that she wasn’t invited to either Prince William or Prince Harry’s weddings! Sources reported that Harry, for his part, didn’t trust Ferguson to “respect their privacy,” much to her own dismay.
As for William’s wedding, Ferguson went on vacation in Thailand instead, watching the wedding on television like the rest of us. To her credit, she apparently isn’t holding a grudge against her nephews for the snubs.
24. One Big Happy Family
For those of you who don’t know, the term “Siamese Twins” originated with Chang and Eng Bunker, two conjoined brothers who became world-famous in their day. Due to their condition, every ordinary thing they did became extraordinary, and their wedding was no different. In 1843, the Bunker brothers had a double wedding to a pair of sisters named Sarah Anne and Adelaide Yates.
25. Close Quarters
Although the Bunker brothers’ double wedding was disparaged by contemporary society for allegedly being “unnatural,” and despite the hostility between the new sisters-in-law, the family unit endured throughout their lives. Between them, the brothers had more than 20 children with their wives, so at least they got over the awkwardness of that first wedding night together!
26. This Time, it’s for Real!
In the early 20th century, few wrestlers were as famous as George Wagner, who was better known as “Gorgeous George” for his extravagant persona in the ring. Ever the performer, another thing he did in the ring was marrying his wife. In the late 1930s, Wagner married Elizabeth Hanson in a ceremony that was held in a wrestling ring!
Who said you couldn’t mix work and pleasure?
27. Let’s Do That Again!
George Wagner and Elizabeth Hanson’s ringside marriage was understandably popular amongst wrestling fans, so Wagner milked it for all it was worth. He and his wife traveled across the States, re-enacting the wedding in the ring for audiences everywhere. The positive response actually inspired Wagner to adopt the persona of “Gorgeous George,” for which he became famous.
28. This Feels So Wrong
In 1886, Grover Cleveland made history when he became the first American president to get married in the White House. The 49-year-old Cleveland married the 21-year-old Frances Folsom. While the age gap was quite egregious, there was an even more sinister element: Cleveland first met Folsom when she was an infant. Cleveland was a friend of her father’s and she knew him her entire life.
It wasn’t a distant relationship, either. Cleveland spent her childhood doting on Folsom, buying gifts that began with a baby carriage. When Folsom’s father died young, Cleveland became the administrator of his estate, and thus a guardian to Folsom. Granted, the relationship only became romantic when she was in college, but it doesn’t need to be illegal to be creepy!
29. The Show Must Go On
Charles Stratton and Lavinia Warren, both dwarfs, met while performing for P.T. Barnum. When they became a couple, Barnum continued to exploit them for more ticket sales. Stratton and Warren were married in front of thousands who treated their special day like just another show to enjoy. You can see why it was left out of The Greatest Showman.
30. Shotguns Everywhere, Part I
By 324 BC, Alexander the Great had conquered the Persian Empire, but he was having trouble with the severe culture clash between his European and Asian subjects. Since battle wasn’t an option anymore, his big idea to resolve this problem was: weddings! He married two Persian noblewomen, but that wasn’t nearly enough.
Alexander wanted everyone to embrace this multicultural empire, so he came up with what he thought was a genius idea. He married off more than 10,000 of his Macedonian and Greek subjects to Asian brides in one fell swoop!
31. Shotguns Everywhere, Part II
As you can imagine, most of Alexander’s soldiers and officers were less than thrilled about having a bride forced onto them, even when Alexander personally paid out dowries from his royal treasury. On top of that, Alexander purposefully married one of his new sisters-in-law to Hephaistion, the man whom historians agree was Alexander’s lover.
We can’t imagine that was a fun wedding night for anyone.
32. Shotguns Everywhere, Part III
Alexander the Great died just a year after the weddings took place. Following his death, the Persian brides were nearly all cast aside by their new husbands. In fact, history records that only one of the marriages actually lasted. The Macedonian officer Seleucus (who conquered Alexander’s Asian territories and started the Seleucid Empire) remained married to his bride, Apama, for the rest of their lives.
There’s your silver lining!
33. The Right Kind of Baggage
In 1514, King Henry VIII of England and his sister, Mary, sailed to the port city of Calais. Mary had been betrothed to Charles of Castile, who later became the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Since it was a royal wedding of the highest order, Mary had a lot of luggage with her, including a small fortune in clothing, all for her upcoming nuptials.
34. What an Extreme Case of Cold Feet!
However, Henry VIII and Mary got a rude awakening at the last minute. Charles of Castile, who was 14 at the time, loudly proclaimed that he wouldn’t wed Mary because she was too old for him. Keep in mind that Mary was 18 at the time. This wasn’t Charles throwing a fit, either; his grandfather, Emperor Maximilian, had planned everything about this scandal!
35. Musical Wedding Chairs
You might be wondering what sort of plot Emperor Maximilian was carrying out to humiliate Henry VIII and his sister. While Maximilian and Henry were both enemies of the French king Louis XII, old Max had made a secret alliance with the French king against Henry. Unfortunately for him, Henry proved that two could play at that game when he arranged a new wedding for Mary… to Louis!
Take that, Max!
36. Angry Stepson, Part I
In 338 BC, King Philip II of Macedon got hitched for the seventh time. His new bride was the niece of his general Attalus. At the wedding party, Attalus drunkenly toasted the wedding that it might provide a “lawful successor” to Philip. The problem was Philip’s 18-year-old son, Alexander, rightly saw that as a jab at his own mother, Olympias, as well as a jab at his own position as heir!
37. Angry Stepson, Part II
Since he was a drunk teenager at his father’s new wedding, you can guess how Alexander reacted. According to Plutarch, Alex threw a cup of wine at Attalus’ head while screaming “You villain! What am I then?” King Philip took Attalus’ side, and even drew a sword to stab his own son! Thankfully, he was too drunk and fell over before any damage was done.
38. Surprise! I got Hitched!
One of the most reckless marriages in English history was undoubtedly the 1464 marriage between King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. At the time, Edward had only been king for three years, he was still fighting the Wars of the Roses, and negotiations for a French princess bride were underway. Edward’s elopement was the worst kind of monkey wrench in all of that!
39. All Hell Breaks Loose
Edward IV’s impulsive marriage to a commoner was shocking enough, but it nearly cost him everything. Richard Neville, his most powerful ally, was humiliated by his friend’s marriage, as he was in charge of negotiating with the French. Neville even switched sides in the Wars of the Roses and briefly deposed Edward!
Edward did eventually regain the throne, however, proving that he was way luckier than Robb Stark.
40. Not Cool, Bro!
Let’s return to the subject of bride kidnapping and focus on a specific incident with major consequences. In 1152 AD, Irish king Diarmait Mac Murchada kidnapped another Irish king’s wife. For this offense, High King Ruaidri Ua Conchobair stripped Diarmait of his royal title and his lands. It only took Ruaidri 15 years to punish Diarmait for this abhorrent behavior!
41. Serious Consequence
After his title and territory were confiscated, Diarmait Mac Murchada was determined to get them back, but he couldn’t do it alone. He turned to King Henry II of England and urged him to help another king out. Henry agreed, invading Ireland with a large army in 1169. It was the start of England’s centuries-long subjugation of Ireland—all because of a bride kidnapping!
42. Sinister Past
On March 10, 1966, Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands married Claus von Amsberg. While the idea of a royal wedding already draws attention from the public, most of it was negative in this case. This was because von Amsberg had been a member of various youth organizations in Germany during the dictatorship of the 30s and 40s.
Anyone who knows their WWII history will know that the Netherlands suffered terribly during the occupation, so the Dutch didn’t take this match very well…
43. If Anyone Objects…
Even though she had been forced to flee her home country during the Second World War, and even though the population was mostly against her choice of husband, Princess Beatrix went ahead with the marriage to Claus von Amsberg. Violent protests broke out all across the country on their wedding day. Some even speculated that Beatrix wouldn’t live long enough to be crowned queen!
Despite this hostile reception, public opinion towards von Amsberg did eventually change. Putting his past firmly behind him, von Amsberg was fiercely devoted to public causes and charities. He did such a good job repairing his public image throughout his adult life that by the time he died in 2002, he’d been the most popular member of the Dutch royal family!
44. This Feels Wrong…
In 336 BC, King Philip II was celebrating yet another grand wedding. This time, however, it was the political marriage of his daughter, Cleopatra of Macedon, to King Alexander I of Epirus, one of Philip’s neighbors. This wouldn’t have been too weird, except for one fact: Cleopatra was her new husband’s biological niece! Was a political alliance really worth it, Phil?
45. From Bad to Worse
It turns out that the marriage wasn’t worth it at all, because, during the nuptial celebrations, King Philip II was ambushed by one of his own bodyguards, Pausanias. The attack led to Philip’s death. The irony was that Philip had insisted on being unguarded to prove he wasn’t a tyrant who feared his own subjects.
46. Know Your Rival
When the whole world was looking at Princess Diana during her 1981 wedding to Prince Charles, Diana was looking out for someone else. That person was none other than Camilla Parker Bowles, who had been Charles’ lover before his wedding to Diana. Diana herself admitted that she couldn’t help looking out for her among the 2,500 other guests who were in attendance that day.
47. Ruining the Big Day
With such hostility in the air, even during the royal wedding, you might be wondering why Camilla was even invited to Charles and Di’s wedding. Well, Camilla’s then-husband, Andrew Parker Bowles, had an important role in the wedding and snubbing his wife was out of the question. Still, Diana did what she could to minimize the Bowles family’s involvement in the wedding.
48. Picky Picky
According to palace insiders, Prince Harry’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth II was shocked by the color of Meghan Markle’s dress at their wedding. Since she had been married before, the Queen didn’t expect to see her newest granddaughter-in-law walking down the aisle in a white dress. You heard it here, folks: Queen Elizabeth is just like other grandmas.
49. Talk About Performance Anxiety
Catherine de Medici was only 14 when she married Henri, the son of King Francis. And although she was young, the King and other older men insisted on being present for the consummation of the marriage.
50. Someone Put My Boots On!
It stands to reason that a warlord and conqueror like Attila would party hard on his wedding night in 453, but it led to an incident that’s still a mystery to historians to this day. It isn’t known what exactly happened, except that the morning after his nuptials, Attila’s guards burst into his chamber and found his new bride weeping beside hisl lifeless body.
While one historical claim put the cause of Attila’s passing at the hands of his own bride, most believe that Attila was responsible for his own death. Allegedly, he was so drunk and uncoordinated that when he got a nosebleed, he ended up choking on his own blood!
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25