3 min read

The ultimate writer's guide to the Marriage of Convenience trope

Two princes stand before you. But they are marrying each other. Sorry for you. If it's any consolation, neither of them are that keen. It's a marriage of convenience. Personally, though, I'm rooting for them to fall for each other anyway.

What is the Marriage of Convenience trope?

The Marriage of Convenience trope features characters who enter into a marriage for practical, strategic, or financial reasons rather than romantic love. Often, the arrangement is seen as a mutually beneficial agreement to achieve a specific goal, such as securing an inheritance, fulfilling a condition of a will, attaining social status, or even for safety or protection.

Characteristics of the Marriage of Convenience trope

This trope delves into the complexity of relationships that start from practical arrangements and explores how these relationships can evolve into genuine emotional connections. It's characterized by the development of intimacy and love as the characters navigate the challenges and intricacies of living together under the pretense of a traditional marriage. The relevance of this trope lies in its exploration of themes such as the social construction of marriage, the nature of love and companionship, and the idea that love can grow from the most pragmatic beginnings. Its prevalence in fiction speaks to the universal curiosity about the dynamics of relationships formed from necessity rather than initial affection.

Where did the Marriage of Convenience trope come from?

The origins of the Marriage of Convenience trope can be traced back to classic literature and folklore, where strategic alliances and familial duties often dictated marital arrangements. In historical contexts, marriages were frequently used as tools for political alliance, economic gain, or social consolidation, reflecting the trope’s basis in reality. Over time, the trope has evolved in fiction to focus more on the emotional journey of the characters involved, reflecting modern values of romantic love and personal happiness.

Genres & the Marriage of Convenience trope

  • Romance: Predominantly found in romance novels, where the trope serves as a plot device to bring together unlikely partners.
  • Historical Fiction: Explores the trope within the context of historical norms and practices regarding marriage.
  • Contemporary Fiction: Adapts the trope to modern settings, exploring contemporary reasons for a marriage of convenience.
  • Fantasy and Science Fiction: Utilizes the trope in world-building to explore cultural and societal norms within fantastical or futuristic settings.

Cross-genre Usage: This trope can also be effectively used in mystery, thriller, and even comedy genres, adding layers of complexity, intrigue, or humor to the character relationships and plot.

Examples of the Marriage of Convenience trope

  • "The Wall of Winnipeg and Me" by Mariana Zapata: Features a marriage of convenience between a professional football player and his assistant for immigration purposes, evolving into a deep, romantic bond.
  • "Roomies" by Christina Lauren: Centers on a marriage arranged for a green card, leading to unexpected romantic developments between the characters.
  • "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë: While not a marriage of convenience in the traditional sense, elements of the trope are present in the proposed marriage between Jane and St. John Rivers, which is suggested for practical and missionary work reasons rather than love.
  • "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen: Offers commentary on marriages of convenience through Charlotte Lucas’s pragmatic marriage to Mr. Collins for financial security and social stability.

How to use the Marriage of Convenience trope in creative ways

  • Avoiding Clichés: Give fresh motives for the marriage beyond the usual financial or social gains, such as unique personal dilemmas, cultural obligations, or unconventional business arrangements.
  • Innovative Twists: Subvert expectations by complicating the marriage with unexpected challenges, external pressures, or evolving personal goals that test the relationship.
  • Character and Plot Integration: Use the marriage as a catalyst for character growth and exploration of themes such as independence, sacrifice, and the meaning of partnership.
  • Examples of Creative Use: A futuristic setting where marriages of convenience are arranged by an algorithm for societal harmony, but the characters defy the system by seeking genuine connections; or a comedy where a marriage of convenience for a heritage property turns into a community project and love blossoms amidst communal living.