Are you thinking about taking the plunge and walking down the aisle?
Or have you already tied the knot and said “I do”?
Or maybe you’re about to celebrate your silver anniversary with your better half.
If you don’t understand these idioms, then you need to keep reading.
Here are 30 essential idioms for talking about engagements, weddings, marriages, and spouses.
If you’re interested in learning more idioms, check out the idioms and phrasal verb section of the site.
Idioms meaning “to propose” or “to get engaged”
To pop the question is a somewhat informal expression which means to ask someone to marry you.
“So I heard Jacob bought an engagement ring. Do you have any idea when he’s going to pop the question?”
“How did Mark pop the question? Were you somewhere romantic? Did you know he was going to do it?”
To get down on one knee is fairly self-explanatory. In western culture, men often get on one knee to propose.
“I would kill my boyfriend if he got down on one knee at a crowded sporting event. That would be so embarrassing!”
“Either Tyler has to finally get down on one knee, or his girlfriend is going to move on.”
To ask for someone’s hand (in marriage) is a formal way to say “to propose.” It’s not really something we say in casual conversation.
“My grandfather asked for my grandmother’s hand in marriage when he was only seventeen years old. Times have certainly changed.”
“After dozens of love letters, Henry asked for Gladys’ hand in marriage.”
Idioms meaning “to get married”
To get hitched is an informal expression which means to get married.
“It’s been about six months since we’ve gotten hitched, and I can honestly say I have no regrets.”
“Marriage is contagious. Once two of my friends got married, everyone else decided to get hitched too.”
To take the plunge means to commit to something you’ve been thinking about doing for a long time. Oftentimes, this is marriage, but it could be something else as well.
“Getting married isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. You shouldn’t take the plunge unless you’re absolutely certain this is what you want.”
“If you’ve been thinking about starting a master’s degree, now may be the time to take the plunge.”
To make an honest man/woman out of someone is an informal expression which means to marry someone after having already had a romantic relationship with that person.
“Congratulations! I heard that Paula is going to make an honest man out of you. That’s great news!”
“I told Gary he’d better make an honest woman out of me or I’m leaving him. We’ve been together for nine years!”
To tie the knot is a common/neutral expression for “to get married.”
“Call me old-fashioned, but I believe you shouldn’t live with your partner until you’ve tied the knot.”
“It’s been a rough year financially for me. Four of my best friends have tied the knot, so I’ve spent a lot of money on tuxedo rentals and wedding gifts.”
To walk down the aisle is another common expression meaning “to get married.” In many traditional wedding ceremonies, the bride and groom walk down the center aisle of a church before taking their vows.
“At 25, I couldn’t imagine ever walking down the aisle, but at age 35 I was married with three kids. Life’s funny like that.”
“In some countries, fewer and fewer people are getting married. The thought of walking down the aisle doesn’t seem as appealing as it used to.”
To say “I do” also means “to get married.” In many traditional weddings, the bride and groom will take their vows by responding “I do” to the wedding officiant’s questions.
“Destination weddings seem to be getting more popular. I know a lot of people who have said ‘I do’ in foreign countries.”
“My fiance and I will both feel better once we’ve said ‘I do’ and gotten to the wedding reception.”
To settle down means to to begin to live a quiet and steady life by getting a regular job, getting married, etc. (Merriam Webster)
“I’m not ready to settle down. I’m comfortable waiting until my forties to get married, or at least my late thirties.”
“Have you heard that men who settle down tend to lead healthier lives than bachelors?”
Idioms about having doubts or not wanting to get married
To get cold feet means to feel too frightened to do something that you had planned to do. (Cambridge Dictionary) We mostly use this idiom to talk about someone changing their mind regarding marriage, but we can use it to talk about other things as well.
“I think people who marry young are more likely to get cold feet before the wedding.”
“Neither of us had cold feet on our wedding day. It was such a happy celebration of our love, and surprisingly stress free.”
To leave someone at the altar means to decide not to get married at the last minute, usually on the same day as the wedding.
“I don’t see how you could ever possible forgive someone for leaving you at the altar. Nothing could possibly be more humiliating than that.”
“Before I got married, I kept having this recurring dream that I was standing at the front of the church alone, slowly realizing that I had been left at the altar.”
A shotgun wedding is a marriage that is arranged very quickly and suddenly because the woman is pregnant. (Cambridge Dictionary)
“Just because my wife was pregnant when we said our vows doesn’t mean that it was a shotgun wedding. We had planned on tying the knot anyway.”
“Shotgun weddings were more common many years ago when having children out of wedlock was more scandalous.”
Idioms about types of marriages
An open marriage is a marriage in which both people agree that it’s okay to be sexually involved with other people.
“Do you think open marriages always lead to jealousy?”
“I have read that some famous Hollywood couples have open marriages.”
A sham marriage is a fake marriage that exists only so that one or both people can gain some (often legal) benefit. We can also say that someone’s marriage is a sham.
“To get my husband’s residency in this country, we had to provide the government with plenty of evidence that we don’t have a sham marriage.”
“If Immigration finds out your marriage is a sham, you’ll be in big trouble.”
A marriage of convenience is when people marry for reasons other than love (e.g. to gain a financial or political benefit).
“Marriage for love is a relatively new concept in human history. A few hundred years ago, most unions were marriages of convenience.”
“Not everyone is looking for love. Some people want a marriage of convenience that brings them money and an improved social standing.”
Idioms and other terms for spouses
One’s better half is a pretty self-explanatory term for someone’s spouse.
“Will your better half be joining us for dinner, or should I just set on extra place at the table?”
“My better half makes the financial decisions. She’ll have to look at this later.”
Mrs./Mr. Right means the ideal husband or wife for someone.
“If you spend your entire life looking for Mrs. Right, you’ll probably never get married. The perfect partner doesn’t exist.”
“Sometimes you find love when you aren’t looking for it. I was focusing on my career and taking a break from dating when Mr. Right came along.”
The one means someone’s soulmate (the person someone is destined to be with).
“I was sure you were the one from the first day we met.”
“Bryan thinks the girl he met last weekend might be the one. He’s head over heels.”
One’s other half is similar to one’s better half, but less positive.
“I can’t buy the car from you right now. I’m going to talk to my other half and we’ll make a decision together.”
“Newly separated couples have difficulty adjusting to life without their other half.”
Ball and chain is a pejorative term for someone’s wife. It is a reference to the heavy ball secured to a prisoner’s leg.
“Mark sarcastically remarked that he had been married to a ball and chain for forty years.”
“The old ball and chain doesn’t want to go to the party, so I guess we’re staying home.”
A mail order bride is a woman brought from another country to be married, usually in return for a payment to a company that makes such arrangements. (MacMillan Dictionary) This term is often used in a derogatory way.
“Melissa referred to her stepmother as her ‘father’s mail order bride’ and never approved of the relationship.”
“Why have I been seeing so many online advertisements for mail order brides?”
The old lady/One’s old lady, is a derogatory term for someone’s wife.
“I told the old lady I’d be back by midnight. I’d better get going.”
“I’ve been thinking about taking my old lady to Italy for our anniversary.”
A trophy wife is a young, attractive woman who is the wife of a rich and successful older person and acts as a symbol of the person’s social position. (Cambridge Dictionary) It’s also possible for a successful woman to have a trophy husband. Keep in mind we often use this term in a derogatory way.
“Several of the men at the country club were accompanied by young trophy wives.”
“People with trophy wives often have prenuptial agreements.”
Other wedding and marriage idioms
The big day is another way to say the day of the wedding.
“It took forever for the big day to get here, and then it seemed to go by way too fast.”
“Wedding planners help everything go smoothly on your big day.”
A white wedding is a traditional wedding in a church. The bride is normally dressed in a white gown.
“A white wedding isn’t for everyone. Don’t be afraid to get creative and think outside the box. It’s your day, and it should be what you want.”
“I’ve never dreamed of having a white wedding. I think I’d rather get married on an exotic beach instead.”
To give someone away means to walk a bride down the aisle on her wedding day and ceremonially hand her over to the groom.
“Since Karla’s father died when she was young, her uncle is going to walk her down the aisle and give her away.”
“Giving your daughter away will be a very emotional moment.”
To marry someone off means to find a suitable husband or wife for one’s child, often with the goal of no longer having to provide for that child financially.
“My great grandmother tried to marry off my grandmother to a wealthy older man.”
“Many years ago, people got married much earlier. Working-class families needed to marry off their children as soon as possible.”
A silver anniversary commemorates 25 years of marriage.
“It seems like we just got married a few years ago. I can’t believe we’ll be celebrating our silver anniversary in just a few short years.”
“My sister rented out a banquet hall for my parents’ silver anniversary. We’re going to have a huge celebration.”
A golden anniversary commemorates 50 years of marriage.
“Since we married so young, my husband and I celebrated our golden anniversary before we turned 70.”
“Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip celebrated their golden anniversary in 1997.”
For more idiomatic expressions, see these articles on idioms and phrasal verbs.