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Kagura: You promised you'd marry me!

Kyou: Because you threatened me!

A common staple of Anime featuring Childhood Friends is the Childhood Marriage Promise. Years ago, when two of the main characters were small children, they promised to marry each other when they grew up. Now they're in High School or university, and She Is All Grown Up. Sometimes, the couple fall in love for real and they finally fulfill that promise. Other times, one of them is the Unlucky Childhood Friend whose heart gets broken, since the First Girl Wins Because Destiny Says So.

A slight variation, one that usually comes up in Fantasy or Sci-Fi anime, is where the boy promises to always protect the girl (which, in the traditional sense of marriage, is pretty much the same thing). See Bodyguard Crush. See also I Will Definitely Protect You, which can be read both ways. Often arises in a Forgotten First Meeting scenario.

The Childhood Marriage Promise is often made in the shadow of The World Tree.

Compare Toy Ship, which may lead to this.

Examples of Childhood Marriage Promise include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Love Hina, Keitaro is determined to find the girl he pledged to marry as a child, although he can't for his life remember who she is. ( All evidence points to either Naru or Mutsumi — or both. Mutsumi claims it was Naru.)
    • The end of the manga reveals that as a child, he wanted to marry Mutsumi at first, but she made him promise Naru that he'd marry her — because Mutsumi knew Naru was also in love with him, and she wanted them both to be happy. Since the entire manga plays on Urashima Taro, it was ultimately Mutsumi, the fated girl, who said "Screw Destiny" and gave away the guy as far back as when they were preschoolers, and the whole manga is just the fallout of that choice. Given that his aunt beats him to "Toudai", Screw Destiny is very much in play throughout the manga.
    • This is also played with at the end of the manga when he asks his grandmother who his promise was with and she yells out (while boarding a helicopter) that the girl he promised has been with him 'all along' prompting EVERY GIRL AT HINATA SOU to proclaim that she's the one!
  • Hazumu and Tomari in Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, with the added complication that Hazumu is now a girl.
    • Amusingly, the original promise was Hazumu promising to be Tomari's bride, which received an angry response from Tormari that as a boy, he'd have to be the groom. Oh, how things can change...
  • Subverted real hard by James in Pokémon, since back then he didn't know Jessiebelle's real personality and once she showed her colors, he didn't want anything to do with her.
  • Chihiro and Ritsuko in Kujibiki Unbalance. Of course, considering the source, it's an Affectionate Parody.
  • It eventually turns out that Ranma and Ukyo in Ranma ½ have one of these, made when Ukyo tried to make some of her family's okonomiyaki sauce while they were kids. She promised to let Ranma taste it when it finished aging after ten years, if Ranma would vow to "look after her for the rest of her life" if it turned out good. Of course, at the time, Ranma didn't know either that Ukyo was actually a girl or what he was promising, and through a lot of confusion the promise ends up being broken when it comes up again. Unfortunately for Ranma, Genma and Ukyo's father had brokered an Arranged Marriage shortly after he and Ukyo made their Childhood Marriage Promise (which Genma tried to run out on), meaning Ukyo still persists that she has a claim to his hand. Because she does.
    • This is further complicated by the fact that Genma has promised Ranma's hand in marriage to several girls (and in the anime to a couple others as well) because he's a jerk.
  • Keiichi and Belldandy in the original OAV animated version of Ah! My Goddess.
  • This is a touching central theme in Ai Yori Aoshi, as Aoi and Kaoru were promised to marry due to their families... but the promise was broken due to Kaoru walking out on his horribly abusive grandfather. However, when he meets a grown-up Aoi who still loves him, Kaoru falls for her all over again.
  • The cousins Li Shaoran and Li Meiling in the anime version of Cardcaptor Sakura. They don't go through it, since the promise was that Meiling would be Shaoran's bride until he found someone he loved more... thus Meiling steps aside willingly when she realizes that he's fallen in love with their common friend Sakura. The scene where Meiling breaks down crying on the lap of Sakura's own Unlucky Childhood Friend, Tomoyo, is heartbreaking.
  • Subverted in Fruits Basket, where Kyou's promise to Kagura was extracted by her threatening him with a knife (or a large rock in the anime).
  • Subverted quite impressively in Shoujo Kakumei Utena, in which Utena starts out the series looking for the prince on a white horse who rescued her as a child and gave her his ring, only to find... well, it's kind of complicated.
  • The whole point Milk is obsessed with—and creepily stalking—Reiner in The Legend of the Legendary Heroes
  • In the anime version of Inuyasha, Koga lightheartedly promises to marry wolf-girl (and granddaughter of a very powerful wolf youkai whom he quite respects) Ayame, then still a young child, after he saves her from being killed. She reappears all grown-up and demands he fulfill his promise, but he's already in a Love Triangle with Kagome and Inu Yasha. Even worse, the poor guy doesn't remember a thing about it, and Ayame not only is hurt and angry as Hell with quite the reason, but Kagome is pissed at him too because she doesn't want Ayame to be hurt.
  • A somewhat similar variation shows up in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple. Years ago Sakaki promised the young daughter of a friend he would marry her (he was drunk at the time). But now Jenny Grey wants to hold him to that promise.
  • In Dragon Ball, Chichi and Goku first meet as children, and Goku promises to marry her, thinking marriage is a kind of food. He says so when an angry and all grown-up (and very pretty) Chi-Chi brings it up in the Tenkaichi Budokai, and is quite dispirited but resigned when Goku explains that she was mistaken... but then he says that he doesn't want her to be sad and that he always keeps his word no matter what, so he properly proposes to her. Awwwww.
  • In a bit of a twist, in The Five Star Stories, Lachesis promises to marry Ladios/Amaterasu when she's 10 or so... and he's over 100. But then, he's a god, she's an Artificial Human (and possibly an incarnation of a goddess) & they're both immortal, so it's not nearly as Squicky as it sounds.
  • Played with in the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, when Alphonse asks Edward if he remembers the time when they fought over who would marry Winry. Al won the fight but she rejected both of them saying "I don't like guys who are shorter than me."
    • Incidentally, by the end of the series Ed is now (slightly) taller than Winry.
  • Sanpeita, the protagonist of Kemeko Deluxe made one ten years ago with a girl he knew. Ten years later, a girl who looks strangely like her in some sort of Powered Armor returns to protect him...and also claims to be his wife.
  • The promise is made between Ryouta and Chika when they are children in Kyou no Go no Ni. A bit unique in that they're still kids by the time of the anime, just slightly older, and it's actually the male half of the pair who remembers it.
  • Played with in Futakoi: Ichijou twin sisters (together) expressed their intent to marry Nozomu when they all will grow up. When they did grew up and met again, there were definite affections from all three sides, all right. Each (separately) reminded him about this proposal and tried to downplay her own role (claiming it was half- friendly competition, half- cooperation with other sister)... only to set her sibling forward, while both still paid more attention to their "non-fiance" than to everyone else. It's Futakoi, though, so a Mind Screw was really to be expected.
  • In Code Geass, Nunnally and Euphemia have a good old laugh when they remember the times they fought as children over who would get to marry Lelouch. Considering they are, respectively, his sister and his half-sister, and further considering he has a metric ton of Subtext with Nunnally (lampshaded more than once) and actually calls Euphemia his 'first love', it's probably for the best that they never mention this conversation to him.
  • In Honey Crush, Kyouko and Madoka shared one when they were younger. They're both female but Madoka thought that Kyouko was a boy at the time.
  • Rumiko Takahashi's one shot The Laughing Target has a Childhood Marriage Promise that jump starts the plot. The story goes beyond Deconstruction and outright attacks this trope; one partner's determination to uphold the promise is shown to be creepy and unhealthy and that's on top of her being a Yandere with supernatural powers, not cute and romantic.
  • Subverted in Full Metal Panic Fumoffu. A Lonely Rich Kid, in his attempt to woo Chidori, tells her about a recent tragedy that has shattered his spirit. His tale begins as a clichéd Childhood Marriage Promise romance thwarted by a terrible car accident. Then it turns out that the 'tragedy' is that the girl in question eloped with a boy she met in the accident, and moved to Amsterdam. He still gets postcards.
  • Implied, but not directly said in GaoGaiGar, when Hana reminds Mamoru about a promise they made when they were young (er) children. Mamoru can only blush in response. Of course, they're all but dating as it is...
  • Hayate and Athena from Hayate the Combat Butler. They promised to spend the rest of their lives together and even gave each other promise rings.
    • Izumi promised to be his bride as well.
  • Referenced in Yu Yu Hakusho. When Yusuke proposes to Keiko, she looks stunned... until her dad starts laughing and reminiscing about how Yusuke always tried to make up with her after a fight by asking her to marry him.
  • This was the basis of the Manhwa Pig Bride, with the added twist that it's based on a Reincarnation Romance.
  • Happens between Tagaki and Rei as a pinky swear in Highschool of the Dead .
  • Yuuto of Omamori Himari had made the I Will Definitely Protect You (or more accurately, I Will Definitely Watch Your Back, as they were planning to be demon hunters, and her spells only go forward) version to Kuesu in his youth while their families worked out a betrothal between them. Then they separate for about a decade. When they next meet, he had completely forgotten her, completely rethought his views on demon hunting, and acquired an Unwanted Harem, most of whom are members of the demon races that they had originally planned to exterminate in their youth (And which Kuesu still wanted to do). It makes for a rather bumpy reunion.
  • The events of the first Urusei Yatsura movie, Only You, were set in motion when a child Ataru played a game of shadow tag with a girl who turned out to be an alien; it is a custom on her planet that stepping on someone's shadow counts as a marriage proposal. 11 years later she turns up with an interstellar battleship to claim her husband...
  • According to some side materials, a very young Dorothy Catalonia from Gundam Wing made one with her distant cousin and her father's favorite pupil, Treize Krushrenada. We don't know if Dorothy wanted to ask Treize to fulfill it, though she did show affection for him.... and it doesn't seem to matter, considering that he dies at the end of the series.
  • Holy Roman Empire to North Italy. D'awwwww... Which, if the "Germany is HRE" theory is correct, makes Germany's awkward proposal in the Valentine's Day strip even more sweet and hilarious.
  • Boku Wa Imouto Ni Koi O Suru features a marriage promise between Yori and Iku. Despite the fact that they're twins they later decide to make good on the promise.
  • In Maison Ikkoku, Yusaku Godai made such a promise with his cousin Akira, who in the present day is taking care of Yusaku while he's in the hospital with a broken leg. He's worried that she remembers the promise and will try to keep it, but actually she's secretly engaged to another guy who she's planning to elope with.
  • In one of the Detective Conan movies, Momiji says that Heiji gave her one of these when they were kids. She was mistaken: he had promised something else to her, but she misunderstood.


  • A candy commercial a few years ago featured a little boy asking a little girl to marry him, and giving her a Life Saver as an engagement ring.


  • Countess Gwendoline and Roderick in the Douwe Dabbert story Florin the Loafer. Very inconvenient for the villain who wants to marry Gwendoline to become a count.


  • In DC Nation, the "42 Days" Flashback. Forty-two days into sobriety, homeless, and with nowhere else to go, Roy shows up on Donna's doorstep.

 Donna: "I swear upon the Styx that I will never look upon you with hate. Nor will I leave your side if you feel in your heart I belong there."



  • Mary Hatch promised George Baily that she would "love him til the day she died" in It's a Wonderful Life, although she whispered it into his deaf ear so that he couldn't hear her.
  • My Best Friend's Wedding where this trope, and the main character's attempt to wreck her best friend's relationship so that she doesn't end up being the Unlucky Childhood Friend form the central plot. She fails, nearly wrecking her friendship with the guy in the process.
  • A young Forrest Gump and Jenny fall in love as children, in the shadow of, if not The World Tree per se, then at least a very very large tree.
  • Sweet Home Alabama starts with a dream Sequence of the main character and her childhood friend promising to marry each other. The backstory shows that it didn't end happily. They did get married, but soon found it wasn't as glamorous as they thought it would be. After a miscarriage, Melanie leaves for New York, where she spends the next seven or so years building a fashion business. It's when she wants to marry again she runs into problems...she and her childhood romance never divorced; he refused to sign the papers. After a return to her roots and an analysis of just why their marriage failed he signs the divorce papers, only to find at her wedding that she hadn't signed them. She realizes she's still in love with him, not her new fiance. They decide not to get divorced, after all.
  • In Mongol, Temudgin, otherwise known as Genghis Khan, picks out his arranged bride, Borte, when he's little. Guess who is his Love Interest and who he obsesses over for the rest of the movie?
    • There aren't a lot of sources to confirm, but this sounds like Hollywood was somewhat accurate for a change....
  • In East of Eden, Aron promises to marry Abra under a willow tree, and they even act like they are married, but then Aron goes off to war and gets killed. Abra ends up with Cal, Aron's brother, who she had grown to love while Aron was at college.
  • In Star Wars Anakin tells Padme that he's going to marry her someday. Considering his abilities as a seer, this could either be a childhood marriage promise or stating what he sees as fact.
    • Or perhaps its foreshadowing to Anakin's arrogant and demanding nature, and he's simply making a promise.
  • Twelve-year-olds Sam and Suzy get unofficially married in Moonrise Kingdom.


  • Subverted in Teresa Edgerton's The Castle of the Silver Wheel, in which Prince Tryffin pulls a Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace in the nick of time to prevent Gwenlliant from being forced into an Arranged Marriage with a notoriously abusive man. When asked if they have a Childhood Marriage Promise (which would constitute a pre-contract, thus acting as an impediment), Gwenlliant claims that they do - because Tryffin Can Not Tell a Lie, so she has to do it.
  • Scout and Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout was based on the author, Harper Lee, while Dill was based on her childhood friend, Truman Capote, author of Breakfast At Tiffany's and In Cold Blood. Incidentally, Capote was gay, and Lee never married.
  • In Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, Lawrence and a girl he knew made a half-serious marriage proposal when they were young, just before he went off to join the Navy. When he became an aviator in his mid-twenties, his prospects and suitability greatly reduced by it, they sadly called it off.
  • Nikolai and Sonya in War and Peace.
  • 10-year-old Tommy Bangs and Annie "Nan" Harding plan to get married in Little Men; ten years later in Jo's Boys, Nan can't believe Tom still expects her to go through with it. They don't; she remains unmarried but happy as a Hot Librarian, and Tommy marries his other suitor Dora.
  • The book Quest for a Maid has a scene where the 10-year-old heroine Meg rescued a 6-year-old boy, Davy, from some bullies. Davy was so grateful he asked her to marry him on the spot, and she accepted. His father overheard, and while acknowledging it was just kids playing, decided this was perfectly suitable, talked to Meg's father, and made it an Arranged Marriage. Davy became the Unlucky Childhood Friend later, though, when Meg reached the age when she was ready to marry but realized that Davy was still too young,and she didn't want to wait.
  • In Hetty Feather by Jacqueline Wilson, Hetty's older foster brother Jem promises to marry her when they are grown up so that she can rejoin the family after being sent back to the Foundling Hospital. A modern-day version happens in Kiss, where Sylvie and Carl had such a promise as children, but Carl comes out as gay.
  • In Morris Gleitzman's Bumface, the two main characters actually get married as children, in order to circumvent an Arranged Marriage.
  • In The Exiles series by Hilary McKay, 10-years old Rachel is so enthralled by the nice, polite and charming French exchange student Philippe that she announces to marry him when they're older. When her sisters scold her for harassing Philippe, she just smiles and says that he hasn't said that he doesn't want to. She gets him in the end.
  • In Bloody Jack, Jacky and Jaimy promised to get married someday back when they were children on the Dolphin. They still intend to go through with it, despite being totally unsuited for each other.

Live Action TV

  • In the episode Jack in the Box of Jonathan Creek, the character of Jack Holiday proposed to his child co-star (implied to be as a joke), but then on returning after ten years, met her again as an adult and married her. He then hires a man to kill her.
  • Turns out to be the whole cause of the plot of Harpers Island, after nine-year-old Abby told eleven-year-old Henry that she wanted to live alone with him forever on the titular island. Sixteen years later he tries to hold her to this - by luring her to the island on false pretenses, murdering all third parties and faking their deaths. She doesn't see the romantic side. To say nothing of the fact that he later found out they were half-siblings and didn't let that affect his feelings.
  • Matsu and Toshiie promise themselves to each other when Matsu is quite young (one source says she was only 11-ish at the time).
  • The live-action segment of one Super Mario Bros Super Show episode plays with this: Mario receives a letter from one "Roxanne", reminding him of "his promise" made 15 years prior. Mario and Luigi are both assuming it's along the lines of this trope, but at the end it's revealed that Roxanne is already married with five kids; Mario's promise was instead to sell her plumbing supplies at wholesale price.



 Charlie said he wanted to get married

But we were only ten so we had to wait...



  • There's a reason why The Grand Duke is considered the weakest of all of Gilbert and Sullivan works, as, you know, a plot involving dueling to the technical death by cutting a deck of cards is a bit Yu-Gi-Oh! to make the subject of a proto-musical. Suffice to say that Ludwig is saddled with all the commitments of the people he beats at cards, and they turn out to involve a lot of romantic ones. Once he's been forced to marry his third wife... well, it seems like he should have skipped that third one, when the woman the Grand Duke was engaged to in infancy shows up. By the way: The Grand Duke is from 1896.
    • Gilbert and Sullivan operettas used this trope repeatedly, in fact. It's central to the plot of The Gondoliers, and Princess Ida devotes an entire song, "Ida Was a Twelve-month Old," to it:

 Ida was a twelve-month old,

Twenty years ago!

I was twice that age, I'm told,

Twenty years ago!

Husband twice as old as wife,

Augurs ill for married life;

Baleful prophecies were rife,

Twenty years ago!


Video Games

  • A side quest in Jade Empire involves sorting out one of these, with the twist that the Unlucky Childhood Friend trying to cash in on the promise has grown up to be the leader of a gang. Fortunately, you can not only convince her to let it go, but you can also find a suitable husband for her.
    • Or, if you're in the right mood, convince her to kill her romantic rival, followed by accidentally killing the one who made the promise. And then she realizes what she's done, breaks down and attacks you, resulting in you killing her and her entire gang. Ahh, sweet cruelty potential.
  • Link has found himself engaged in this way to the Zora Princess (who does grow up to be rather easy on the eyes) in The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time and the Maku Tree in Oracle of Ages, even though he never really agreed in either case
    • In Majora's Mask, Kafei and Anju had one of these, promising each other to exchange wedding masks on the day of the Carnival of Time which according to Termina tradition was the best day for couples to be married.
      • Slightly disturbing in that, prior to the start of the game, the main villain turns Kafei into a child. They might or might not get married anyway (not because Kafei has a child's body, but because his mask was stolen!), uncertain due to the Groundhog Day Loop structure of the game. Reuniting them is the goal of the game's most involved quest, but normally you don't have everything necessary to finish the game on that iteration.
      • If you go into the details of the game though, (and who wouldn't) you find out that there was a Love Triangle between Anju, Kafei, Cremia. Evidently First Girl Wins. Also it's somewhat implied that the curse was lifted at the end of the game, meaning a normal marriage.
      • Wrong on the love triangle part. It was assumed that Kafei was running away with Cremia, which adds another layer of bittersweet if time is reset.
  • In Palace Hotel, one of the stories from the expanded universe of the Halo series, it is revealed that John-117 or The Master Chief had a child hood friend named Parisa. The two became friends after John saved her from drowning in a lake, and later John promised to marry her and keep her safe. He was never able to keep it, however, as he was abducted two weeks later for the Spartan Program and replaced with a flash clone which died not long after. Due to this, Parisa believed that John had died, though she kept with her a picture of herself and John taken by their parents. Years later, John would meet her again during the Battle of New Mombasa. At the time, Parisa was holding the picture of herself and John as children as seen here. Just as John was intending to remind Parisa to not bring personal items to a combat zone, he recognized the picture. Parisa, obviously not recognizing John because of his armor, explained the story behind the picture to him and said that although it was silly and John was "dead", she intended to hold him to that promise. Despite the sudden flood of memories, John couldn't bring himself to reveal who he was, knowing that doing so would be a massive security breach. Instead he maintained his stoic facade and the two of them began planning a counterattack to the Covenant.
  • In Persona 3 one of the Social Links ending involves a little girl (Maiko) who promises to marry the High School protagonist when the time comes. In FES the protagonist may later on be met by her father, who heard of this from a letter from his daughter and accuses you of trying to pull Wife Husbandry. Not that it matters because you die within the next two days.
  • If the player maxes out his cousin Nanako Doujima's Social Link, at the end of Persona 4, on the last day before you leave the town Nanako will promise to marry you when she grows up. Her father Ryotaro for the most part laughs it off as something she's just saying because she'll miss you, but he makes it clear that she is off-limits no matter what age any of you are. However, if you maxed out Doujima's Social Link... well, he's going to hold you to that.
  • In Tales of the Abyss, Luke and his cousin Natalia made a mutual Childhood Marriage Promise at a young age. Shortly after, he was kidnapped and lost all his memories, forgetting all about it. Well, he was really kidnapped, cloned, and raised to become a Super Soldier while his memory-less clone went on to take his place in his old life, but that's a spoiler.
  • Fire Emblem:

 Franz:I don't know what it is you plan to do with your life, but as long as we travel the same path, would you let me walk beside you?


Amelia: ...let me be your shield to protect you...

Franz: And I will be your sword and fight for you. From now on.

    • Amelia's other two romantic endings also involve said promises: Ross will ask her to help him reconstruct his Doomed Hometown and settle down with him, Ewan will promise to take her with him as he goes Walking the Earth. Since they also happen at the A support time, the endings will have Amelia accept and live happily with any of her three possible husbands.
    • In Fire Emblem Fates, a Female Kana (in the 10-13 age range) and Kiragi (just a little older, probably 14 tops) can make one.
  • In Rune Factory 2, the second game in a spin off series of Harvest Moon, in the second half of the game in which you play as your child, you propose and "marry" your boyfriend/girlfriend (s in the case of Serena and her twin, Sera). Though, it's just a promise that you will marry them in the future.
    • Except in Serena and Sera's case when you play as your daughter. You are stopped due to the priest saying how "girls can't get married to each other"(and how the twins just think marriage is one big tea party in the English version).
    • Rune Factory Oceans also features one between Aden and Sonja, but it's never brought up unless the former proposes to the latter.
  • In Harvest Moon: Back to Nature, the goal of the game was to revive your dead grandfather's old farm that you had been to as a child. While there, you met a girl and promised to come back and marry her. The girl's name is never mentioned, but I like to assume that whoever you marry is supposed to be the girl from your past. That way they can have this trope without specifying which girl you have to marry.
    • That is the case, in both the boy and girl version.
  • In Zone of the Enders: The Fist of Mars, when Cage is reunited with a group of orphans he saved earlier in the games, one of them reiterates the promise to marry him when she grows up. This earns Cage a nasty look from Myona.
  • In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, there was one between Battler and Shannon. It snowballed into a horrible tragedy that left several people dead.
  • Subverted in Magical Diary in that neither party has any interest in going through with the promise... except that the choice may not be up to them.
  • In Castlevania 64, in Carrie's bad ending, Malus gets Carrie to make a promise to marry him when the two are old enough... and then ominously says, "Now we have a binding contract..." This means, poor Carrie has promised to marry freaking Dracula and she has zero idea.


  • Meat Sheild:Not so much a promise as a crazy girl convincing herself (and a chunk of the town) that Dhur was going to marry her.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • Here's a sweet Real Life example: two German children, 5 and 6, tried to go to take a trip to Africa so they could marry one another. Although they failed to, there must obviously be a promise to try again in the future. The story can be read here.
  • The story goes that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart proposed marriage to Marie Antoinette when both were children (he had just performed for her family). In the event, each married someone else.
  • St. Elizabeth of Thuringia, the daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary, was betrothed to the 10-year-old Louis of Thuringia at the age of 4; they were married 4 years later. Their marriage was extremely happy until Louis died on crusade. She left the Thuringian court to escape the family intrigues, died at the age of 24 in (most likely self-imposed) great poverty, and was canonized 4 years later in 1235.
  • Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes (a cousin of the actor Ralph Fiennes) met his future wife when she was 9 and he was 12. They remained married for 34 years.