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What Is A Shotgun Wedding? [All That You Will Want To Know]

Have you heard or come across the phrase ‘Shotgun Wedding’ – wondering what it means? I’ve been there. So I decided to research everything about it and will be sharing my findings here with you today.

So, what is a shotgun wedding? A shotgun wedding is a wedding that is usually arranged hurriedly due to an unexpected pregnancy. The phrase shotgun wedding typically refers to pregnancy leading to marriage and historically this can be attributed to wanting to avoid any awkward questions or judgments about pre-marital sex.

However, these days, it is quite common for a shotgun wedding to occur for a number of different reasons, including preferences of the parents and the legalities afforded to married couples to list but a few.

But before we delve deeper into this particular type of wedding, let’s get one thing clear: this article is by no means casting judgment on anyone.

It is merely the culmination of my research on this topic.

If you are worried, confused, or affected by anything in this article I would urge you to seek guidance from trusted professionals, friends, or family members.

And with that said, let’s get started.

Shotgun Weddings In Different Cultures

Shotgun weddings are most common in parts of the world where sex out of wedlock is frowned upon or even illegal.

That isn’t to say that weddings that are considered to be ‘shotgun’ weddings don’t occur a little closer to home – friends of ours discovered they were expecting a little sooner than planned and decided to tie the knot before their baby arrived simply because: they wanted to.

Other couples who are perhaps engaged and discover that they are pregnant may choose to get married prior to having their baby so that when their little one arrives, their focus can be on the baby and not their upcoming nuptials.

That being said, it is the decision of the parents that truly matters, and we are fortunate to live in a society where having a child is not marriage-dependent.

Friends of ours were due to get married earlier this year, but due to the pandemic, sadly had to postpone their wedding until next year.

A few months ago, they announced that they were expecting their first child and we cannot wait to celebrate their wedding with their little one as a very cute flower girl or page boy!

It is important to respect different beliefs and cultures but also to be understanding that how others choose to live their lives is their own decision.

Having a shotgun wedding shouldn’t be a pressured decision, it should be the choice of both parents of the child.

In some cultures, a shotgun wedding is more necessary than a choice, where premarital- sex might be illegal or make the couple social outcasts.

In these circumstances, there is likely to be a rush to get married before the bride is ‘showing’ signs of her pregnancy.

In some cultures, it is not uncommon for the couple who are unmarried and expecting to be forced to get wed by their families to avoid shame.

Understanding that globally, there are many different beliefs and cultural expectations exist and we should not cast judgment on anyone.

Whilst shotgun weddings aren’t all that common (in that we don’t often hear of them in the 2020s), interestingly it is reported that in the year 1850, 40% of all marriages in the UK were shotgun weddings!

Weddings that happen when the bride is pregnant nowadays, even when there is no social pressure or pressure from the families are still often referred to as shotgun weddings.

But, why are they called that?

Why Do They Call It A Shotgun Wedding?

The phrase shotgun wedding originates from an American colloquialism where the father of the pregnant bride-to-be insists upon marriage and uses a shotgun to threaten the somewhat reluctant groom down the aisle to ensure the wedding goes ahead.

This is a phrase that seems to have stuck around.

In North America and the UK, the term shotgun wedding now refers to a wedding where the bride is pregnant and does not always insinuate pressure to get married from families or otherwise.

In fact, a shotgun wedding is now deemed to be a way of describing the family set up of a bride and groom prior to their wedding day, and the term may even be used by the happy couple!

As mentioned before, weddings, families, and traditions are incredibly personal and we should be mindful and respectful of different circumstances that people may find themselves in.

What Happens At A Shotgun Wedding?

A shotgun wedding will share the same legal aspects as any other wedding ceremony. Due to the often-hurried nature of putting together a wedding day with a baby on the way, a shotgun wedding might be expected to be a little lower key than the average wedding day, but that is often not the case.

Shotgun weddings can often be indistinguishable from weddings that have been planned for years.

It all depends on the preferences, budget, and how it was all put together by the bride and groom.

That being said, the actual ceremony – whether it is in a Church or a Civil Ceremony – will be exactly the same as any other legal wedding.

This is due to the legalities that bind a couple together in marriage.

Just because a shotgun wedding implies a time pressure for getting married before the baby arrives, doesn’t always mean that the couple will put less into their big day.

It truly does depend on the couple.

I have been to a wedding where the couple announced their pregnancy during the speeches and I can tell you, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room!

It was a beautifully put-together wedding, with the emphasis on an afternoon tea rather than a boozy party so the expectant bride could enjoy every aspect with her guests and not feel like she was missing out on the party vibes!

Other couples who are getting married shotgun-style may choose to proceed with the legal aspect of marriage – the ceremony – and perhaps a meal with their closest friends and family and then after the baby is born have a party to celebrate their marriage.

It is totally down to the bride and groom to select a wedding that feels right for them: shotgun or not.

How Do You Have A Shotgun Wedding?

A shotgun wedding is usually time-sensitive – in that, pregnancy is nine months – and the couple will usually seek to get married before the baby arrives. That being said, a shotgun wedding is typically arranged and organized in a similar fashion to any other wedding: contacting either the church or civil ceremony provider to confirm your date, selecting and booking suppliers that are available, and contacting and inviting guests.

What makes a wedding a shotgun wedding is that the bride is pregnant and the couple wants to get married before the baby is born.

So as long as that happens, you are having a shotgun wedding by default.

Whether or not there is a baby bump, is going to come to down to contexts, circumstances, and preferences.

Quite often, shotgun weddings are a more low-key affair, in that the bride may not be able to consume alcohol, might be feeling tired or sick due to pregnancy or that simply there wasn’t enough time to plan a grander celebration!

However, this is not always the case and a shotgun wedding can be whatever the expecting bride and groom want it to be.

Do Shotgun Marriages Last?

Due to the time-sensitive nature of shotgun weddings, some people may question whether or not shotgun marriages will last, and there is no simple answer to this. On one hand, you might expect couples to have their child together and see the marriage as the beginnings of their new family, whilst on the other hand, people may consider shotgun weddings to be a rushed decision leading to miscommunications in the future.

As with any marriage, nothing is certain.

Couples should get married if they are sure of their decision to spend the rest of their lives with the other person and be willing to do their very best to make the marriage work.

When it comes to thinking about or questioning whether any marriage will last: it is truly down to the couple’s commitment to one another and their happiness.

Are they getting married for the right reasons, or out of a perceived need to in the context of a situation?

If a marriage takes place purely because a baby is on the way, then there is no guarantee the marriage will last.

That being said, nothing in life is certain and it is not uncommon for married couples – shotgun wedding or not – to grow apart over the years.

Before entering any marriage, it is advised that both bride and groom reflect and are certain that they want to enter into the marriage, before proceeding with the ceremony.


A shotgun wedding occurs when the bride is pregnant.

This term is used in the modern sense to describe marriages that occur under these circumstances with the phrase originating from the pressure placed on couples to marry when expecting.

Have other questions about what certain things are at a wedding? Then my following guides may be of help: