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A shotgun wedding is a wedding arranged in response to pregnancy resulting from premarital sex.[1] The phrase is a primarily U.S. colloquialism, termed as such based on a stereotypical scenario in which the father of the pregnant bride-to-be threatens the reluctant groom with a shotgun in order to ensure that he follows through with the wedding.


One purpose of such a wedding can be to get recourse from the man for the act of impregnation; another reason is trying to ensure that the child is raised by both parents. In some cases, as in early U.S. and in the Middle East, a major objective was restoring the social honor of the mother. The practice is a loophole method of preventing the birth of illegitimate children, or if the marriage occurs early enough in the gestation period, to conceal the fact that conception had already occurred prior to marriage.

In some societies, the stigma attached to pregnancy out of wedlock can be enormous, and coercive means (in spite of the legal defense of undue influence) for gaining recourse are often seen as the prospective father-in-law's "right". Often, a couple will arrange a shotgun wedding without explicit outside encouragement, and some religious groups consider it a moral imperative to marry in that situation.[citation needed]

By culture

Middle East

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Premarital sexual relations remain taboo across all social strata throughout the Arab world. In many cases, fornication is illegal and even a criminal offence under Sharia law. Even when it is not, the social response can be extreme, especially against women who have lost their virginity prior to marriage.

In Arabic culture, shotgun weddings serve to obscure the fact that a baby was conceived prior to marriage. When that proves impossible, the social standing of the couple involved is irreparably damaged. Nevertheless, shotgun weddings help prevent the individuals involved, especially the women, from becoming social pariahs.

Apart from instances of regional slang, there is no universal, specific term for "shotgun weddings" in Arabic. This is because they are not recognised as a regular social phenomenon and because a successfully conducted Middle Eastern shotgun wedding is generally unknown to the guests. In some Persian Gulf nations, the term "police station marriage" (Arabic: زواج مخفر) may be the closest colloquial analogue for the concept of a "shotgun wedding".

East Asia

Marriages preceded by pregnancy by age in Japan (2010).

Southeast Asia

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Because of the sexual revolution beginning in the 1960s, the concepts of love, sexuality, procreation and marriage began to separate after being intimately entangled in social consciousness for centuries.[9] However, sexual practice had not always followed social convention, resulting in shotgun or Knobstick weddings.

North America

In the United States and Canada, the use of duress or violent coercion to marry is no longer common, although many anecdotal stories and folk songs record instances of such coercion in 18th- and 19th-century America and Canada. Pressure to marry immediately due to pregnancy has become less common as the stigma associated with out-of-wedlock births has declined and the number of such births has increased. As a result, the typical, voluntary wedding during pregnancy might be more neutrally termed a mid-pregnancy marriage.[13] Mid-pregnancy weddings are common enough that many suppliers of both bridal gowns and maternity clothing sell wedding dresses that fit during the later stages of pregnancy.[13]

While a 2016 study suggests that couples who wed while pregnant do not necessarily have an increased risk of subsequent divorce, another study by Duke University from that same year demonstrated that, among whites, divorce rates increased from 19% for non-pregnant brides to 30%.[13][14]

In popular culture

This 1897 political cartoon portrays the U.S. annexation of Hawaii as "Another shotgun wedding, with neither party willing".



See also


  1. ^ "the definition of shotgun wedding". Retrieved 2016-12-11.
  2. ^ Haruna Kashiwase, "Shotgun Weddings a Sign of the Times in Japan," Population Today, July 2002, Archived 2012-10-25 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Japan embraces shotgun weddings". Telegraph. June 22, 2009. Retrieved July 25, 2010.
  4. ^ Brasor, Philip (8 January 2012). "Oops! Pregnant celebs dancing down the aisle". The Japan Times. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  5. ^ National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, The Fourteenth Japanese National Fertility Survey in 2010 (October 2011). "Marriage Process and Fertility of Japanese Married Couples" (PDF). Retrieved 13 January 2016.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Ryall, Julian (22 June 2009). "Japan embraces shotgun weddings". The Telegraph. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  7. ^ 奉子成婚成常現象 "大肚新娘"挑戰傳統貞操[permanent dead link] Married by the child became a norm, "Pregnant brides" are challenging the traditional chastity.
  8. ^ “奉子成婚”挑战传统道德底线 Archived 2015-06-10 at the Wayback Machine "Married by the Child" challenging traditional marital limits.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Buelens, Geert (2018). De jaren zestig: Een cultuurgeschiedenis. Amsterdam: Ambo/Anthos. p. 115. ISBN 9789026329500. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  10. ^ Faramerz Dabhoiwala (2012). The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199892419. Quoted at [1]
  11. ^ Noordman, Joannes Maria Antonius; Rietveld-van Wingerden, Marjoke; Bakker, Petronella Catharina Maria (2008). Vijf eeuwen opvoeden in Nederland. Assen: Uitgeverij Van Gorcum. p. 286. ISBN 9789023246138. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  12. ^ Woordenkennis van Nederlanders en Vlamingen anno 2013, p. 679. Centrum voor Leesonderzoek.
  13. ^ a b c Blumberg, Perri Ormont (2023-03-23). "Here Comes the … Baby Bump". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-03-24.
  14. ^ "Is Shotgun Marriage Dead?".