A shotgun wedding is a
wedding A wedding is a ceremony A ceremony (, ) is a unified ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gesture A gesture is a form of non-verbal communication or non-vocal communication Communication (from Latin ''communic ...

which is arranged in order to avoid embarrassment due to
premarital sex Premarital sex is sexual activity Human sexual activity, human sexual practice or human sexual behaviour is the manner in which humans experience and express their sexuality Human sexuality is the way people experience and express the ...
which can possibly lead to an
unintended pregnancy Unintended pregnancies are pregnancy, pregnancies that are mistimed, unplanned or unwanted at the time of Fertilisation, conception. Vaginal sex, Sexual activity without the use of effective birth control, contraception through choice or coercion ...
. The phrase is a primarily American
colloquialism Colloquialism or colloquial language is the style (sociolinguistics), linguistic style used for casual (informal) communication. It is the most common functional style of speech, the idiom normally employed in conversation and other informal cont ...
, 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 A shotgun (also known as a scattergun, or historically as a fowling piece) is a long gun, long-barreled firearm designed to shoot a straight-walled cartridge (firearms), cartridge known as a shotshell, which usually discharges numerous small ...

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 Fertilisation or fertilization (see spelling differences Despite the various English dialects spoken from country to country and within different regions of the same country, there are only slight regional variations in English ort ...
; another reason is trying to ensure that the child is raised by both parents. In some cases, as in early America and in the
Middle East The Middle East ( ar, الشرق الأوسط, ISO 233 The international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), norm or requirement for a repeatable technical task whi ...

Middle East
, a major objective was restoring the social
honour Honour (British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect A standard language (also standard variety, standard dialect, and standard) is a language variety that has undergone substantial codification of grammar and usage a ...
of the mother. The practice is a
loophole A loophole is an ambiguity or inadequacy in a system, such as a law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, s ...
method of preventing the birth of
illegitimate children Legitimacy, in traditional Western common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, gene ...
, 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 Stigma or plural stigmata, stigmas may refer to: * Social stigma, the disapproval of a person based on physical or behavioral characteristics that distinguish them from others Symbolism * Stigmata, bodily marks or wounds resembling the crucifix ...
attached to pregnancy out of wedlock can be enormous, and coercive means (in spite of the legal defense of
undue influence Undue influence (UI) is a psychological process by which a person's free will Free will is the capacity of agents to choose between different possible courses of action ACTION is a bus operator in , Australia owned by the . History ...
) for gaining recourse are often seen as the prospective father-in-law's "right", and an important, albeit unconventional,
coming of age Coming of age is a young person Youth is the time of life Life is a characteristic that distinguishes physical entities that have biological processes, such as Cell signaling, signaling and self-sustaining processes, from those t ...
event for the groom and young father-to-be. Often, a couple will arrange a shotgun wedding without explicit outside encouragement, and some religious groups consider it a
moral imperative A moral imperative is a strongly-felt principle that compels that person to act. It is a kind of categorical imperative, as defined by Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German philosopher A ...
to marry in that situation.

By culture

Middle East

Premarital sexual relations remain taboo across all social strata throughout the
Arab world The Arab world ( ar, العالم العربي '), formally the Arab homeland ( '), also known as the Arab nation ( '), the Arabsphere, or the Arab states, consists of the 22 Member states of the Arab League, Arab countries which are members of ...

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 Outcast (person), 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 Arab states of the Persian Gulf, Arabian 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

*In Japan, the slang term , or for short, emerged in the late 1990s. The term can literally be translated as "oops-we-did-it-marriage", implying an
unintended pregnancy Unintended pregnancies are pregnancy, pregnancies that are mistimed, unplanned or unwanted at the time of Fertilisation, conception. Vaginal sex, Sexual activity without the use of effective birth control, contraception through choice or coercion ...
. Notable celebrities with these marriages include Namie Amuro, Takako Uehara, Yōko Oginome, Hitomi (singer), Hitomi Furuya, Ami Suzuki, Kaori Iida, Nozomi Tsuji, Anna Tsuchiya, Meisa Kuroki, Leah Dizon, Melody (Japanese singer), Melody Miyuki Ishikawa, Riisa Naka, Rie Miyazawa and Emi Takei. A quarter of all Japanese brides are pregnant at the time of their wedding, according to the Health Labor and Welfare Ministry, and pregnancy is one of the most common motivations for marriage. The prevalence and celebrity profile of ''dekichatta-kon'' has inspired Japan's wedding industry to introduce an even more benign phrase, . *In China, the term 奉子成婚 () means that the couple married because conception occurred outside of marriage. It is a pun on the phrase 奉旨成婚, pronounced ''Fengzhichenghun'' and implying that a wedding is approved by imperial edict. It is becoming increasingly common among China's youngest generation. However, in the same age group, there is objection and criticism to such a practice. *In Korea, the slang term 속도위반 (Revised Romanization of Korean, RR: ''Sokdowiban''; literally: "speeding over the limit") refers to the situation in which the pregnancy preceded the marriage. *In Vietnam, the term "Bác sĩ bảo cưới" (literally meaning "because [the] doctor said so") is often used with humorous intention.

Southeast Asia

*The Philippines has a shotgun wedding tradition (Tagalog language, Tagalog: ''pikot'') where a man is forced to marry a woman he impregnates. Variants of this practise include a woman's parents forcing marriage on the man to their daughter due to his social status or wealth (rather than his desire to marry her for love). Weapons may or may not be used in coercion, but other means include litigation, particularly when the woman's family threatens to file rape and lascivious acts charges against the man. *Indonesia has a similar condition with the Philippines; this is usually called "married by accident".


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. However, sexual practice had not always followed social convention, resulting in shotgun or Knobstick weddings. *In the United Kingdom, one source reports that almost 40% of all brides were pregnant in 1850. *In Denmark, a 1963 study found that 50% of all brides were pregnant. *In the Netherlands and Belgium, the Dutch language, Dutch term ''moetje'' was a commonly used euphemism for marriage resulting from unintended pregnancy. The noun is formed from imperative of the verb ''moeten'' ("must", "to have to") with the added suffix ''-je'', indicating a diminutive. Thus, it might be translated as a "little must" or a "little you-have-to", i.e. one is compelled to marry to avoid the shame of giving birth out of wedlock.
''Moetjes'' were a common occurrence in Belgium and the Netherlands until the first half of the 20th century. In the early 1960s, about a quarter of all marriages in the Netherlands were shotgun marriages; however, in some areas, up to 90% of the brides were pregnant. By the late 2000s, the practice had become so rare that the term was growing obsolete. According to a 2013 by the Centrum voor Leesonderzoek, the word ''moetje'' was recognised by 82.5% of the Dutch people, Dutch and 43.1% of the Flemish people, Flemish.Woordenkennis van Nederlanders en Vlamingen anno 2013
p. 679. Centrum voor Leesonderzoek.
*In Spain it's called casarse de penalty (marry by Penalty kick (association football), penalty),

North America

*In the United States, 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. The phenomenon has become less common as the stigma associated with out-of-wedlock births has declined and the number of such births has increased. Effective birth control and legalized abortion have also resulted in fewer unplanned pregnancies carried to term. Nonetheless a marriage which occurs when the bride is pregnant, even when there is no family or social pressure involved, is still sometimes referred to as a "shotgun wedding".

In popular culture


*''Eight Girls in a Boat (1932 film), Acht Mädels im Boot'' (1932), German musical film *''Eight Girls in a Boat (1934 film), Eight Girls in a Boat'' (1934), American feature film, refilming of ''Acht Mädels im Boot'' *''Nightmare Alley (1947 film), Nightmare Alley'' (1947), American traveling carnival, carnival film noir, noir *''Seven Brides for Seven Brothers'' (1954) *''Jenny (1958 film), Jenny'', first Dutch fullcolour feature film, refilming of ''Acht Mädels im Boot'' *''A Kind of Loving'' (1962), British feature film *''Girl with Green Eyes'' (1964), Irish feature film


*''The Lonely Girl'' (1962), Irish novel on which ''Girl with Green Eyes'' is based

TV Shows

*The Simpsons, where Homer Simpson, Homer married Marge Simpson, Marge when she was pregnant with Bart Simpson, Bart. *King of the Hill, where Lucky Kleinschmidt married Luanne Platter when she was pregnant with Gracie. *Fated to Love You (2008 TV series), Fated to Love You, a Nationalist government, Taiwanese (ROC) 2008 TV Series where a poor secretary gets pregnant with an heir of a toiletries company. A South Korea, Korean (South Korea, ROK) remake of this drama with the name You Are My Destiny (2014 TV series), You Are My Destiny was also made. *The Amazing World of Gumball, it is revealed in the episode "The Choices", after learning that Nicole was pregnant with Gumball, she and Richard married.

See also

* Cohabitation * Forced marriage * Knobstick wedding * Marry-your-rapist law * Premarital sex * ''Oklahoma!'', a play where one character, Ali Hakim, is forcibly coerced towards marriage on two occasions. * Marriage of convenience


{{Wedding Forced marriage Weddings in the United States