What Is a Shotgun Wedding?

You may have heard the phrase “shotgun wedding” before, but aside from bad movie plots, you might not be entirely sure of its true meaning… What is a shotgun wedding? Do they still happen? Are they frowned upon? 

What Does a “Shotgun Wedding” Actually Mean?

Put simply, a shotgun wedding is a wedding that takes place when two people find out they are expecting a baby.

It’s the decision to officially marry before the new arrival.

Where Did the Term “Shotgun Wedding” Come From?

Years ago, the term “shotgun wedding” was used to describe the wedding of two people who fall pregnant out of wedlock.

The guy, not so thrilled at the idea of marriage, may need a little “motivation” from the father of the bride to marry his daughter. And what’s more motivating than a shotgun?

This may not be factually correct, but the name stuck!

Do Shotgun Weddings Still Happen?

You would be forgiven for thinking that shotgun weddings are a thing of the past. 

While it’s tricky getting current stats on the actual number of these marriages as the pregnancies are not always registered, they do still occur! 

You see, these days, shotgun weddings are not clouded in shame like they used to be. Likely, the couple will already be living together and perhaps already talking about starting a family anyway. 

The view today is that pregnancy automatically ties two people together and marriage is simply a continuation of that commitment.

To put it simply, traditional timelines of the “correct” order to take these big steps in life are changing. Nowadays, the majority of couples who do not want to marry while they are pregnant just wait until after the birth.

Is a Shotgun Wedding Similar to an Elopement?

Not really. An elopement is a wedding that is planned and executed typically without the knowledge of the couple’s family and friends, particularly their parents.

Usually, if a couple elopes, they only have a ceremony and do not host a reception or celebration.

With a shotgun wedding, however, you have a choice. If you both decide that you want to get married before the baby arrives, you do not have to do this in secret!

You can still have lots of traditional elements in your wedding – just less champagne for the bride!

Some couples would prefer to do this away from their families and friends though – it is up to you.

Do We Have to Have a Shotgun Wedding if We Get Pregnant Before Marriage?

In this modern age, a disgruntled parent forcing a marriage to happen seems an outdated concept. 

In short, no you do not need to have a shotgun wedding if you get unexpectantly pregnant. Of course, each person has their own beliefs and your religious stance may affect your decision on this, but marriage does not need to be the solution at all. 

Modern alimony makes it more simple than ever for separated parents to financially support one another, and there are lots of facilities and places to go to for advice on this if you need it. 

Our advice would be to not rush this decision, marriage is a huge choice that should be entered into with certainty, agreement, and most importantly, love!

What Happens at a Shotgun Wedding?

At a typical shotgun wedding, you will find a beautiful ceremony, the exchanging of rings, vows, and a much-celebrated kiss.

You’ll find cake and laughter, good food, good music, and bad dancing. Sound familiar? That’s because you can have all the best parts of a wedding at a shotgun wedding; it does not have to be hugely different just because there is a baby on the way.

We sincerely hope that your families are on board with your union into both marriage and parenthood, and therefore will be involved in the wedding day.

There will still be speeches and readings. These may even end up more emotional with the underlying excitement of a baby on the way!

How Can We Make Our Shotgun Wedding Fun?

Whilst the term “shotgun wedding” may have some negative connotations passed down from days gone by, if you are both determined on the idea then there’s no reason you can’t still have all the best bits of a traditional wedding.

The only potential setback is that you will have less time to plan the wedding, so certain elements may have to be stripped back.

You may not be able to book your dream wedding venue at short notice or have a dress tailor-made in a French boutique, but where there is a will, there is a way!

Some people like to play on the words “shotgun wedding” and bring actual shotguns (real or fake) to the event.

While this could make for some hilarious photos – perhaps even including the father of the bride as a nod to the origin of the phrase – we suggest using toy guns for any photoshoots, please!

You can even find funny wedding cake toppers showing the bride, the groom, the bump, and a shotgun!

Can I Still Get a Beautiful Wedding Dress if I’m Pregnant?


Not every bridal shop will cater to baby bumps, but many will have a maternity selection for you to choose from. So don’t worry about choosing the first one you see that fits! 

A gown with an empire waist is a classic pregnancy wedding dress style – it is cinched in under your bust and provides ample room for your growing bump. 

More Positives of a Shotgun Wedding

So if we haven’t highlighted enough positivity, here are a few final plus sides to having a shotgun wedding.

Firstly, planning your wedding in a short amount of time inevitably takes away some of the stresses of wedding planning. You will have to make decisions quickly and won’t have time to second guess yourself and worry about the small stuff.

Also, you will likely spend less money on your wedding day (and we are not just talking about the brides’ bar bill!) as certain elements may need to be cut due to timings. 

Ooh and if you’re lucky enough to get that pregnancy glow, then just think how radiant your skin will look on your wedding day!

Your wedding photos will double up as a beautiful pregnancy shoot – with your gown, and hair and makeup done; pictures to be treasured forever. 

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