A shotgun wedding is a wedding that is arranged to avoid embarrassment due to an unplanned pregnancy, rather than out of the desire of the participants. The phrase is an American colloquialism, though it is also used in other parts of the world, based on a supposed scenario (usually hyperbole) that the father of the pregnant daughter, almost by accepted custom, must resort to using coercion (such as threatening with a shotgun) to ensure that the man who impregnated her follows through with the wedding.
The use of duress or violent coercion to marry is no longer common in the U.S., although many anecdotal stories and folk songs record instances of such coercion in 18th- and 19th-century America. Often a couple will arrange a shotgun wedding without explicit outside encouragement, and some religious teachings consider it a moral imperative to marry in that situation.
One purpose of such a wedding can be to get recourse from the man for the act of impregnation; another reason is to ensure that the child is raised by both parents. In some cases, as in early America and in the Middle East, a major objective was the restoring of social honor to the mother. The practice is also a loophole method of preventing the birth of legally illegitimate children, or if the marriage occurs early enough, to conceal that conception 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", and an important, albeit unconventional, coming of age event for the young father-to-be.
The phenomenon has become less common (in the Western World at least) as the stigma associated with out-of-wedlock births has declined and the number of such births has increased. 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 East Asia
- In Japan, the slang term Dekichatta kekkon (出来ちゃった結婚?, a marriage necessitated by an unplanned pregnancy) emerged in the late 1990s with a very similar meaning, although the etymology of the term in Japanese does not imply the same threat of physical violence that the English idiom "shotgun marriage" does. The term dekichatta kekkon can be loosely translated as an "oops marriage" or an "it's-already-happened-marriage". Namie Amuro is credited with beginning a trend of marrying and having children fairly young, at ages 19 or 20. The practice continued to be highly publicized and occurred throughout the late 1990s and first decade of the 21st century. Notable celebrities with these marriages include Nozomi Tsuji, Anna Tsuchiya and Meisa Kuroki. Additionally, there is a trend of shotgun marriages among older Japanese for a variety of reasons, including lack of motivation, limited education received, and socio-economic factors. Older examples include Leah Dizon and Melody Miyuki Ishikawa.
- In China, the term 奉子成婚 (pinyin: Fèngzǐchénghūn; literally "married by the order of child") means that the couple married because conception occurred outside of marriage. Similar to American shotgun marriages in parental pressure for the pair to marry, 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 "Sokdowebaan" (literally meaning "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.
- Forced marriage
- Knobstick wedding
- Premarital sex
- Oklahoma!, a play where one character, Ali Hakim, is forcibly coerced towards marriage on two separate occasions.
- Marriage of convenience
- Haruna Kashiwase, "Shotgun Weddings a Sign of the Times in Japan," Population Today, July 2002, prb.org
- "Japan embraces shotgun weddings". Telegraph. June 22, 2009. Retrieved July 25, 2010.
- 奉子成婚成常現象 "大肚新娘"挑戰傳統貞操 Married by the child became a norm, "Pregnant brides" are challenging the traditional chastity.
- “奉子成婚”挑战传统道德底线 "Married by the Child" challenging traditional marital limits.