The Disappearance of the Shotgun Wedding

For many couples, the thought of standing in front of a crowd and declaring their ‘undying love’ is simply too overwhelming. But this is just one potential driver of an eloping couple.

The other driver (for many), is the stigmatised fear that the bride will be (or is) pregnant prior to her wedding day. However, it is arguable that Gen ‘Y’ has little to no affiliation with such outdated concepts, whereas Gen ‘X’ still exudes an underlying fear that a couple must be wedded prior to becoming pregnant.

Where does such folklore originate, and why is it so indelibly stamped on our social physche?

The Catholic Church and the Pregnant Bride

Without question, the Catholic church (in western society) has led the fear campaign in this area, arguably brain-washing generations that ‘it is a sin to be pregnant and unwedded’. It may be worth noting that (in days gone by), the Catholic church derived a handsome income from sinners (and such sin), not to mention the unmitigated power that could be wielded against believers.

This in-turn created a massive social stigma, filtering into the community and manifesting in the fathers of pregnant brides, who would perceivably take matters into their own hands with their preferred ‘pregnancy deterrent’; the humble ‘shotgun’.

So, with the fear of being socially outcast, and the ‘all important’ father figure reinforcing his disdane, the pregnant bride would be forced to either elope, abort the pregnancy, or run the risk of being ousted.

This was an ideal situation for the Catholic church, since sinners are the life-blood of the faith, and marriage was the domain of the church, and with a dutiful community wielding the church’s cross, it proved both a powerful and profitable result. However, there are several interesting factors that have all-but seen the disappearance of the ‘shotgun wedding’.

A Change of Direction

The first of these is the obvious shift of Gen ‘Y’ away from the outdated doctrine of the Catholic church (discussed in a previous article). The second of these is the gradual defrocking of the ‘all important’ father figure, giving rise to the ‘all important’ mother figure in recent years. The final factor (and perhaps the most obvious), is the abolition of gun ownership in Australia.

Oddly, I still hear the echoes of stigma in modern-day pregnant brides, uttering the often common phrase “I don’t wan’t to be pregnant and unmarried”.

Fortunately, the term ‘shotgun wedding’ has now been replaced with the term ‘elope”, and generally refers to a wedding couple doing one of three types of ceremonies. The first is to get married at a Marriage Registry Office, the second is to get married in private (often with just 2 witnesses and a celebrant), and the third is to travel overseas to be legally married under another country’s law.

Living Together and Eloping

Apart from pregnancy and the fear of speaking in front of guests, Gen ‘Y’ is also now living together prior to marriage; another sin according to the Catholic church. However the act of living together (prior to marriage) has brought about new responsibilities for unwedded couples, most notably money.

There was a period in recent history, where it was up to the ‘father of the bride’ to fund a large portion (if not all) of the wedding. This was arguably done to ensure that the bride ‘did the right thing’, prior to marriage (ie. no sex, no pregnancy, no living together with her partner).

However, since it is now common-place for couples to buy a house and live together prior to marriage, it also stands to reason that they are more ‘money conscious’, thus prompting a need to be more frugal with wedding costs.

It is this last point, that makes the concept of eloping so attractive to modern couples. In fact, the Marriage Registry Offices are often flat-out marrying couples on a daily basis, giving enormous credence to the argument that financial considerations for many modern couples is now a major driving influence.