Julia Stiles recently made headlines when she posted a photo on Instagram with the caption, "Who doesn't love a shotgun wedding? 😉✨" The snap of her new husband's hand resting on her wedding-dress-adorned pregnant belly pretty much said it all, but the caption left some wondering what exactly a "shotgun wedding" is all about.
The phrase dates back to the late 1920s and is used to reference "a wedding occasioned or precipitated by a pregnancy." And, of course, the whole firearms reference is meant to imply the bride and/or groom are being threatened to tie the knot. By many definitions, it's the father of the bride who's insisting on the marriage, presumably to preserve his daughter's honor and ensure the father of his future grandchild pays up.
All that said, the phrase is clearly an outdated throwback referencing a bygone time when it was much more taboo to have a child out of wedlock. These days, the phrase is most often used figuratively or comically like in Stiles's winky-faced-emoji-filled post. Or when belting out the lyrics of an old Panic! At the Disco song.