Traditions: A Passive-Aggressive Community Noise Parade

What goes together like two birds of a feather? LOUD NOISES AND WEDDINGS.

Here comes the very roundabout way to whence we came to tie cans to the back of the wedding car…

cha·ri·va·ri, shivaree or chivaree [French, from Old French, perhaps from Late Latin carībaria, headache, from Greek karēbariā : karē, head; shivaree, American alteration of Mississippi Valley French]

  1. a discordant mock serenade to newlyweds, made with pans, kettles, etc., often played as a joke
  2. a confused noise; din
  3. an elaborate noisy celebration

Approximately 700 years ago or so, some French folk decided that a great evening activity after the wedding of their neighbors would include a cacophony of sound under the couples’ window, forcing them to reappear in their nuptial finery (pre or post tumble) and perhaps invite the revelers in for a drink of celebration. The French also seemed somewhat confused as to their purpose for this grand, noisy event as some accounts discuss how this impromptu literal pan percussion was used to either utilized to encourage couples to marry, dissuade couples to marry, distract from the sexy times, or celebrate said sexy times. Nonetheless, if you got married, you ended up with drunk Phillipe from down the road under your window, banging a kettle, likely yelling helpful tips about consummation, and possibly demanded a midnight snack of cheese (a snack I assume drunk French people have always enjoyed). The crowds in general did not take to being ignored by the couple in question, and some accounts go into detail on how the bride or groom was then abducted from their home in retribution. It’s like a Middle Age Taken with Liam Neesen, but with more wedding stuff and perhaps less killing.

It’s all fun and games until grandma gives someone a concussion with a spoon.

In ye olden Western European days, most people married others in proximity to their hometown by either arranging it or “stealing” the bride. When a groom from outside the town would marry a local girl, another practice of this grand parade was that the local men would bang things loudly under his window to wake him up and then demand a meal as a price for stealing away a local bride.

Here is my description to Pastry as I was trying to explain this practice:

Basically… “Yo, dude, Mary is super hot and you got her! Damn! Bring me pizza, bro, as I wanted Mary but I’ll settle for pepperoni tonight! Also, since you inconvenienced me by landing the local hottie so I have to maybe go look for someone else, I’m going to inconvenience you by waking you up at midnight for my munchie needs.”

So, the baroque equivalent of death metal under your window in the wee hours of the night either means your family wants you to hurry up the hitchin’ or to not hurry it up at all. Then the French made their way to the North American frontier…

Charivari in Europe was not such a pleasant experience and tended toward the punitive. The practice was essentially was hazing for almost/just married people. When it made its way to the western frontier, it eventually became more of a lighthearted teasing/hazing. Think more crooning under the window in It’s A Wonderful Life than fighting off drunk Phillipe with globs of cheese and a sharped fork.

Shivaree (ah, we Americans are so good at bastardizing words) was common practice until the early 20th century. Here’s a lovely drawing of a crowd outside of the White House, happily taunting President Grover Cleveland and his 27-years junior, daughter of his law partner, and FORMER WARD new wife Frances Folsom (youngest first lady at the age of 21). He called her Frank, and I assume there was a lot of “Oh god, Frank” that night for various reasons. (I also may know a lot about Grover Cleveland as I did a 4th grade book report on him. Ahem, like how he was both the 22nd and 24th president, the only president to serve two terms non-consecutively. Or, how the Baby Ruth candy way named after his daughter Ruth. Or, how he had a secret surgery in the middle of a bay to remove a tumor as he did not want anyone to know about it. Good stuff.)

“Oh, Frank!”

Though shivaree slowly lost its onetime prominent tradition in American culture, there is a bit of a remainder seen in how loud noises, banging of metallic objects, and generally taunting the pair marrying in a fun way. And, thus we began attaching tin cans to the getaway wedding car, providing a lazy American solution of cacophony by letting the car bang the cans.

An efficient noise parade.

I’m honestly a bit surprised this tradition has not made its way back in a cute, charming Wedding Industry Machine way yet. Enter breathy wedding planner who speaks in intense, hushed tones and ends every sentence with a question:

So, Bella/Sophie/Suzie/LadyName (’cause let’s be honest, most of this kind of chat goes on with the lady in modern American wedding planning), imagine what a precious experience it would be to have an accordion band of your nearest and dearest wearing matching pearlescent gowns and ties arrive outside your quaint honeymoon suite at the stroke of midnight, holding reclaimed wooden signs with hand drawn calligraphy on your favorite song lyrics, to then play romantic songs dearest to you and your beloved? We could incorporate making artisan percussion instruments into your reception, so each guest would have a handmade spoon mallet and recycled percussion instrument! Obviously, we would also tie it back to your theme of rustic rodeo clown in Paris…”

If someone shows up with a pan and a kettle under my window after my wedding, all they are going to get is beat down and perhaps a kettle to the head. I’ve seen Taken. Liam Neeson taught me well.

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