I was writing to my friend Kitty this morning and the word Shivaree came to mind, considering Ed and I are being married in 17 days. Did you ever see the musical Oklahoma? That's where I first heard that there was such a thing.
So, of course being a frustrated etymologist, I had to look the word up.
Shivaree is the most common American regional form of charivari, a French word meaning “a noisy mock serenade for newlyweds” and probably deriving in turn from a Late Latin word meaning “headache.” The term, most likely borrowed from French traders and settlers along the Mississippi River, was well established in the United States by 1805; an account dating from that year describes a shivaree in New Orleans: “The house is mobbed by thousands of the people of the town, vociferating and shouting with loud acclaim…. [M]any [are] in disguises and masks; and all have some kind of discordant and noisy music, such as old kettles, and shovels, and tongs…. All civil authority and rule seems laid aside” (John F. Watson).
The word shivaree is especially common along and west of the Mississippi River. Some regional equivalents are belling, used in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan; horning, from upstate New York, northern Pennsylvania, and western New England; and serenade, a term used chiefly in the South Atlantic states.
I thought it was funny to learn the root of the word Shivaree comes from the word headache! What a strange thing to do, yet I remember hearing the weirder traditions brides and grooms had to endure like hanging out bedsheets after the marriage is consumated for proof of the bride's virginity. Really!
I kind of liked the idea from Belize tradition where at the end of the reception, the wedding guests lie face down on the floor and the bride and groom exit the celebration by walking over this human carpet. That could be kind of funny, don't you think? Although my wedding shoes do have rather sharp heels.
In ancient Rome, the bride wore a girdle fastened with many tiny knots. The groom had the pleasure of untying all those knots before he could bed his new wife. Thus the expression "Tie the Knot".
And did you know why the bride stands to the left of the groom? In the old days, sometimes a jealous suitor would try to take the bride away from the groom. The groom would hold the bride off to the side with his left hand, leaving his right hand free to grip his sword and fight. To this day, the bride stands to the groom's left while marrying. (Note to self: get a sword for Ed)
Why bad luck for the groom to see the bride on the wedding day before the wedding? In the old days, frequently the marriage of an unattractive woman was often arranged with a prospective groom from another town without either of them having ever seen their prospective spouse. In more than one instance, when the groom saw his future wife, usually dressed in white, for the first time on the day of the wedding, he changed his mind and left the bride at the altar. To prevent this from happening, it became "bad luck" for the groom to see the bride on the day of the wedding prior to the ceremony.
June weddings are popular probably because during the 1400-1500s May was the month in which the "annual bath" occured. As such, the over-all population was smelling relatively fresh in June, making it a good time to hold a special event like a wedding!
Ancient tradition thought it was unlucky to marry in the month of May because in Romans times the Feast of the Dead and the Festival of the Goddess of Chastity both occurred in May. Hmmm....