I need more than just banging on pots!
February 25, 2011 8:16 AM   Subscribe

Ever been to a chivaree? Need help planning a music-based post wedding party.

Friends of ours are getting married next Saturday, early evening, very small ceremony. Small, as in bride, groom, officiant. Their very large group of friends and family want to mark the wonderful occasion with a party at our house, probably about 50 to75 guests but maybe up to 100. Groom and most of his friends are musicians, and we have the setup to make that the major theme. Acoustic, folk, alt-country, some praise-band, songwriter types. Second marriages for both, bride and groom want simple and sweet. We like the idea of "chivaree" because it kinda suits us all and the idea of a community gathering to support and celebrate this marriage has wide appeal, mostly because they are both very special and great people.

I need ideas to help generate this theme. Cake? Simple decorations? Chivaree experience? Anything?
posted by raisingsand to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I'm the product of one chivaree (Mom always swore, anyway) and have been to two others, and my take away from the two that I remember is that they're basically big "surprise" hoedowns, where there is as much celebratory singing, dancing and drinking, as playing of music. The key elements of a good chivaree are a) some significant element of surprise to the bride and groom, and b) some significant initial embarrassment to the bride and groom, overcome by the hearty well-wishing of all that attend.

At one that I went to, the wedding was a small affair, and the bride and groom were then "arrested" on their way home for "practicing matrimony on a fake license." This required the help of one of their friends who was a county sherriff's deputy, and had them taken to jail, and mugshots made, etc. (The mugshots made it to the local paper, as part of their wedding announcement). Then, about 50 of us "bailed 'em out," at the jail, and took 'em home, and kept 'em up 'til 8 or 9 the next morning, with some pretty rude lyrics to a lot of popular music. When I left, the cops were finally coming, for real, on noise warrants from neighbors about a block away... It was a great and memorable good time, and still talked about, 40 years later.

At another one, the bride and groom left in a rigged car, that "broke down" on a fairly deserted highway. The happy couple was "found" by a couple of guys in a pickup truck, that proceeded to "rob" 'em, and threatened to do 'em harm. That was broken up on the side of the road, by a few real "friends," who "happened" along, and "recognized the car." In the process, some one was "shot" by one of the guys in the pickup truck. There was supposed to be a lot more "crime and kidnapping," but the joke went way bad, and the poor bride really lost it, and was shrieking, wailing, and scared out of her mind. Her groom and a couple of the friends tried to calm her down, and got her home, but she was in no mood to party, really, and the whole thing kind of became a pity party for how bad a "sport" she was by her two new brothers-in-law, who thought she shoulda' "bucked up." The groom finally kicked everyone out a couple hours later, and it made a lot of bad blood with his brothers, for sometime thereafter.

So, I guess it depends on circumstance and personality. I suppose you could play it safer than those who arranged the second chivaree I attended did, and just have a big, nice party at the newlyweds home after the wedding, but without surprise and embarrassment to the newlyweds, it's not really a chivaree. It takes a certain spirit on the part of all who plan and participate in a chivaree for the thing to come off right, but when it does, it's a blast to plan, and memory made that will never be forgotten, and good story to tell on cold nights, forever.

Just how high-spirited and fun-loving are the bride and groom, anyway? Does the fiddler know Cotton Eyed Joe? Do y'all drink and sing, anyway?
posted by paulsc at 10:09 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Multiple fiddlers, many of which do know Cotton Eyed Joe, I'm sure, although West Tennessee's delta music vibe is much different from East Tennessee's mountain fiddles. Lots of drink, food, and song are our main requirements, and it's at our house, not theirs. Not a surprise to the bride and groom, but still in the spirit of a chivaree in that we want to "sing them in to their future together" with a noisy mock-serenade and celebrate loudly by pounding on pots and pans with kitchen utensils. All that with a midtown Memphis vibe, paulsc, which I know you are familiar with from previous answers. We're thinking the surprise will be a room at the Peabody Hotel after the party, so maybe I can work that angle a little more than just making a toast and handing them the room key.
posted by raisingsand at 1:46 PM on February 25, 2011


Well, here's hoping you can make it through the Cotton Eyed Joe, the Tennessee Waltz, Courtin' in the Kitchen, Turkey in the Straw, Soldier's Joy, the Virginia Reel, and maybe some two steps (although two steps are admittedly not very midtown), before you start the pot bangin'. Best wishes to all for a fine night!
posted by paulsc at 4:51 PM on February 25, 2011


Re-reading this short thread, in which not so much of the "why?" of the old time chivaree is explained, I thought I'd come back, and try to answer that, for modern readers.

In a lot of close knit rural communities, the wedding ceremony was, and still is, a production of the bride's family and friends. Whatever is still sacred about the marriage ceremony is usually contained in the wedding, and rightfully, the bride should have her way in all things relating to her wedding, where possible. Small or large, church or civil, a good groom shows up when he's expected, stands where he's told, and says what he ought to, to honor his bride, and make his promise of betrothal final. And then, the bride and groom are married, and start their lives together.

The chivaree then belongs to the friends of the groom, and is meant to remind the newlyweds, that life doesn't always go as planned, and that marriage has often to confront and overcome the profane and uncomfortable, as much as it continues to celebrate the sacred and beautiful. Moreover, the noise and embarrassment a good chivaree causes the newlyweds is meant to be shared, and spread with friends and community, and become the fount of a lifetime of stories, to be remembered in distant days, which might be hard, and in need of old truths from better days. It's the community's advice to the newlyweds that trouble is best shared, when it can be, and that good marriages are helped along, always, by friends and family.

A good chivaree is also perfect cover for a nervous bride, or a little-too-lubricated groom, and if what should happen on a wedding night, doesn't happen until well after, well, sometimes, that's all for the better, and another good lesson for the newlyweds. What will be, will be, sooner or later...
posted by paulsc at 9:26 PM on February 25, 2011


Not a surprise to the bride and groom, but still in the spirit of a chivaree in that we want to "sing them in to their future together" with a noisy mock-serenade and celebrate loudly by pounding on pots and pans with kitchen utensils. All that with a midtown Memphis vibe, paulsc, which I know you are familiar with from previous answers. We're thinking the surprise will be a room at the Peabody Hotel after the party, so maybe I can work that angle a little more than just making a toast and handing them the room key.

Screw "making a toast." I'm not sure I'd recognize a "midtown Memphis vibe" if it came up and bit me, but I do know folkie wedding parties. And any sentiment that you could write into a toast for a non-folkie wedding reception, you can just as easily write into a lewd and raucous set of new verses to a traditional tune.

Bonus points if there's a solid chorus your guests can harmonize on. Double bonus points if you've got the sort of guests who will join in and harmonize and like it without advance notice or undue prodding. Triple bonus points in your case if the Presentation Of The Key can be worked in (with mock solemnity, doffing of hats, raising of glasses and shouting) into the last verse.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:40 AM on February 26, 2011


Chivaree was a huge success. About 70 people, much banging on pots, bluegrass band in the living room (found out we have great acoustics there), last guests leaving around 2:00 this morning. Thanks for all the suggestions. And there were quite a few "situations" during the course of the night that may end up with epic retelling over the years. At least I hope so.
posted by raisingsand at 8:33 AM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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