Weddings are steeped in tradition, but where did those rituals come from? The Traditions column explores the origins of different wedding customs from around the world.
As Kelly Fry and Nick Campbell take their photos before their intimate nuptials at Rothko Chapel in Houston on January 26, 2022, the groom’s brothers strapped eight empty Campbell’s soup cans to the back of their 1949 black Hudson convertible, which once belonged to the father of the bride. who passed away in 2014.
The loud decorations didn’t come as a surprise to the newlyweds, who live in Austin, Texas. “The cans were my idea,” said Ms. Fry, 38, an actress. “I wanted to have a visual that symbolized the joy of our relationship.”
She added, “The car was an opportunity to honor my father. The cans spoke to my marriage, Nick’s last name, Andy Warhol and our passion for art.” Mr. Campbell, 36, is the founder of two art consulting firms, Narcissus Arts and Campbell Art Advisory.
The evolution of tradition
It’s widely believed that noisy farewells, such as the timeless rattling of tin cans on the backs of newlyweds’ getaway cars, stem from the French tradition of charivari (French for commotion). Centuries ago, Charivari was used to criticize marriage.
“Single men would protest a wedding they didn’t approve of by banging pots together and shouting against a rich order: a widower remarrying a young woman from the community or a man wanting to marry a woman who wasn’t part of the community,” said Xavier Marichaud, professor of history and education at the University. State College of New York in Old Westbury, New York, and an expert on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France.
“They felt like these women had been stolen from them,” said Dr. Marechaux. “To show their disagreement, they made a big noise in front of the couple’s house on their wedding night.”
Determining the birth of these traditions is “nearly impossible,” said Tuck Thompson, a professor of anthropology and communication at USC. But Dr. Thompson believes that French settlers brought charivari with them to Canada in the early 1600s and that the tradition eventually spread to the United States.
Dr. Thompson said it was more than a “rough initiation, often directed at women, especially outsiders to society”. “They had a bunch of people, mostly men, claim to have dinner on the first night that the newlyweds were supposed to eat for themselves. It was part of the initiation ritual.”
As couples began to embrace more casual weddings in the early 1900s, the tradition evolved into a more playful act.
“The function of marriage has changed,” Dr. Thompson said, adding that the ritual jokes people played weren’t as stern. “Charivari has become a way to start a new identity, from being single to being a couple. Marriages and couples are now celebrated rather than challenged or contested.”
Loud singing turned into light-heartedness. The pots were replaced with tin cans. The scream turned into a cheer. And the menacing men’s group became an alliance of friends, family and local residents.
During this era, automobiles became more accessible and an important focal point beginning in the early 2000s, according to Kathryn Parkin, a professor of history at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ. By the 1960s, she said, cars were one of the most popular places people got involved.
“The adoption of this tradition by Americans in the 20th century is a celebration of youth,” said Ms. Parkin, offering people a way to celebrate with their peers. There is also the abandonment of the bride and the driving away as a married couple, suggesting the separation of the children from their parents and an affirmation of their adult life together.”
Gary Ferguson, professor of French literature at the University of Virginia, said that attaching cans, “something easily disposable, readily available, rather worthless and making the same noise as pots and pans, was also a way of publicly announcing the wedding to the entire community and drawing attention to The couple during their trip.
While the core of tradition remains the same, modern couples are putting their own spin on the farewell, said Emily Campbell, founder and executive producer of GoBella Design & Planning, a wedding planner in Breckenridge, Colorado. These include fireworks, vintage cars, second-row horns, and in the mountains, even the gondolas are full of late-night snacks, personalized playlists and sheepskin rugs,” she said.
“The nice thing about attaching old tins to a car is that it points to a simpler time when the decor was really pulled from storage,” said Mrs. Campbell.
The tradition-conscious Mrs. Fry and Mr. Campbell’s inclusion in their wedding (they also provided the top tier of wedding cakes) was a way for them to add a custom touch that reflected their trip.
“The caddies felt festive and special, an intimate portrait of this marriage,” said Ms. Fry. “When people saw us driving by, they beeped, waved and shouted congratulations. It’s a special moment from that time in our lives. And there’s a special story attached to it to share with others about how it all came together.”