Hawk Buckman

Shivaree - Guernsey, Wyoming

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How would you feel if you were interrupted on your wedding night by a raucous crowd gathered outside your new home?  If your ancestors got married on the frontier, there’s a good chance their communities practiced the celebratory tradition known as “shivaree” – wedding guests would often return uninvited to the homes of newlyweds, banging pots and pans, shooting guns, and forcing entry into the matrimonial residence. Sometimes they might drag you from your home and abandon you in a nearby field, or tie you to a particular tree stump – anything to get you to forget about consummating your wedding. Cold-blooded if you ask me but, all in good fun.

In this wedding, the ancestral practice of shivaree has been slightly downgraded from a drunken mob of family and friends dragging you from your home to a trip from the chapel to the reception venue by means of a wheelbarrow in which the bride is hauled by her new groom.

This wedding, held in the very small town of Guernsey, Wyoming, was my first experience with the ancient practice of shivaree, and I was surprised by the respect given to the tradition by the family who took immense pride in the act. I hope it’s not my last.

The event was low-key, low-budget, a simple celebration of life and new beginnings, and full of so much love. Everyone in attendance had a great time, including me. Less can always be more. It’s what you make of it. It’s the memories that matter, not the location or extravagance. 

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