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Polish Weddings – Part 1 Posted by on Jul 29, 2010 in Culture

Traditional polish weddings are a lot of fun and are totally different than weddings in the States. Every time I have attended a wedding in the USA, I was very surprised that they end at midnight…Well, it may not be strange for people that grew up in the States, but for Polish people it definitely is.

Before my husband and I got married – we went to a traditional polish wedding (in Poland of course). My friend from high school was getting married while we were visiting my family. My husband had a great time – but at the same time he was very surprised how different it was from all the weddings he went to in the States. His family is actually Greek and their traditional weddings are a lot of fun. He said that Greeks know how to party – but Polish people really know how to party!

So we decided to get married in Poland and that is what we did…. Michael’s family came to the wedding and we had a blast. It was a three day party!

In Polish culture, weddings are preceded by engagement celebrations. They are usually small parties held for the closest family members of the bride and groom and are meant to get the two families to meet and get to know each other better. In some cases the parents are meeting for the very first time, so it is a show off time accompanied with a fancy dinner, luscious desserts and a variety of non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks. The engagement dinner party pretty much means that both families accept the engagement. We were not able to have a traditional engagement party, but my parents met Michael and his family during their visit to the US.

Preparations for the Polish wedding ceremony and reception start with finding a place for the wedding, organizing food, drinks, making guest-list and inviting people to the wedding. In some regions, especially in the countryside, the custom is to invite family, friends, and neighbors in person, so the future bride and groom would devote a lot of time to visiting people before the wedding day. In the modern day, although the tradition prevails in some places, open-minded Polish younger generations and celebrities copy the western examples and some Polish brides and Polish grooms like to hold bachelor and bachelorette parties shortly before the wedding day. Playing pool and throwing darts during the bachelor parties is not quite the norm yet but nonetheless, socializing and heavy drinking is usually what happens. The bachelorette parties usually involve girlish gossip with closest friends. In the Western cultures, the bachelor and bachelorette party symbolize saying goodbye to the youthful carefree life on the threshold of serious family responsibilities.

Most Polish weddings take place on Saturdays and continue through Sundays. The marriage ceremony and wedding reception for all guests are held on Saturday, while a smaller, more private party for close friends and family is continued on Sunday. There are no weddings during the 40-day Lent before Easter and during the Advent before Christmas. Those periods of year are believed to be the time dedicated for penance and preparation for the most important Christian holidays, so there is not space for public celebrations and dancing parties. Interestingly enough, there are very few weddings in May as well. This is mostly due to superstition, as many people believe that persons who marry in May are not going to be happy and won’t live together long. Although we did get married on May 31st and we are still going strong!

The wedding starts with the groom arriving to the house of the bride before they head to the church. His parents, godparents, closest family, and the best man accompany him. In the turmoil of last preparations, light snacks, for instance sandwiches, are served to the guests and sometimes a band cheers the crowd up with lively songs. Once the couple is ready, both parents give their blessings to the kneeling couple and they all are off to church.

  Obviously, everyone wants to shine on that day, so the young couple rent or borrow a nice car from a rental agency or family members if they do not own one. In some regions, decorated horse carriages are popular for such occasions. Depending on the families’ budget and local traditions, the richly decorated parade to the church can be quite a view especially if it involves regional costumes and horses adorned with white flowers and ribbons.

  In smaller villages there is a very interesting tradition of blocking the road in which the couple is driving to the church. It is usually done by people who live in the village. I have seen a lot of different ways of stopping the procession. Workers were pretending to build a wall on the road, another was a car is supposedly broken down and taking up the whole road. They can come up with really funny ideas. On our way to the church we had a Fire truck and four fire fighters blocking the road! The best man is supposed to bribe these people – so they can clear the road and let you go. Usually a bottle of vodka is in demand – and it depends how good the best man negotiates – he may give away a few bottles of vodka or only one or sometimes just a box of chocolate.

  It would be a lot to talk about, so I won’t be able to share all wedding traditions with you today, but keep an eye out for Part 2 coming soon.

Do następnego razu! (Till next time…)

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About the Author: Kasia

My name is Kasia Scontsas. I grew near Lublin, Poland and moved to Warsaw to study International Business. I have passion for languages: any languages! Currently I live in New Hampshire. I enjoy skiing, kayaking, biking and paddle boarding. My husband speaks a little Polish, but our daughters are fluent in it! I wanted to make sure that they can communicate with their Polish relatives in our native language. Teaching them Polish since they were born was the best thing I could have given them! I have been writing about learning Polish language and culture for Transparent Language’s Polish Blog since 2010.


Comments:

  1. ram:

    I think you’re a tad wrong about Polish weddings not being held in May because it’s an unlucky month. Quite the contrary! Afaik, most Polish weddings take place in May, cos it’s believed to be the most LUCKY month (and the weather is nice too:). Months you do not want to marry in are all these, which names (in Polish ofc) contain an “r”, such as: czerwiec, sierpien, wrzesien. Nonetheless, I have plenty of Polish friends who married in czerwiec or sierpien, but they all did mention the old superstition: “Oh god, I wish they still had free dates in May, but everything is booked 2 years ahead of time. Now I’m stuck with a month nobody wants to marry in”.

    Also, most Polish bachelor/hen parties I’ve been to or heard about in detail involved striptease (not always, depending on the groom’s/bride’s preferences), some sort of an extreme physical activity, such as parachute jumping, diving, bungee jumping, racing etc. (guys mostly) a shopping spree in a luxe sex shop (brides mostly) and ofc – dressing up as devils, angels, Hawaiian dancers, ladies in red and so on (ladies mostly). Also, a must on any hen party is a mix of truth or dare & a drinking game. A bride-to-be is given a task such as ironing dirty socks, sewing up old underwear, peeling potatoes blindfolded etc. A more spicy version includes going out and having to kiss a random guy, pole dancing, picking up random guys and many others. Apart from dares a bride is also given a questions that’ve been previously answered by her future husband. Then the jury (everybody else) decides if she passed a test or her answer was similar to the one her fiancée has given. If not, she drinks a shot. So in short, before the party even starts, she’s really drunk:)

  2. Steve:

    Hi Kasia. I have just come across your blog, which looks great. Your description seems rather different to the Warsaw weddings I have been to, but I recognise quite a bit of what you say. However, I particularly liked your description that “the [western] bachelor and bachelorette party symbolize saying goodbye to the youthful carefree life on the threshold of serious family responsibilities”. My English version of the bachelor party is ‘stag night’, which says it all really: celebration of the next day’s sex. The new husband may not be able to get out with his mates as much as he used to, but really saying goodbye to the carefree life is expected to be delayed at least until the ‘wetting the baby’s head’ party.

  3. be:

    Very interesting story, great way of writing, nice English – well done :)!