Thinking about organizing a wedding in Poland? Or maybe you have been recently invited to a traditional Polish wedding? We have something just for you.
Although we are truly convinced that it would be a piece of cake to write the whole post about every single one of the Polish wedding traditions, we’ve decided to present them to you in a shortcut. With a pinch of salt. Yes, a Polish wedding is probably quite different from what you’ve experienced in your (especially if Non-European) country, but really, nothing to worry about. It’s a lot of fun too.
So let’s get started with a ‘Foreign on a Polish wedding Survival Kit’ vol. 1.
- No ‘save the date’? How about video/e-mailed invitation?Are the ‘save the date’ cards quite basic in your country? Well, not here. The first official notice of a future wedding you will receive in Poland will be… the invitation. Usually sent (by the traditional post) 1-2 months before the wedding. Sounds problematic? Not so much. The grapevine works perfectly within the Polish families. So if the date and the venue are settled, you’ll usually know about it a long time before the invitation arrives.Thinking about sending the wedding invitation by e-mail? Probably now a good idea. Especially not in a case of an older generation. The result might be very unpleasant – some of them will possibly not come to the party (or replay you at all). You have to remember that Poles are very attached to the traditions and some rules simply cannot be broken.But that’s not all. The way how you invite your guest is also very important. Especially when you invite a cousin or a family friend who lives nearby. In this case do not even try to shirk from a personal visit with your fiancé. It is obligatory. What it all means in reality? At least a couple of days spent on a 10-hours coffees and cakes and donuts and candies and cookies. Add to that sharing your love story and some personal details of your life with every aunt and uncle. The good news is that you have a perfect opportunity to get to know some new members of the family before the big day. It’s also quite an opportunity to verify the family rumors about aunty Anna having a pack of six, crazy cats in her always perfectly cleaned-up apartment. And to be honest? If you lucky enough to have a nice, warm or interesting family, this part may actually become pleasant. Keep in mind that Poles are very attached to their (often centuries-old) traditions.
- No excess with bridesmaidsTraditionally Polish bride does not usually pick more than one bridesmaid. In quite a lot of cases, the bridesmaid is a bride sister or the closest cousin. Of course, the best friend choice is also popular. Quite regular. What might be interesting is that the Polish bride does not often choose or buy a dress to her maid of honor. Usually, it also does not even correspond with the wedding theme or color. Of course, the custom (as almost every other) is changing within time, so more and more often you can see the Eastern influences such as a string of maids of honor.But do not be misled. In a lot of cases, there is no chance for an official bridesmaid presentation in a church for example. There might also be some problems with bridesmaids standing next to the Altar. With some luck, you can place them in the same church bench. But as the church is often crowded, you shall better reserve the bench earlier (with no guarantee that it won’t be ignored by aunties). The very Polish custom for the ceremony is that the first maid of honor, along with the first best men, sits right behind the newlyweds, who sit in the center of the Alter.
- Best man’s roleWhat about the best men? Just like the above. Rather no choice of suit, tie bows, socks or so on. Come as you like.And his role? Not so complicated. Trying not to get drunk too fast, but get drunk eventually (preferably after midnight), have a very eagle eye on vodka supplies and do everything to avoided the biggest, the most frightening indignity during the wedding – shortage of vodka! And do not forget to hand the princess won in a competition called “oczepiny”. And what is the traditional price? A bottle of vodka!Not to be unfair – the other significant role of the best man is to keep the wedding guest entertained. A lot of jokes, regular talks and checking if they have everything they needed would be nice. That’s probably why we often think about a best man as a second emcee. What about some speeches? Not very common. So at least they can cross that out of the list. Of course, the best man can accompany the groom with his dressing, but to be honest? Not necessarily.
- Where to go first?Eastern tradition is easy – all of the guests invited to the ceremony goes to the ceremony place. As easy as anything. How about in Poland? Not so easy. first of all – remember that in Poland you can be invited just to the church ceremony and not the party following, so read the invitation carefully. Second of all – we have to remember the blessing tradition (see below). If you’ve never seen one – go, even to see what it’s all about. And remember, whoever comes to the bride’s house before the wedding, can see her first, and maybe get a little bit emotional observing the couple first look because it also happens there. Although it is not mandatory to be there, the closest family is expected. If you are just a friend – the choice is free and all up to you. Frequently the distant cousins and friends go straight to the ceremony place.
- A blessing tradition
Now, what with that ‘blessing tradition’? As Poland is a quite Catholic country, there will always be some pressure on a blessing tradition, especially within an older generation. Sounds quite profound, but a blessing is nothing more than some beautiful words, sustain in a religious tone, directed to newlyweds by their parents. It goes like this: a bride and a groom kneel, one (or all) of their parents makes a little speech. After that, they hand them a cross to kiss. Every one of them. The ceremony is quite short, but often has a significant meaning for the family. Although, it is not every private it can be very emotional. It goes as I mentioned before, a vast part of family comes to the bride’s family home (and traditionally that is the only right place to do blessing) to see the couple attending this religious custom.After that the couple lives the place, often already accompanied by the band. It a very joyful and profound moment. What about all the crowd and the noise? It surely attracts the neighbors. That’s way it is not surprising to see all of them coming out of their houses to see the newlyweds, even if they are not invited to the wedding, they are very welcome.
- The newlyweds arrival
What happens then? The groom’s part. As in a vastness of responsibilities before the wedding the groom do not actually have a lot to do, this is the one for him. He usually organizes a wedding car. The custom is quite the same as in other countries – he chooses between some old-school, vintage cars. Some limousines. Some vehicles with tradition, as a very Polish vehicle called Warszawa (quite nice actually), and some other exclusive or extravagant cars. The groom takes the car and drives to the bride’s family home. We all already know what happens there. Then the last moment of peace follows. The couple heads for the ceremony place. But remember, it’s quite important for them to arrive there as one of the last ones, so every guest can watch and comment the car. After that, the big day begins for real.
- The road to the AlterAlthough father leading the bride to the Alter, it is one of the old polish traditions, a lot of Polish priests seems to forget about it. So there might be some problems to persuade them to allow it. But not always.What even more surprising, we have to warn you that, some the Polish guest may also have some doubts or objections about it (as about all other, far less ‘controversial’ things ;)). But not always either. We advise you to approach and arrange this element as you fell. For me, there is something magical in this beautiful moment when the father is passing the fate and the future of her beloved daughter to his new son.
- Church ceremony – a lot of movement
As the vast majority of Polish couple decides on a concordat wedding (a combination of church and civil wedding) the guests have to prepare themselves for a lot of movement. If you are not used to Catholic masses, you might have a problem with all this sitting, kneeling and standing during the Eucharist. Anyway, you shouldn’t worry too much about that. If the church is not filled with foreign only, there will always be some nice, older grandma sitting in the front. Try to spot one and keep an eye on her 😉 In the worst case you can always keep an eye on an altar boy – he would usually know what to do.A civil wedding ceremony is usually much shorter. As the mass takes about 40-50 min, a civil wedding is 20 minutes tops. There is far less movement and seats are usually more comfortable.
- Rice, coins and petals of rosesIt is very popular for a couple to have a rice, coins or petals of roses thrown at precisely when they come out of the church. Flowers girl custom? No. Nothing like that. Traditionally every guest should throw something on the newlyweds coming out of the church to wish them a luck. In some regions of Poland, when guests throw coins and the couple’s job it to pick every single one of it from the ground. According to the superstition that shall provide a prosperity. And please, watch out not to get it in the neck.
- The congratulations and the gifts
After the ceremony comes the time for congratulations. So stand in a line. There is always a line, and it is not a short one. Newlyweds pick the place before the church or before the venue and waits for every guest to come and congratulate them personally. All at the same time. Give flowers to the bride and the envelope with money (the most popular wedding gift) to the groom. They will pass that to their maid of honor and the best men. After the queuing wait until for the last guest to finish. The couple always comes to the venue first. But before that – another tradition – the bread and salt (look below).How about the gift choice? The easiest thing in the world. Money. Always warmly welcomed. Put them in the envelope with some nice wedding card. The flowers (as a required additional gift) gives up to a bottle of wine or lottery tickets.
- A bread, a salt and some vodka
This unique tradition is a welcome greeting ceremony, typical for Slavic European cultures. Sharing a bread and salt is a very old Slavic custom. How does it goes on the wedding? The couple’s parents are holding a tray with beautiful, ornamented bread, some salt and two glasses of vodka, just in front of the main door. The newlyweds have to taste some bread sprinkled with salt and drink the vodka. Remember, there is nothing else on the tray except these three things (nothing to drink after the vodka). Tell you a secret? Nowadays, the traditional vodka is often replaced with plain water. But honestly? A glass of vodka on a usually empty stomach of a really stressed couple is not the most reasonable idea. In some regions of Poland, the custom is to place on the tray one glass filled with vodka and the other one with water. The superstition says that the one of newlyweds who hits upon the vodka will be a leader in their relationship.The bread symbolizes a prosperity and the salt it there to remind that the life is sometimes harsh, bitter and difficult, but a marriage has to learn how to deal with the struggle of life together. An alcohol is simply a good luck wish. After a drinking part, the couple has to throw the glass behind them so that it breaks into pieces. Another throwing? Yes. You always have to be watchful and alert if it comes to Polish weddings.
What is interesting, traditionally the custom was not only perused in a case of a wedding. Every time, when someone respected or important arrived, the hosts welcome him with a bread and salt. What a remarkable gesture of well-known Polish hospitality.After all of that – the party begins. And wat happens there? Wait for the next part of a ‘Foreign on a Polish wedding survival kit’! We can promise you one thing – it will be even more interesting.