Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
Wedding celebrations in Poland used to involve much more tradition than nowadays. But a typical Polish wedding still might differ from any other and many people may find it interesting to get to know more about the specific customs – especially if they are to attend one.
When the wedding is planned, the couple must attend special lessons that will prepare them to handle the marriage (these are organised by the church). The churches, traditionally the ones that the couple went to, announce the marriage 3 times a few weeks in advance – not to attract more guests but to make sure that there is nobody who is against the marriage.
Young generation organises bachelor and bachelorette’s party that takes place a week or two before the actual wedding. The event is, however, dominated by pub crawling or gossips telling. Silly presents are given – among them for example rolling-pin, that a girl gets to dominate over her future husband.
Before everybody leaves to the church the couple meets at the bride’s house. They come to kneel and ask for a blessing – that is given by both parents with assistance of some of the guests. The couple goes to the church by fancy car (usually rented for that occasion) which is nicely decorated. Still some people – especially in villages – leave with decorated horse carriage.
When the couple enters the church, other guests are already seated waiting for the ceremony to start. It is the tradition that the wedding takes place on Saturday (and it happens like that in most of the cases). At some point the bride and the groom must repeat the whole marriage pledge after the priest and promise each other eternal love and faithfulness. If one expects the kiss – that is so much present in Western movies – they will be disappointed, as the kiss does not take place during the ceremony.
After the newly married leave the church, a crowd of guests surrounds them to give the best wishes and presents – in most of the cases they get a card with money but other gifts (such as beddings, dishes or household appliances) are also popular. After all the guests congratulate to the newly married, everybody can leave to the place of the wedding reception.
The tradition says that it is the parents of the bride who finance the wedding – but the groom’s parents should provide vodka. As the customs change, the reality now is that in most of the cases the parents of the couple split the cost of the wedding between each other.
The wedding receptions in the countryside are much bigger than in the cities. The reason is, that according to the tradition you should invite whole village and excluding any neighbour would show disrespect. Also all the people in village know each other very well, are related and even distant relations still get on well. Even in the cities the couple usually invites all the guests in person – it is a big effort to reach everybody. The weddings in the countryside are very often organised in private house or in public buildings – such as fire-stations. When the newly married reach the place, they are welcome by parents with bread and salt. Very popular tradition is also that they drink Champaign from tied to each other glasses, and when the glasses are empty they throw them over their shoulders. If they break, it means that the couple will live happily together. Very often the bride is asked to clean the broken glasses – and her work should show how good housewife she will be.
Eventually the wedding reception takes place! Traditionally there is live band playing for the guests that enjoy the reception all night long. In some regions of Poland the weddings might last even couple of days, while it is popular tradition that at least on the following day you invite the guests to eat and drink what was left from the reception.
The wedding might be quite tiring for the newly married. They must entertain guests and drink vodka with all of them, organise games (especially those including veil and bow tie throwing) while the guests often encourage them to kiss each other by shouting “gorzko, gorzko” (meaning: bitterly, bitterly) or singing various songs like “she is guilty of that and should kiss him now”. The song “Sto lat!” (100 years!) cannot be forgotten either.
The couple cannot count for intimacy especially that, according to the tradition, if some of guests arrive from distant places they are offered accommodation in their (or their parents’) house. Offering stay in a hotel – especially if the cost is to be covered by the guests themselves – might be taken as an offence.
Traditionally the Poles avoid getting married during 40-day Lent before Easter and during Advent before Christmas. The weddings are, however, a great occasion to meet close and distant relations and to enjoy the fact that the new marriage starts.