2Traditionally, a Polish wedding would begin about three days before the wedding date and last about a week. Everything would be prepared by the family–food, decorations, even the alcohol. Nowadays, such weddings happen very rarely, and only in the countryside, if the family is big enough. Most weddings today take no more than two days.
3Each wedding is preceded by an engagement Each wedding is preceded by an engagement. Traditionally, it would take place at the bride’s home in the presence of parents on both sides. The boy would formally ask the parents of the bride for her hand in marriage. A ring would then be blessed with holy water and a crucifix and the parents would agree on the wedding date. Nowadays an engagement looks completely different—it is a romantic meeting of two lovers who do not ask their parents for permission.
4According to Polish traditions, the wedding should take place during a year after the engagement, and that months play an important role as well. Traditionally, in Poland, even today couples pick their wedding date based on the months that have a letter “R” in their spelling. It is supposed to bring good luck. This custom, like many others, is proof that the Poles are a very superstitious people.
5A wedding in Poland is a very important event and therefore requires careful planning by the bride and the groom along with family and friends. The fun starts with the bachelor and maiden evenings. These evenings are usually held one week before the wedding. The evening begins at home, however, after imbibing copious quantities of alcohol, the parties move to the pub or a club. Ladies and gentlemen party separately, of course, and the evening goes on until the last man is left standing!
6Polish weddings are held mostly in the Saturday afternoon Polish weddings are held mostly in the Saturday afternoon. The couple spends the night before the wedding apart from each other. The next day, the groom arrives at the bride’s house where they shall receive the blessing of the parents. Only the closest family, parents and seniors take part in this ceremony as they wish the couple good luck in their life together. Then the couple, the bridesmaid and the best man go to church for the wedding ceremony.
7The bridesmaid and the best man are also called witnesses The bridesmaid and the best man are also called witnesses. By the way, in Poland, we have one maid and one best man. When everything is ready, the priest comes to welcome the couple and then all follow him to the altar. Sometimes the bride’s father leads her to the altar.
8The wedding ceremony takes about an hour, after which the spouses are showered with flowers and coins when they leave the church—for good luck, of course. Before heading out to the feast, invited guests as well as those not invited to the wedding feast, wish the married couple all the best, and hand them flowers and gifts. Finally comes the time to go to the wedding feast. Usually a rented bus transports guests to the location of the feast, but guests need to confirm this ahead of time.
9Before the married couple leave the church grounds, there is one more obstacle to be overcome. According to Polish wedding traditions, anyone, even strangers can stand on the street and block the road to wish the couple good luck in their marriage. This is called “The Gate”, where two people stand across the street holding a rope decked with ribbons, o go further down the road, the couple must pay a ransom: children are given sweets and adults a bottle of vodka. It is possible for the couple to face such obstacles many times over before reaching their destination!
10Upon reaching the place of the wedding feast, the bride and groom are welcomed with bread and salt, as well as a glass of champagne, after drinking which they throw the glasses back! The groom carries his wife over the threshold and the wedding feast begins.
11Every wedding feast is different, but you can expect hearty food and large quantities of alcohol, usually vodka and wine. The main dish is served shortly after the start of the wedding, followed by snacks and cakes. During this time the bride and groom, along with the witnesses, may disappear from the banquet for an hour or two to take wedding pictures with the photographer.
12At midnight the Oczepiny (“unveiling”) takes place the ceremony of removing the bridal veil and the groom’s bow tie, to symbolize the transition from unmarried to married. All unmarried girls must take part in catching the veil, while bachelors fight to get their hands on a bow tie. The winners are a new future couple and must take part in several games and dances together. Then a number of games for adults follow. Only the toughest competitors should participate in them, as they involve drinking shots of vodka, and often running around the chairs.
13If the bride and groom arrange a Poprawiny (“wedding after-party”), guests may continue partying and drinking the next day, only this time in a much more intimate, casual atmosphere. Usually there are lighter forms of alcohol to drink and appetizers and hot dishes are served.
14Guests usually discuss the events of the previous day, with music playing and dancing. Poprawiny officially lasts a lot shorter, usually finished early in the evening, but one can continue to have fun until a later hour.
15As you can see, it is very important for us Poles to celebrate with family, relatives and friends. It is important to ensure that the feast is sumptuous, that there is no lack of vodka and that the guests are happy–these are the traditional priorities of Polish hospitality.
16It is worth reminding that you must eat a lot, dance, keep moving and try not to drink too much vodka, especially don’t with all the uncles and seniors! A person with no skill and practice will probably end up under a table, much to the delight of the other guests. If you manage to avoid this, time spent at a wedding in Poland will provide you with many unforgettable memories.