Wedding is a BIG day. Not every day you decide to spent the rest of your life with one person. It takes a lot of time, effort and money to plan the perfect day. Celebrated across the world, weddings differ from country to country. From old traditions to new additions. We’ve all seen it in the movies – especially the American style weddings. But how about Eastern European wedding?
Have you been invited to attend a wedding in Poland, or was just curious what It’s like? If the answer is “I do!”, then here’s a guide on what Polish wedding really looks like and the top 10 things that make it stand out!
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The majority of the population in Poland is Catholic. Therefore, many still follow the religious customs. Traditional Polish wedding takes place early afternoon on Saturday. Controversial to the common belief that the groom shouldn’t see the bride before the wedding; in Poland once they’re both dressed up, both of their parents would meet them at the house to give them their blessings. Then it’s off to church for the exchange of vows.
1. The Gate
When neighbours or friends know the couple is on their way to get married, they purposely block the road for them. Although less popular nowadays, people in small towns and villages still tend to set it up. So-called gate (‘brama’ in Polish) is made of people or some kind of barricades. These tend to be quite creative and funny. They won’t let the couple pass the gate until they receive a bottle of vodka. Sometimes, in addition there’s a challenge for the couple to complete. It’s one of the first test for the soon-to-be husband and wife to get through on their new journey together. As soon as the couple successfully pass the gate, it’s time for the ceremony at the church.
2. Money shower
During the ceremony, there will be a mass and exchange of the vows. At the end, as soon as the new husband and wife exits the church, friends and family shower them with rice and/or cents. The couple has to collect the cents from the ground. This is meant to bring happy and prosperous life to the newlyweds.
Now that the ceremony is over, it’s time for the party! All the guests are invited to continue celebrations in a restaurant. Transport is always provided for those who need one. Guests can say their best wishes to the couple in front of the church or at the restaurant. A card filled with money inside is usually given. Some may also choose to additionally give flowers or a bottle of wine.
3. Bread and Salt Blessing… and a shot of vodka!
Once everyone arrives and before the couple enters the party venue, their parents present slightly salted bread. Bread is offered so that the couple may never experience hunger in their household, while salt reminds them of life’s difficulties and the importance of getting through them. The newlyweds will take a small bite, followed by a shot of vodka. Once downed, the couple need to throw the shot glasses behind their backs. If they break, it’s a sign of good luck.
4. Traditional Polish food
Poles are very hospitable and they take pride in their traditional food. At the start of the reception, there will be a toast for the couple and the first meal course of the day. First dish is always a traditional chicken soup – to warm up your gut for all the alcohol you will consume later on. Second dish usually includes meat, potatoes and selection of salads. Thirdly, there will be a dessert which might be an ice cream with fruits. After the first meal, the couple will have their first dance and later invite all the guests to join on the dance floor. Over the course of the party, guests will be served another 3 warm dishes. Don’t worry about getting hungry in-between meals. The tables are filled with cakes, fruits and soft drinks. Additionally, there are tables on the side with a range of different delicacies.
5. Vodka. There's infinite amount of vodka.
It's a well-known fact that Polish people enjoy drinking vodka. At the wedding, each table has at least one bottle to share between guests. During the party, there are many more toasts to the newlyweds, where all the guests have to take a shots of vodka. There's always a designated person, which ensures all the empty bottles are replaced with the new ones. Literally, you can never run out of vodka at the Polish wedding. If you're not a fan of vodka, there is also an open bar which serves other alcoholic drinks. Na zdrowie!
6. Live band and disco polo music
At Polish weddings there’s a live band who not only sings a Polish folk music so-called ‘disco polo’ but also entertains the guests as the evening goes on. They entertain the guests with a number of different games and contests. Disco polo music although very cheesy, yet it’s very easy to dance and sign to (if you know the lyrics).
7. Next bride AND groom
At midnight there is ‘oczepiny’. The bride sits in the middle of the dancefloor while a circle of bachelorettes will go around her. The husband covers her eyes so she can’t spy. She has to throw her veil (or bouquet) back and the next lady that catches it, will be the next bride. The one that catches the veil has to put it on.
Then, it’s bachelors turn! Places swap and now the husband blind folded has to throw his tie/ bow tie. The lucky guy that catches it will be the next groom. He has to put the it on.
Once the new future bride and groom have been announced they need to have their first dance together.
8. Games and contests
There are different games throughout the evening. Some of the most popular ones are:
- Chusteczka (eng: tissue) - a large circle of guests is formed with few people inside it. The circle goes around. Each person inside has a tissue. Their task is to swap with someone of opposite sex from the circle. To do this they must place the tissue on the ground in front of that person. They both must kneel and kiss on the cheek. The chosen person goes inside the circle and it’s their task to find someone els to take their place now.
- Krzeselka (eng: chairs) – a number of chairs is set up in a circle (back facing inner of the circle). The number of participants in this game has to be one more than a number of chairs. The participants will walk around the chairs to the music. As soon as the music stops, they all need to sit down on available chair. To make it more interesting, there’s always a challenge before they can sit down. For instance, they can only sit down if they have someone else’s left men shoe. The last person who doesn’t manage to secure a sit, is out. The next round is one chair less. The game continues until there are only two people left and one chair. The winner of the game gets a prize (usually a bottle of vodka to take home).
9. Party till the sunrise… or even longer
There is a lot of dancing, eating, drinking and playing all day and all night. The typical Polish wedding doesn’t finish until the last guest leaves. This can be as late as early morning the next day. But it doesn’t stop there. Some weddings also have so-called “poprawiny”. This is a continuation party on Sunday afternoon. Although this one isn’t as wild as the night before, there’s still plenty of food, vodka and dancing involved. You better be prepared and have strong pain killers to combat the hangover if you want to attend the next day!
10. Box with cakes
One can never have too many cakes! Regardless if you have or haven’t had a chance to taste some of the cakes at the wedding, when it’s time for you to leave the party, the couple will give a box with cakes. This is to thank their guests for coming and being a part of their special day.
Polish people like to party and will make sure to have a good time on their special day. They will also drink you under the table. Share you Polish wedding (or from a different country) experience in the comments below. What has surprised you?
Travel blogger with a gypsy soul at heart. Based in London, but mostly seen at the airport ready for the next adventure.
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