Just a side note, not all of these are respected or even known in different regions of Poland. Moreover, this is by no means an exhaustive list.
In terms of an engagement ring, a ring with a pearl is considered bad luck as pearls are a symbol of tears. It's also a bad sign if the precious stone falls off the ring and even worse gets lost (and I've heard of such cases!).
On the wedding day, the bride is supposed to have with her something new, something old and something borrowed (not blue!).
Bride's and groom's wedding bands must have a matching design. There might some variation as to width or precious stones, but they have to form a 'set'. (More on our wedding bands coming soon...)
Before the wedding ceremony, a young couple asks for their parents' blessing. This usually takes place at home of the bride (in our case, probably the reception venue, as this is where all the guests will be lodged).
Most Polish weddings take place in a Roman Catholic church. Before the ceremony, the young couple waits for their guests outside the church (near the porch), and once the time comes, they walk together to the altar with the guests following them. However, the custom of the father of the bride accompanying her to the altar becomes more and more popular, but I prefer the more traditional way of doing things.
After the church ceremony with exchanging rings, 'first' kisses, rice-throwing and all that, the newly-weds take wishes and greetings from the guests outside of the church. They're accompanied by the bridesmaid and the best man (who are both called 'witnesses' in Polish, as they testify to the wedding) who collect flowers and small gifts or envelopes with money.
Then the couple is transported to the venue. In my family, the driver is usally the father of the bride. And, just a purely family tradition, my great grandfather first took his daughter (grandma) and her husband (grandpa) to a dead end street, explaining that it symoblises a straight path of life together without losing the righteous way, and therefore started a new tradition. I know a dead end symbolizes something entirely different in Anglo-Saxon cultures, but this customs's been in my family for 2 generations and I think we should keep it :)
In towns or villages there's also a tradition of the guests forming the 'gate' (bramka) so that the young couple can't pass unless they buy themselves out by giving some vodka to the gate-keepers.
The young couple is greeted at the reception venue with bread, salt and vodka. The bride and groom have to drink each a shot of vodka and throw the glasses behind themselves so that the glasses brake, which is a sign of good luck in marriage. It has now become customary for the couple to have a first dance, a signal that the party can start.
At midnight, there's a special ceremony called 'oczepiny'. The bridesmaid helps the bride to take the veil off, which symbolizes she's now a wife and becomes a part of her husband's family. Then some games involving the bride's team and the groom's team follow, and the last element is throwing a veil or a bouquet in the air so one of the unmarried female guests can catch it.
The party lasts till dawn and is followed by a brunch on the next day. The remaining vodka from the wedding (and there must be some vodka left!) is kept safe until the couple's first child baptism day.
As you can see, many of these customs involve vodka, vodka and even more vodka :) It's actually true than in Polish tradition all big events are celebrated with some strong alcohol, but it's not uncontrollable drinking as some may think. Poles are very much capable of holding their liquor :)
Hope you liked my rundown on Polish wedding customs. Do you have any interesting ones in your family/ country of origin? I'd love to know about them! xxx