Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wedding traditions

Even though we're currently being submerged by American culture, Poland still retains some interesting and unique wedding customs which I thought I could share with you; you never know when you're going to be invited to a big Polish wedding! ;)

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!).

Wedding bands
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).

Church ceremony
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


  1. I loved this post! So interesting.. my fave thing must be the vodka! :P

    Im Catholic but my boy is Orthodox so we may have two ceremonies.. i dont have any family traditions.. only the typical religious ones! I like the vodka.. maybe well do it with Rakija! :) xxox

  2. What an interesting post, really enjoyed this, thank you!

  3. Thanks so much for letting us know about your traditions! I loved reading about them.

  4. oooh i was looking forward to something like this from you! i loveee the procession in the church--i've never heard of anything like that before! and the taking off of the veil--so sweet. the vodka--i can't get enough!

    is it true that in poland, some people wear their wedding bands on the right hand?

    we have many traditions, some that i wouldn't even have the guts to type here as they are veryyy over the top (and so weirdly personal?!) Everything is hosted by the brides family, and there is an exchange of koloa (different kinds of mats, tapa and textiles that are specific to our islands and have significant monetary worth) that are exchanged between families prior (or sometimes day-of) to the wedding day. The day following the wedding (Sunday) is considered the First Sunday, which is when they attend church together with their families--as a way of paying tribute to their first Sunday mass as a married couple. Afterward, there is another large feast hosted by the groom's family.

    Looking forward to hearing more from you! xx

  5. This is fascinating! I'm really excited about reading more of your wedding related posts. It makes me even more impatient to get married myself (so my boyfriend won't thank you!!!) xxx

  6. @Tali: Hahah, yeah, vodka is sooo crucial. My father already plans when and what to buy, and then Mateusz's father will be resposible for managing the stock so the alcohol is distributed evenly among the guests :)

    @MagpieSparkles and Meagan: My pleasure, girlies!

  7. @fantastic: Yes! My wedding band is made to fit the right hand... But I got so used to trying them on the left hand after visiting jewellers in Vancouver that I also did that here in Warsaw and the lady was a bit surprised!

    We actually have a very similar tradition with the First Sunday! And in general, the day after the wedding (usually Sunday) is called 'poprawiny' which is basically another feast, just as you wrote :)

  8. @loveaudrey: Expect a wedding update soon, I have some stuff to share! xxx

  9. i love it! there's no way that i could wear my band on my right hand...for some reason, it's a lot bigger than my ring finger on my left! haha. i was told to wear it down the aisle on my right, but i had to just leave it on the left--i suppose my right hand has an extra little muscle ;)

  10. It's true, if you're right handed usually your right hand is somehowe bigger because I guess you just use it more than the other... Or maybe there're some extra muscles! xxx