Weddings are among the three main turning points of every person’s life, along with birth and death. In every culture, each of these events has special customs and traditions related to it.
The purpose of these customs is to successfully guide people and their relatives through crucial life changes.
In Polish culture, weddings are among the most joyful events. That is why Poles like to take their time (a wedding party in Poland can last up to three or four days)!
In this article, we take you to a Polish wedding party. We will list some of the most favored customs that you can find on a wedding day in Poland.
Keep reading to learn more about the Polish Wedding Traditions.
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Polish Wedding Traditions
There is a series of ceremonies that precede the wedding day. Their purpose is to ensure the well-being of the marriage. Of course, their purpose is to provide fun and allow people to socialize, eat traditional food and drink vodka.
Let’s see which are the most popular wedding traditions you might encounter at Polish weddings.
1. Engagement or Blessing Ceremony
Keep in mind that old Polish tradition dates from times when the bride and groom weren’t the ones deciding much about the wedding. It was their parents and future in-laws, who usually agreed on important issues regarding their wedding.
The engagement ceremony was the opportunity for them to meet and discuss further steps and conditions. If they manage to agree, they give blessing for the wedding to occur.
The family members are the only guests and they meet in one of the houses (owned by the groom’s or by the bride’s family) .
2. Inviting People To the Wedding
According to the Polish wedding traditions, there is a strict order of who gets the invitation and when. It is very important to invite bridesmaids and groomsmen first. After that, the next one to get the invitation is the best man/woman (from both sides).
After that, the rest of the guests receive their invitations. The old Polish traditions say that the whole village had to be invited to attend the ceremony. Even if they couldn’t come, they had to send a gift.
This is what made Polish wedding ceremonies a grandiose event – everyone in the village had to participate.
3. Preparing for the Wedding Day
Once people knew when and where to come, the time came for the preparation for the big day.
In Poland, a wedding dress isn’t just a piece of garment – it’s a ritual robe. This is why there is a lot of superstition related to it. For example, the groom shouldn’t see the bride before the wedding day. Also, the bride can try it out only once.
Along with the wedding dress, the bride should have something old, which she takes from her relatives, and something she borrows from her groom’s family. It is easy to guess: the old thing is a symbol of her inheritance and something borrowed is a symbol of her new home.
Traditional Polish wedding dress is usually white, as this color symbolizes purity and chastity of the bride.
However, the bride should also keep something blue with her. This is because, in Polish tradition, the color blue symbolizes fidelity in marriage. This could be a ribbon or any kind of object she can take with her to the church.
4. The Gate: Brama
The moment when the bride leaves her old home is very special. Her friends and family will usually make some kind of obstacle, trying to prevent her from leaving. This is just a performance.
The groom will then try to “bribe” them with some vodka or money, in order for them to let her pass through the gate and leave with him.
5. The Church Ceremony
Then, finally, the time comes for the young couple to get married.
Poland is mostly a Catholic country, and a lot of typical catholic customs are embedded in Polish traditions. That is why, once the Church ceremony starts, it is the bride’s father who takes her to her husband.
The husband waits near the altar, along with the priest, best man, and maid of honor, who are also witnesses. The moment when a father hands his daughter to the groom in front of the priest is probably the most sacred moment of every Polish wedding.
6. The Reception: Welcome to The New Life
After the church, parents (and now in-laws) will wait for the newly married couple in their new home or at the place where the party will take place. This is where a special reception is organized for the young couple.
The parents welcome them with bread, salt, and vodka shots. The bride and the groom eat a bit of bread and salt, as a sign of accepting the reception.
They also have to drink vodka and throw their glasses behind their back. The glasses should break after falling, ritually scaring off the bad spirits.
In Polish tradition, the bread and salt at the reception are ritual food. They are symbols of hospitality and conjugal harmony.
7. Bride and Groom and Their First Dance
The party officially starts when the couple comes back from the church and steps to the podium to take their first dance.
Traditionally, this dance was literally the first. In the old times, this was usually the moment when the future spouses saw each other for the first time.
It’s quite different nowadays. They will most probably know each other, but this dance is still considered to be the first moment of their marital life.
Of course, there has to be some music for the dancing couple. Polish weddings are famous for their live music.
8. Oczepiny Ceremony
At midnight on the first day of the wedding, there is a special custom called the Oczepiny ceremony. It marks the moment in which the two individuals become a married couple.
The bride takes off her veil, and the groom takes off his tie. The single women among the guests will then gather behind the bride and toss her bride’s veil to them. The one who catches it is the next to be married.
Once without her veil, the bride is considered to be a married woman.
The groom will do the same thing with his tie – throw it to all the bachelors at the wedding. This is when the fun starts and the party lasts until the morning.
9. Games at the Polish Wedding
Polish people like to have fun at weddings, and they sometimes play games until late at night.
For example, many times you will see all the girls sitting together, with their skirts above the knees. The groom will then have to check their legs without looking at their faces for the purpose of recognizing his own bride.
10. Get Ready For Food and Booze Until Morning!
The legend says that nobody ever left the table at a Polish wedding party without being hungover and stuffed with good food. The hosts will make sure their guests get the best out of Polish traditional cuisine.
According to Polish tradition, good vodka is one of the most important and almost ritual beverages at a wedding party. Whether you like these traditions or not, you will drink (and you will drink a lot!).
However, as there are many guests who prefer other beverages, there is usually some good wine and juices. The guests at the party are always looking forward to the tasty and well decorated wedding cake.
Of course, the bride and groom are the first ones to try the cake. The cake is usually big and with multiple layers. The wedding cake is then shared with the rest of the guests.
Depending on the hosts’ finances and guests’ strength, a Polish wedding party may last several days (the minimum is two days).
The next day is so important that it even has a special name – poprawiny. In Polish, that means “the aftermath” or “correction” of the wedding ceremony. Only the closest friends come to this, more intimate celebration day .
Traditional Polish Wedding: Something Old and Something New
There are many customs at a Polish wedding ceremony which is why it’s hard to list them all. They are a mix of old rites and new customs. However, they all have one and the same goal: to make sure the couple will have luck and happiness in their marriage.
Traditional Polish weddings are an opportunity for the whole family to participate and contribute to the happiness of the couple.
The wedding party contains everything one might need to be happy: amazing traditional food, vodka, live music and all kinds of games and dances!