Pompous weddings in Poland have been a tradition for centuries.
In wealthy families a wedding would last for a few days, at present the ceremony is limited to a weddings party plus continuation the next day and usually for smaller number of guests at the bride's home (on the second day after a fun night).
And now the church ceremony is followed by a wedding reception in a restaurant or a wedding house.
It is a tradition that before going to church a young couple asks for blessing in bride's home, godparents and the closest family are often present.
This is one of the most moving moments in the entire ceremony, very intimate, many tears are shed.
This is followed by a drive to the church where everyone is waiting.
Expensive limos or horse drawn carriages are often a must.
Bride and groom walk to the altar together or the groom is waiting at the altar and the bride walks with her father.
When the mass is over the newlyweds walk through the isle followed by their closets and at the churches front guests throw rice or coins.
Important: he or she who collects more money will keep the future household budget.
The newlyweds are greeted with bread and salt and two glasses with vodka at the doors of the restaurant.
Bread and salt have their symbolism: should bring prosperity, love, durability and abundance in life. In order for the young couple not to run out of them, they must taste a piece of bread soaked in salt, and then drink a glass of vodka.
After they throw an empty glass back behind their back as breaking them. It a sign of future good luck.
Then the feast begins.
At the beginning, guests usually get warm dishes such as broth and roast meat or traditional Polish pork chop.
Then start the toasts, mainly inspired by master to the ceremony and these usually are: and for the health of the bride and groom, for the future siblings, for grandparents, for prosperity etc.
Their number and contents depends on inventiveness and strength the revelers have.
Quite often, even at elegant weddings, there is a toast ‘Bitter vodka’.
Guests sing: ‘bitter vodka, we will not drink, you need a bride and groom to sweeten the vodka’ followed by a series of kisses by the bride and groom and the accompanying countdown by guests - one, two, three ....
Ribald uncles deliberately drag this moment to shame the young. Well, there is joy for everyone.
The first dance of the bride and groom begins the next stage, that is, the invitation to the dance floor. Traditionally, newlyweds dance the waltz, but the fashion is changing and now every dance and rhythm is acceptable.
There are also dance games – the loops, the circles of serpent trains of revelers throughout the room, and recently even professional dancers who are animating group guests' dances are hired.
Sometimes the MC introduces the so-called “money dance”, when someone wants to dance with the bride or groom must donate cash to cans provided by the groom or the bride. Though this may be fun and ‘profitable’ for the young, often the bride is exhausted after the next polka with another drunk uncle, whom she has never seen in her life.
And all through these dances and games, every three hours, new warm dishes are delivered to the tables. They can be buns, borsch with croquettes, baked and grilled meat, tripe, baked potatoes, strogonov, bigos, wraps, stews, Silesian dumplings, poultry and fish.
Cold cuts and meat are present, platters of smoked ham, bacon, sausages, meat jellies, fish in jelly, herring in various ways, marinades (mushrooms, peppers, cucumbers), vegetable salads, stuffed eggs and desserts.
Speaking of sweetness, the wedding cake is served after a few hours of a feast, but does not mean it end. The party should go on till the morning!
At weddings you should never run out of alcohol. Polish vodka is the basis. Well frozen is ideal for cold appetizer. Often the cases of bottles or the bottles sometimes have special labels designed by Family (Wedding Vodka for Michalina and Michal, plus date). Wines become more and more popular and in fact vodka is served only at the beginning, and the needy of a quick shot may find it at the bar together with beer and soft drinks.
As midnight approaches, many weddings would be winding down, but a Polish traditional wedding is just approaching one of its most traditional moments – the removal of the bridal veil.
This ceremony, called “oczepiny”, traditionally represented the transitional moment for the bride as she moved from her single youth towards her married future.
The midnight hour was significant as this time of transition. The veil is thrown over the bride’s head towards a group of single girls and she who catches it is to wed next. Similarly the groom’s tie (if he wears one) is cut off and now the bachelors catch it.
In rular areas single men and women have small ribbons on the left side, and those who were not free anymore wore theirs on the right. This prevented some serious misunderstandings and limited flirting opportunities...
With weddings there are numerous superstitions, here are a few of them:
- best time to get married are months that have „R” in their names,
- the wedding dress should only be tried on for an important reason – for example at the tailors’ or at the shop, otherwise bed luck knocks on your door,
- the bride should never wear genuine pearls as they symbolize misfortune,
- the bridesmaid should not be pregnant and the witnesses should not be a pair as this brings bad luck to them,
- and obviously the guarantee for a long and happy marriage is to wear something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue (like a blue garter).
Prosperous hundred years to all newlyweds!!
fot. Family Archives, Michalina&Michał wedding, AD 2016