Every culture has its own wedding tradition. But what is it like to get married in a Polish family? Read on to discover Polish wedding traditions!
Introduction to Polish Weddings
Polish wedding customs take back to the Slavic culture, which is why lots of Slavic countries share identical, or slightly altered traditions.
Yet generally speaking, Polish weddings and Polish American weddings are not that different from other modern weddings in the Western world. A bride and a groom (with the best man and maid of honor) make a date to stand in front of a civil officer, listen to a few words of wisdom, sign a piece of paper, then go off to continue their celebration of their new life together.
Some couples like big weddings and party till early morning hours - other couples prefer to go out for a nice celebratory meal with their close ones. And while some couples like to keep things simple - others prefer to include joyful Polish wedding traditions in their parties.
Polish Wedding Timeline
Today, there is no such thing as an arranged marriage in Poland. Yet not that long ago, the whole world functioned via arranged marriages, and Poles were not an exception - a marriage was considered to be more of a business transaction than an act of love between two couples. Things like dowry and matchmaking were important elements of a wedding timeline, but we will tell you how a Polish marriage functions now, when it comes to the steps that are taken.
So, a typical Polish wedding timeline looks something like this:
First comes dating. A boy meets a girl, or a girl meets a boy, and then they date for a while or until they are sick of all the aunties asking them when they will tie the knot.
Then, comes engagement. A Polish engagement ring (its style and look depending on the groom’s budget) is worn on the right hand, only to be moved to the left alongside the wedding ring after the marriage ceremony. It is (still) a good idea for the groom to ask the father of their bride for their daughter’s hand in marriage, and couples do like to throw an engagement party for their closest ones, which is a good opportunity for both families to meet each other.
Then, wedding preparations begin, along with all the organizational chaos - choosing the dress, the venue, the cake, the band…
A hen’s party and a bachelor’s party take place ideally the last weekend before the wedding ceremony (so that everyone has time to recover because, well… Polish vodka is strong).
Then comes the wedding day!
And then comes, though it’s not obligatory - the second wedding day, known as poprawiny (will be discussed later).
Yes, a Polish wedding is just as exciting and just as chaotic as any other!
Top Polish Wedding Traditions
Not that long ago, when it came to Poland, it was only possible to get married either in church or in a civil institution (the officers wouldn’t go out on location). Today, you can invite a civil officer almost anywhere you’d like to have your wedding, which could include any of the following traditional Polish wedding customs and traditions:
Zmówiny, as a Polish wedding tradition, is the name for the event where parents of the bride and the groom meet for the first time. Taking from the time of arranged marriages in Poland, this was when parents would discuss all the details of the future union of their kids. Today, the semi-formal occasion in which the parents meet for the first time is easily referred to as zmówiny.
2. Bread and salt blessing
Polish bread and salt blessing is a common tradition among slavic cultures, still very much alive today. After the marriage ceremony, coming back home - or to the wedding venue - the couple is greeted by their parents, holding a tray with bread sprinkled with salt, and occasionally wine. The newlyweds are supposed to take a bite (and a sip) of the offering, taking as such a blessing of abundance for their union. This moment also marks the beginning of the wedding reception.
3. Polish wedding toast
When it comes to Polish wedding ceremonies, as well as other official Polish gatherings, you can be sure that a toast will take place. Given by chosen members of the family from both sides or a group of friends (sometimes only one person, sometimes a few), this is the time to say happy wedding to the bride and groom, congratulating them on their next step in life, and sharing best wishes for their future.
4. Polish apron dance
The Polish bride can have a special moment during the wedding, if the couple decides to perform the Polish apron dance. Considered a bit tacky by some, but in general - a very fun tradition that represents a rite of passage for the bride (from a girl into a woman), calls for guests to stand in line to dance with the bride. In order to dance with her - you have to put some money in a special apron that is held by her father. The people that have danced with the bride then form a circle around her and play pretend to stop the groom from entering the circle and claiming his bride.
Another rite of passage for the bride is the moment called oczepiny. This happens at the stroke of midnight, where the bridal party comes together to remove the veil from her hair. Some brides change their hairstyle at this moment, removing the braids from the hair as well. And the veil - gets thrown into the bridal party, as whoever catches it first is (said) to be the next to marry!
6. Poprawiny, a second wedding party.
Now this concept may seem strange to some, but poprawiny are known as an extra few hours or a whole day to celebrate the party even more. Poprawiny are not exclusive only to weddings, but can take place after occasions like batising, the New Year’s party, etc. It’s like an afterparty, and it can take many shapes and forms, like a brunch for the close family members or a full-on party.
Invited to A Polish Wedding?
If you find yourself invited to a Polish wedding, prepare to have a great time! When it comes to the rules of manners, you will find that modern Polish weddings are not that different from American weddings. Follow the clues on the invitation of whether or not you should bring a Plus One or if the wedding is suitable for kids, dress nicely (no jeans, sneakers, etc.), say gratulacje (congratulations)and sing the Sto Latsong, and as for Polish wedding gift ideas - visit our shop!
What are your favorite Polish American wedding traditions?