(Wesele). Polish customs have not changed much during the centuries, but due to the rich variety
of many regional traditions in Poland, some published information might be little different. |
wedding is one of the most important family celebrations.
First there is the engagement period called
Oswiadczyny, Zareczyny or Zrekowiny.
The wedding day is set up by young people.
Invitation time called: Zaprosiny or
Wedding Day (Church and
Day party. In Poland sometimes 3 days
engagement ceremony comes before the wedding. The engagement is usually a small
ceremony that takes place in the house of the parents or parents in law (either
the bride or the groom). Many times this is a time when in-laws meet each other
the first time.
Wedding traditions demanded that guests be invited in a certain obligatory
manner. First, invitations were issued to relatives or friends to act as
groomsmen or bridesmaids. The bride and groom then went to
invite their godparents. In some sections of Poland old custom forbade the
exclusion of anyone in the village from being invited to the wedding.
If somebody from invited guests is unable to participate in a wedding ceremony
he/she usually sends a telegram or a postcard or the gift.
Some Polish brides and grooms like to celebrate the big change in their lives -
the wedding - with a bachelor and bachelorette party. The bachelor and
bachelorette party sometimes takes place a night before the wedding but more
often - on a Saturday or Friday - a week or two before the wedding ceremony.
During the bachelor party, the groom gets to go out and socialize with his guy
friends. They usually visit a couple of bars where they have drinks, play pool
or throw darts. During the bachelorette party, the bride either goes out with
her girl friends or invites the girl friends to her house for a light meal and
drinks. During the party, the girls talk, gossip, play games, and listen to
A wedding ceremony is usually both religious and civil and takes place first a
magistrate and then in a church.
The most typical wish
to the newlywed:
"Zycze Wam wszystkiego najlepszego na nowej drodze zycia."
(I wish you all of the best on your new road through life.)
There are several ways to express Polish traditions on the wedding day:
1. Before the church
ceremony everyone would gather at the home of the bride to accompany the bridal couple to
the church, but also to witness the blessing and symbolic farewells of the bride
with her parents, relatives, and friends. The blessing by the parents before
church were seen
as more important than the church ceremony itself. A crucifix, a lighted candle,
a bowl of holy water and a sprinkler (if the regular Polish brush-type sprinkler
is not available, this can be a leafy tree branch) should be prepared.
Traditionally the mother of the bride gives the blessing. Either kneelers
or some cushions are provided for the bride and groom to kneel on. They hold
hands as they kneel in front of their parents. The mother then sprinkles the
bride and groom-to-be with Holy Water, whereupon they make the Sign of the
Cross. She then gives them the crucifix to kiss. The father of the bride may
utter a blessing of his own or simply sprinkle the couple with Holy Water. The
bridegroom's parents may also impart their blessing. Others, for instance
grandparents, or godparents may also bless the couple.
After the blessing, the bride and groom thank, hug and kiss their parents and
the wedding party prepares to leave for church. Years ago, the blessings
were so important that, if a mother or father had died, the wedding party would
stop at the cemetery where the groom or bride asked for a blessing from the
2. The Bread and Salt Blessing
is an old and most popular Polish tradition. At the wedding reception, the
parents of the bride and groom greet the newly married couple with bread, which
is lightly sprinkled with salt and a goblet of wine.
Parents usually say:
zwyczajem witamy Was chlebem i sola, aby w Waszym domu zawsze goscil dostatek."
"According to our Old Polish tradition, we greet you with bread and salt, so
that your home might always enjoy abundance."
bread, the parents are hoping that their children will never hunger of be in
need. With the salt, they are reminding the couple that their life may be
difficult at times, and they must learn to cope with life's struggles. Also It
was believed that salt had the power to heal and cleanse, uncover thieves,
protect houses against fire, dispel storms and hail, and drive away evil
spirits. The wine symbolizes the desire that the couple will never go thirsty,
and that their lives will be filled with health and happiness. After the bride
and groom each taste a piece of bread they break the plate and glass for good luck. The parents
then kiss them as a sign of welcome, unity, and love.
- Church ceremony
Everyone would gather at the home of the bride to accompany the bridal couple to
the church, but also to witness the blessing and symbolic farewells of the bride
with her parents, relatives, and friends.
The trip to the church took place in various ways, with the bride and groom riding together,
or bride and groom comes separate. If they come separate the bride waits in the church and
the groom shouldn't
see her until the mess ceremony starts. Father walks with the bride to the
Leaving the church ceremony, the bride
sometimes threw handfuls of straw on the young boys and girls who followed the
wedding party. Whoever it landed on was prophesied to marry before the others.
Another belief was that whichever one of the bridesmaids touched the bride or
her wreath first after the marriage would marry that year.
After the wedding
ceremony there is a time for congratulations. While
the young couple leaves a church, the Wedding March of Mendelssohn or Ave Maria
is played by the organist. Then the rest of the invited guests leave a church
and wait, usually in a long line to congratulate a young couple in front of the
church. The parents and the closest family congratulate first, later the rest of
Than guests usually
throw small coins to a young couple, where the money needs to be picked up,
mainly by guests. This is an old and pagan habit but still very popular. In the
past people showered a young couple with grains or rice, usually millet for a
good and prosperous future.
- Music and Dance
Many young couples consider
hiring a polish band / polka band, so their guests can enjoy Polish Music.
It is customary to have musicians playing as the wedding guest began arriving
at banquet hall or the Dom Weselny (wedding home). Sometimes musicians are
rewarded with a small tip. It is often sung to celebrate any major occasion, such as
First toast and song called "Sto lat" which literally translated means
"one hundred years". Sto Lat, usually is sung by the guests that
signifies 100 years of good health for the bride and groom.
STO LAT - ONE HUNDRED YEARS
Sto lat, sto lat niech zyje,
Sto lat, sto lat niech zyje, zyje nam,
Jeszcze raz, jeszcze raz,
niech zyje, zyje nam, niech zyje nam....
Good health, good cheer, may
you live a hundred years,
one hundred years....
Also there is tradition that all the guests at the reception line up or make a circle for a last chance to
dance with the bride. It is customary to donate money to the newly wed couple
for the privilege of the dance. Guests pin money to the bride's wedding dress to
buy a dance from her. Or the money can be put into an apron, basket, plate,
or decorated box before dancing with the bride. The money collected during the
dance is sent with them to spend on their honeymoon.
Next day after reception party, there is a follow-up party the day after the wedding
(poprawiny). This is
held at the home of one of the newlyweds' parents, especially when there is
quite a bit of food and drink left over from the previous day's festivities.
- The Unveiling and
Capping Ceremony ( called "oczepiny") during wedding ceremony
This tradition is still the
mainstay of many Polish brides, representing a rite of passage from young woman
to married woman. All single ladies circle the bride as the maid or matron of
honor stands behind the bride and removes the veil/cap (welon, czepek) from the bride's head as
music is played. A married woman is given the responsibility of pinning the cap
on the bride as all married women circle around the bride. At this moment, the
bride is officially considered a married woman.
Sometimes, after the unveiling the bride will toss the veil, rather than the
bouquet, to one of the single women or give the veil to the maid of honor.
Years ago, the veil was
usually a gift to the bride from her godmother. This veil/ cap was always held as
special and reserved for wear to church, for special folk festivals, and on her
death, for burial.
Some Polish favorites are:
Polish beet soup (barszcz czerwony),
hunter's stew (bigos), dumplings (kopytka), dough pockets (pierogi)
roasted meats and vegetables, potatoes with gravy, meat pastries, torte
and fruit bar.
In addition to food, they serve Polish drinks as well, such as Polish vodka or
Polish cut-outs (wycinanki) from the wedding / year ~ 1950
Typical Polish wedding in a village is much bigger than a wedding that takes
place in a town. Since people in villages usually own a house, they can afford
to invite much more guests than in the towns where people usually live in
apartments. In the village it is not unusual to have a wedding which last three
days and nights straight.
Many Polish American communities still reenact the harvest celebrations,
reminding themselves of their ancestors' reverence for the grains and gifts of
Many traditions are regional and can be little different.