So, you've been invited to a Polish wedding? Great! It means you'll have loads of fun and many great memories to contemplate afterwards. 😉
Polish wedding traditions seem to be wild. All those laughable games, funny Polish wedding dance music, mysterious oczepiny ceremony, heaps of food, countless vodka bottles. You may wonder if all the legends you heard are true.
Well, yes - they're all true!
In the past wedding used to be the most important family and social event.
Women weren't as lucky as they are now - it used to be the older family members who decided on a future husband. The main factor which the family considered while choosing the groom was his social status and fortune. Noone really bothered with feelings those days.
A wedding was a transitional ritual - newlyweds became rightful members of village community. Therefore it was so important for the wedding to be consistent with the traditional scheme which preserved all the rituals and habits.
A lot has changed and Polish wedding traditions are now different from what they used to be.
But there are still some important elements of Polish wedding which make it one of the most memorable experiences, not only in newlywed couple's lives.
Here are 5 principles of traditional Polish reception which you might want to keep in mind before the party.
Table of contents
1. You'll eat a lot
Wedding is a brilliant example of Polish generosity and hospitality. Feeding our guests properly is an absolute must, the highest priority in the young couple's to-do list.
It's unthinkable for me to leave the party with an empty rumbling stomach and, fortunately, I've never attended such a "hungry" wedding.
So, get ready for abundant two-course dinner followed by dessert. Then, wedding layer cake. And some cookies. And some fruits for those trying to remember about their diet. Right after the cake, you'll be served hams, cheeses, meat and vegetable jellies, salads and all other kinds of cold snacks. Then, a hot supper. A few suppers, to be precise.
The wedding table is never empty.
Meat here, meat there, meat is everywhere. Pork, lamb, chicken, beef. Chops, cutlets, shish kabobs, roast ham, sausages, sauteed trout, grilled salmon. Vegetarians do have a hard time at a Polish wedding but, fortunately, there are lots of salads, chips and boiled potatoes too.
The last meal (served after midnight) is usually beet soup with meat croquette. Is it surprising the croquette is stuffed with meat? 😉
2. You'll drink a lot
Second priority on a young couple's to-do list. We simply cannot run out of vodka. There's a lot of people out there who cannot have fun without alcohol and newlyweds need to keep that in mind, whether they like it or not.
Good thing is, you'll eat a lot so that the effects of alcohol won't be so obvious 😉
Number one liquor is vodka. There may be no beer, the wedding cake may not be very good, toilet door may not close properly, but there has to be enough vodka.
Some couples decide to have alcohol-free weddings but such weddings finish much earlier. Also, quite a lot of guests bring their own liquor or sneak out to a bar.
Interestingly, nowadays Poles drink a bit less vodka than they used to. I noticed that guests often prefer lighter alcohols - there are more wines and cocktails served at Polish weddings.
Are we slowly getting out of our Polish drunken stereotype? Do we stop being vodka-obsessed society?
Hopefully yes. I believe these days Poles often swap strong alcohols with wine and beer. Also, health awareness rises and people start to understand that vodka isn't an answer to life issues.
3. You'll dance a lot
There will most likely be live music and a big dance floor. Ypeee!
Polish wedding dance music is dynamic and energetic, makes it hard to sit at the table. If the band or DJ is good, the majority of guests will spend most of their time at the dance floor. Music types are usually diversified so that everyone can move to their own favorite rhythms.
Good for you if you've got a dancing partner. If not, don't worry - there will always be someone willing to dance with you.
Good for you if it's handsome cousin (of a sister of an aunt of the bridegroom - Polish weddings tend to be big family gatherings). Brace yourself if it's a tipsy 60-something uncle.
Apart from vegan, non-dancer is another type who may feel lost at Polish nuptial party. But no worries - there are some other entertainments ready for you!
4. There will be games and plays
Poles do have fun at their weddings - unlike weddings in other countries, the nuptial party in Poland is enriched with various games and plays. They all depend on the emcee's ingenuity and experience.
In the past, the games used to be rather kinky, with lots of innuendos. Now it's more about just having fun - typical wedding games include a dancing train, costume play, drinking contest: women vs men, football match.
One of the most important Polish wedding traditions is oczepiny ceremony - unveiling and capping game which happens at midnight.
Now a bit of history.
Oczepiny used to be a Polish wedding climax. It was a symbolic transition from a maiden to a married woman, and also an introduction to the groom's family.
A girl lost her maiden status when the maid of honour and bridesmaids untangled her braid and put flower coronet on a bride's head. This was the first part of oczepiny ceremony.
Then, according to the tradition, a bride defended herself from the next rituals, she run away and hid. It was the groomsman who was responsible for finding her.
When a best man found the hidden bride, he brought her back to the main room and the older women took off the coronet and gave it to the groom. Then, they put coif and kerchief on the bride's head - it was a symbol of acknowledging the husband's authority.
At that moment a young woman became a rightful housewife.
The last part of oczepiny ceremony were specific dances - the bride had to dance with the best maid and bridesmaids. She pretended to limp during the dance. There was a lot of humorous singing and laughing.
Nowadays, oczepiny ceremony looks totally different.
It is a funny midnight game when a groom with his best men try to get the bride's veil. A group of unmarried women encircles the bride to "protect" her from the groom. After a few moments, the veil is taken from the bride's head and she throws it to the group of maidens - the one who catches it will get married first.
The same situation happens with the groom's tie or bow tie.
Then, a girl who caught the veil dances with a man who caught the tie.
The ceremony is followed by some humorous games. The most popular are:
- European train
- dance on a newspaper
- shoe game
- where-is-my-blazer game
- musical chairs
Some people aren't very much into those games and plays but I think they're great entertainment and a bit of diversion to all the dancing. All in all, how many hours can we just eat and dance?
5. You'll be tired the next day
Polish wedding lasts many hours. The party starts in the afternoon (very early afternoon in my area) and typically ends at dawn.
The absolute must-be point is unveiling and capping ceremony at midnight. Only after then you realize that it's "only" several hours more of dancing, chatting and singing.
What's worth to remember is that a wedding in Poland may last more than one day so it's advisable to take some extra days off.
In eastern Poland weddings used to last a whole week! Round 7 days of drinking, eating and dancing! Now, I think, they've shortened it to "just" a few days.