If not, and you are ever invited, make sure you go!
Kinga and I were married in England in 2009. My Grandfather, who I was very close to, helped to pay for the wedding and this was the main reason we decided to get married in England, he was 91 years old at the time and would never have travelled to another country. So, I'm glad we were married in England and I'm pleased Gramp spent the day and evening with us. I have to say that as good as our wedding was, it was a bit embarrassing when the party ended at midnight. We had guests who had flown in from Poland - they must have been wondering what was going on. In Poland the party is just starting at this time!
If you have never been to a Polish wedding you must try your hardest to go to at least one. I have to say that as good as our wedding was, Polish weddings are so much better. I've been to three or four weddings now in Poland and they are awesome. The food, the alcohol, the food, the food......You get where I am going with this right? So much food and such an amazing atmosphere with dancing and singing. I'll try to break the traditional wedding into sections below. The photos used are with permission from Kinga's sister, Basia who also married an English fella, Scott - their photos were taken by Artur Filipiak. Our extended family and very good friends Magda and Michał were also kind enough to give me permission to use their photos and these were taken by Andrzej Doleczek. Let it be clear that I do not have the skill to take photos like these!!
The ceremony (ślub - the religious bit)
Poland, being a Catholic country, traditionally has most of it's weddings held in churches. As a non religious person, I can honestly say that the ceremony is quite a pleasure. They seem to be short and direct, with exchanging of vows and a few readings. At my sister in law (Basia) and brother in law's (Scott) wedding which was in Wrocław, I was asked the day before if I could read something out in church. I was nervous but luckily they wanted it in English, so I didn't have to prepare too much and I didn't need to stand at the front of a huge catholic church in the Centre of Wroclaw speaking Polish. All the weddings I have been to have had nice, short ceremonies which is quite different to the UK where it seems to last forever!
The reception (Wesele - the best bit)
This begins with the parents of the couple, presenting a gift of a specially prepared bread, (so that the couple will never know hunger) and salt (reminding them of life's difficulties and the importance of learning to cope).
Traditionally, the father of the bride or groom then presents the couple with two shot glasses. Sometimes both have vodka and other times one has water and one has vodka - superstition says that the one who ends up with the vodka will end up being the dominant figure in the marriage. When the cake is cut, tradition states that the person who has their hand on top, will be in charge of the family finances.
Now, I'll talk about the wesele from my own words. I'll explain to you what this experience is like and hopefully, this will give you good enough reason to go to the next Polish wedding you are invited to. I appreciate most of the readers of this blog are Polish - in that case, you are very lucky; your weddings are the best!
When I first walked into the room at Scott and Basia's wedding, I looked at the tables and thought 'wow, they have lots of wine on the tables being chilled'. On closer inspection, I realised this was vodka. Whereas in Britain, we have wine on our wedding tables; in Poland they have quality vodka which has been in the freezer.....bottles and bottles of it. There seems to be an endless supply and as you continue to read this post, you'll understand why there is so much. Nobody really drinks beer at a Polish wedding, not on the first day anyway. Most people will drink vodka, with a selection of juices and sodas. In Poland, they don't mix their vodka in the same glasses as coke or orange juice. Every person gets their own shot glass, there are multiple bottles of vodka on the table and jugs of apple juice, orange juice, water and cola. Once you have had your shot of vodka it's normal to then wash it down with a sip of juice. The thing I remember about both weddings is that I took my shot glass and walked around every table introducing myself and insisting on a shot with each person.
The amount of food on offer is unbelievable too. I was used to British weddings where you are served a meal and then in the evening there is often a buffet for the evening guests. Polish weddings seem to have lots and lots of food served throughout the day and night. For good reason too - the thought is that by eating regularly, the affect of the vodka won't be as severe. There will be soup, potatoes, fish, lots of meat, vegetables, salads and lots of cakes. I remember at both weddings that every time I returned to the table after dancing for example, there would be a fresh platter of food waiting to be eaten.
Midnight brings 'Oczepiny', where the bride removes her veil and throws it into a crowd of single women and the groom removes his tie to do the same. This time signifies the end of single life and the beginning of married life together. Around this time, lots of traditional dancing takes place with singing and laughing, it really is an amazing experience.
After Oczepiny, the party continues for many more hours into the morning. More food is served, guests continue to drink and dance and it seems every five minutes brings another toast. I had so much fun at the weddings I have attended that before I realised it, the time was 5am! The party doesn't stop there though.
Day two (Poprawiny - the hangover bit)
Not all, but many Poles choose to have a second day of celebration. Magda and Michał chose to do this at their wedding and it was the only time I had attended the second day of celebration. When you wake up in a hotel room and are still quite drunk from the night before, the last thing on your mind is attending another party. As soon as you start socialising with the other guests though, you soon forget about that hangover. It was a relief for me that cold beer was on offer during this second celebration, I don't think I could have faced more vodka! So 'breakfast' consisted of a cold beer which immediately made me feel better. Then there was more food and lots of it - more of a buffet style and Magda and Michał had the most amazing pierogi too. I remember we spent most of this day outside, in the beautiful grounds and enjoying the sunshine. It's a nice way to end the celebrations and brings a bit of a calmer end to the previous day's hectic schedule.
I was honoured to be able to share the weddings with Basia and Scott and Magda and Michał. Both experiences were amazing and I will remember them forever - they must all be proud of their wedding days and I can understand why. If Kinga and I were ever to renew our vows or celebrate a big anniversary, then we will definitely be doing it in Poland. They really know how to throw a party. We are already in the process of 'advising' our daughter that she should be married in Poland.
If you ever have the opportunity to attend one, don't be nervous about being part of a culturally different celebration. I guarantee the guests will make you feel welcome and you will not regret. So, if you receive that invitation, make sure you reply with a firm yes!