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Polish Weddings - Traditional Customs

by EasternEuropeans.co.uk
Polish Weddings - Traditional Customs

 

After World War II my grandparents emigrated from Poland to the United States. They brought with them all of the traditions and customs of the Polish culture and when my mother was ready to marry, the efforts to keep all of those traditions was foremost on everyone's mind. This started with the elaborate engagement celebration where there was a dinner where the two families meet and the in-laws get to become acquainted. This is a very formal occasion since everyone wants to make a good impression. This is where all of the fancy dinnerware is filled with traditional foods and deserts and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are served. This was a very formal engagement party with the groom giving his intended a ring in front of the family.

In true Catholic tradition, it was required that the bride and groom attend classes before they could be married. It was at these classes that such issues as the transition to married life and money are discussed. It is where the actual marriage ceremony is discussed and planned in detail. Determined to follow all Polish traditions, my grandparents were going to have to repeat the entire marriage vows, not just say "I do." In this way, it is the more personal for the bride and groom since they are the ones making the promises to love, be faithful, be honest and to keep this commitment for as long as they live.

The traditional Polish wedding starts on Saturday and goes on through Sunday. The wedding day starts when the groom arrives at the home of the bride before they go on to the church. He comes with his own entourage made up of his parents, godparents, close friends and his best man. With this new crowd in the house, there is the need for more food and, in the case of my mother, a band was also present to play traditional folk music. My mother and father then knelt and both sets of parents blessed them before they all set off for the church. Cars were a luxury that not everyone could afford so they walked to the church in parade fashion which must have been a wonderful sight since everyone was dressed in traditional costumes.

Once everyone arrives at the church, all of the guests, family and both sets of parents are seated. The wedding party, groomsmen and bridesmaids enter and are followed by both the bride and the groom. Unlike wedding ceremonies in the movies, the kiss does not exist in the traditional Polish wedding. Some things, by tradition, are considered to be private matters.

After the religious ceremony, the traditional festivities begin. When the happy couple leave the church they are greeted by the crowd of well-wishers who then follow to the location of the reception, usually a restaurant or the home of one of the parents. This is a parade during which the couple pass through many portals set up by the well-wishers where the newly weds pay for their passage by handing out chrusciki (Angel wing cookies) or vodka. Once the couple arrive at the reception sight, they are greeted with bread and salt. Traditionally these symbolize prosperity and the hope that the couple will never go hungry. There is an abundance of pierogi (stuffed dumplings), bigos (sauerkraut and meat), golabki (stuffed cabbage rolls), and vodka, and according to my mother, the wedding party usually lasted for at least two days.

The guests who come from out of town are housed with the parents of the bride or groom. To suggest using a hotel would be considered a grave insult so it does not matter how crowded the accommodations are, everyone stays in a home. During the first day of the celebration the bride has her veil removed and is given an apron which she wears over her gown to symbolize that she is no longer a girl and is taking on the duties of being a wife, mother and hostess in her new life. This is followed by presents from the guests which are usually cards with money or useful household items.

When the wedding celebration is over, the bride and groom retire to their own home where the groom carries the bride over the threshold of their new home. This is to symbolise the fact that he will carry her in his arms throughout their marriage. Once the door is closed behind the couple, the wedding celebration is concluded.

www.history.easterneuropeans.co.uk


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