Polish Wedding Traditions That Will Make Your Jaw Drop!

As a native Pole, I was lucky enough to have a traditional Polish wedding. Both I and my husband were born in the countryside, in 100% Polish families, so the customs are still strong around us. In this post, I want to share with you some of the best and most unusual Polish wedding traditions! I will share some photos from our wedding and the weddings we attended so that you can really SEE each custom!

Here’s a video if you want to WATCH the traditions:

Let’s start from the beginning.

Engagement And Getting Ready For The Wedding

Traditionally, you a boy needs to ask a girl’s dad for her hand (permission to marry her). It’s not really happening nowadays, as people are free to marry whoever they want.

However, in the past, that was the only way to spend the rest of your life with someone you love. Interestingly, in the past, a suitor often didn’t get a simple “no” as he was rejected. He was served a very special soup called czarna polewka that was a kind way of saying that marriage is impossible.

Czarna polewka, also known as czarnina is a Polish duck blood soup. It still can be eaten in some Polish restaurants, especially in North Poland!

Nowadays, it’s still very popular for parents to fund weddings. They are often very engaged in organizing the ceremony.

In practice, the parents of fiancees are meeting up to discuss all the details, including the place and the date of the wedding.

Traditionally, the wedding should take place in the bride’s hometown.

The average wedding is for 100-150 people and it’s planned 2-3 years in advance.

I and Patryk got married 9 years ago. Our parents paid for our wedding and we got married in my hometown, as tradition requires.

Parent’s Blessing

It’s important to know that a traditional Polish wedding is always Catholic!

On the wedding day, the entire ceremony starts with the parents’ blessing at the bride’s family house.

They do that by making the sign of the cross on newlyweds’ foreheads and wishing them all the best in their new life together.

Newlyweds also kiss Jesus’s cross and sometimes drank a glass of champagne.

Traditionally, the bride and the groom need to kneel but nowadays, it’s ok to stand as well.

One of the Polish wedding traditions is the parents’ blessing.

The Gates

This is one of the best Polish wedding traditions! I was lucky enough to have 13 gates on my wedding day.

What are “the gates” (bramy)?

It’s a really old Polish custom! The bride’s neighbors are dressing up and are blocking the newlyweds their way to the church.

The point is to get a bribe from the starosta* or starościna* to let the future bride and groom get to church on time.

The bribe is obviously vodka! The kids are getting sweets. Each “gate” is thematic, so the people are pretending to do something, for example making butter, doing the laundry, fortune-telling, etc.

*Starosta and starościna are two people at the wedding who are responsible for the alcohol. They are usually the closest family members to the bride and groom but NOT their parents.

We knew that the neighbors will make the gates for us, that’s why we left 1 hour before the wedding.

Here are some photos of our gates. As you can see, our neighbors were quite creative!! We even had a “gangster” and a fake accident.

One neighbor was lying on the street claiming he cannot walk until he gets “fuel”. When we poured vodka into his mouth he could walk again ;-).

Traditionally, the future bride and groom are not supposed to leave a car. It’s starościna, starosta, and the parents’ job to negotiate the bribe with the neighbors.

Wedding Ceremony In The Church

It’s the most important part of the wedding.

There is no need to explain the ceremony itself, however, there are some traditions specific to Poland. The first thing is that people in Poland are wearing rings on their right hands. Wearing the ring on the left-hand means you are a widow/widower.

The second Polish wedding tradition that takes place in a church is for newlyweds to pray to Virgin Mary for a few minutes after the mass. All the guests are waiting inside the church until they finish.

Showering Newlyweds With Coins Or Rice

When the newlyweds are leaving the church, they are often showered with coins or rice. According to tradition, that will give them money, fertility, and abundance.

Polish Bread And Salt Blessing

Now it’s time for the party! The newlyweds and the guests are heading to the hotel or the wedding hall.

Their moms/parents should already be there to greet them with bread, salt, and vodka.

According to tradition, the bread guarantee that newlyweds will have enough food to eat throughout their entire marriage. The salt will bring them happiness and protect them from evil.

My mother-in-law greeted me with a question:

Panno młoda, co wybierasz – chleb, sól czy pana młodego?
Bride, what do you choose: bread, salt, or the groom?

I replied:

Chleb, sól i pana młodego, żeby zarabiał na niego.

I choose everything. The groom will earn salt and bread.

The newlyweds are tasting bread with salt, drinking a shot of vodka then breaking the glasses (that will bring luck).

It’s ok to drink water instead of vodka but that needs to be discussed prior with the wedding organizers.

Polish Wedding Gifts And Wishes

After the blessing, it’s time for the wishes and giving gifts.

Sometimes it’s done in front of the church, right after the ceremony.

The typical Polish wedding gift is money. You should give at least the amount that newlyweds’ are paying to host you. That means talerzyk -a plate. A typical cost per person is 300-400 PLN.

So if you are attending the Polish wedding as a couple, you need to put 600- 800 PLN in an envelope. If the hosts are paying for your hotel, you need to increase the gift with the estimated amount of your stay.

In the past, the newlyweds were getting flowers as well. It’s getting more popular to ask for something else, for example, wine or a lottery scratch card. That information is usually included on the wedding invitation.

The most popular Polish wedding gift is money.

After the wishes and the gifts, it’s time to eat the first meal. I will write about Polish wedding food in the next paragraph!

When all the guests are done eating, the newlyweds are starting the party with the first dance. They chose the song and the choreography they want.

Polish Wedding Food

At a typical Polish wedding, a hot meal is served every 2 hours. Guests have food on their tables all the time as well.

It’s very common to have wiejski stół (country table) in the corner, where typical Polish food is served (kiełbasa, pierogi, bread, smalec, bimber, etc.)

Country table Polish wedding

At a typical Polish wedding, the band is playing for about 40 minutes – 1 hour. Then it takes a break, and the guests can rest and eat something.

The first dish that is served at the majority of Polish weddings is rosół, Polish chicken soup. Then you get the second course (usually a piece of meat with salad and potatoes), then a dessert (ice cream, or a cake).

Polish wedding cake is called kołacz and it’s usually served 3-4 hours after the wedding party started. The newlyweds need to cut the cake together, then feed each other with their eyes closed. Then, all the other guests could eat the cake.

Oczepiny Ceremony

Oczepiny is probably one of the most famous Polish wedding traditions! It starts at midnight.

 It’s when the bride is throwing the veil and the groom is throwing a tie.

All the unmarried girls are dancing around the bride. When the music stopped, she throws the veil. Whoever catches it, will get married next (spoiler alert: she usually doesn’t).

Then the same goes for the groom and unmarried boys.

After that, the “new couple” is dancing together, and the wedding game starts.

They are usually run by a band and they are really funny! It takes about 1 hour for the oczepiny to end.

My all-time favorite wedding game is chusteczka (handkerchief) dance. 3-5 people are dancing with handkerchiefs in the middle, all the other guests are dancing around them.

The person with the handkerchief is picking one from the circle. They both need to kneel down and kiss. Then the handkerchief is passed to the person who was picked. The other person is going to the circle, waiting to be picked up by someone else.

Chusteczka – handkerchief dance during oczepiny.

If you think oczepiny ends traditional Polish wedding… you are wrong! It usually lasts till early in the morning.

Our wedding ended up at 6 AM!

It’s believed that the good wedding ends with Kiedy ranne wstają zorze, a song that is sang during the first mass on Sunday morning.

Poprawiny (Celebrating The Next Day)

It’s very popular to continue the wedding the next day. The celebration is usually shorter and ends up in the afternoon or early evening.

Usually, there is no more dancing during poprawiny.

Polish Wedding Superstitions And Traditions

  • If you want your marriage to be happy, marry only in the months that have the letter “r” in their name (March, June, August, September, October, December)

  • Gorzko (gosh-koh) is a word you need to learn if you are attending a traditional Polish wedding! That literally means “bitter“. When someone starts to scream it that means the newlyweds need to kiss to make this wedding sweeter.

  • Many Poles believe that a good wedding is one with at least one fight.

  • Traditionally, all the weddings that take place in August need to be alcohol-free.

20 Responses

  1. Thank you for posting this very informational story of your wedding. I am writing a novel about a couple of mixed heritage, she is Polish American, he is Scottish Native American heritage. In my research about the Polish culture and traditions, I came across your article. I found it very enlightening. In fact, I’m going back to edit and rewrite the part about their wedding. I especially like the story about the “gates”. It has given me some great ideas. I also didn’t know about the wedding band worn on the right hand. Very interesting!

    Thank you

    Russ

  2. Hi Karolina,
    Thank you for this article it is very helpful. I am American (German/French) but I am marrying into 100% Polish family so I want to include many Polish traditions as well. I have a question about no alcohol in August, what is the significance of this tradition? I like it because we (bride and groom) do not drink alcohol and our wedding is in August! I am just curious of the reason behind that rule. Thank you so much for all this helpful information.

    1. Hi Koko,

      Polish people love drinking alcohol and sadly, alcoholism is a big problem in the country. August is the only month when the guest accepts alcohol-free weddings.

      The idea of an alcohol-free month started in 1984 by the Polish Catholic church. August is also the month of the Virgin Mary, so they encourage people to stop drinking to honor her.

      Catholic church had and still has a huge impact on the people… Many Poles believe that what the church says is “holy”.

  3. My boyfriend is polish. He wants to send gift for me because he said its their tradition but I don’t want to accept it. He said it’s a tradition for them to gift gift for someone they want to marry. Is ut true because i dont want to accept any material until we get married. Thank you

    1. I didn’t know that was a Polish tradition. I am also dating a Polish man and he is always giving me gifts. I thought he just did it because he liked it plus I would also get him gifts every once in a while.

  4. At my wedding, I’m Polish, we included the brides unveiling in Oczepiny. Everyone surrounds the bride and groom who are seated. They sing the 12verses of Rosie Trawka and Serdeczna Matko. The brides veil is replaced with a czepek. The groom is presented with a funny hat to wear with representation of his interest or hobbies. I threw a bouquet to the single ladies and my groom threw a garter to the single men. Everyone loves this ceremony.
    I then danced with my father to the Father’s waltz, followed by the groom dancing with his mother, then the bride and groom dance together and begin a parade around the dance hall with everyone joining in.

  5. Very interesting to read, that to have a happy marraige, is to marry in the months with an R. My husband and I were married in March, 67 years ago. We are still happy together.

  6. I thought I had a traditional Polish wedding but it was the American version Mass,salt,ochepine and poprawine,parentsblessing lots of drinking and dancing o well it worked though just celebrated 65 good years

  7. Very intereatibg Article. However, you need to edit and correct the months with “R” in the name. You left out some months,such as January and February. Yet you included May, June, July

    1. Thanks! January is Styczeń in Polish so it doesn’t have “r”.
      Febraury is “Luty”, doesn’t have “r” either.
      Remember that we are talking about Polish names, not English names 🙂

  8. My daughter’s Polish Wedding lasted for 5 days.
    Thursday was our rehearsal dinner
    Friday was at the hotel where our guests were staying and had food and drinks and a big party by the pool.
    Saturday was the wedding.
    Sunday we hosted a barbeque at our home and they opened their gifts.
    Monday we hosted a boat excursion on the lake.
    Poles love to have parties

    1. Indeed. I am 100% Polish – even funerals turn into a celebration. We are still sad, but want to celebrate the good in the person.

  9. I had no idea about some of these traditions! The sparkler entrance is so beautiful and romantic. I’ve always been fascinated by Polish culture, so it’s great to learn more about it. Thank you for sharing these unique and interesting traditions

  10. Oh my goodness, I had no idea Polish wedding traditions were so unique and fascinating! As a traveler, I can’t wait to experience some of these rituals firsthand. I’m particularly intrigued by the Poland’s version of a wedding cake, which consists of 12 breads representing the 12 months of the year. It’s such a beautiful and meaningful tradition. Thank you for sharing this post!

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My name is Karolina, I was born and raised in Poland. I love my homeland. Even though I’ve been to 50+ countries in the world I’ve never hesitated to make Poland my base!

My mission is to show you the beauty of Poland and help you plan your trip!

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