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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.)
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 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.
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.