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Thursday, 6 February 2014

A Traditional Polish Wedding

Dear friends,

I remember vaguely telling you last June (yup, that's last year...) about my second Polish wedding attendance. But I am not 100% sure so I would like to share my thoughts on the subject. Until now I have only been to two Polish wedding parties and both of them were as similar as the sun is to the moon. The first one I have been was a colleagues wedding and as he was a DJ and they were both young it was only normal that they would bo wild - so the wedding party was done in the club where he was playing. It was a whole lot of fun and I remember it dearly. I had my husband (back than my boyfriend/fiance) as a partner and we have some awesome pictures from back then.
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But let me get back to the second wedding, which was 100% traditional Highlander wedding. Highlander = (in this case) the people who live in the mountain. The wedding was of one of my husbands far away cousin and it started in a very old church in the region from which they were from. The weather was not very helpful - raining each and every 10 minutes, stopping and starting again in small drops, with a grey sky above... The custom is for the bride and groom not to see eachother until the wedding. The bride is taken from her house by the family and friends with the sound of a local band in the background (you can see the band in one of the pictures below, dressed up in the national/regional clothes). They take the bride to the church where the ceremony takes places.
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After the ceremony the couple comes out and people throw money at them - coins, for good luck - and rice - for richness of food, so they will always have food on their table - and rose petals - I have no clue if there is any tradition related to that! The bride and groom must scoop - between other people and small children - to take some coins ;))) That was fun!
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When they go out of the church the band starts to play and the line of people begins to form as it is normal at this point to congratulate the happy couple and give them gifts. Actually this is one big difference from Romanian weddings - if you are going both to church and the party, you have to give the gift for the wedding (the money or the object you choose for the couple) in front of the church, after the ceremony. If you come just to the party or if you forgot you can give it there, no worries ;) but that is the custom. You hug and kiss the bride and groom and everyone gets into their cars and goes to the party place. The party place of the wedding of the cousin is the same place that we will have so I was excited to see it for the first time from the inside :)
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Another new thing for me was the reception - the bride and groom stand at the end of the stairs and greet everyone as they come in so innevitably another queue forms (did I mention I actually hate queues?!). Funny part is that at Romanian weddings people do not come in groups - usually - so you do not have queues forming... Here it is customary to come all at once, at the exact time that you have on your card. You cannot be "fashionably late" as in Romanian weddings - if we put 8 pm on the card people can come from 8 to 9:30 or even 10 pm, and the first meal would be served around that time! So, dear friends, pay attention to that when you come to my wedding ;) The first meal will be served in time, after the last guest is seated from the queue!
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In Romania we usually have round table with placement cards for each person. Here they did not. You could sit as you pleased and with whom you wanted - I must admit it is rather eliberating but rather chaotic. Either way I would like that at my wedding, but with placement cards for areas or groups - people from Romania vs. people from Poland, people from work, family and so on... A combination of both ideeas ;)
There is of course, at the beginning, a first dance of the bride and groom and at this second wedding I had to breathe in deeply and brace myself as it was VERY traditional and ALL the songs were in Polish! Not ONE was in another tongue! That is when and how we settled on the fact that our wedding MUST have a DJ and we will have songs in English, Romanian and Polish - to please everyone, including myself! I have 2 left feet when it comes to dancing with someone but if you let me take the lead it is perfect ;) I know by hear many moves from the men's repertuar and I remember dancing every bride at every wedding I have been to ;) Rock & Roll is actually my fav style ;) But I think that at this wedding I danced about 5 times max! And once it was a typical fast Polish dance and I am sorry for my husbands uncle feet as I must have stepped on them a couple of times while he was twirling me... Thank God my husband took me for slower dances ;)))
Another weird custom they have here in Poland is having a lyrics book at each table with lyrics of very well known songs. Randomly, while other people are eating, people start singings party songs from the book - like my fav "Hey Sokoly" ;))) First time they started singing, it was my husbands little brother and the wife of his biggest brothers, they were on my left side and my fork just stopped in mid-way, hanging in the air, with the food on it... I was shocked as I looked at my husband, not knowing what to do next, if I should pick up the book and sing or if I should just get on eating! He laughed and said this is normal to a traditional Polish wedding and this will happen often during the day - which it obviosuly did, so I tried to settle down and eat while they were singing next to me. The nice part is more and more people join in and it is in the end like a capella choirs singing music from their books ;)))
They do not have customs like "stealing the bride" like we do in Romania and my husband specifically told me that noone should try doing that here, as he has 4 brothers that would hunt that person down if needed be :))) But they do have games - like dancing with a orange between you and taking care you do not drop it nor touch it with your hands, or being tied up blind and figuring out your other half just by touching the legs/hands and so on... They do have throwing the bouquet as well but the tie for the men ;) (back home, the bride throws her garter for the guys to catch).
The father of the bride and groom customary, during the wedding, are supposed to go through the tabled with a basket full of vodka bottles (the main drink - alcohol - here in Poland) and bring new ones, fresh ones, to the people. If a bottle is not open but no longer cold, he will exchange it with a new one, fron the fridge. It is also a tradition that the couple needs to toast and drink a shot of vodka with each couple at the party - but I think we shall just skip that as I do not want myself drunk at my own wedding, no matter the tradition... The food is always great and quite a lot, so you would get yourself full, but that is mainly because Polish people drink a lot so when you drink a lot you must eat a lot in order to stay sober! It is calculated that around 1 litre of vodka per person should be available at a wedding so take in account all the food that you need in order to neutralise that!
Overall the weddings do turn out nicely and even though there is a lot of drinking people are happy and they move and eat and dance a lot so no worries about having fights or God knows what! I know that this sounds terrifying and it was also for me... at the beginning... then you get used to the idea that Polish people can handle a lot, and a posh wedding with just a few drops of wine would be quite out of place... And, to be fair, I must admit I love the warmth of the traditional Polish weddings, even though I have no clue how to dance their dances or sing their songs...
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Being an expat you get yourself in these kind of situations where you have to think in a split second what to do and what to say in order not to offend people. You must know their traditions and their customs and if possible how they think and act so you could plan in advance. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but that is how you eventually learn :) and by sharing the knowledge you can always help others, so this is why I wanted to share this with you ;)

Yours truly,
An Expat LadyBug :)