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How To... Survive The Polish Weddings

Monday, October 12, 2015

My dearest travellers,

It is possible you may have reached Poland due to various causes: maybe you just got here by travelling through and stopped to see this beautiful and rich architectural cities, maybe you actually planned this through thoroughly and wish to see as much as you can of Poland and then go back home, or maybe it is just a few day trip - weekend city break maybe? - just for the shopping (or booze, especially for people in England). But maybe there are other causes, maybe you are dropping by for a friend's wedding :)
Outside the church, after the ceremony, the bride and groom are welcomes with flower petals, rice & money (coins)
Since I moved to Poland, more than 4 years ago, I have met several couple - married or engaged - that were half Polish and half expat. Just like Marek and myself :) the problem here, with friends and family, is the fact that even though both countries may be part of the European Union, the culture will always be - at least - slightly different. You may have read the letters I wrote to you during the time of my 3 wedding celebrations - with the same awesome man, who is my husband - my thoughts and feelings on the subject. You can read them again here.
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Today I wanted to share with you some tips and tricks on how one can survive a Polish wedding. I had the chance of being present to both a typical and also an untypical wedding, before celebrating ours, so I can say I was quite prepared. If besides the below 10 tips & tricks / useful info about the Polish weddings, you will wish to know more, you can also check out the Tips & Tricks For The Big Polish-Romanian Wedding (=our wedding):
  • Things You Should Never Try With A Polish Person - first thing first: Don't tell them Polish language is similar to Russian else you wanna enter a fight!
  • A Few Polish Words - just in case sign language would not be enough, you can print this out and point what you want to say with the finger, but just so you know, you are resposible for the answer you will get ;)
1) The wedding invitation - have a good look on the invite and figure out if you were invited to the wedding party or the church ceremony. The church ceremony is called "slub" and the party "wesele". If you are invited to the "wesele" you better get your self ready for one hell of a ride! Dress code is business professional and hairdo is a must. One thing you need to make sure is nit to look better than the couple. Also girls should not wear white, in order to outshine the bride and "steal her thunder"!
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2) The Gates - complete strangers or family / friends throwing themselves in from of the couple before / after the ceremony, trying to stop the couple in their way. They will demand a ransom in money or alcohol. I even heard about a firetruck being in the middle of the road, stopping everyone, making sure the bride does not get to church in time! Crazy people, I tell you ;)
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3) The church ceremony = the civil wedding in Poland. So if you are not invited for the civil wedding it is probably because there is none.  Vatican City accepted that Poland marriages done in the Catholic Church be accepted also as civil weddings. Also, there are no maids or men of honor, but the pair gets to have 2 witnesses ;) and they sign papers as well and stay behind the couple through all the ceremony.
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4) The presents - are usually given right after the church ceremony. After the mess the couple and friends/family go outside, sit in a queue and hugging and kissing commence.  It is also then when the presents (money, flowers - you name it!) Must be handed over to the couple.  The ones that come only to the party will give the present to the couple when they reach the restaurant (not at the end!).
The fresh, ice cold, vodka is a must!
5) The welcoming - as per European culture, bread and salt is a must! Bread = vital and magical properties + salt = faithfulness and repels bad spirits.  Also the couple must drink the champagne, raise the first toast and then throw the glasses behind themselves. If they crash, they will have good luck - so glass glasses are always used ;)
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6) The food and drinking - is almost impossible to explain how unlimited that is... let's start by saying that for our wedding in Poland, when we were calculating the among of vodka to be bought, we were calculating 0.75 l per head! + the additional beer/wine... you name it! The truth is that in Poland, on weddings, the alcohol that is being drinked the most is vodka - without a doubt! Usually the fathers of the couple make tours around the tables, making sure the vodka bottles are always cold and they feel flowing... To counteract the huge amounts of alcohol there is also a lot of food, very well done and in huge portions. Be prepared, your glass and plate will never be empty!
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7) The "throwing of the bouquet" - usually around midnight. First the bride throws the bouquet ans then the group the bow / tie. More traditionally would be for the bride to throw the veil - that is what I did in Poland; in Romania I thrown the bouquet. The lady / lad that catch the veil / bow must dance together and the saying is that they will get married ( not necessary with eachother ) the year to come.
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8) The "oczepiny" - the games - are hard to miss and sometimes quite painful and / or embarrassing  for the participants. Dancing around chairs the number of participants minus 1 until there is a fight only between 2, recognising partners with covered eyes and touching ones knee... or just simple dancing contest... you name it! They got it!
At the end of the church ceremony the papers are signed off. We had both a civil and a church wedding
9) The singing - usually there is a band, or if you are lucky: a DJ. There is a lot of folk music danced in couples until your remain breathless and you simply drop off your feet. A night at a Polish wedding could be equal to a week of Zumba intensive classes... There will also be moments, throughout the day/night that spontaneously people will start singing "Sto Lat" (Happy birthday in Poland), several hundred times! Be prepared!
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10) The after party - it is not unusual, but it is very traditional, to have the wedding extended throughout the weekend. It is also known as "poprawiny" and people come dressed as posh as ever but they are more and more relaxed. The couple does not need to wear the wedding dress / costume but they still have to look their best ;) the main idea for the 2nd day is to speak more with the participants and eat/drink the "leftover".
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Have you ever been to a Polish wedding? Or maybe a wedding in Poland ;) Do you have any questions I could help you with? Are you planning to come to Poland soon? I would be glad to help you immerse in their culture. Let me know what you think I should write next in my "How To... In Poland" letter :) I would be excited to hear from you.

Embrace the subject and read one of the articles below - How To... In Poland
  1. Do Shopping In Poland - Currency
  2. Pick The Best Time To Visit Poland
  3. Get To Poland - Transit
  4. Eat Like The Locals 
  5. Spend One Day In Krakow 
  6. Be Prepared For Coming To Poland
  7. Recognize Tourists In Poland
  8. Maintain Work-Life Balance In Poland
  9. Books/Films/Music In Poland 
  10. Survive The Polish Weddings - today's letter, to you lovely travellers :)
Yours truly,
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves to help travelers out there & expats finding their way to the proud Polish land