Yeah Weddings
Bride and groom and priest at traditional Polish wedding ceremony

A Guide to Fascinating Polish Wedding Customs

Do you wish to know more about Polish weddings? If you haven’t been to a traditional Polish wedding yet, just know that they are usually a lot of fun.

Whether you want to incorporate your Polish heritage into your wedding celebrations or you’re just curious about Polish wedding traditions, we’ve got you covered with this guide. Read on to know what to expect at a Polish wedding. 

Polish Wedding Traditions Include:

  • The Family Blessing
  • A Catholic Ceremony 
  • Bread and Salt Tradition
  • Massive Feast
  • Vodka Consumption 
  • Poprawiny (Second Day of Partying)
  • “Oczepiny” (The Unveiling)
  • Hours of Dance
  • Polish Wedding Attire
  • Polish Wedding Hair

 

The Family Blessing

 

Before the wedding ceremony at the church, the bride, the groom, and the guests all gather at the bride’s home for a family blessing. This wedding ritual is considered the start of the wedding ceremony, and it takes place on a Saturday before heading to the church. During this ceremony, the bride and groom’s parents give the happy couple special blessings. 

The bride and groom kneel down and then the bride’s mother sprinkles them with holy water. Next, she provides them with a crucifix which the bride and groom each kiss. The bride’s father sprinkles the couple with holy water as well and speaks a blessing over them if he wants.

The groom’s parents, the couple’s godparents, family, and friends are also given an opportunity to bless the happy couple. This ritual is followed by a lot of hugs, kisses, and even tears that are shared all around. 

 

The Ceremony

 

Many Polish weddings are performed at churches as the majority of people in Poland are Catholic. In fact, 87% of the population in Poland are Roman-Catholic, according to Eurydice

Interestingly enough, many Polish couples limit the number of guests that can attend the wedding party. Therefore, you can expect to be invited only to the wedding ceremony at the church and not the reception.

It is best to read your invitation carefully to make sure that you know which wedding celebration you were invited to. When you read your wedding invitation, be on the lookout for the words “ślub” and “wesele.” The term “ślub” refers to the wedding ceremony at the church and the term “wesele” refers to the wedding party. 

However, if you were invited to the wedding party, here’s what you can expect. 

 

Bread and Salt Tradition 

Polish wedding bread and salt tradition

Here’s a fascinating Polish wedding tradition that may surprise you. After the church ceremony concludes, the wedding couple makes their way to their venue for the party where they are welcomed by their parents with bread and salt. 

This bread and salt welcome has a symbolic purpose. The bread is provided in hopes that the couple will never experience hunger or be in need, whereas the salt reminds the couple that they must learn to cope with life’s struggles when they are confronted by difficulties. 

Traditionally, the father of the bride or groom also provides the happy couple with two shot glasses. One has Vodka, one has water. This is considered the couple’s first wedding toast. The bride gets to choose first between the two glasses without knowing which is which.

According to tradition, the partner who ends up getting the Vodka is said to become the dominant partner in the relationship.

Both the bride and groom have to drink from the glasses in one gulp and then throw them behind their back. If the glasses break, it is considered good luck. It signifies that they will live a long, happy life together. 

 

Polish Wedding Food

various Polish wedding sweets displayed on a table

According to several Polish wedding tradition guides, you can expect lots of food along with various appetizers, cakes, pastries, fruits, and so on. Customarily, the first dish that is served at the wedding party is the “rosół” (broth), a Polish chicken soup.

For the second dish, you can expect various kinds of meat with potatoes and vegetable salads. You can also expect four to five entrees along with a never-ending supply of Vodka. 

As for the cake, a polish wedding cake tradition is not so different from that of the ones in the United States. Therefore, you can expect the bride and groom to cut the first slice and feed it to each other before their guests can dig in. 

 

The Vodka

alcohol in a barrel on a wooden table

As stated before, you can expect to drink lots of Vodka at a Polish wedding. It is the most popular drink at Polish wedding feasts. There is no doubt that you’ll be able to find it on each wedding party table, as it will be used to raise a toast many times throughout the wedding. 

 

Polish Wedding Dance and Music

 

Music and dance are other important aspects of Polish weddings. This means that you will dance for a lot of hours to Polish songs, and you will most likely dance with a partner. So remember to bring comfortable shoes.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a partner to dance with as many guests switch dance partners and get a chance to dance with almost everyone, including the bride. 

Typically, the bride and groom share the first dance. You can also look forward to a live band playing typical Polish music. Don’t worry if you don’t know any of the words to the songs. They are pretty catchy and you will most likely find them easy to remember so you can sing along with the other guests. 

 

“Oczepiny” (The Unveiling)

 

“Oczepiny” or “The Unveiling” is another fascinating Polish wedding tradition that involves removing the bride’s veil. This symbolic ceremony is one of the oldest Polish wedding traditions, and it usually takes place around midnight. This rite of passage represents the bride’s first night as a married woman. 

Similar to the bridal bouquet toss, the bride usually sits in the middle surrounded by female guests and throws her veil to a group of unmarried women. The groom also participates by throwing his tie to a group of unmarried boys.

They say that the girl and boy who catch the veil and tie will be the next bride and groom (but not necessarily marry each other). Apart from this interesting wedding tradition, some Polish couples also participate in other fun games of their choice during “Oczepiny.”

Historically, however, the “Oczepiny” ceremony also involved unbraiding and cutting the bride’s long braids, which symbolized her maidenhood. The unbraiding of her hair symbolized her new marital status.  

 

Poprawiny: Wedding Festivities Continue a Second Day

 

Polish wedding receptions often last all night, and some can include a second day of partying. Poprawiny refers to the party after the wedding reception.

This wedding celebration takes place right after the first day of partying, and it is much more private and calm. It usually begins on a Sunday around lunchtime and lasts until late in the evening.  

Usually, only the bride and groom’s relatives and close friends are invited to this second day of the wedding festivities. Although it is much more relaxed and less formal, there is still a lot of eating and drinking involved.

If you find this surprising, you will also be amazed to know that Polish wedding parties often lasted three to four days in the past. 

 

Polish Wedding Attire

 

Traditionally, Polish brides wore a beaded skirt embroidered with flowers and foliage along with a beautiful white blouse. Some also added an embroidered black vest. Today, there are many bridal dress options to choose from. Some choose to wear a Europen style white dress with a full veil whereas some opt for a white dress with blue elements.

It is said that the white represents purity while the blue signifies marital fidelity. Another option includes wearing traditional Polish wedding costumes or handpainted wedding dresses inspired by Polish folklore.

Today, many modern Polish brides opt for sand, champagne, or pale gold tailored dresses which they get at boutiques. 

A Polish groom traditionally wears a folk costume that is associated with his native land. The groom’s wedding outfit usually includes an embroidered black vest over a white shirt. You can also add a striped cummerbund along with a long white coat.

Some outfits will most likely be adorned with floral and ribbon decorations. Other options include loose striped peasant pants or black or white breeches along with high boots. 

 

Polish Wedding Hair

 

A Polish bride who is a maiden will most likely wear her hair in braids with a wreath or circlet of fresh flowers, myrtle leaves, rosemary, and colorful ribbons. This headdress, also known as a wianek, symbolizes her maidenhood. Some of these crowns can be really tall and take many hours to make. 

The groom will likely wear a black hat adorned with flowers and ribbons. 

 

Wrap Up

Now that you know the Polish wedding basics, you will know what to expect when you attend a Polish wedding for the first time. As you can see, many of the above-listed Polish wedding traditions and rituals are fascinating and honor Polish heritage. 

If you want to learn more about wedding traditions from other cultures, we cover those as well, including Jewish, Irish, and Viking wedding traditions. Have fun at your first Polish wedding!

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Ruth Morales

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