Polish Wedding Traditions to Make Your Own
Not only do weddings mark the beginning of a new chapter, but they also offer couples the opportunity to honor their heritage by incorporating cherished customs into their special day. What's more, while every culture around the world has its own unique wedding traditions, Polish wedding customs truly stand out for their cultural significance and sentimentality. However, with so many different Polish rituals, beliefs and customs, trying to absorb all the information can feel overwhelming, to say the least. Fortunately, we're here to help: whether you're planning your own Polish wedding or simply attending one, here are some of the top traditions you should know about.
Polish Prewedding Traditions
After a couple gets engaged, there is an engagement ceremony. This intimate ceremony typically takes place at one of the engaged couple's parents' homes. Expect delicious food and drink to mark the occasion.
Polish Wedding Attire
In terms of attire, some Polish brides may opt for a white wedding dress with a hint of blue. The blue is said to signify marital fidelity, while white, like in many other cultures, illustrates purity.
Some Polish brides choose to wear a hand-painted wedding dress inspired by old Polish folklore. In traditional Polish weddings, you may also notice the bride wearing braids—said to represent freedom—and a wiank (flower crown).
Since Polish weddings most often consist of church ceremonies followed by a reception, guests will want to dress somewhat formally (i.e., dresses or skirts, suits and ties or even a tuxedo).
Polish Wedding Ceremony
Traditionally, on the couple's wedding day—albeit before the actual ceremony—the soon-to-be spouses, their parents and loved ones (including family members, godparents, friends and other guests) would gather at the bride's home for a family blessing. Additionally, the father of the bride sprinkles the soon-to-be married couple with holy water. Happy tears are shed as loved ones express their well wishes.
Keep in mind that most Poles are Catholic, which is why it's common for the ceremony—which is sometimes referred to as the Ślub—to take place in a church. Oftentimes, the Ślub takes place on a Saturday afternoon and can last for about an hour and a half. Members of the wedding party, like the best man and maid of honor, often serve as witnesses and are on hand to support the couple.
Polish Reception Traditions
After the church ceremony but before the wedding reception, wedding guests may throw rice or coins at the newlyweds. Sometimes, but not always, the newly married couple will pick up the coins together to illustrate their partnership. Then, it's onto the wedding reception—known as the wesele. Keep scrolling for more information on this hours-long fun-filled celebration.
Bread and Salt Ritual
Upon arriving at the reception venue, the newly married couple will be greeted by their parents with—you guessed it—bread sprinkled with some salt. The bread is said to signify the idea that the spouses never experience hunger, while the salt represents the fact that life isn't always full of sweetness.
Sometimes, the bread and salt ritual also includes two shot glasses: one with vodka, one with water. According to the custom, the person who receives the vodka shot is considered to be the more dominant person in the relationship. Also, after taking the shot, each person then throws their shot glass behind their back. Broken glasses mean good luck. The ritual concludes with a toast to wish the couple the best of luck and a long life together.
Polish Songs and Music
Following the bread and salt ceremony, the "Sto Lat" song is sung by wedding guests. "Sto Lat" translates to "one hundred years." By singing "Sto Lat", guests are wishing the couple 100 years of health and happiness.
Some wedding receptions also have a Polish Apron Dance, in which all of the guests head to the dance floor to dance with the couple to lively polka tunes. Typically, an apron is held out by the father of the bride for wedding guests to throw in money as they dance. The couple often uses the money on their honeymoon.
Perhaps the highlight of the wedding reception is the oczepiny ceremony, also known as "the unveiling." The ceremony occurs around midnight and marks the bride's first night as a married woman. As part of the ceremony, the bride throws her veil up in the air to a group of single women (similar to the more common bouquet toss). Whoever catches the bride's veil is allegedly the next in line to get married.
Polish Traditional Wedding Food, Drinks and Desserts
No Polish wedding is complete without some traditional Polish food, of course. Rosół, a delicious Polish chicken soup, is often served as the first course. Following the soup, the couple may serve zakąski (cold appetizers such as herring that pair especially well with vodka).
Polish Postwedding Traditions
The next day after the wedding reception (usually a Sunday), there is a second day of festivities, known as the poprawiny. Think of the poprawiny as an extended after party—albeit far less formal and much more intimate when compared to the actual wedding reception.