As an Independent Celebrant, I can encounter the exotic, or at least out-of-the-ordinary, at any time. This gave me the idea of researching a little about some less usual wedding traditions and customs. Today, I am looking at weddings Polish-style.
Before the Wedding
The engagement (zareczny) is traditionally taken very seriously. Family and friends will be called upon to witness a ceremony, which is almost as binding as the marriage itself.
The couple’s hands are tied together with a white scarf above a loaf of bread. This symbolises that the couple will be working together in future to prepare the bread and that they will never want for food.
(I would be surprised if there is actually any connection, but this reminds me of a pagan handfasting, which is a “tying of the knot” ceremony.)
As for the invitations, there is a protocol to follow. Groomsmen and bridesmaids are the first to be invited and then it’s the turn of the couple’s godparents.
Weddings can go on a long time – three days or more is not uncommon.
The wedding day starts at the bride’s home. Musicians play while everyone gathers before accompanying the couple to church.
Before the procession sets off, the parents bless the couple. This is taken very seriously, and if a parent had died, the wedding party goes off to the cemetery to ask the deceased parent for their blessing.
Traditionally, the wedding party rides to church in highly decorated wagons, accompanied by a fiddler and bass player.
If the bride doesn’t cry during the ceremony, it is supposed that she will cry for the rest of her married life!
According to custom, the couple goes off to their new home where their parents should be awaiting them. They offer the newly-weds bread, salt and wine.
Again, the bread symbolizes the hope that the couple will never go hungry. The salt is a reminder that life will not always be easy and the pair will have to learn to accept this and move on. The wine stands for the parents’ hope that the couple will never go thirsty but will enjoy a happy and healthy life together, in the company of good friends.
The wine is just a taster! The celebrations are about to begin!
There is often a banquet. This starts with a drink of beer or vodka, which is passed from person to person. This ceremony is called zapicie, which implies washing down or drinking.
As already stated, the festivities may last three days. On the last night, the most important custom of all takes place: the oczepiny, or unveiling. This is when a married woman’s cap (czepek) is placed on the bride’s head. This cap is normally offered by the bride’s godmother, and will be worn for church or folk festivals and, indeed, eventually at the bride’s burial.
Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made civil ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe.