Polish Wedding Traditions: Clothing, Flowers, Food And Decorations

Traditional elements of a Polish wedding ceremony and reception.

A wedding or "wesele" is one of the most important days in a person's life. Because a wedding involves the uniting of two families, many couples want to include elements from their family's heritage. This is especially true of people from a polish background. There are many rich traditions that can be worked into a ceremony to celebrate the polish culture.

One tradition is what is called the "re-braiding of the bride's hair". Long ago an unmarried female would wear her hair in one braid. The night before the wedding, the bride's mother and other married female relative, would take her braid and re-plait it into to two braids to symbolize thatit's no longer just herself she has to think of. She has to think of her groom as well. After the ceremony, her braids are undone signaling she has fulfilled her destiny as a bride.

In homage to decades past, the bride could arrive at the ceremony in a carriage drawn by four horses. In this day and age it might be difficult to do however it's a wonderful touch if it can be accomplished. The bride bouquet is often made with red and white flowers, to embrace the national colors of Poland and bring luck to the bride. Rosemary and other herbs are often worked into the arrangement to represent, love, remembrance and healing to the bride and those that share the day with her.

The ceremony will vary. It could be Jewish or Christian depending upon the religion (or lack thereof) of the couple. The true stamp of the polish culture shows up during the reception. As a rule however Poland is a Catholic country and most ceremonies involve the Catholic wedding mass in which a Catholic Church service encompasses the wedding ceremony.

As the bride and groom enter the reception hall, the bride and groom are greeted by their parents with bread, salt and a glass of wine. The bread is to convey the parents wish that the couple never go hungry. The salt represents the wish for the couple to work through the hard times. The wine is to offer refreshment after their long day.

After the parents greeting, the next ceremony called the "Oczepiny" takes place. This is when the bride's veil is removed and replaced with a wreath or a lace "czypeck". A cord with tiny doll in pink and blue is draped around her neck which signifies the woman assuming her married responsibilities. Upon occasion, the bride will toss her veil to the unmarried females instead of her bouquet. A goofy hat is placed on the groom's head to ensure that the marriage is filled with fun and happiness.

The food will be plentiful and rich. Common polish wedding dishes include cheese, fruit, pierogis (similar to filled dumplings), roasted meats and poultries, sausages and various cakes and cookies such as macaroons.Goulash is a popular Polish dish however it is seldom seen at wedding as it is not considered grand enough for a wedding celebration. Polish beverages such as polish wines and liquors should be available to guests as well. Once everyone has eaten, it's time for the fun to begin. There are a few traditional toasts, one of which is the "sto lat" toast, wishing the bride and groom a hundred years of life and happiness. The "na zdrowie" toast wishes the couple good health. A bride that drinks her wine and doesn't spill a drop is said to be blessed with luck and nothing but good things will happen during the marriage.

There are many traditional polish dances such as polkas and mazurkas. The most common polish wedding dance traditions is the "money dance" or "dollar dance". This is when the bride starts off dancing with her father and then other male guests "cut-in" to dance with the bride, paying a dollar (or quite often more) for the honor. This is to give the bride "pin" money to bring to the marriage. The money is thrown in an apron or bag but in the past was actually pinned to the bride.Other traditional dances include the "Poloniaise" in which couples will march together around the dance floor. The "kujawiak" which is very waltz-like in its smooth patern with the couple spinning elegantly around the dance area is another lovely dance custom. The bride and groom can dance together to the "Polish Wedding March." This is usually done at the beginning of the entertainment portion of the reception.

Once the evening and the fun has come to a conclusion, the bride and groom make their get-away to married life and a fun honeymoon. As they leave , they are showered with birdseed, dried shower petals, rice and bubble but old tradition holds that grain or nuts be tossed to with the couple a fruitful union. No matter, the marriage has had a wonderful start based in the cultural roots of the couple.

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