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CZERWIEC (JUNE) -- A POLISH WEDDING MONTH


Polonius3 1,000 | 12,446  
3 Jun 2008 /  #1
June is a favourite wedding month in Poland, but May and July are not. According to traditon, only months with the letter 'r' in them (in Polish of course) produce happy marriages. Nonsense? Superstiuton? Indeed! But no more nonsensical than the Anglo-Saxon superstition about the groom not being able to see his bride to be on the morning of the wedding before meeting in church. Or the notion that the bride must wear something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. The wedding customs of every country include many such time-honoured practices whose origin is usually buried in time.

Here are some interesting Polish wedding traditons worth knowing about and maybe even worth considering. Some are more common than others, and some have even surrived in the Diaspora, wherever Poles have settled world-wide. The American Polonia is one such places where they may still be encountered. Others have largely fallen by the wayside, both in Poland and in émigré communities. No longer widely practised are traditions involving elaborate match-making customs, dowries, hope chests or the ceremonial moving of the newly-weds to their new homestead. The following are customs that are still observed by many (but certianly not all)Polish families.

INVITATIONS (Zaproszenia)
One of the truly warm and human aspects of Polish wedding traditions is the practice of the bride and groom extending personal invitations to their most honored guests. This, of course, is usually possible only when the invitee lives only a reasonable distance away. But when he/she lives in the general area, a personal visit to invite him, her or them to the wedding is a far more cordial gesture than sending even the fanciest invitation through the conventional or electronic mail. That approach is usually reserved for the most senior family members or others meriting particular deference and respect: grandparents, godparents, aunts, uncles, old family friends, etc. The personal invitation may, of course, be followed up with a printed or e-mail version just to be on the safe side. For those living some distance away, the wedding invitation may be extended by phone and then followed up by a printed invite.

Here is a bilibngual sample invite:

Pp. Bogna i Jan Blińscy
oraz
Pp. Maria i Jędrzej Wojdowie

mają zaszczyt zaprosic W.P.................

na zaślubiny swoich Dzieci:

Anny Blińskiej
z
Robertem Wojdą,

które odbędą sie w sobote, 27 stycznia o godz. 11.30 rano w Kosciele pw. M.B. Królowej Polski,
a nastepnie na przyjęcie weselne
o godz. 6.00 wieczorem
w Sali Bankietowej „Polonaise”
przy 2341 Somerset Avenue
***
Mr & Mrs John & Bogna Bliński
and
Mr & Mrs Jędrzej & Maria Wojda

request the pleasure of your company

at the nuptial of their Children:

Anna Blińska
and
Robert Wojda

taking place on Saturday, the 27th of January at 11.30 AM at
Our Lady Queen of Poland Church,
and at the wedding reception to be held at 6.00 PM at the
Polonaise Banquet Hall
2341 Somerset Avenue
***

Wedding-day parental blessing
(Błogosławieństwo rodziców)
At a traditional Polish wedding, there is no such Anglo-Saxon superstition preventing the bride and groom from seeing each other on the morning of the wedding. And, at a Polish wedding, the bride’s father does not give his daughter away at church -- she’s not a piece of property! In Polish tradition, the bride and groom enter church together as fiancés and leave it as husband and wife. The most important event preceding the actual ceremony is the parental blessing which takes place at the home of the bride prior to the church ceremony. An hour or two before the planned nuptial, the bridegroom and his groomsmen go to the home of the bride. There her parents and possibly other relatives bestow their blessing. Bridesmaids and family members usually attend the ceremony, and one or more musicians should be on hand.

In some elegant and fairly spacious corner of the home, the family prepares a kneeler or two decorative cushions for the young couple to kneel on. Next to this should be a small but tall table or flower-pot pedestal some 28” - 35” in height to provide accessibility to the officating parents without forcing them to bend. On the table, which may be covered with an heirloom lace or embroidered table-cloth, is placed a standing crucifix, a lighted candle, a bowl of holy water with a sprinkler acrosss the top. If the traditional Polish brush-type sprinkler is not available, this can be a clump of herbs bound together with a ribbon or even or a small leafy twig. (The symbolism will be enhanced if this is a branch broken off a tree or shrub growing on the property where the bride has her roots.)

The musician(s) may play ‘Serdeczna Matko’ or some other Polish hymn when the future son-in-law arrives and he and his bride-to-be kneel before her parents. Members of the bridal party position stand behind the young kneeling couple, and the music falls silent. Traditionally the mother of the bride gives the blessing. Here is one of many possible blessings:

‘Niech Pan Bóg Wszechmogący obdarzy Was oboje zdrowiem, szczęściem i wzajemną miłością na Waszej nowej, wspólnej drodze życia i niech Was pobłogosławi licznym, zdrowym potomstwem -- owocem Waszej miłości. I ja Was błogosławię: W imię Ojca i Syna i Ducha Świętego. Amen.’

(Translation: May God Almighty grant both of you health, happiness and mutual love on your new road through life together and may He bless you with numerous, healthy children -- the fruit of your love. And I also bless you: In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.) The mother then sprinkles the bride and groom to be with Holy Water, whereupon they make the Sign of the Cross. She then gives each of them the crucifix to kiss, after which she traces a cross on each of their foreheads with her thumb and kisses both her children. The father of the bride may then utter a blessing of his own or simply sprinkle the couple with Holy Water. The bridegroom’s parents may also impart their blessing. Others, for instance grandparents or godparents may also bless the couple. It all depends how simple or involved the ceremony is to be. A more intricate ritual, involving the prior blessing of the groom at his home and an invocation by the bride-to-be preceding the parental blessing is found in the section on old-style Polish wedding customs above.

After the blessing the bride and groom thank, hug and kiss their parents and the entire company prepares to leave for church. The wedding party usually comprises the parents, bridesmaids and groomsmen, the young couple’s siblings, possibly also grandparents, godparents or other close relatives or friends of the family. As the bridal party leaves the home, the musician(s) (perhaps only a single accordionist) plays ‘Serdeczna Matko’ or other favorite hymn.

Going to church/Wedding cortège
(Orszak weselny)
Following the parental blessing, the bridal party moves to church. Depending on its location and the family’s choice of conveyance, the following things may be considered with regard to this stage of the wedding day:

On foot: If the church is within comfortable walking distance, the bridal party may walk there in procession, accompanied by bridesmaids, groomsmen, family members and whoever else witnessed the parental blessing. The possibility of one or more musicians providing a medley of favorite Polish hymns and/or other popular melodies may be taken into consideration.

By horse-draw carriage: If this classic and elegant old conveyance is chosen, nowadays probably only the bride and groom, possibly also the best man and bride of honor would be thus accommodated in a single carriage, unlike the olden days when a whole string of horse-drawn vehicles formed the wedding cavalcade. The remaining members of the bridal party will most likely follow in behind on foot (if the distance is small) or in cars. A second carriage for the musicians would certainly be a nice, if costly, added touch. The choice of vehicles depends on the family’s tastes and budget and may range from an elegant Lincoln stretch limo, hired especially for the occasion, or the nicest car available within the couple’s own circle of relatives or friends.

Marriage liturgy/Nuptial Mass
(Liturgia zaślubin)

The bride and grooms have already been together on their wedding day since the parental blessing, so the giving-away of the bride by her father at the altar would seem to serve little purpose, other than to uphold a no longer very relevant Anglo-Saxon custom. (A daughter was once looked upon as a chattel that the father could dispose of at will.) According to Polish tradition, the bride and groom walk down the aisle to the altar together and retrace the same route after the ceremony as man and wife. The church’s décor and the choice of music should be pre-arranged with the organist or parish by those planning the wedding. The traditional Latin hymn ‘Veni Creator’ is a church-wedding standard, so is Gounod’s ‘Ave Maria’. A violin solo or a female vocalist singing ‘Ave Maria’ has long been a nostalgically moving tear-jerker at Polish weddings. Also very beautiful is Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’. Depending on the month, Eucharistic, Marian or other hymns would also be appropriate. A favorite is the traditional old Polish hymn ‘Serdeczna Matko’ whose original text and translation follows:

SERDECZNA MATKO
Serdeczna Matko, opiekunko ludzi,
Niech Cie płacz sierot do litości zbudzi.
// Wygnańcy Ewy do Ciebie wołamy:
Zmiłuj się zmiłuj, niech się nie tułamy. //

Zasłużyliśmy, to prawda, przez złości,
By nas Bóg karał rózgą surowości.
// Lecz kiedy Ojciec rozgniewany siecze,
Szczęśliwy kto się do Matki uciecze. //

(BELOVED MOTHER
Beloved Mother, guardian of the nation,
Hear orphans weeping in their supplication.
We are Eve’s exiles, do you hear us praying?
Show us your mercy when we begin straying.

We have sinned often over all the ages,
Hence we deserve God’s punishment that rages.
But when the Father strikes, be our defender,
Be our safe refuge, Mother dear and tender.)

The nuptial mass begins as always with the Sign of the Cross and the greeting ‘Pan z wami’ (‘The Lord be with you’), to which the congregation replies: ‘I z Duchem twoim’ (And with your Spirit’). The officiating priest then turns to the bride and groom and congregation with an introduction along the following lines:

‘Najmilsi, przybyliście do naszej świątyni, aby w obecności kapłana oraz Wspólnoty Kościoła Chrystus Pan uświęcił i utwierdził waszą miłość. Chrystus uświęcił was już w sakramencie chrztu, a teraz błogosłowi waszej miłości oraz umacnia was przez sakrament małżeństwa, abyście byli sobie zawsze wierni i umieli podjąć i wypełnić obowiązki małżeńskie. Razem z wami będziemy słuchać Słowa Bożego i uczestniczyć w ofierze eucharystycznej, aby was wspierać naszymi modlitwami.’

(‘Dearly Beloved, you have come to our church so that, in the presence of a priest and the Church Community, Christ Our Lord would sanctify and confirm your love. Christ has already sanctified you in the Sacrament of Baptism, and now He is blessing your love and strengthening you through the Sacrament of Matrimony, that you might always be faithful unto one another and be able to take up and fulfill your marital duties. Together with you we shall listen to the Word of God and take part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice in order to support you through our prayers.’)

The mass proceeds as usual. The Gospel according to St Matthew (Chapter 19 -- about the Pharisees asking Jesus about the possibility of divorce) is appropriate to the occasion, as it ends with the poignant directive: ‘Co Bóg złączył, niech człowiek nie rozdziela’ (What God has joined let no man rend asunder’). The officiating clergyman then delivers a sermon about the sacrament of matrimony, the duties of spouses to one another and the importance of Christian virtues in family life. Following the sermon, all rise. The priest addresses the bride and groom.

Kapłan: ‘.................. i ................. (np. Bogdanie i Elżbieto), wysłuchaliśmy Słowa Bożego i przypomnieliście sobie znaczenie ludzkiej miłości i małżenstwa. W imieniu Kościoła pytam was, jakie są wasze postanowienia? Czy chcecie dobrowolnie i bez żadnego przymusu zawrzeć związek małżeński?’

Narzeczeni: ‘Chcemy’.
Kapłan: ‘Czy chcecie wytrwać w tym związku w zdrowiu i w chorobie, w doli i niedolii, aż do końca życia?’
Narzeczeni: ‘Chcemy’.
Kapłan: ‘Czy chcecie z miłością przyjąć i po katolicku wychować potomsto, którym was Bóg obdarzy?’
Narzeceni: ‘Chcemy’.
Kapłan: ‘Prośmy Ducha Świętego, aby uświęcił ten związek i dał narzeczonym łaskę wytrwania. Niech ich miłość przez Niego umocniona, stanie się znakiem miłości Chrystusa i Kościoła’.

(Priest: ‘................ and ............... for instance: Bogdan and Elizabeth, we have listened to the Word of God, and you have recalled the meaning of human love and matrimony. On behalf of the Church I ask what have you resolved? Do you wish to voluntarily and without duress enter into a matrimonial union?’

The Betrothed: ‘We do.’
Priest: ‘Do you wish to persevere in that union in health and sickness, in good times and bad, till the end of your days?’
The Betrothed: ‘We do.’
Priest: ‘Do you wish to accept and raise in the Catholic faith the children God blesses you with?’
The Betrothed: ‘We do.’
Priest: ‘ Let us beseech the Holy Spirit to sanctify this union and grant the Betrothed the grace to endure. May their love, strengthened by Him, become a sign of the love of Christ and the Church.’)

The congregation and/or choir sings the hymn to the Holy Spirit ‘Veni Creator’. The priest then turns to the bride and groom:
‘Skoro zamierzacie zawrzeć sakramentalny związek małżeński, podajcie sobie prawe dłonie i wobec Boga i Kościoła powtarzajcie za mną słowa przysięgi małżeńskiej.’

(‘Since you wish to enter into the sacramental union of matrimony, join your right hands and before God and the Church repeat the words of the marriage oath after me.’)

The priest wraps their joined hands with the end of his stole and the Betrothed in turn repeat after the priest:
‘Ja, ............. (np. Bogdan), biorę ciebie .............. (np. Elżbieto) za żonę, i ślubuję ci miłość, wierność i uczciwość małżeńską, oraz że cię nie opuszczę aż do śmierci, tak mi dopomóż Bóg wszechmogący, w Trójcy jedyny, i wszyscy Święci.

‘Ja, ............. (np. Elżbieta), biorę ciebie .............. (np. Bogdanie za męża, i ślubuję ci miłość, wierność i uczciwość małżeńską, oraz że cię nie opuszczę aż do śmierci, tak mi dopomóż Bóg wszechmogący, w Trójcy jedyny, i wszyscy Święci.

(‘I ............. for instance: Bogdan, take you ............... for instance: Elizabeth for my wife, and I vow to you my love, fidelity and marital honesty and also that I shall not abandon you until death, so help me Almighty God, One in the Trinity, and all the Saints.’

‘I ............. for instance: Elizabeth, take you ............... for instance: Bogdan, Elizabeth) for my husband, and I vow to you my love, fidelity and marital honesty and also that I shall not abandon you until death, so help me Almighty God, One in the Trinity, and all the Saints.’)

The priest then says: ‘Co Bóg złączył, człowiek niech nie rozdziela. Małżeństwo przez was zawarte ja, powagą Kościoła katolickiego potwierdzam i błogosławię w imię Ojca, i Syna, i Ducha Świętego’ (What God has joined let no man rend asunder. The marriage you have concluded I, by the authority of the Catholic Church, confirm and bless in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’), to which the congregation replies: ‘Amen’.

The priest then blesses the rings: ‘Niech Bóg pobłogosławi te obrączki, które macie sobie wzajemnie nałożyć jako znak miłości i wierności’ (May God bless these rings which you are to put on as a sign of love and fidelity’), to which the congregation responds: ‘Amen’.

The groom places the ring meant for his bride on the ring finger of her right hand, according to Polish tradition, saying: ‘Przyjmij tę obrączkę jako znak mojej miłości i wierności. W imię Ojca, i Syna, i Ducha Świętego’. (‘Accept this ring as a si’gn of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’)

The bride proceeds likewise and places the ring meant for the groom on the ring finger of his right hand, according to Polish tradition, saying: ‘Przyjmij tę obrączkę jako znak mojej miłości i wierności. W imię Ojca, i Syna, i Ducha Świętego’. (‘Accept this ring as a si’gn of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’)

The remainder of the nuptial mass is conducted as usual with some exceptions. For instance, the newly-weds are included in the prayer intentions read out from the pulpit and they may bring the bread and wine to the altar. After receiving Holy Communion and silently praying before the altar, the bride may place a bouquet of flowers at the Blessed Mother’s side altar. She may kneel there and say a silent prayer before returning to her husband’s side in front of the main altar. At the end of the mass, the priest may extend his blessing along the following lines: ‘Pan Jezus, który zechcial być na weselu za Kanie Galilejskiej, niech wam i waszym bliskim udzieli swego błogosławieństwa. Was wszystkich tu zgromadzonych, niech błogosławi Bóg wszsechmogący: Ojciec, i Syn, u Duch Święty’ (May Lord Jesus, who took part in the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee, grant you and your loved ones his blessing. May all of you gathered here today be blessed by Almighty God: the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit’.)

Receiving line of well-wishers
(Składanie życzeń nowożeńcom)
To the majestic strains of Mendelssohn’s ‘Wedding March’ the bride and groom process back down the aisle. A receiving line of well-wishers at the back of the church, in the vestibule or in front of the church presents them with flowers and extends best wishes. (The flowers are accepted by the bride who hands them to her attending bride’s maids. They are responsible for handling them with care and taking them to the venue of the wedding banquet where they are placed in vases to add splendor to the feast.)

The most typical wish goes: ‘(Życzę Wam) wszystkiego najlepszego na nowej drodze życia.’ (I wish you all of the best on your new road through life.) This would be the rough equivalent of the stereotypical American-style ‘Congratulations’ to the groom and ‘All the best’ to the bride. The wish may be expanded to include: ‘zdrowia, szczęścia i zgody małżeńskiej’ (‘health, happiness and marital harmony’). More religious-flavored sentiments might run: ‘Życzę Wam obfitych łask Bożych, abyście się zawsze wzajemnie kochali, szanowali i zgadzali tak jak Pan Bóg przykazał.’ (I wish you our Lord’s abundant blessings that you might always live in mutual love, respect and harmony according to God’s plan.) In general, such standard wishes can be expected of more distant wedding guests. Family members and close friends u
Tamara 9 | 202  
3 Jun 2008 /  #2
Hi,

Quite a nice piece you wrote. Since you seem to know something about this subject, maybe you might have heard of this old custom? I live in the US and my family is Polish. Many many years ago when all of the older aunts were still alive, when someone from the family got married, the older women along with the bride & bridegroom's mother's would take off her veil, and then put a diaper (clean) or incase of no small babies, a pair of little girls underwear on the head of the groom (I swear to god they did - I have pictures of this) and then sing some sort of song which has been long forgotten in my family. If you;ve heard of this custom and may know which song this is (some sort of fertility ritual it seems), please let me know!
OP Polonius3 1,000 | 12,446  
3 Jun 2008 /  #3
I have never heard of that particular version, but there were variations aplenty in different parts of the country and even within individual families. An apron was also a common symbol of widehood. One common folk fertility song was ceremony was about hops climbing up a pole (Piosenka o chmielu)-- an obvious phallic reference.
Tamara 9 | 202  
3 Jun 2008 /  #4
Hmmm - I don't think that was it :)
OP Polonius3 1,000 | 12,446  
4 Jun 2008 /  #5
Thread attached on merging:
JUNE -- A POLISH WEDDING MONTH (CONCLUDED)

Once all the wedding guests are seated, the best man (starszy drużba) rises, glass in hand, to propose a toast, which might run something along these lines:

„Jako starszy drużba przypada mi w udziale miły obowiązek wzniesienia toastu za zdrowie i pomyślność Państwa Młodych. Myślę, że wszyscy tu obecni chętnie dołączą się do tych życzeń. Powstańmy wszyscy i życzmy miłej Ani i jej oblubieńcowi Bartkowi, aby żyli długo i szczęśliwie w miłości i zgodzie małżeńskiej, wspierali się w trudnych chwilach i doczekali się licznego, zdrowego potomstwa. Niech dobry Pan Bóg ich pobłogosławi, obroni przed nieszczściami i obdarzy obfitymi łaskami na nowej drodze życia. Za Młodą Parę!”

(Translation: „As the best man it is my most pleasant duty to propose a toast to the health and happiness of the Bride and Groom. Let us therefore all rise and wish lovely Ania and her beloved Bartek a long and happy life in love and marital harmony. May they support one another through difficult times and bring forth many, healthy offspring. May the Good Lord bless them, protest them from misfortune and shower them with His bountiful grace along their road through life. To the Newly-Weds, Ani and Bartek!”)

Depending on whether the best man was a school mate of the groom, brought the couple together or has other relevant insights into their early days, he may expand the toast to include such reminiscing and various humorous touches. A bit later, he may also propose toasts at intervals to the parents of the bride and groom, their godparents and other venerable guests.

Wedding reception/feast
(Przyjęcie weselne, uczta weselna)
The Polish word for wedding (wesele) comes from the word ‘weselić się’, meaning to rejoice, and that is indeed an appropriate term for an occasion traditionally associated with joy and celebration. The adjectival form of the world (weselny) appears in such common words as przyjęcie weselne (wedding reception), uczta weselna (wedding feast), dom weselny (wedding house), marsz weselny (wedding march), etc. Below are some of the main features of the traditional Polish wesele along with hints on how to incorporate them in a modern Polish-American setting.

Bread & salt welcome
(Powitanie chlebem i solą)
The wedding reception begins with the traditional bread and salt welcome: powitanie chlebem i solą. Traditionally things are arranged so that most of the wedding guests are already at the reception site awaiting the bride and groom. When they arrive, they are greeted at the entrance (on the threshold or porch, in the vestibule, etc. -- depending on topography and weather). Usually it is the bride’s mother or both parents who do the honours, but circumstances may vary.

The welcoming mother or parents hold a tray covered with an elegant lace or embroidered cloth covering (table-cloth) and containing a fairly large, preferably round loaf of unsliced rye bread. Sometimes there is a small depression at the top of the loaf into which the salt is place, either directly or in a small crystal salt-cellar. A single glass of wine or other spirits (vodka, cognac) may be included.

There are myriad versions of the greeting, and wedding hosts should feel free to improvise round the general theme of well-wishing. A typical greeting might go: ‘Staropolskim zwyczajem witamy Was chlebem i solą, aby w Waszym domu zawsze gościło szczęście i dostatek.’ (According to Old Polish tradition, I welcome you with bread and salt, so that your home might always enjoy happiness and abundance.) If desired, this can be expanded into a brief oration incorporating wishes similar to the best man’s toast (below). At more casual affairs, the greeting may include a light-hearted riddle when the mother asks the bride: ‘Co wolisz: chleb, sól czy pana młodego?’ (Which do you prefer: the bread, the salt or the groom?), to which the bride replies: ‘Wolę chleb, sól i pana młodego, żeby zarobił na niego.’ (All three I prefer, so let it be said: may the groom earn the money to pay for the bread.)

The groom sprinkles the bread with salt and kisses the loaf, then takes the tray and holds it for his bride to kiss the loaf. He might also break off a small piece and share it with the bride. If wine (champagne) or other spirits are provided, the newly-weds share it from a single glass in a sign of eternal togetherness. (The wedding guests may raise a champagne or other toast at that point). While the music has been silent for the duration of the welcoming ceremony, once it is over the orchestra may strike up ‘Sto Lat’ for all to join in singing. A rousing Polish Wedding March follows, to the tune of which the bridal party, followed by their guests, process to their places at table. At Polish-American weddings this has often been a march entitled ‘Tęsknota za Ojczyzną’. Place-cards are common at more formal receptions, and the everybody-sits-where-they-want-to practice is typical at more casual weddings.

Grace, oration, toasts
(Modlitwa przed posiłkiem, oracje, toasty)
It is customary to invite the priest who officiated at the nuptial to the reception and he usually is seated at the head table. The priest would be the logical choice to lead grace and most likely will expand the usually prayer before meals to fit the occasion. If a priest is not on hand, someone else may be asked to do the honors. One possibility might be:

‘Panie Boże Wszechmogący, pobłogosław nas tu zgromadzonych, aby świętować uroczystość zaślubin .............. i ................ (np. Elżbiety i Bogdana), i pobłogołsaw także te wspaniałe dary, które z Twojej Świętej Opatrzności spożywać będziemy. Przez Chrystusa Pana naszego. Amen.’

(Almighty God, bless us who have gathered here to celebrate the wedding of ............... and ................ for instance: Elizabeth and Bogdan, and bless also these splendid gifts which we are about the receive through Your Divine Providence. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.’)

The groom’s best man, the wedding host (starosta) or other close family friend usually raises the first toast to the bride and groom. This may be a brief toast of well-wishing or a more extended oration. Once all the wedding guests are seated, the best man (starszy drużba) rises, glass in hand to propose a toast, which might run something along these lines:

„Jako starszy drużba przypada mi w udziale miły obowiązek wzniesienia toastu za zdrowie i pomyślność Państwa Młodych. Myślę, że wszyscy tu obecni chętnie dołączą się do tych życzeń. Powstańmy wszyscy i życzmy miłej Ani i jej oblubieńcowi Bartkowi, aby żyli długo i szczęśliwie w miłości i zgodzie małżeńskiej, wspierali się w trudnych chwilach i doczekali się licznego, zdrowego potomstwa. Niech dobry Pan Bóg ich pobłogosławi, obroni przed nieszczściami i obdarzy obfitymi łaskami na nowej drodze życia. Za Młodą Parę!”

(Translation: „As the best man it is my most pleasant duty to propose a toast to the health and happiness of the Bride and Groom. Let us therefore all rise and wish lovely Ania and her beloved Bartek a long and happy life in love and marital harmony. May they support one another through difficult times and bring forth many, healthy offspring. May the Good Lord bless them, protest them from misfortune and shower them with His bountiful grace along their road through life. To the Newly-Weds, Ani and Bartek!”)

Depending on whether the best man was a school mate of the groom, brought the couple together or has other relevant insights into their early days, he may expand the toast to include such reminiscing and various humorous touches. A bit later, he may also propose toasts at intervals to the parents of the bride and groom, their godparents and other venerable guests.

The chant of ‘gorzko, gorzki’ (bitter, bitter — meaning the vodka has turned bitter and must be sweetened by a bridal kiss), which erupts every so often during the feast, is not really a toast, but a wish on the part of the weddings guests for the bride and groom to kiss. It may also be directed to the best man and maid of honour, the parents of the bride and groom and others at the head table. A song sung for this purpose goes:

Gorzka wódka, gorzka wódka, nie będziemy pili,
Chcemy, żeby Państwo Młodzi wódkę osłodzili.
(The vodka’s bitter, we won’t drink it, there is something missing,
We want the vodka to be sweetened by the newly-weds’ kissing.)

In some émigré communities, instead of or in addition to the ‘gorzko’ chant or song, someone may starts clinking a wine glass and before long an ear-splitting, plate-banging jangle fills the entire hall. The effect is the same: the bride and groom are expected to kiss.

Money dance: Once widespread at Polish country weddings, this tradition is still encountered at receptions in Poland and Polonia. Like the other elements described here, it lends variety to the festivities and becomes ingrained in people’s minds as a typical Polish-wedding activity that sets this occasion apart from other socials. It is the band (or DJ) that creates the proper atmosphere by announcing: ‘And now, ladies and gentlemen, the traditional money dance. Who will be the first to dance with the bride and chip a little something into the kitty for a cradle or pram?’ (This should not be the groom or the bride’s father but one of the guests.). The bride is escorted to the center of the dance floor, and her maid of honour (starsza druhna) or wedding hostess (starościna) holds a basket, bowl, tray, etc. for the donations. (At old Polish and Polonian weddings, after depositing his donation in the basket, the guest would be given a nip of vodka to down before dancing with the bride). Nowadays, often female wedding guests also have a chance to dance with the groom in similar fashion.

Unveiling/becapping ceremony
(Oczepiny)
This is the final ceremony of the wedding day and marks the bride’s symbolic passage into the sisterhood of married women. Unless there is a master or mistress of ceremonies in charge of directing activities, a good Polish wedding orchestra can help give this ceremony the prominence it fully deserves. Towards the end of the evening’s festivities, a drum flourish issues forth and the bandleader may announce into the mike: ‘And now, ladies and gentlemen, we have arrived at the highpoint of today’s celebration. It is time for the unveiling ceremony of our lovely bride, .............. (name). May the groom escort his bride to the center of the dance floor where a special chair has been set up.’

Just to recall, the original Polish name, oczepiny, came from the word czepek (cap), an old symbol of wifehood, and can be translated as capping or becapping ceremony. In its original form, the bride’s floral wreath, wedding crown or other such headpiece asmybolizing virginity was ceremoniously removed and replaced with a matron’s cap. Originally, she was seated on an inverted wooden bread-dough trough, symbolizing one of a wife’s principal duties -- bread-making.

Today the bride may be seated on any chair or stool at the center of the hall with guests gathered in a circle around her. The veil is removed to the tune of an oczepiny song, a popular one in Polonia being the ‘Twelve Little Angels’:

Dwanaście listeczków na rozkwitłej róży,
Dwanaście aniołków//* pannie młodej służy.
Pierwszy anioł niesie liliję pachnącą,
Drugi anioł niesie// świecę gorejącą.
Trzeci anioł niesie mirtowy wianeczek,
Czwarty anioł niesie// złoty pierścioneczek.
Piąty anioł niesie ślubne posłuszeństwo,
Szósty anioł niesie// im błogosławieństwo.
A sześciu aniołów stoi nad jej głową,
Trzymają wianeczek// jakby nad królową.

(Twelve tiny little leaves on a rose that’s opened wide,
And twelve little angels// are all serving the bride.
A lily fragrant, sweet, the first angel brings this night,
The second angel carries// a candle glowing bright.
A woven myrtle wreath the third angel does bring,
The fourth angel carries// a golden wedding ring.
Obedience as a vow the fifth angel brings with love,
The sixth angel gives them// God’s blessings from above.
Above the bride’s fair head, six angels can be seen,
A wreath they are holding// that would befit a queen.)
(*The double slash // indicates that the preceding words are to be repeated. The Polonia of Buffalo sings the same melody to the words ‘Rośnie trawka rośnie’).

Sometimes an apron is tied on the bride or she is given some other object symbolizing wifehood such as a rolling-pin, large wooden spoon or even a broom. These objects are given a festive appearance with flowers and ribbons. In some cases the veil is simply removed and not replaced with anything. That may be more acceptable to some of today’s brides who consider it demeaning to equate wifehood with household drudgery.

In a sign of growing egalitarianism, already seen in the recent custom of wedding guests dancing with both the bride and groom, the oczepiny in Poland and recent Polish émigré circles in America is now often a ‘dual-removal’ affair. In that case, it is the groom who removes his bride’s veil, and she in turn removes her groom’s bow-tie. Instead of the bouquet toss, the bride throws her veil for the unmarried girls to try and catch. Similarly, the groom throws his bow-tie for the unmarried male to grab for.

.
Follow-up celebration
(Poprawiny)
Since time immemorial, a standard feature of Polish and Polonian weddings has been the poprawiny, held on one or more successive days following the wedding. Some regard this follow-up celebration is a way to use up the food and drink left over from the wedding reception, others consider it a whole new party. Traditionally it is held at the home of the bride’s parents. If it is a two-day affair, the next celebration may be at the home of the groom’s parents, but existing circumstances are the determining factor rather than any hard and fast rule. It is a nice token of respect for the wedding guests and gift-givers if the newly-weds also attend the poprawiny, because they are in effect saying: Our dear family and friends are the most important -- the honeymoon can wait. Generally speaking, the poprawiny are less structured and more relaxed than the wedding-day festivities and provide an opportunity for the newly-weds and their guests to chat and socialize in a less stressful setting.
jsong - | 1  
29 Aug 2008 /  #6
thanks for the posts!! i was looking for wedding invitation wording in polish and could not find it anywhere. my fiancee is polish and i'm korean so, we are doing our invitations in three languages: english, polish and korean. Crazy, I know. thanks to the post, we have a general idea of what the wording should be!!!
sylvia003  
21 Aug 2009 /  #7
czesc polonius 3.

would you probably have a copy of the polish civil wedding programme? im getting married next week (to a polish guy) and would like to know the things that the judge/court staff/urzad staff) would tell/ask us and the answers that we should give to him/her.

i've got a translator but i just wanted to be prepared and not look too clueless about the things that he/she will say (the urzad staff). i'd really like to study it while i've got time.

looking forward to hearing from you.

dziekuje bardzo (za czas?)
OP Polonius3 1,000 | 12,446  
21 Aug 2009 /  #8
Sorry, I'm not familiar with current Polish civil-marriage procedures. My interests are more ethnographic. Maybe try Googling.
BTW I recently ran across this input from someone researching local "Baltimore Polish Marriage Tradition". It contained the following description:
After the ceremony at the reception the Brides veil is removed and a hadnkerchief is placed on her head (reason unknown). The Groom has a straw hat placed on his head with dangling plastic babies (fertility symbol?)

No-one I know can identify this as a Polish custom. They all said that they never heard of this custom. Someone thought it might have been a custom in a particular area of Poland brought to Baltimore through immigration."

There is a wedding invitation in English and Polish in the translation section of this forum. It might be helpful.
sylvia003  
22 Aug 2009 /  #9
thank you for your time polonius 3. yeah, i'll try to google it =)

all the best =)

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