Ah, the Polish Wedding. The tables groaning under the humungous weight of the plates with the most diverse dishes, the innumerable bottles of selected Polish vodka and mineral water. The young and beautiful bride all dressed in a white tailor-made wedding gown. The handsome bridegroom, acting a bit awkward "- t's his first wedding, after all - dressed in a black suit, complemented by the white, starched shirt with an exciting bow-tie. Just look at those highly polished expensive leather shoes, worn for the first time, to appreciate the gravity of the event!
A wedding is on occasion cherished by the Polish families - for many Dads and Mums being the peak of their parenthood. Who would believe that the little Kasia that used to sit on her Dad's knees and play with his moustache, and the plump Kazio, that used to collect butterflies and pin them on the walls, annoying his mother, are now getting married.
Weddings are perceived by many Polish families as the best and unique occasion, to impress their neighbors. "Zastaw się, a postaw się," in a free translation, "Show off, even for borrowed money," is a proverbial Polish way of dealing with such an occasion. Money is no object. Who cares, if we need to starve for the next six months or so.
Thus, a wedding is not a good time to make savings according to the Poles, disregarding the fact the divorce rate in Poland is astronomical and that the cost of the divorce is not included.
(Nowadays, the institution of marriage in Poland is not as popular as it used to. A whole 20% of women in Poland choose never to marry; of the around 200,000 that will marry each year, around 50,000 will be divorced. Just like in other more developed countries, like Sweden, the number of marriages in Poland keeps falling, while the number of divorces steadily increases.)
Still, a vast majority of Poles will chose a traditional wedding with long preparations including the tailor-made clothes for the bride's and the groom, the golden wedding rings, renting of a suitable venue (unless the wedding is held at home), an expensive menu, completed often by an especially hired music band.
There is also a white limousine or even a horse carriage followed by a number of less expensive vehicles filled with family and friends taking the young couple to the civil ceremony. The visit to the church follows where, what is perceived as the "real marriage" takes place. Wedding vows are read by the priest: "Do you, Kazio, take Kasia, for your wedded wife?" It is an exalted moment, and saying no is not an option.
Once the rings are exchanged, a kiss seals the holy union, while the family and the friends cheer. Once the priest receives his reward, the now officially married couple moves with their following to the place where the real fun, the wedding reception and the wedding party takes place. The Polish name for this event is "wesele," which can be roughly translated as a "happy occasion," which it is for some, if not for all.
The bride and the bridegroom reside behind the table, the guests depending on their relation to the family and their importance are being seated. The food is already waiting, but before that, it is time for the traditional kiss delivered by the young couple. The guests holding their glasses filled with cold vodka intone "Bitter, bitter," indicating that the taste is not up to the standards until they see the groom kiss the bride. Once this is done, the room erupts in cheer and laughter. Now the real fun can begin.
The traditional toasts follow. Eating and drinking continues throughout the evening interrupted by an occasional, drunk choir. As a rule, the Poles do not have a very big song repertoire, and for some reason, it consists mostly of outdated folk songs that most of them know since childhood. "A girl went to a forest," is one of the favorites, "Mountaineer, aren't you feeling sad?" another. After that last one, not one eye is left dry.
The temperature is rising. The band starts to play Polish favorites. The choice of the first song is most important, and the favorite is "The blue song" by Krzysztof Krawczak. If you want, you can ask the band to play a song of your choice, but it will cost you. The young couple starts the first dance and the rest follows. The choice of music is fairly eclectic, depending on the band's repertoire and the wishes of the family.
Now, the vodka takes its toll. People are becoming noisy, shouting loudly, some sit in the corner with their heads low, others sing to the music, others talk, yet others, mostly men, exchange kisses. (Polish men kiss each other on the cheeks, but only when they are readily drunk). Some cry into their empty vodka glass over their lost youth.
The table is a battlefield after a food battle. Chicken bones on a plate, a fallen wine glass with spilled drink, half empty plates with diverse dishes. I recall vividly a wedding like that. Around midnight the postman came bringing the telegrams from well-wishers. He was handsomely paid for his good news and invited to sit at the table. As an additional reward he was given a bottle of vodka and left to his own devices. Although, he could choose any of the numerous dishes, he was only interested in a half-liter jar of home-made herring in oil, each consumed herring accompanied by a constant stream of vodka.
Every ten minutes or so, looking sadly at the emptying vodka bottle and the jar, as well as at his deserted post bag on the floor, he muttered sadly to himself, "Time to go, I have a bag full of telegrams to deliver," but still he could not give up on his vodka quest. The other wedding guests were having fun, dancing, shouting, talking, embracing, but he just sat there. He stayed till the morning and was the last guest to leave. I don't know anything about his career as a postman after this memorable day. Now that is what I call a wedding party.
A traditional Polish wedding
might not be everyone's cup of tea, but whatever you feel, it is one of the most memorable events you can encounter.