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Polish Wedding Customs and Traditions

Last updated on February 27, 2019

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Polish weddings are a great experience! I know, you might think I’m biased to say that just because I’m Polish. But truth be told, not only Poles think that way. My husband, for instance, loves all the customs and traditions associated with Polish weddings. Let me then present to you the main Polish wedding traditions, so you can have a grasp of it.

Come with me!

A modern look into Polish weddings

The Polish weddings we go to nowadays are, in my opinion, a great combination of modern lifestyle and old traditions.

The young couples entertain the guests with surprise music dances, extraordinary cuisine, and etc, but at the same time, they do not forget about some tiny little things that form part of old Polish wedding traditions.

Once we’ve been to a wedding that only played songs in English. Even so, they kept many other traditions associated with Polish weddings.

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A widely known saying states “Every country has its customs” which is, of course, very true. In Poland, however, this goes even further and expands to regional differences. So, let’s get it started 🙂

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Polish wedding traditions: before the actual wedding

Zrękowiny

A tradition that was especially cultivated in the Polish region of Kaszuby.

The idea behind it is that a few days before the actual wedding ceremony the groom together with his parents would come to the house of the bride’s parents.

But, they would not arrive empty-handed. The bride’s family was expecting to receive some presents and, of course, they had some gifts prepared to give in return.

Polterabend

Wedding couple holding each other's hand in a heart shape

A custom that was especially popular in Polish regions of Pomorze, Śląsk and Wielkopolska.

These are the regions that used to have a strong connection to Germany and, not surprisingly, this tradition derives from our Western neighbours.

So, the question which arises now is: What is this tradition all about?

One day before the ceremony, the wedding guests and family members were gathering in front of bride’s house in order to break glass 😉 You could break actually everything as long as it was made of glass: plates, bottles etc.

Everything was happening in a joyful atmosphere and the guests were celebrating with food and alcohol. The reason for this tradition was to bring the bride joy and happiness.

Zwiady (Scouting)

This is a tradition known from the region of Pomorze.

The groom’s family used to send a trustworthy person to the bride’s family. The main idea behind it was to convince the bride’s parents of the groom.

The representative was highlighting all the great attributes of the future husband in order to persuade the bride’s parents to allow her to marry the groom.

A few days later, the representative was coming back in order to find out the final decision.

Wykupiny (Buying up a bride)

This is a custom that is actually known in many regions in Poland. The groom arrives at the bride’s house where the bridesmaid awaits him. Some of the wedding guests are also there to watch the whole procedure 😉

The bridesmaid is waiting with a big basket where the groom should put some money to buy the bride.

The money he puts in initially is always too little so a funny discussion and argumentation start after which he needs to be adding some extra cash. Only if the money is sufficient, he is allowed to enter the house and pick up the bride 🙂

Sometimes instead of money, the groom might be expected to put some sweets 🙂

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Polish wedding traditions: on the day of the wedding

Błogosławieństwo (Blessing)

The blessing of the parents of the groom and the bride is a very important part of the wedding ceremony. It usually happens at the bride’s house where both families meet to give the blessing to their children who are about to get married.

They usually use a cross and a twig that they dip into the water to give the blessing. There are no fixed words you have to say.

I have noticed that parents are actually normally so emotional that they are barely able to say a few words and just give a lot of hugs to the couple 🙂 Anyway, this is a very old Polish tradition but it is cultivated widely nowadays.

Brama weselna (Wedding gate)

The wedding gates can be created in many different places. It can be just in front of the bride’s house, somewhere on the way to the church or even already after the church ceremony, on a way to the reception party.

Normally what you can expect is the rope that can only be removed if an appropriate bribe is paid 😉

The bribe can vary. It may be in the form of sweets, if children are the ones who set it up or, what is actually more common, in a form of bottles of vodka.

Obsypanie ryżem bądź płątkami kwiatów (Throwing rice or flowers petals)

Newly-wed couple leaving the church

This is a custom that happens straight after the wedding couple leaves the church ceremony as newlyweds 🙂

The wedding guests start spilling at them various objects. It can be rice, flower petals or even some coins. If the coins are thrown, the newlyweds should pick them up as soon as possible.

Usually, children help them to pick them up so that the process is quicker 😉 The tradition says that the one who collects more coins will be responsible for the finances in the family 🙂

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Polish wedding gifts

Back in the days, it was common to give gifts for the new home, such as kitchen equipment, bedding set, bath set.

Nowadays, things have changed a bit. In Poland, it’s quite common to give cash as wedding gift. The money is put in a nice envelope together with a card, where you can write your wishes.

Wedding gifts in Poland

This envelope is usually given to the married couple right after the church celebration. People will make a long queue to greet the newly married couple, make wishes and give the gifts.

The best man will usually be next to the married couple holding a box, where all the envelopes are put inside.

You might be wondering: but how much should I give to them? Well, that depends a lot, whether you’re very close to the couple, or not. I would say it ranges from a hundred to several hundreds zloty.

In addition to that, the wedding couple will usually tell you what they would like to receive as an additional small gift. You can expect things such as wine, dog food, books, and so on.

Powitanie chlebem i solą (Greeting with bread and salt)

On arriving at the reception party, the newlyweds are greeted by their parents with a huge loaf of bread, salt and two vodka shots. This is because we do not want them to ever suffer from the lack of bread o salt in their life 🙂

The wedding couple also needs to drink the vodka shots and throw the glasses behind their backs. The glass should break, if it does not break, the groom needs to go back and break it himself.

You might wonder, why do we actually greet with bread and salt and not with some other products?

Bread has had always a huge significance in our culture and always was associated with richness. Salt, on the other hand, is supposed to discourage bad spirits and therefore bring luck to the couple.

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Przenoszenie przez próg (Carrying through the door entrance)

This is what happens straight after the greeting with bread and salt. The groom simply lifts the bride and they walk like this onto the reception party. This tradition has a very symbolic meaning and basically certifies the change of the marital status.

Interestingly, it originates from the old Roman Times. It was then believed that if the bride stumbles when entering the house, it will bring bad luck to the house. This is why it is better to carry her inside 🙂

Polish wedding traditions: during the reception party

Pierwszy taniec (The first dance)

There always needs to be one 😉 Of course, you do not do it straight after entering the venue as the guests are probably hungry. So normally firstly the food is served so that you can fill in your stomachs 😉

The wedding couples nowadays pay huge attention to the first dance and they always try to prepare something unforgettable both for them and for the guests. A very common thing is to even attend special dance classes.

Polish vodka!

A shot of vodka

Of course that vodka could not be forgotten in any Polish wedding.

Usually, every guest receives a shot glass. Besides that, they also receive a regular glass for juices or soft drinks.

After each toast, the guests drink the vodka shot and right after that they sip a little bit of juice (or soft drink). This process goes on all night long.

You can expect to drink way over 10 vodka shots! Are your ready?

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Oczepiny

Definitely my favourite part of Polish weddings! It usually happens at midnight and is a lot of fun both for the wedding guests and the wedding couple. The band that plays during the wedding normally comes up with some games to entertain everyone.

Some of the games that I can think of are:

  • answering the questions – groom and the bride have to answer some questions not seeing each other’s answers. The question could be for example: Who is more stubborn in the relationship? Who is more responsible? etc. If the groom thinks it’s him, he lifts his shoe, if he thinks it’s a bride he lifts her shoe 😉 The same applies to the bride. The answering happens simultaneously and usually, brings a lot of laughing to everyone.
  • chair game – you can also expect to play some music chairs. For example, there are 6 participants and 5 chairs. You walk around the chairs and the music plays. Once the music stops you need to sit down. If you are without a chair, you are eliminated. The winner normally gets some small gift from the wedding couple 🙂

And many many others !!! 🙂

Rzucanie bukietem albo welonem (Throwing a bouquet or a veil)

Wedding bouquet

I think this is a tradition that many of you know 🙂

It happens normally at the beginning of Oczepiny. The girls who are still single gather around the bride and dance to some music. The bride cannot normally see anything and when the music stops, she is to throw either the bouquet or a veil. Whoever catches the item is next to get married 🙂

The same happens for the groom but of course, instead of the veil, he throws his bow-tie. The girl and the guy who caught the thrown items normally need to perform some dance together 🙂

Tort weselny (The wedding cake)

The tradition of the cake is very old. In the past, the women from the bride’s side used to bake the cake before the wedding. Nowadays, it is not that common any more. The cake is ordered in a specialized cake shop.

Wedding cake

The tradition says that the first piece of the cake needs to be cut by the wedding couple together. Then they need to feed each other with this cake. Only afterwards, the cake is to be passed to the wedding guests.

The reason is that the cake signifies prosperity. By giving this prosperity to the guests it is supposed to get back to the bride with double the power 😉

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Polish wedding traditions: after the wedding day

Poprawiny

After partying all night long, it’s finally time to go home and take some rest. But not for so long. On the very next day the family members and some close friends might be invited to attend the “poprawiny”. This is kind of a continuation of the wedding party, but usually in a more chilled way.

Everyone will still eat a lot and drink vodka but to a less extent. The funny thing is that many people will still be suffering from hangover, and to overcome it they simply drink more! hahaha

Not everyone that attended the wedding is invited for the “poprawiny”, this is usually kept for family and close friends. The celebration can last for the whole next day.

Other important aspects of the Polish wedding traditions that you need to know

  1. Seating plan – normally nowadays there is a seating plan displayed at the entrance of the reception party 🙂 Just find your name on the list and sit at the table mentioned. At least at the beginning, you should sit there afterwards you can just move places for a little chit chat!
  2. Food – better come hungry to the wedding 😉 Really there is normally so much food that every single time I am shocked about it. Normally, when you arrive at your table there are already many cold plates ready for you (salads, little appetizers, herring etc). In addition to that, throughout the whole night, you can expect 5-6 warm plates to be served. Very often you can also try some regional specialities such as hams, cheese, sausages etc that are put on the side.
  3. Drinks – Ok, let’s face it – vodka is the main drink so really really be careful about it as the occasions for a free shot are not going to lack 😉 And we pretty much always drink vodka and afterwards we have a sip of some soft drink. My advice would be also to eat a lot and dance as it helps with not getting drunk too quickly 🙂 Of course, there is normally other alcohol available such as wine, whiskey, beer etc but vodka is the main one. The wedding couple normally counts around 0,5l of vodka per head when they do the buying 😉
  4. Songs – Prepare to sing a lot! If there is a band playing they will very often leave the stage and enter the eating area to entertain the guests and sing with them. Songs  like “Szła dzieweczka”, “Gorzka wódka” or “Kto w lipcu urodzony” are always a great entertainment and as you can expect gives a great reason to have a drink as well 😉

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Final words

I hope you are going to have a chance to attend a Polish wedding at some point. I can guarantee you a lot of fun and food during this experience 😀

7 Comments

  1. Rose Taylor Rose Taylor June 10, 2019

    It’s amazing how wedding traditions are similar in Eastern Europe. Really liked the article. Would like to know more about choosing the dress, what type of makeup is worn if in traditional Polish dress or the white wedding dress. My future husband is from Slovakia and this article helped me understand a bit what his relatives talk about :)) I am interested in how the bride prepares for the day and read this article https://cellregenerate.com/best-foundation-for-wedding/ I would really like to know about local brands .

  2. Akash Sheth Akash Sheth August 19, 2019

    Thanks for sharing this information to us. It’s valuable information for me. Thanks for giving us.

  3. Mary Rogers Mary Rogers August 29, 2019

    Enjoyed seeing all these traditions in Poland. Here in USA many are not done anymore. I do remember the bread and vodka. When my daughter was married I did the bread with wine instead. My son-in-law was from Basil Switzerland and LOVED the bread. The day after the wedding celebration is no longer done. Very few cases do you still see this type of celebration. thanks for sharing this information.

    • Dagmara Dagmara Post author | August 29, 2019

      I am very very happy that you are liking the posts 🙂 you can also stay tuned on FB where we post some other curiosities ! All the very best for all of you 🙂

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