The Polish Wedding
Today most of the charming customs formerly connected with a
Polish wedding have disappeared.
Did you ever wonder about some of the old customs and what they meant ?
Because we are proud of our Polish heritage, you will find here,
a few of the practices of days gone by.
Perhaps you will remember hearing about them, or just relate to what
is left of the traditions.
Hundreds of years ago the bride and groom brought wreaths to the church to
give each other. The wreaths were made of Rosemary and were about the size
of a silver dollar. The priest would bless the wreaths and place them on the
bride and groom's head. Later, when rings became popular, an exchange
of both wreaths and rings were seen.
With the passage of time, only rings were used.
The use of the wreath in Polish wedding ceremonies represents one of the
elements in the marriage agreement and is a symbol of virginity and maidenly beauty.
A symbolic specially baked wedding bread was taken to the church to
be blessed by the priest. This "decorated" or adorned bread was baked as a
symbol of abundance, good will, and prosperity for the couple. This bread could
be decorated with apples a sign of love nuts a sign of fertility a sign of the
cross or poppy seeds. It was necessary for every wedding guest to receive a
piece of the wedding bread. A proverb says it all about the importance of the
BEZ KOLACZY, NIE WESELE
WITHOUT A KOLACZ, THERE IS NO WEDDING
Today the mothers of the
bride and groom offer the couple bread dipped in
salt, wishing that they will always have plenty on their table. This is
done as they enter the reception.
After the church ceremony, the wedding party usually stops at the first
tavern "for honey". Here a reception was held. The refreshments were
contributed jointly, the men paying for the liquor and the women supplying the
pierogi. It was the pleasant duty of the best man to make sure that
everyone was treated with vodka.
The first guest to arrive was said to have affected the future of the bride and groom.
If it was a man, the husband would rule the household,
if a women, the wife would be dominant.
At a Polish wedding feast,
the first to be placed on the tables were bottles
of vodka and beer, and the wedding banquet began with
to wash down or to drink.
The first toast was done by the best man STAROSTA and the maid
of honor STAROSCINA toasting the wedding couple with one glass.
Then the groom toasted the bride and on and on down the line.
During this drinking, everyone wishes one another good health and fortune,
kissed one another, and if so moved, sang a patriotic song.
It was a universal custom and ancient tradition that the first food that a
married couple ate was KASZA JAGLANA, a cereal made of millet.
It was served unsalted and cooked in milk so that married life would be sweet.
Chicken was also a ritual food served at Polish weddings along with
sauerkraut, beet soup with noodles, and the wedding bread. KOLACZ
Late at night the most significant wedding custom of all took place and that
was the capping ceremony "OCZEPINY" see below
The crowd ate, drank and danced. If it became too crowded inside, the
festivities moved outside where children and interested individuals watched.
If the father of the bride could afford it, the wedding would last another day.
It was the job of the best man to keep everyone awake. And if it was
the groomsman who should be happening to fall asleep, "he gets
a rude awakening with a stick ".
Bread, cheese, butter and cakes begin making an appearance, along
with more liquor.
The success of the marriage was thought to depend in large measure
on the sumptuous, lavishness, and above all gaiety of the wedding feast.
A proverb says:
"TAKIE WESELE, TAKIE I POZYCIE"
"LIKE WEDDING, LIKE LIFE."
Many of these customs are extinct even in today's Poland.
The Unveiling is still the mainstay of almost every wedding where the bride
declares her Polish heritage.
The Unveiling Song
As lovely green grass
grows, throughout the promised land,
The Oczepiny Ceremony
Of all the customs associated with a Polish wedding there is none more
significant than the moment when the czepiec - a cap that symbolizes being a
married lady- is placed on the head of the bride. The custom, called
oczepiny, is one of the oldest and most important Polish wedding customs,
surviving over the centuries where others have died out and become
It was the custom in ancient Poland for married women to cover their hair
by wearing a cap called a czepiec or czepek. A new bride would usually
receive her first cap, or czepek, on her wedding day during the oczepiny ceremony.
This first marriage cap was usually a gift to the bride from her godmother.
The oczepiny usually takes place late in the evening after all the guests have
wined and dined. In ancient Poland it was the role of the best man to signal
the maid of honor that it was time for the oczepiny to begin by placing a bench
in the middle of the room in order to place the bride on it.
Surrounded by her attendants and admidst much singing and oftentimes tears,
her veil or headpiece was removed and on her head is placed the czepiec.
It is an irrevocable moment for the newly married girl, one from which there was
no turning back. She is now officially a married lady.