8 Polish Wedding Traditions and Rituals

Out of the many different cultures globally, you rarely hear about what makes Poland unique. The beautiful country is home to many rich traditions and history extending to their wedding ceremonies.

What Polish wedding traditions are typically incorporated on a bride and groom’s big day? You may not know what to expect if you’ve never attended a Polish wedding. We want to offer some context so you can prepare if you ever receive an invite to one.

8 Polish Wedding Traditions and Rituals

So, what Is Included in a Polish Wedding?

When planning a Polish wedding, eight key components are almost always incorporated. These elements range from rituals before the ceremony to celebratory events that occur the day after.

  1. The Timing

Depending on how traditional the couple aspires to be when partaking in their nuptials, the chosen month may have significance. Polish couples commonly select a month containing the letter R for their ceremony. For those in Poland, the options include:

  • March
  • June
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • December

These months are known to provide good luck to the couple in their marriage.

Additionally, albeit a bit more challenging, couples try to hold their weddings on days with good weather. Suppose it is sunny on the chosen day, which depicts happiness in the relationship. Having drizzly rain is seen as God’s blessing. However, a thunderstorm is bad luck and should be avoided.

2. The Blessing

Before anything happens with the official ceremony, a Polish family will come together at the bride’s home to officially bestow their blessings to the soon-to-be-married couple. Most Polish weddings occur on a Saturday, making it possible for the family to gather early in the day before the ceremony.

To bless the couple, the bride’s parents will sprinkle holy water on the bride and groom as they kneel before them. Following that, the rest of the family will have an opportunity to bless the future newlyweds formally.

3. The Dress

When looking for a wedding dress, it is vital that the bride only wear the clothing once before the ceremony, and that is only to try it on. Additionally, the chosen garment must include blue in the design as it depicts marital fidelity.

Like American tradition, the bride must compliment her dress with something old from relatives and something new to symbolize abundance. There must also be a piece that is borrowed, specifically from the groom’s side of the family.

On the day of the wedding, the bride must make sure not to forget anything before departing for the church. Once the journey has begun, there is no turning back, even if someone forgets a critical apparel item.

It is common for grooms to wear traditional Polish apparel that bears significance to their native land. They will sometimes pair this with a black vest and a long white coat.

4. The Ceremony

When it comes to a Polish wedding, the ceremony is predominantly Catholic and will occur in a church. These celebrations are often well attended, and the length can extend to well over an hour to accommodate the various traditions and rituals associated with Roman Catholicism.

It’s vital to dress appropriately for a church service and not in casual wear. Many individuals will wear traditional Polish garments, including the wedding party.

At the end of the ceremony, guests will cover the newly married couple with rice and barley. However, if the couple uses historical traditions, the guests will throw coins their way instead.

Once that is completed, the best man and maid of honor will quickly toast the couple with wine before they depart for the wedding party (reception). The glasses from the toast will then immediately be tossed and broken.

5. The Reception

Once the couple arrives at their wedding party, their parents will immediately greet them with bread and salt on a silver tray. The salt will be sprinkled on the bread for the bride and groom to eat.

The purpose of these two items is in the hope that the couple will never go hungry (represented by the bread) but also that they will be able to cope with any challenges that arise (indicated by the salt). This ritual is central to many cultures.

At times these items will be displayed at a particular table and announced by the master of ceremonies. This act will occur in place of being offered to the couple by the parents. In these situations, the parents will participate in the ritual with their children instead of observing.

Following this, there will be another toast. The parents will offer two shot glasses to the couple, one with water and one with vodka. The bride chooses first, not knowing which glass contains which drink. These glasses will also be thrown and broken after consumption, and the tradition says that whoever chooses the vodka will be the dominant one in the relationship.

6. The Dancing

Taking part in a Polish wedding party will come with hours of dancing. There will often be live music that goes on until the early morning hours. It’s common for people of all ages and abilities to be on the dance floor for most of the party.

Similar to American customs, the bride and groom share the first dance of the evening. Afterward, guests will partner up with different individuals throughout the night while dancing to traditional Polish songs.

Various traditions will take place throughout the night, including the Czepek dance. This ritual requires reception guests to pay a dollar to dance with the bride or groom to help financially establish the couple.

7. Midnight Ceremony

Amongst the copious amounts of food and alcohol that are provided for guests, when the clock strikes midnight, a vital part of the festivities takes place. In what is known as Oczepiny, the bride will officially cross over from unmarried to married.

Up until this point, the bride has continued to wear her veil. As part of the Oczepiny, at the time of midnight, the bride can officially become unveiled. The cover will then be thrown into a crowd of unmarried women, while the groom will toss his tie into another group filled with available men. Those who catch the items will be next in line to the altar.

After the bride parts with her veil, it will be replaced by a unique cap often gifted to the bride by her godmother, another close friend, or family member. The bride can’t accept the cap on the first attempt, and she must refuse it three times to show a desire to keep youthfulness. However, after the third attempt, the bride will wear the cap and bring it out during special religious occasions in the future.

In some areas of Poland, a bride will wear her hair in braids. When midnight arrives, and as part of the Oczepiny ceremony, the braids will unravel, or someone will cut them off. This action serves to represent a woman’s transition from maidenhood.

8. The Poprawiny

A typical Polish wedding will last several days. Following the wedding party, a second reception will commence. The Polish people refer to this celebration as Poprawiny. It is the responsibility of the wedding couple to provide continuous servings of food and alcohol (primarily vodka).

The wedding party will often last into the next day, with Poprawiny picking up the festivities following a brief rest period for the bride and groom. Not all guests receive an invitation to Poprawiny. This event is reserved for close family and friends.

Frequently Asked Questions

You may still have a few questions before the big day. We’ve done our best to compile a list of some of the most commonly asked questions about Polish wedding traditions below.

How Do Polish Receptions Look?

Interestingly, a wedding ceremony in Poland is more widely attended than a reception. Called the wedding party, the bride and groom carefully select the attendees in advance. Many guests will find their invites will designate which festivities they can attend.

Are All Polish Weddings in a Church?

Traditionally, Polish weddings have taken place in a church. With the country being predominately Roman Catholic, it’s typical that such an event will be with a Catholic priest. However, more modern couples have started branching out and holding their ceremonies elsewhere.

Do You Have To Be Catholic To Attend?

Guests of a Polish wedding do not have to be Catholic to attend the nuptials. It’s not even necessary for the bride and groom to be Catholic, although this will depend on the specific church and the Priest providing the ceremony.

Can You Give Gifts?

It is customary to bring a gift to the new bride and groom to celebrate their wedding day. Often the couple will state their preferences for presents on their invitation. However, this doesn’t look like the American registries we are used to seeing.

Instead, at Polish weddings, people often gift wine, chocolate, and money. It’s typical to see an invitation state if the couple prefers chocolate over wine or if they would instead take money.