Whether you’re thinking about tying the knot abroad and immersing yourself in a different culture, or you’ve been invited to a wedding by some Polish friends, there are a few things you can expect at a Polish wedding!
First of all, I’ll give you some background into our own experience. In August 2020 we were invited to our friend’s wedding in Poland. Lukasz and Justyna are Polish born and bred, and so the wedding was very traditional and what they are used to. Including me and Scott, there were only 4 Brits who had flown over to attend. As Poland is still a heavily Catholic country, most weddings take place in a church for the whole religious ceremony. Afterwards, the guests all travel to the venue, drink some champagne, sing some Polish celebration songs and welcome the bride and groom into the room before everyone takes their seats (I am aware that it’s fairly similar to English weddings, but this is where the fun begins).
An important thing to know about Polish weddings is that they only drink vodka. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s no joke. There is no wine on the tables, no beers on ice and no bar to get a nice G&T. Everyone has a shot glass and a water glass, and that’s your lot!
We were sat on a table full of young Polish men (that Scott used to work with) and their partners. When I say ‘work with’, I mean he used to be their manager. This meant that they had great fun in forcing full-to-the-brim shots of vodka down Scott every 5 minutes. You may think I’m exaggerating but I’m not – at one point we had a timer on the table for 5 minutes where nobody was allowed to touch the Vodka bottle. It got very out of hand! Women did have a bit of an advantage in that they were let off if they decided to skip a few rounds, but you’d have to have a very good excuse if you were a man. Unfair? Maybe, but it worked in my favour. One tip would just to make sure you line your stomach well, which takes me onto the next point – food!
Similarly to typical English weddings there is a set sit down dinner, dissimilarly there are a LOT of amazing courses! The meals kept on coming throughout the afternoon, from 3pm well into the evening (I think the last ‘course’ to come out was at about 1 in the morning! Us 4 Brits were sat on one side of the table thinking ‘how on earth can these people keep on eating?’. It turns out, this is the key to ending up in one piece at the end of the night.
Don’t stop eating and keep hydrated!
Me and Scott are both HUGE fans of the Polish cuisine and if you haven’t tried it before, you’re in for a treat!
When we went to our friend’s wedding, we decided to buy a card out there (which proved more of a challenge than we first thought). We weren’t too sure what the custom was in Poland and asked a Polish friend how much money we should give. In England, I think it’s pretty normal to give around £50 (unless feeling very generous or you’re closely connected to the bride and groom) but in Poland we found that £100 was more usual. This is because Polish weddings cover 2 days (one day for the wedding and reception and then a more casual ‘do’ the next day). All of the food and drink is paid for by the happy couple – sometimes your accommodation too! One hundred pounds is quite a lot of money in Poland and the idea is that the guests all contribute to setting the happy couple up for their new life together.
The actual giving of the gift is a lot more formal in Poland than Britain. After the newlyweds come out of the church, the guests all form a queue to give congratulations. You then give THREE kisses to both the bride and the groom, tell the bride how beautiful she looks, hand over the card and move swiftly on. Polish weddings are very large and there will be a lot of people waiting behind you!
Weddings as I know them go like this: Watch the ceremony and clap in all of the right places and then head for those all important welcome drinks whilst catching up with friends and discretely chasing the canope’s around. You then sit at your table for the set meal, drink more wine and watch the all important speeches. After this, the bride and groom try and force everyone to the dance floor after their 20 second ‘sway’ which, let’s be honest, you just aren’t drunk enough for yet. You then head to the bar to do a few Jäger bombs before succumbing to the inevitable Mr Brightside and Sweet Caroline until midnight before you all head home to face the groggy Sunday hangover.
I’m sorry for comparing everything to an ‘English’ or ‘British’ wedding. It’s what I have the most experience in and they do say – stick to what you know.
Polish weddings start similarly (as explained above) but instead of speeches, there is the all important ‘first dance’. This is the most nerve-racking part for the bride and groom (probably more for the groom) as they are expected to do a proper dance from start to finish, before calling the guests up to join. Once the bride and groom have finished, the bride will call up all of the ladies to dance with her whilst the men watch. After, the men and ladies swap over and the men are expected to copy the groom, repeating the same few moves over and over.
This is all very usual for a Polish wedding and there isn’t the same need to be particularly drunk before heading onto the dance floor as there is in England; bear that in mind if you want to strategically plan a bathroom break. As soon as you see the conga start (which it inevitably will) that’s the time to run! Games are also another way that get everyone interacting and up on their feet. It’s a really good way to mingle with different people and it gives you a chance to burn off some of the delicious food, ready for another course!
So, that’s all the advice that we can really give to you for what to expect at a Polish wedding. Of course there will be exceptions and we are only basing this on our experiences and the information given to us by friends, but hopefully it can help you prepare your body for the vodka, and look forward to a great occasion. We had the most amazing time in Poland and were so lucky to have been invited to such a special day!