Monday, October 01, 2007

Polish Wedding Traditions, My Recollections

What I remember of polish weddings is nothing like the weddings in Poland I have described in my previous posts. I don't remember an intermediary making a proposal on behalf of of the groom. I don't remember negotiated marriages at all.

I do remember my mother telling me that when she and my dad got engaged they had to make a trip across town to visit his godmother to personally invite her to their wedding. I don't believe they invited any of the other guests in person though. Their wedding was an all day affair (January, 1944). It didn't happen in the traditional order of events described previously. The church ceremony took place at 11:00 am followed by a "breakfast" at her parents' house. All the wedding guests who attended the church ceremony also came to breakfast. In the afternoon the bridal party went to a photographer's studio for the formal wedding portraits. And then a formal reception with dinner, music, and dancing was held in the evening at a nearby hall. The following day, poprawiny (which means something like, "do it again") was held at her parents' home. That would have been considered day two of their wedding celebration.

I was quite surprised to learn about the wedding bread when I was doing my research on polish wedding customs. My mother never spoke of this tradition and given that her father owned a bakery that was known for its rye bread I would have thought this would have been a tradition passed down in her family. I don't remember any mention of wedding bread at my cousins' weddings either. Perhaps the tiered wedding cake was an American substitution for the elaborate wedding bread in days of old in Poland.

Here is a photo of some decorated bread loaves on display at a harvest festival in Poland in 2005

I'm quite sure my mother did not have a capping ceremony at her wedding reception. This may have been a tradition that survived history in Poland but I don't think it traveled across the ocean with my grandparents. I have my grandparents' wedding photo and another photo taken shortly afterwards but it doesn't look like my grandmother's hair is any shorter in the later photo. In both photos her hair looks like it's pulled back into a chignon so I can't tell for sure.

In Poland, wedding rings are worn on the right hand not the left. In photos of my grandparents, they wore their wedding rings on their right hands, the "Polish way". My parents, however, wore their rings on their left hands.

For more information on Polish wedding traditions, I recommend Polish Customs, Traditions and Folklore by Sophie Sophie Hodorowicz Knab, and The Peasants by Wladyslaw Reymont. These were the sources I used for the information presented in this series of articles. Sophie's book goes into a great deal more detail than what I was able to include here. A good read!

The complete series of articles:
An Introduction To Polish Wedding Traditions
Polish Wedding Traditions, The Marriage Proposal And Engagement
Polish Wedding Traditions, The Wedding Eve
Polish Wedding Traditions, The Wedding Day(s)
Polish Wedding Traditions, My Recollections


  1. Jasia,

    I especially enjoy your comments on the wedding bread, and the photograph you took of some. Probably many European cultures followed a similar tradition of breaking bread at a wedding feast. One has to wonder why they switched to cake.

    Janice "Let Them Eat Cake" Brown

  2. My grandma's parents were born in Poland and moved to the U.S.
    My grandma (who is currently in her early 70s) celebrated the capping ceremony or unveiling ceremony as she calls it in her wedding, which I believe was sometime in the 1940s. She also had a breakfast, lunch and dinner wedding.

    My mother also did the unveiling ceremony, as well as 10 years later my aunt did in hers. I am getting married this year and I am also doing the capping ceremony. As part of the ceremony we have always had the groom sit next to the bride wearing a hat with various things that you would wish for the couple to have in their life together. I just posted to let you know that the capping ceremony is still practiced today by American polish people and has been passed down in my family for generations.

  3. I am not sure if you are still looking at any of these pages, but did any of your research show that any of the traditions started during Medieval times? I have been trying to learn more about Medieval weddings, and being of Polish decent. I would love to know if any of these wonderful traditions went back to even then? I have moved your articles they are the best I have found on the web.