Sunday, September 30, 2007

An Introduction To Polish Wedding Traditions

I love weddings, especially Polish weddings! If you've ever been to a traditional Polish wedding you know they are truly a celebration of life, love, and culture. With the extravagant cost of weddings these days you don't see many traditional Polish weddings anymore. And what a shame that is because when it comes to throwing a wedding celebration nobody does it with more passion then the Polish.

I remember attending many Polish weddings when I was a child. And I remember my mother talking about her own wedding and the Polish customs she included. Some little girls grew up on fairy tales about princesses. I grew up on stories about Polish princess brides.

Poland is an agrarian based country. My ancestors came from country villages, worked on farms, and led a simple life. My grandparents came to America during the Great Migration between 1880 and 1920. The country they came from, the life style they led, had existed for hundreds of years. Without a doubt they experienced culture shock when they reached the shores of the United States. It's fun to look at pictures of the families back in the Roaring Twenties when those hearty Polish peasant immigrants were decked out in Flapper dresses! I'm sure they wanted to assimilate and become Americanized but they didn't discard all of their Polish country ways either.

As time has passed and with each new generation there is less Polishness in us. That is to say, there is less evidence of Polish tradition and culture in the ways we live our lives and celebrate life events. I have my own memories of Polish weddings but I've often wondered how much different our Polish weddings were from actual weddings in Poland. Several years ago when I made contact with family members still living in Poland I was able to discuss with them how they celebrated a wedding. They were full of questions about stories they had heard about American weddings too. Then last year I read a book called The Peasants by Wladislaw Reymont. The author won a Nobel Prize in literature for this book detailing the lives of Polish peasants in the latter have of the 19th century. It was fascinating for me to learn the wedding traditions my ancestors practiced. Since then, I've done some additional research on Polish wedding traditions and I'm amazed at all I have learned.

I've written before about how the records of my ancestors go back to the mid to late 1700s. That was when recordkeeping was first mandated in Poland. Prior to that, birth, marriage, and death records were kept primarily for the nobility and not for the peasants. The history and traditions I'm most interested in are those that would have been practiced by family members whose names appear on my family tree. Since the old world ways changed very little over hundreds of years it's likely that the traditions practiced by my grandparents were the same as those practiced by their grandparents and great grandparents before them. My research confirms as much.

Let's take a look at Polish wedding traditions beginning with a marriage proposal and going through to the end of the wedding celebration. I found the whole process very interesting and I think you will too.

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