Everybody has heard of Polish weddings.  If you’re into partying, you might want to consider marrying a Polish person, because when it comes to getting married, nobody on the planet does it like the Poles.

Traditionally, the ceremonies began when a young man approached a girl’s father to ask for her hand.  He would bring an intermediary with him—usually his godfather or an older male friend—and also a bottle of vodka decorated with ribbons and flowers.

While the young man asked the girl to go get a glass for the vodka, the intermediary would discreetly and euphemistically ask the parents if they were interested in selling a particular cow or goose.  If the girl went to get a glass and didn’t come back (or declined to get one at all), or if the parents denied that they had anything for sale, then the young man and the intermediary would leave, and that would be the end of it.  A denial of any kind meant no.

But if the parents expressed polite interest in selling a cow or goose, and the girl returned with a glass, then the intermediary would fill the glass with vodka and give it to the father, who then gave it to his daughter.  She would drink a little and then give it to the young man, who drank down the rest, which signified that a binding agreement had been made.

This binding agreement didn’t mean they were officially engaged yet, though.  The official engagement involved the whole family.  In the presence of all of the relatives, the couple’s hands would be tied together with a scarf over a loaf of bread while the family was asked three times if they approved.

Other interesting details:

  • The night before the wedding, the girl would literally let down her hair. The “unbraiding” was also a very important family affair.
  • Even today, the bride’s veil is often trimmed with rosemary leaves, or she wears a crown of rosemary, which (as Ophelia so famously tells us) is for remembrance. The rosemary is a promise that she will never forget her friends.
  • The placing of the veil is another important ritual; the mother of the bride places the veil on her daughter’s head as her final duty before her daughter becomes a married woman.
  • The unveiling occurs after the wedding ceremony, representing the new wife’s entry into womanhood. It’s also roughly equivalent to throwing the bouquet (which they also do), since it promises good luck and future marriage to the members of the wedding party. The bride’s mother removes the veil and gives it to the maid/matron of honor, who dances with the best man and then passes the veil to each bridesmaid in turn, until all the bridesmaids have danced with all of the groomsmen.
  • The parents of the bride and groom also present the newlywed couple with bread, salt, and wine. The bread ensures that they never go hungry; the salt reminds them that there will be difficult times and they must learn to weather them; the wine ensures that they have plenty of friends, prosperity, and joy in their lives.
  • Food. Lots of it. This is because of–
  • Polka. All night. In fact, a Polish wedding can last for two whole days (but don’t worry—everyone goes home, gets a good night’s sleep, and then comes back for the second round).
  • Liquor. Free-flowing and often free. The first time (and actually one of the only times in my life) I ever got drunk was at a Polish wedding. I was fourteen.
  • A Polish married couple wears their wedding rings on their right hands. (This practice is actually very common throughout the world. It’s not them who’s different—it’s us!)

Did you do (or do you plan/hope to do) anything “different” or “traditional” at your wedding?