Polish Wedding - Food and Gifts - Polish versus American Wedding (IV)

Read about Polish Wedding - step by step guide and a first part of article about Wedding Reception.

What people eat at wedding? Of course wedding cake, but in Poland wedding cake does not have the same importance as in America. A separate cake for groom and bride is uncommon. A wedding cake looks not much different as for instance a birthday cake, just bigger. But, as the picture below shows Polish wedding cake is getting bigger and prettier.

Polish-South African couple married in the Krasiczyn Castle
with a welcoming host in a folk dress
and a beautiful cake with Polish (white and blue) colors
credit: Val Waters

There is a dinner consisting of several dishes - soup and other courses. Usually it contains some traditional Polish dishes but also something extra because of the price or rarity. Dinner is followed by dessert and fruit. As we said before, wedding usually lasts until the early morning. There is also a special dish given to guests late at night - it is either borscht soup with a special type of crackers (barszcz z pasztecikami), bigos (hunter's stew) or flaki (spicy pepper soup).

Wedding reception without alcohol is rare. Some people tend to drink too much, especially vodka during weddings. Champagne is also obligatory, especially during toasts. Almost always somebody will end up drunk, especially at big and long weddings. This is one of the saddest parts of the weddings because excessive drinking is usually tolerated, especially among men.

Compared to America, Poles dance a lot during weddings. Not necessary disco but rather a mix of a folk and popular music, all ages can participate. Often there is an orchestra, sometimes just a stereo music. The next day a young couple and its family read all sent telegrams and greetings, open the souvenirs and clean the wedding house and also rest after drinking too much the previous day. Therefore Poles like organizing wedding on Saturdays rather, so that they do have still Sunday for rest!

Below I put together the biggest differences between Polish and American wedding:

  • In Poland groom and bride walk together to the altar in the church In the USA bride is accompanied by her father and groom by his mother to the altar
  • Maids of honors and groomsman are rare in Poland.
  • The role of witnesses is much more profound in Poland. Young couple is accompanied by two witnesses, usually young people - the family of friends - in both, civil and church wedding. They signed the papers that they witnessed the wedding.
  • In Poland flowers are obligatory gift for young couple and are given, just after the wedding ceremony - accompanied by good wishes. Read about flowers in Poland for different occassions. Not all people who are invited for wedding ceremony are also invited for a wedding reception.
  • Poles are generous with gifts for wedding. If you are invited only for a wedding ceremony to the church - flowers as a wedding gift is enough, but if you are invited for a wedding reception you are expected to buy a gift of the value of at least 40-50 dollars. I noticed that in the USA people sometimes sent a young couple a check for 20 dollars - compared to the salaries in the USA it would be almost a disrespect to send this amount of money to the young couple in Poland.
    Wedding registry was almost unknown in Poland a couple of years ago. But with a development of capitalism and marketing this may change quickly.
  • There is no a separate bride and groom wedding cake in Poland.
  • People dance much more at weddings in Poland but some also drink excessively. The presence of vodka at weddings is almost obligatory, as well as some other alcohol.
  • The expenses for the wedding are divided equally between parents of groom and bride. The reception, except drinks and alcohol should be paid by bride parents, but the honey moon by groom's parents. But these rules are not strict.

Here we focused on a typical Polish wedding today. Below is a link to a website which I recommend for all of you who would like to know more about old Polish traditions:

Ask Ginka - contains links to several websites with Polish old wedding traditions. Look under "Customs and Traditions". It has many links to websites with wedding products and information about wedding from legal (law) perspective.

written by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn, 12 July 2003 (article #114)

The book below is written by a host of one of the best Polish Culture websites on the internet! Visit Okana Web - unfortunately this site is not active anymore.

Singing Back The Sun: A Dictionary of Old Polish Customs and Beliefs by Okana

Here is another interesting book written by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab, Mary Anne Knab (Illustrator). It is entitled Polish Customs, Traditions and Folklore

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