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Poland has a rich tapestry of diverse wedding traditions and customs that vary depending on local history and heritage. Find out more about it in the following paragraphs.
In the past, according to tradition, wedding receptions were held at the bride’s home or in an inn, usually on any day except Sunday to avoid conflicting with church services. Nowadays, weddings generally take place on a day off, often on Saturdays, and receptions are organized in wedding venues, hotels, or restaurants.
The most common sequence of the ceremony begins with a welcoming of the newlyweds outside the house or wedding hall. Many Polish wedding receptions still open with the traditional presentation of bread and salt. Often, parents or hosts deliver a specially prepared welcome speech, symbolizing the couple’s integration into the family.
Subsequently, the bride and groom, along with their families and guests, proceed with the following customary events:
- A toast raised with champagne and clinking of glasses by the couple for good luck.
- The wedding attendees singing the traditional “Sto lat!” song together.
- The public exchange of kisses between the newlyweds amidst cries of “Gorzko, gorzko!” from the guests.
- The consumption of various dishes accompanied by toasts for the couple’s happiness.
- A ball with music played either by a hired band or a wedding DJ.
- Entertaining games involving the guests and the newlyweds.
- The cutting of the wedding cake and serving it to the guests by the couple.
- “Oczepiny”, a tradition where the bride’s veil is replaced with a married woman’s cap, symbolizing her transition to married life.
Traditionally, the oczepiny ceremony began with the unbraiding and cutting of the young bride’s hair. Long braids were symbolic of girlhood freedom; and as a newly married woman, the bride’s hair was unbraided to reflect her new marital status. These days, unsurprisingly, brides don’t often mark this occasion with a change in their hairstyle. Oczepiny has instead become a time for fun and games. The bride removes her veil and tosses it into a gathered crowd of single women. The groom also gets in on the fun – removing and throwing his tie to the assembled male guests. It's said that those who catch the tossed garments will be the next to marry (though not necessarily to each other).