m&l - march 2000

  polish wedding traditions

the money dance

guests pin money on the bride to buy a dance. reception guests can buy a dance with the bride by pinning money to her veil or tucking bills into a special bridal purse. the money collected is passed on to the newlyweds to take on their honeymoon.

here are two other variations:
  • the bride and groom stand in the middle of a circle made by the guests. the groom takes off the bride's veil and the guests throw the money into it.
  • the band plays a polka and guests line up to dance with the bride. The maid of honor wears an apron and collects the money given by the guest for the dance. After all guests have danced with the bride, they form a tight circle around the bride. The groom tries to break through the circle while the guests try hard to keep him out. Once he breaks through, he picks up his bride and carries her away to their honeymoon.

bread, wine, salt and a silver coin

The bride and groom each taste a piece of bread to signify: "MAY YOU NEVER GO HUNGRY"
They each sip a little wine to signify: "ENJOY THE SWEETNESS IN LIFE"
They each place a spec of salt on their tounge to signify: "MAY YOU OVERCOME THE BITTERNESS IN LIFE"
Silver Coin: They each hold the coin between their right hands together to signify: "MAY YOU BE WEALTHY WITH GOOD HEALTH AND NEVER BE IN A FINANCIAL STRESS"

Sto Lat Toast

Sto Lat, which literally means 100 years, is a Polish toast sung by the guests that signifies 100 years of good health for the bride and groom.

polish crown

For village weddings, friends weave a crown of rosemary leaves, symbolizing remembrance, for the bride.

drink wine

Luck comes to the bride who drinks a glass of wine at the celebration without spilling a drop.

placing of the veil

The mother of the bride may choose to place the veil on the Bride before the wedding ceremony to symbolize her last task that a Mother does on behalf of her girl before she becomes a married woman.

transfer of the veil

A traditional folk song ("Twelve Angels") is sometimes played at the reception allowing the bride to transfer her veil (and good luck to be married) to her Maid of Honor, Bridesmaids, and Flower Girl.

unveiling circle

One Polish tradition is the "unveiling." Everyone forms a circle around the bride. Her mother takes the bride's veil off (symbolizing the bride's becoming a woman) and places it on the head of the maid of honor who then waltzes with the best man for a few minutes. She then passes the veil to the next bridesmaid, etc. Each bridesmaid represents an angel bestowing gifts on the couple.

hand binding ceremony

One Polish tradition that took place before rings became popular was called "zrekowiny" -- the hand binding ceremony. A master of ceremonies -- usually an uncle, a trusted male friend, or someone instrumental in the marital match -- was appointed.

The couple would join their hands together over a loaf of bread placed on a table covered with the best white tablecloth in the house. The MC would bind the couples' hands together with an embroidered cloth made especially for the occasion, symbolically indicating the willingness of both parties to be married and share their lives and duties. Then he would bless them, saying: "Two hands joined together over a loaf of bread -- that is the most beautiful sign of togetherness and the happy joining of two people traveling the same road. Two hands joined together until death do them part."

The embroidered cloth was saved in a dowry chest which became a popular piece of furniture in the married couple's house throughout their lifetime.

engagement ring custom and ceremony

In later years, the hand binding ceremony was replaced by the newly engaged woman receiving a ring in front of a gathering of friends and family. High society brides-to-be received a signet ring engraved with the groom's family crest as their engagement and wedding ring.

In Christian homes, the Polish best man performs the engagement ceremony. The family places a crucifix, a small bowl of holy water and the engagement ring on a cloth-covered table. Then, the couple and their guests gather around the table to hear the best man ask the couple two very important questions: "Are you here of your own free will?" and "Have you come here with the consent of the family?" He blesses the engagement ring by sprinkling it with the holy water and saying "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost." Finally, the groom gets to put the ring on his fiance's finger.

hair braiding

The night before the wedding, the bride's mother and her female relatives undo her one long maidenly braid (traditionally worn by unmarried Polish girls) and braid her hair into two braids while singing songs. The two new braids symbolize the new step that the young woman is about to take. Historically, the bride would wear her maidenly braids throughout the wedding ceremony. Afterwards, her bridesmaids would undo them to symbolize her bridal passage.

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michael & laura
march 2000
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