A Polish wedding


I only took one photo of us – and it was on snapchat (yes I am an adult, thanks), so it comes with a misspelled caption

A highlight of our August was celebrating the wedding of friends in a small town in central Poland. This was that same wedding where temperatures peaked at 37 degrees, both the hottest day of the year and perhaps even of the century.

I had bought my dress a week earlier, when then current temperatures in Poland were more temperamental and even threatening rain. Which explains how I found myself in a long black dress, trying to keep a face of make up from sliding off and a head of hair from turning into frizz, in the middle of a church parking lot in the middle of a burning afternoon. It was a real scorcher!

While waiting in the car park for the wedding bus to take us to another church, one of the guests asked us what New Zealand weddings were like. Such a question! Strange isn’t it how you can’t describe what something is like until you’ve experienced something different. Our answers were very vague.

Likewise, I can now only describe a Polish wedding in how it differs to those in New Zealand. The first answer, of course, is that weddings are like weddings anywhere – the decorations may differ, and the language may be incomprehensible, but everywhere likely features some form of someone in a white dress and another someone in a black suit, who say things to each other and the guests celebrate.

And, of course, the other answer was that this particular wedding was beautiful. The ceremony was both Catholic and in Polish, so we didn’t understand much of what was going on. Keeping an eye on the guests in front helped us stand and sit down at the appropriate moments. Following the ceremony, the newlyweds waited for all the guests to exit first – which makes sense for what comes next but it felt strange to leave them standing at the alter – and they were then showered with a confetti of coins as they followed everyone out the doors (which they picked up).

Following the ceremony, it was back on that wedding bus – did I mention that it may have been hotter inside the bus than out on the street? – to head to the reception venue. Such air-conditioned bliss!

We toasted the couple when they arrived, and they promptly threw their glasses over their shoulders (nearly taking someone out in the process). Their first task as newlyweds was to jointly clean up the broken glass off the floor.

We had heard stories of how much vodka we should expect to see at a Polish wedding. And it is true that there was a bottle on any table – that was replaced as soon as it was half empty and anything warmer than ice cold. But the crazy heat seemed to lower the amount people were willing/able to drink. A friend of the groom explained that perhaps people in Poland don’t even drink that much vodka, just that they drink it regularly.

That heat also removed some of my appetite, such a shame because the food! Soup, meat, fish, potatoes and cakes – and that was just dinner and dessert. Later came supper (or dinner, perhaps that first round was lunch..?) with fish and meat and pierogi and cake. I forced some pierogi down at the second round, and then only managed cake for the rest of the night – passing no everything, including the beetroot soup, that came throughout the night.

It’s a bit of a cliche to talk about how lovely a people are, to characterise an entire nation based on one event, but I’m going to anyway. Because the people were lovely, really lovely. I had imagined a scenario where we were boxed in a corner with the other few English speakers from my old work, unable to communicate with anyone else and only clinking vodka glasses in mock-friendship with the guests. But it wasn’t like that at all – we were seated next to the bride’s school friend and her French husband, who were back in Poland for a short holiday before moving to Japan. And everyone else who could speak English, any level of English, spoke to us and made sure we felt welcome.

And with everyone else, we surpassed any language barriers on the dance floor. Because, despite the heat, we danced until 4 am. It was non stop, with the only breaks coming as more food arrived, or when we ducked outside to take in the ever cooling air. And everyone danced, including the DJ who also led a dance to Saturday Night Fever, and then co-opted Matt into a performance involving wigs and inflatable guitars (I have a photo but I doubt he would appreciate my sharing it). We also danced in circles, and then in two circles, because of course.

And so that was our Polish wedding. We have made promises to return, to visit Gdansk and to spend the rest of our Polish currency that we have left over, so we hope to be back some day.



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