Attending a Polish Wedding was never something I imagined myself doing. So, when the opportunity presented itself, I was pretty excited. First off, it’s an honour to be invited to a wedding – anywhere in the world. Second, a wedding is an incredible way to get a better understanding of local culture and traditions.
As I first mentioned in our post: Meeting Dan’s Family (Poland Part I), Dan and I met his mom, Ewa, and sister, Jessika, who flew form Vancouver to Warsaw, to attend his cousin’s wedding.
The wedding started as a Catholic wedding in Canada might start (I really don’t know): in a church. We spent just over an hour in the church which included many prayers and the actual wedding of the couple. Everything was in Polish and I sat back and just took in what was around me. It was definitely a completely foreign experience to me. On a sunny afternoon, most people would arrive at the church early and leave late taking time to socialize; this afternoon was deary and rainy and everyone arrived just before the ceremony and left right away to spend more time at the banquet.
Outside the church is also normally where the guests would present the newly-weds (Kamila and Pawel) with flowers, or, in this case, wine. Supposedly it is becoming a modern tradition in Poland to ask for a bottle of wine instead of flowers. This isn’t the wedding present (that is also given) but a small token gift at the beginning of the evening. I wouldn’t mind ending up with a couple hundred bottles of wine after being married….
The banquet was held about an hour’s drive away; a bus was provided for those not wanting to drive but we were able to stay at a relatives house who lived almost next door to the hall.
Throughout the evening, we met countless members of Dan’s family. I got very good at the smile and three-kiss-on-the-cheek method. Cheek-kissing isn’t as easy as it may sound, and not something common in North America. The trick is figuring out how many kisses to give based on whatever country you’re in. In some countries it’s, one; in some, two; and in others, three. And if you get it wrong and stop too soon then your face isn’t turned and you get a kiss on lips and if you assume too many then it can be equally as awkward.
I want to start by stating that I find it incredibly interesting (maybe too much so) to understand and get to know what different cultures consider a typical or enjoyable drink, and how they drink it. If there’s one thing that stood out about this wedding (and quite possibly about Poland and Polacks) above all else, it was vodka. Belvedere vodka is probably my favourite vodka of all time – and it’s Polish – so maybe I should have assumed vodka was a big part of Polish culture, but that just never occurred to me. To give you a sense of perspective, at a typical event (including a wedding) in North America, the standard would be to place a bottle of wine on each table. Definitely not the case in Poland: on every table were multiple bottles of vodka along with an assortment of what I assumed were mixers. Again, I was wrong. There was no glass large enough for mixing. Provided was a shot glass and a miniature glass meant to pour a ‘chaser’ in – I have no idea what the Polish term for this is. As a complete foreigner, I lucked out and Kamila’s father, Krzysztof, politely asked me if he could get me a bottle of dry wine. Specifically, “dry” because we had already encountered that I wasn’t a huge fan of the incredibly sweet wine that is typically drank in Poland. It tasted more like juice than wine and while I actually liked the taste, there was no way I could drink more than a few sips. If I did drink sweet wine, I would intuitively drink it chilled, as I would white or rose wine, beer, and mixed drinks. My experience in Poland was that the only thing served chilled was the bottle of vodka! Oh, and when I say “I lucked out,” I am referring to the fact that they all considered Dan a Polack and he was expected to shoot vodka with everyone every five or so minutes throughout the night!
But seriously, enough about drinks and back to the important subject: the bride and groom and their wedding! Everything about the night was fantastic. Polacks are seemingly very good at both drinking vodka and knowing how to have a good time.
The live band was playing on full blast from the start of the wedding, and the dancing never ceased. Neither did the eating: there must have been at least seven courses served! At one point, probably some time after 03:00 in the morning I remember thinking that there was no possible way anyone in the world could eat any more food (or drink anymore) and I looked about and the waiters were bringing around another full course of food. Words do not describe the amount of food that was served.
Everyone danced and for those of you who know me, you know I am not the biggest dancer, so I more than happily sat back and enjoyed watching everyone dance at times. But then someone would come and scoop me up and I wouldn’t know how to talk to them or anything at all and would be stuck with smiling and laughing!
In the back room there were a few tables removed from the loud band, a bar where mixed drinks were served, and a ‘meat shack’ which was literally a small shack-like structure that was filled with a variety of meats, in case you were somehow still hungry between the constant courses of food being served. At some point in the night, Dan and I were convinced to take shots of the Polish equivalent of moonshine (the best translation we could find). There were three barrels in the back room next to the meat shack (which explained why there were so many people hanging around there): one lemon flavoured, one cranberry-flavored and one unflavoured. We were told lemon was the best but after shooting it I can hardly argue that it was good. But then I am really not good at shooting straight liquor…
The evening continued with drinks and dancing and celebrating late into the night. After not nearly enough sleep we woke up to get ready and go back to the wedding hall for another round.
That’s right, after partying all Saturday night and into the wee hours of Sunday morning, we were back again at the banquet hall Sunday at 14:00 for a late brunch. And to my horror, there were more bottles of vodka on the table! If I’m being completely honest, I was not feeling 100% that day and may or may not have hid in the car for a bit… Somehow everyone else powered through it and was drinking and partying once again.