Basia & Damien’s traditionally Polish Wedding at Bridgetown Gardens
Firstly – What a beautiful couple. Secondly – What a lot of vodka! This was a wedding which I will not be forgetting in a hurry (obviously I wasn’t drinking vodka!) As an immigrant myself, it was so lovely to see people following their traditions and bringing a bit of home to the occasion. Pip and her team were on board with the catering, and what an amazing Polish feast they put on. The dishes just kept coming and coming, in what I believe was true Polish style
Prior to this wedding at Bridgetown Gardens, there was an unseasonal amount of rain. It brought all the flora to life. I’m loving the colours in these images. There’s a mix of sunburnt golds with dewy lushness! Luckily for the photos, there wasn’t too much rain. So we didn’t have to resort to plan B.
Congratulations Basia & Damien. I hope you like the photos x
Some additional reading……
Now that the ceremony is over, it’s time for the party to begin. Many Polish wedding receptions still open with the traditional presentation of bread and salt. Upon the newlyweds’ arrival at the reception, their parents present them with these essentials. The bread is specially prepared and often decorated with the names of the couple. This gift of bread and salt is symbolic – bread is offered so that the couple may never know hunger, while salt reminds them of life’s difficulties and the importance of learning to cope.
Following the bread and salt, the couple traditionally has their first toast. Customarily, the father of the bride or groom presents the couple with two glasses – one of vodka, one of water. They are offered first to the bride, who must make her selection without knowing which is which. Tradition says that whoever ends up with the glass of vodka will be the dominant partner in the relationship. After their drink (and the portent of their future dynamic), the couple throws their glasses; if they break, it is a sign of good luck.
Around this time, you may notice that guests have begun to hand over envelopes of money to the bride and groom. While some couples have begun to register for gifts, giving cash is still more common. Even if handing over an envelope with a stack of bills feels a bit strange, take comfort knowing it certainly will be appreciated.
With these traditional ceremonies out of the way, guests can look forward to the beginning of a very long, very filling evening. Current wedding guides advise that “for a standard wedding lasting about 12 hours, there are typically served between four and five hot entrees, along with appetizers, pastries, cake, and fruit.” So if you finish your first meal and think it wasn’t too filling, just wait…there’s more to come. The same wedding guide suggests a hot meal be served approximately every three hours.
Menus will vary based on the tastes of specific couples, but guests can expect a spread of cold starters to include cheeses, meats, vegetables, pates and herring. There probably will be a soup…or two. Hot entrees might include grilled meats, roast chicken, smoked or baked fish, pork loin, tripe, hearty stews, potatoes and breads. Guests will also be treated to pastries, fruit and cake. The Polish presentation of wedding cake is quite similar to that in other parts of the world, with the bride and groom cutting the first pieces and feeding one another.
Where many weddings would be winding down as midnight approaches, a Polish wedding is just approaching one of its most traditional moments – the removal of the bridal veil. This ceremony, called “oczepiny”, traditionally represented the transitional moment for the bride as she moved from her single youth towards her married future. The midnight hour was significant as this time of transition. The details of the ceremony have changed significantly over the years, but it remains a memorable moment in many contemporary Polish weddings. 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.
With the unbraiding of her hair also came the removal of the bride’s wedding veil. The veil was exchanged for a special wedding cap, customarily a gift from the bride’s godmother. It is said that brides traditionally refused the cap three times, as it represented the loss of independence and youth. Once accepted, the cap became a special symbol of the marriage and was only worn on very special religious occasions.
These days, not surprisingly, brides don’t often mark this occasion with a change in their hairstyle. The 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 is said that those who catch the tossed garments will be the next to marry (though not necessarily each other).
After the removal of the veil and tie, the bride and groom might choose to play a number of games. The character of these games can vary – some couples play a little trivia game about one another. Other options involve guests in silly competitions or bawdy scavenger hunts. This traditional ritual has become a playful moment in contemporary Polish weddings.
All that food will be washed down with a seemingly endless supply of drink. The most popular beverage (as one might suspect) is vodka – and it flows freely throughout the night. The gathering may spontaneously raise their glasses and start chanting “gorzko, gorzko!”, meaning “bitter, bitter!” in order to demand a kiss from the groom and bride – in other words to ask for some sugar.