This post has been sitting on my drafts for more than a year, and today after stiching together photos provided to me by my friend in Nepal from her wedding, I’ve decided to finally publish it! Please note that this is my personal take on what I am the most familiar with, and I’m aware that the style I talk about might not necessarily be the same with everyone in both Poland Nepal. Enjoy!
One of the questions I often get asked by Poles here is whether I’ve attended a Polish wedding party. Until May last year, my answer to that was a negative but so far, I’ve attended three! I had the opportunity to attend my fiance’s sister’s wedding, his cousin’s wedding and our friends’ wedding last year alone. I am going to one more in few weeks so it’s fair to say that I’ve learned a thing or two about Polish wedding parties. Many Poles ask about it because Polish wedding parties have a reputation of being grand and jubilant. It was indeed quite an experience for someone with a different cultural background like myself to partake in that.
There’s quite a stark difference between Polish and Nepalese wedding parties and I thought a blog post might be a fun way on muse on that 😉
Polish: Wedding ceremonies are generally organized in the bride’s church. The service is about an hour long and may be accompanied with live music. In the weddings that I attended, the speeches (by pastor, family member etc) quoted sections on the importance of marriage from the Bible. I couldn’t understand all of it, but I did understand enough not to feel bored. The bride and groom put rings on each other, and make vows. That part was familiar to me from Hollywood movies, but what I found interesting was the live music as well as speeches, as I thought that they were so intentional and heartfelt. After the ceremony, the newly married couple proceeds to go outside the church and guests wish them well and give them presents. The elated couple then typically departs on a decorated vehicle to the wedding party venue the same evening.
In Nepali weddings, depending on one’s ethnic background and religion, weddings are sometimes organized at Hindu temples or Buddhist monasteries, although that’s not obligatory. It is possible to do religious weddings at homes too, with a priest present. Buddhist weddings are a whole different story, so I will write about Hindu wedding ceremonies since that’s what I am familiar with.
Red is the color of the bride, due to the Hindu belief of red being the most auspicious color for married women. The outfit of the bride is usually a sari worn with a crop blouse, although sometimes it can be a set of crop top, long skirt and shawl called lehenga too. The look is complete with heavy gold jewelry (by European standards) and red veil.
What is customary is a jagya (courtyard) where various wedding rituals are carried out by a Hindu priest, which can last hours and sometimes days, depending on what rituals the families like to incorporate. Some of the most important rituals are kanyadaan (giving away of daughter by father), rituals around fire, seven vows recited in Sanskrit and followed by seven walks around the fire by the couple with the ends of their garments tied together and putting of the sindoor (red color powder) by the groom on the bride’s parting of hair.
It is not usual for all guests to witness all this as it can get exhausting, and usually only the closest family and the couple take part in these lengthy rituals. On the day of the wedding, the groom and his family and friends depart his parental home(sons typically live with their parents all their lives) to bring the bride to his home later after the ceremony. Their procession towards the bride’s home is full of live music and dancing, even on the streets! Meanwhile, the guests at groom’s home spend the day singing and dancing to traditional songs as they wait for the groom to arrive with his bride in the evening. After the ceremony, bride is seen off by her weeping family members as she proceeds to move to groom’s family home permanently.
In Polish wedding parties (wesele), only the closest friends and family are invited and the guest list is often the sole decision of the couple. The celebratory evening at the party venue usually starts with a toast followed by first dance by the newly married couple. I know that the couples whose weddings I attended had been spending months practicing the first dance and it was fun to watch every single one of those first dances.
After the dance, guests take preassigned seats. Lots of good foods are brought to the tables and the vodka bottles can be seen placed everywhere on the tables. There is a live band music and/or DJ to entertain the guests all night long.
As the evening starts to go on, the vodka flow becomes stronger and the food just keeps coming. Countless vodka and home-made liquor bottles, meticulously placed within everyone’s reach at the tables, was definitely the most shocking factor about Polish weddings for me. Children might be present at the party but they usually don’t stay the whole night. So, the event is quite an adult affair.
In between, people dance to the live music, go back to the tables, eat, drink and talk and dance again. At the parties I attended, there were also some fun games throughout the night and the winners of course got vodka as a prize. Some of the games that I found fun were: one or two of the guests had to kiss the entire opposite gender in the hall, couples had to dance and when the music stopped they’d be given a combination, something like “One head, two feet” and they’d have to quickly position themselves that way, newly-married pair were asked questions about each other and we’d see if their answers matched and so on. The type of these games can vary.
Polish parties also have the bouquet throwing where both bride and grooms had their own versions for the single women and men guests respectively. There’s also the cake cutting at midnight and a traditional thank you gesture which included handing a basket full of gifts by the couple to their parents as a way of thanking them for their help in organizing the wedding. Everybody danced with everybody throughout the night, well into the morning. There were all kinds of songs, some of them were customized to include shot games, some of them were traditional Polish songs where everybody stood in a big circle and danced and some of them were for couples. It was a great experience and on the first party I attended, I was surprised when I saw the morning light outside as it was already 6 AM when we wrapped up.
Nepali wedding parties are quite different. One of the key differences that is easily noticeable is in the number of guests. It is considered offensive to not invite each and every person you and your parents know to your wedding party. Wedding is considered to be one of the most important events in one’s life and it is very much a social affair. It is normal for the bride or groom to not know all their guests on a personal level e.g your father’s co-workers or your sibling’s friends you’ve hardly met before. My Polish friends have gasped in utter surprise when I’ve told them this but to the Nepalese it’s not out of ordinary at all.
Parties usually have a variety of items on a buffet dinner and everyone helps themselves to what they prefer. There’s no assigned seating unlike Polish parties, and alcohol is not mandatory, although that hugely varies usually based on one’s ethnic group and place of living (city vs countryside). The party is not as formal and organized as Polish wedding parties, because how people enjoy themselves is up to them. It usually means everyone mingling with everyone, eating, dancing and chatting. There’s no driver (DJ or live band at Polish parties) and dancing is usually done in a group (dancing in couples is not the norm) and it’s usually just the young ones who partake. It is not obligatory for everyone to join the group dance, rarely the newly-married pair! The newly-married couple mostly sits on an elevated platform throughtout the party, where guests come and go to extend their well wishes.
The party never lasts into the morning unlike Polish weddings, and most guests stay for only 1-2 hours. Bride’s party and groom’s party are usually organized on different days so there’s no mixing of guests from both sides, otherwise the number of guests would be too big! 😉
Nepali wedding parties are continuously evolving and there is no protocol as to how it should exactly look like. It has started becoming normal these days for relatively well-off people in the cities to organize the parties at hotels with big gardens and pool, include games and more live music and dancing.
And the party (poprawiny) continues
Polish wedding parties can sometimes last a couple or more (depending on the region) days. On the first party that I attended, after just a few hours of sleeping, we started our second day with a big breakfast with some other guests. Soon after, the newly married pair did their first dance again, officially commencing the party. This day was almost identical to the first day, except people dressed a bit more casually. There were games, dancing, band music and lots of good foods and drinks. After celebrating the whole day one more time, and downing many homemade liquor as well as vodka shots, the grand wedding party was over. At the end of the day, I really liked just how much fun Polish wedding parties are.
In Nepali weddings, bride’s and groom’s side of the party are typically organized separately. The bride’s side organizes party on the same day of the wedding and the groom’s side does a reception party once the bride has been welcomed into the household. There’s no such day as a second day of party.
Gifts and presents
In Polish weddings, money is the most common form of gift that guests give to the newly-weds these days. In Nepali weddings, bride’s family typically gives a set of costly presents to their daughter (although they’re later used by the entire groom’s family including the bride), a custom that started as a way of ensuring her comfort as she moves away from her birth home. These might include anything from furniture to gold jewelry to even vehicles. Dowry as the present is called, is entirely up to the discussion of the two families before the wedding. As for the party, guests aren’t expected to bring big gifts or cash for the newly-weds. Typically only bride’s side of the guests give her money (and in the past things e.g household appliances) as gift, and the cash present is mostly symbolic and small, rather than a way to ‘cover my side of the expenses in the party’, as I have often heard from guests in Poland.
Marriage and family set-up
Majority of Nepali weddings are arranged by the couple’s parents and relatives, and since Nepal is a collectivist and patriarchal society, it is the norm that the bride moves to her groom’s family home forever for her marriage. If the family is single-unit, it is often the case that the groom’s family live with with one of their other sons’ family.
In Polish society, patriarchal joint family set-up is not common, and the newly-weds sometimes have their own apartment and have been living together before marrying. It is not expected that the daughter-in-law looks after her husband’s family and moves in with them, unlike in Nepali families.
// How do weddings look like where you’re from? I’d love to know in the comments below!