The Kurek/Pyciak Wedding

Real Polish Wedding, Part 1

Date: Sat, 11 July 1998

1. When I got married in 1947, I went through rather a long drawn-out affair that included the morning church ceremonies, then a breakfast, then a short rest and then an evening sit down dinner with lots of dancing and lots of the happy stuff. It lasted well into the next morning.

2. Well I thought that was something until I went this past weekend to a real village wedding in southern Poland. One of Danuta's cousin's daughter was getting married. It made my German style wedding in Milwaukee look like a picnic (or whatever it takes to make it much smaller).

3. We were invited and decided to go. On the way we were able to stop by other cousins and aunts of Danuta's for short visits (related to Danuta, but not to the other cousin). We arrived about noon at the cousin's home near Bochnia. They live in a real honest to goodness village. Everyone knows everyone or is related to everyone. And the whole village is invited, not only for the church services, but for the dinner and dancing that follows that lasted until 5 am the next morning. However, only a close group of family members, including that of the grooms, were invited to a sit down lunch before the ceremony. And, just a few at a time were invited each day thereafter for a full week to sit with the family for a big sit-down dinner (dinner is at noon) and more partying.

4. Now the details. At the first noon dinner, we had a very delicious soup made with noodles, beef. Then the main course was served with our selection of chicken legs, pork chops, and/or rolled beef, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, green beans and tea. There was all sorts of sweets and cakes and fruits for dessert. After lunch, the bride and groom to be went to the front porch of the home. There all the people from the village and others stood in line to greet the couple. The greeting included the usual kissing of both on the cheeks, right then left then right. Then they met both sets of parents. After this the bride and groom went to one of the rooms where they had their arms wrapped together in a ceremonial cloth. Both sets of parents then took a branch from a bush and dipped in a plate of 'holy water' and blessed the couple. After this, they and anyone else who wanted to did the same, then kissed, as above, both bride and groom. At this time people put cash money in envelopes on the table for them. (They were already married at law a week earlier at the marriage palace. The Church wedding always follows.) When this was done, everyone went out to the waiting cars. But at the entrance of the home as each person came out they were greeted by a 3 piece band that would be with us from then on until 4 am the next morning (more on this later).

5. Next came the wedding. There were about 30 cars in the procession from the home to the church which was just 4 blocks away. But, we blocked the narrow road, and all the fields that were able to used for parking. But, before we could get out of the driveway, we had to pay a small toll (about 10 Zlotys) to a bunch of neighborhood boys who put up barriers at the exit.

6. This was not just a typical wedding mass that I am used to seeing in the states. It is a high mass with lots of singing (in Polish). There were 4 priests celebrating. The one officiating over the actual wedding was the bride's uncle (brother of her mother).

7. After the mass, the bride and groom went out and waited near the front. Again, everyone got to kiss the bride and groom (right, left, right cheeks), and this time presented the bride with a bouquet of flowers. With about 50 or more sets, she was loaded down, and also her bridesmaid, father, mother and a couple of other helpers.

8. Now we all got back into our cars and started out on a real long procession about 10 kilometers (6 miles) to the restaurant. The first 4 miles were over the narrow paved country roads. Finally we had to make a left turn onto a very busy intercity 2 lane highway. We had a stop sign to obey, but the oncoming traffic in both directions had the right of way. And it seemed as if there were no breaks. When one direction was clear, the other prevented us from crossing, and vice versa. However, every so often one or two cars did get across. When we finally got to the stop sign , after a short wait, we were able to make it with about 5 other cars. That must have been the most at one time. Finally all 40 or so cars finally got across. The lead car with the bride and groom had pulled over at the side of the road to make sure that all of us were finally through and behind them. After another short distance of about 2 miles, we had to make another left turn. However, this time we only had oncoming traffic to watch. After several short bursts, a small oncoming car stopped flashed his lights signaling to us to go ahead. He probably knew this was a wedding parade, and he held up the traffic behind him, letting all of us go. Again at the restaurant which is used only for wedding parties, we had to park where we could find space.

9. When everyone was ready to enter, the owner and staff greeted the bride and groom with champagne and traditional bread and salt for good luck. The band played the traditional music. Then the staff came out serving everyone a glass of champagne. By the way all the service items were porcelain, stainless and crystal glassware. Then we all entered the hall, and sat down at our choice of seating. After all were seated, the band played "Sto Lat" (100 years, traditional song), so we all stood, sang along (not me), and then toasted the bride and groom with the champagne. The band then left and set up for dancing in the dance hall part of the building.

10. Now for the dinner. First there was the soup, noodles and chicken. Then they served again the same as we had at lunch, chicken legs, pork chops, and rolled beef. There were potatoes, rice, noodles, and salads. Various beverages were available to serve yourself, whatever you wanted. They included Coca Cola, Sprite, mineral water, white wine, champagne, tea or coffee. There was a three tiered serving dish that was loaded with various fruits; grapes, tangerines, bananas, apples, and nectarines. Another had lots of various cookies and cake slices. Now that ended the dinner.

11. Now the serious eating and drinking begins. Just about every hour from 7:30 to about 10:30 the staff brought out trays of more food. They included cold sliced ham, salami, kilbasa (sausage), ice cream sundaes, more salads, Jell-O, and ended with a bowl of beef stroganoff. There were about 90 people present for all this food. There was dancing all night in the usual manner, 3 dancing numbers, then a half hour break for the band; repeated all night. Remember the band had to eat and drink also. Finally, there was the cake cutting ceremony, when everyone got a piece of the three tiered wedding cake.

12. There was no beer at this party. But, would you believe that the groom's parents bought 150 bottles of vodka? Mathematical genius can figure this out. 90 persons, 150 bottles. However, if you deduct half for the women who do not drink vodka, and then another 20 for the kids that don't drink, that left about 150 bottles for about 30 men. Don't worry about us, though, this number of bottles was for the whole week of celebrating. Every time someone said "na zdrowiae" (to your health), all had to gulp down the glass full of vodka. I did my best, but all I could do was sip. One of my glasses full would last for at least 4 "na zdrowiae". Since I was to drive back to her cousin's home where we were staying, I stopped drinking the hard stuff about 9 PM, so that I could drive okay at about 1 am. Because of the large number of men drinking all night, the bride's parents provided a minibus, to take people home from the party. After the opening ceremonies, several drove their cars back to the village, and came back in the minibus. The options were simple, the minibus, or let the wife drive.

13. The bride's parents had set up a large army tent with about 20 army cots in it to house those who did not feel like going to their own homes. The next morning Danuta and I went to the tent, and saw only one person there -- the father of the bride.

14. No one got up until about noon the next day, Sunday. But, the bride and her mother and their 2 helpers were up in the kitchen preparing the noon lunch. Wow, I was stuffed and now had to look at food again? And vodka, again? Oh, well, it is only one time to be happy as this. So, it started again, food all day, starting with sour soup with ham, then main course of cold cuts, including ham, sausage, chicken parts in gelatin, and more vegetables, fruits and cookies. And, again lots of "na zdrowiae" with the vodka. But there were only about 20 at this gathering. I showed them the video photos that I took with my digital camera on their television. We left the next day for Zakopane so missed on the following days of celebration.

15. When you have a lot of people at the wedding, you get lots of really great gifts to start a home life. They got among others, a microwave oven, living room shrank 10 foot long, 3 sets of china, silver ware, pots and pans, blankets, coffee maker, french fry maker, table cloths, bedding sets, juicer, steam iron, and lots and lots of good old cash. Of course I might estimate that this cost the "father of the bride" close to about $4000 to put this show on. Not sure if he had any of his winnings left for this, but he won the Toto Lotto, the Polish lottery, in 1973, for a cool 1 million Zlotys. That was a time when the average income was 1600 Zlotys per month, per family.

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Upgraded 16 January 2006