Weddings are usually very happy occasions for families all over the world. The union of two people in love is celebrated by family and friends with a celebration involving dancing, singing and merriment. In the UK and Poland this ritual is no different. Even though we are two European nations with a similar religion it is interesting how our celebrations and traditions differ. I myself got married in Warsaw and at our wedding and we tried to incorporate the traditions from both our nations much to the amusement, bewilderment of our guests. I thought it would be interesting to write about these small details and how they differ, for example, why does the Polish couple come to the church together if it’s bad luck to see each other before the wedding? Poland is of course a catholic country while Britain is protestant (although this is a traditional view rather than a modern one) and therefore the obvious differences would be because of the religion. However, the real differences between the forms of christianity are actually quite minimal. Both weddings are performed with a mass, an exchange of rings, in front of a priest and with witnesses. Although a protestant mass is shorter and there is more singing but otherwise the order of events during the mass are standard. Also, the values and morals are accordingly the same even though we wear our rings on different hands, in the UK our wedding ring is worn on the left hand.

Differences can be seen though at various moments in the procedure of organisation up until the party afterwards. For example the bachelor party. Having been to both a UK bachelor party and a Polish one they share one crucial element, men getting drunk to end their single lives! However, in the UK tradition is that the groom-to-be should be at some point humiliated, stripped naked and tied to a lamppost. Or should have to wear a ludicrous costume throughout their evening and perform other embarrasing tasks. While in Poland it is a simple, more dignified evening of talking and drinking without the ritual humiliation. Although Brtish bachelor parties have acquired such notoriety in some cities such as Krakow and Wrocław in Poland where they have even been banned from some bars and clubs. As well the female equivilant „hen party“ can equally be an explosive occasion, even more drunken then the men. It is quite normal to see a Brit girl wearing learner plates and dressed like a fairy kissing lots of random men, completely out of her brain.

Unfortunately, in both of our countries the weddings themselves are expensive occasions. In the UK you do have to pay for the church while in Poland it is more of a voluntary contribution. Also, the we have less people getting married in church and more in the less formal registery office. Having said this the average wedding is expensive. The major expenses at a wedding are food, the reception hall and the band. However, in England we save in this respect as I have never been to a wedding in the UK with a band, only with DJ’s. Maybe this is because there are no bands prepared to play dreary 80’s pop songs for an evening. While in Poland it is normal to have a band at the wedding evenm if the band consists of one man with a yamaha keyboard and a female singer looking to earn for her studies. We also save on food as unlike a Polish wedding there is only ever one meal and never enough food. Sometimes at a Polish wedding I leave feeling like a whale after consuming meal after meal and consuming half a pig in cold meat!

A big part of the wedding ceremony in the UK are the speeches. These are made usually during dinner and there are three. Firstly, the father of the bride speaks, secondly, the groom and finally a speech is made by the best man. This speech normally includes a lot of jokes about the groom’s past and the couple in general. Followed by a toast, it is important as these speeches also thank the respective families for attending. In contrast this ceremony is negated by Poles as the thanking comes straight after the ceremony itself. Other Polish traditions we don’t have include breaking the glasses outside the reception, kissing the salty bread and throwing the veil. Although British brides throw the beauquet but the men never throws the tie as in Poland.

The biggest difference comes with one of the most important aspects of the wedding, booze. If I attended a Polish wedding and there wasn’t vodka on the table I would be very surprised and disappointed. In the UK this is unheard of an alcohol must be paid for. It is generally thought that English weddings finish early and with not too much drink. This is a myth as British weddings do finish earlier but they start much earlier. My last UK wedding started at 11 in the church, then by 12 we were at the reception. We then waited until 3 for the dinner to start and in the mean time we could do nothing but drink. No food and only alcohol in the summer sun is a dangerous combination. Made worse by the fact that when dinner finally came it wasn’t big enough at all, half a bowl of soup, meat and chips and tiny slither of cake. Then we had to wait till 7 for the next meal. Needless to say most people were very drunk and very tired, most had to take a mid-afternoon nap to make it to the evening.

Weddings are very special events for those participating. I remember my wedding day vividly still, 8it was an amazing day and one which I will never forget. My wedding was of course expensive but I think that it was worth every penny. As well we tried to keep to both sets of traditions and have a combination. My friends were slightly bemused by the throwing of the tie and used this ceremony to dish out several punches at my expense as the MC did his best to protect me. My father-in-law bravely made a speech even though for him this was very strange. As a consequence we managed to merge the cultures together to create a rather interesting spectacle. I think the differences can be summed up by a colleague who married this year. She married in a very traditional Polish way and commented about our wedding as, „a super party“, this is would be a fair assesment to anybody who was more traditional. A wedding is that couples special day and therefore it should be the way the happy couple want it, whether it’s traditional or modern, band or DJ, people will always have fun at a wedding.

Christopher Moore