There’s no question about it, Poland is a particularly zealous country when it comes to tradition. Since the 9th century it’s been among Europe’s most devoted Catholic realms, and today, a myriad of age-old customs are still very much a part of everyday life. What’s more, when it comes to finding examples of this endearing, yet perhaps somewhat anachronistic, heady traditionalism, there can be no better example than the Polish wedding ceremony. That said, the situation in Poland today is one of modernising customs, slowly coming to terms with a gradually secularising and less traditional culture in line with the bulk of mainland Europe. Put simply, marriage in Poland can offer the perfect mix of the old and the new, and for those looking for that much-coveted fairy tale wedding experience, where could be better than on the spellbinding cobbled streets of medieval Krakow?
‘Tie the knot’ tourism in Krakow has seen something of a boom in the last ten years, and particularly since Poland joined the EU back in 2004. One thing’s for sure, there’s certainly no charm deficit here, and if it’s a wedding shrouded by the fantastical gothic spires of Disney or Harry Potter you’re after, Krakow’s your place. Today, a number of companies can offer bespoke wedding services in the city, organising everything from flights for family and guests, to particular boutique venues, tailor making the experience to within an inch of your desires.
Some can even offer the full-frills, traditional Polish wedding option, but be warned, it’s one riddled with surprises for the outsider. It’s said that Polish weddings would often go on for several days, involve everything from strong vodka to endless plates of steaming dumplings, and begin with the religious aspect of the ceremony. At the church the most notable nuance is perhaps the simultaneous arrival of the bride and groom, supposed to symbolise their willingness to transverse life together. But the real traditions are reserved for the night, and the wesele, the Polish equivalent of the after party, and done – as with all Polish parties – in grand style.
Guests to the wesele will notice the conspicuous presence of copious amounts of vodka on each table, but these are strictly only to be used for the communal toasts during the night (of which, there are plenty). The newlyweds usually sit centrally, and it’s custom to deride the taste of the aforementioned vodka, until the groom has kissed the bride at the table. Food is plentiful and traditional, with everything from kielbasa sausage to sour soups. The culmination of the night comes with the oczepiny, the symbolic unveiling of the bride, representing her maturity to womanhood.
Today the bride and groom can choose between two types of wedding in Poland, a concordant wedding, or a civil wedding. The first is the more traditional and takes place in a church and a registry office, while the first bypasses all the religious customs involved. In fact, in ceremonies today the traditions are taken much more lightly, and there is something of a prevailing secular attitude towards marriage, despite Poland’s continuing Catholic zeal.
Consequently more and more people looking for an altogether unique wedding experience, in a place with the enchanting fairy tale charm of a medieval setting, have chosen Krakow as their destination. With easy flight access to a whole host of other European countries, the trip isn’t a hard one for guests to make, and there are plenty of honeymoon options right on the doorstep.