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Nazdrowie! Part Two


Have you noticed how buying even very simple things in a foreign county can be so very challenging?

Boofuls and me had an hour or so to kill before getting showered and changed for the wedding so we headed off into town for a coffee. This’ll be simple, I thought as I walked up to the counter to order to coffees. “Cappuccino?” I enquired to met met with an affirmative nod. “OK, Two cappuccino’s, prosze.” I said in my best Ponglish ( Ponglish being a mixture of Polish and English widely used in Boofuls’ place of work). As I said it I held up two fingers (No, not like THAT!) to indicate that I meant two coffees.

The woman responded in kind by holding up two fingers back to me ( Yes, like THAT but I don’t think she meant that. I hope not, anyway.) as she said it she said what sounded remarkably like “One?”

“Two” I repeated with my two fingers. ‘One?” came back with the two fingered salute.

I just nodded and hoped for the best. I’m not sure what the Polish word is for ‘two’ but I think it’s ‘one’. You’ll be relieved to know that in the end I did indeed get two coffees.

Anyway, moving on to the wedding reception:

Every country has its traditions when it comes to weddings. With marvelous programmes like Four Weddings to watch we have a much better understanding of what happens at an American wedding ie after the ceremony everyone eats as much as possible from the mountains of food on offer before going in to eat a full meal.

At an English wedding reception the guests stand around with a glass of warm sparkling wine for a couple of hours while gazing desperately round the room to see if there are any canapes on offer. If there are canapes then they tend to be tinier than an atom and have to be snatched swiftly from the tray of the passing waitress as she whizzes round the room as if the object of the exercise is more to let the guests see how pretty they are rather than to let them actually be eaten. Maybe the idea behind it is that by the time the guests get in and fed they are just so relieved to have got some food inside them that they will happily sit through the, usually dire, speeches. The meal is followed by a lull of another couple of hours while everyone hangs around not knowing what to do till the disco starts up for the evening ‘do’.

None of the above prepared us for the Polish wedding experience.

As we entered the reception hall we were given sparking wine with which to toast the bride and groom. That was the formality of the day over. The glasses were cleared away, the band started to play, the guests sat at the beautifully decorated and groaning with food tables. Plates and plates of food were on offer. While I was gazing with awe at the vast array of food and deciding what I would try first, I noticed that instead of wine glasses on the table there were shot glasses and tumblers. Next I noticed bottles of pop and bottles of vodka. “Wow! This is going to be different”, I thought. I wasn’t wrong.

Boofuls and me were stood around feeling like the proverbial spare groom when a lady about my age came and spoke to us. Well, I say spoke, that was after she’d grabbed me and planted three kisses on my cheeks. “Hello.I am  Peter’s mother. You will sit with us and my daughter’s will look after you.”  So we did and so they did. We were made to feel so welcome, our every wish or need was anticipated and catered for. I truly don’t think we’ve ever been made to feel more welcome.

The next thing that happened was that platters and platters and yet more platters of hot food were brought out.  It turned out that every hour and a half for twelve hours more hot food arrived. The band played on. Guests got up and danced. The band stopped playing and people sat down to eat again or went outside for a breath of fresh air.  The party just carried on. We danced, drank, ate, joined in with the many drinking games the singer initiated  and enjoyed every minute until about two in the morning when we ran out of steam and went to bed. Apparently the band played till four and the last guest left at six. These people know how to party!

The following day we were told to be back at the reception venue for 2pm as the party was to continue. Really? Yup! The party started as if it hadn’t left off. By 2.10 it was back in full swing! How marvelous! I was offered the country pate, the home smoked ham, the home pickled gherkins.  I even had a go at the tripe soup, flaczki, which is allegedly very good as a hangover cure – and surprisingly tasty.  I was  offered some of the 75% proof vodka, which I gracefully declined after a sniff of it reminded me of surgical spirit. There is no way that was going inside my body!

Language barrier? Didn’t notice one! The language of fun and friendship won the day!

No speeches, no formality, no worrying about which side you’re supposed to wear your flower on, no huge women looking stupid in  teeny fascinators, no language barrier ( after a vodka or two).

What on earth had I been worried about? I wonder if we can blag an invite to another Polish wedding?

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Nazdrowie! Part one


It’s been a long time coming but it finally arrived – the wedding we’ve all been waiting for.

I’ll call the couple Peter and Matea, because that’s their names.

Peter and Matea, Polish friends of ours got married in a town in Poland with far to many c’s z’s and s’s in it’s unpronouncable name. . They invited us to the wedding well over a year ago and we accepted the invitation thinking how nice it would be to experience a wedding in a different culture. As the big day approached, we started to get cold feet thinking that we’d be the only English speakers other than the bride and we’d be sat around like..like….well – a spare groom at a wedding. Mr and Mrs No Mates.

Friday afternoon arrived and we set off to Liverpool Airport for the first leg of our journey to Sczczcwsczwczwzswczwscsk. Bag (yup, singular. At £50 a bag to use the hold we decided we’d be frugal with the luggage) duly checked in we decided to go and get a bite to eat and relax before our flight.

( This is when a whole different story began – but I’ll save that one for another day. All I’ll say now is: Bloody estate agents and bloody pushy time wasters. Gggrrrr.)

Arriving in Poland we found ourselves in a country where shops still close on Sundays, where good manners are the norm not the exception and where when a man is formally introduced to a woman he kisses her hand and nobody laughs, mocks or think they’re weird. It was a bit like stepping back in time twenty years and I liked it.

Since we arrived in Poland  quite late we made our way to the hotel, treated ourselves to  quick gin and tonic and headed straight off to bed. We were exhausted.

Next morning – the day of the wedding.

Breakfast was a bizarre concoction of cheese, hot dog sausages,smoked ham,  scrambled egg made with artery clogging amounts of butter, tomatoes and cucumber.  Apart from the scrambled egg it was pretty much a ploughman’s lunch, all it was lacking was a bit of Branston pickle. Still, when in Rome and all that. I imagine the Poles think that our full English breakfast is a bit odd.

We tucked in, well, ok, I did give the hot dog sausages a miss, even for me that’s a bit much for first thing in the morning, then we set off to  Sczczcwsczwczwzswczwscsk.

With Google maps and my mobile phone sat nav on the go we managed to make it relatively easily to the hotel in a not unreasonable 2 hours. Time for lunch, a stroll round the town and still plenty of time to get our best bib and tucker on for the ‘do’.

Suitably dressed up, we set off for the church, a five minute stroll from our hotel. It’s a good job it wasn’t much further given that I  wearing the most ridiculous heels.

As we arrived at the church we realised that another wedding was still going on. We were standing  back out of the way watching as the bride and groom came out of the church. We thought we’d wait until they’d got in their car set to off to their reception before we’d go in the church so as not to be disrespectful.  As I was looking at the bride I glanced up to see our bride and groom frantically waving to us “GET IN THE CHURCH!!!!”

OH!  Didn’t expect that! This is going to be more different than I thought!

I’m sure the ceremony was lovely. Obviously we didn’t understand a single word of it. I was quite entertained by the old tramp who came in for a look, walked right to the front and plonked himself a pew on the front row. Matea was too nervous to notice though – probably a good job. I don’t think she’d have taken kindly to a tramp gatecrashing her wedding.

Once the ceremony was over and the obligatory hat was passed round for money – I think that’s understandable in any language, we left the church as the next bride turned up and made the short walk to the reception venue.

And that, my friends is a whole different chapter in the story. Don’t miss it!