Back in September, I went to Poland for the first time. I also went to a Polish wedding party, for the first time too. I have written about it before, but as I read my previous post about it, I feel like I didn’t do the great event any justice. I didn’t write enough about its atmosphere, its bursting energy, my mixed emotions – I feel like I just have to re-write the experience in a more personal and deeper meaning. I also think that the event in itself deserves one full post concentrating on that happy moment.
So here I am, rewriting my experience because it was not only a trip, it was a cultural gathering, celebrating the love of two people in a country where I didn’t speak the language and barely know the culture – and somehow I was invited to be a part of it all. Words just cannot describe how happy I was to be a part of that wedding celebration. 50 years from now when I’m grey and old and sitting in a rocking chair, I would like to open my blog and re-read this story because it has given me the chance to explore a culture in a way only a few people could experience. I would like to reminisce about how extremely happy everyone was at the party and the couple gleaming with love. I would like to remember all that and smile about it.
Ever since my first day in Poland, things were already hectic. Not a negative hectic, but more like an exciting hectic. I was welcomed by rain as soon as I got off my flight and stepped into Poznań. In the sea of so many people, I was happy to see my friend who then rushed me into his car and explained the long evening ahead of me. As soon as we were inside the car, we went straight to the wedding. Yes, straight to the wedding. I had no time to put my things down, or stroll around the city. I had a wedding party to attend.
Having no time at all to enjoy the city of Poznań, suddenly I was in the middle of nowhere looking at miles and miles of open-spaced fields. I wasn’t exactly sure where I was or where my friend was taking me, heck, HE wasn’t even sure himself where he was going. The wedding was to take place in a hotel, somewhere outside of Poznań. I love the idea of having a wedding in a remote part of town, away from the busy city and just having an intimate party with the family.
When we finally arrived, I was totally nervous. I was going to be there, the only non-speaking, asian-looking person in the whole room. Of course, people were going to ask questions and I could feel my hands getting colder as soon as the car was parked in the parking lot. People had already arrived and we were late, “that’s my grandpa, that’s my aunt, that’s my uncle” – my friend casually said. I just answered him with an uh huh when a thought ran through my mind “What am I doing here without learning some Polish?! I think I might be crazy! Going to a Polish wedding without knowing Polish, great job Aggy, great job…”.
I am not the world’s girliest girl, neither am I the world’s expert in hair and makeup for weddings. Although I was told to take my time, I knew downstairs people were already gathered ready to start the celebration. To my frustration, mascara and eyeliner scattered around me with my mum’s voice inside of me, remembering the advice she had given me on doing makeup. I could barely remember anything. I somehow finished, looking rather decent, then put on my heels. I slipped only three times in them, when nobody except my friend saw, that was an achievement I tell you.
As we entered, to my shock, everyone was already sat down in their assigned seats and all eyes were on us, or me. Maybe it was because we were late, maybe it was because they had a new face amongst them. I was nervous, mostly because my knees were shaking, praying so that I don’t fall flat on my face with the heels I was wearing. After greeting the newly wed couple, who both look stunning and happy, I sat down in my seat.
Agata Filiana with a red heart at the top of it was written on a piece of paper indicating my seat. I was crazily proud that at least my name, Agata, is a popular Polish name – I don’t know why. The people around me greeted me politely and after a while we started chatting, about food mostly. In my previous post on this, I have already told you about the amount of food I ate during the wedding, it was just overwhelming.
Dancing was never a big part of the Indonesian wedding I know of. There might be dancing in other parts of Indonesia, just not in my part, weddings are always lengthy, full of speech, shaking hands and yawning. People are often tired because they have to stand around chatting and shaking a bunch of people they barely know, one is never tired from dancing…well because there is no dancing involved. I really don’t know why, wedding is a celebration of love where everyone should get up and sing and dance! I was happy that the Polish showed me how to do it the right way.
The dance floor was not huge, but enough to put all of us on the same space. Another thing about this Polish wedding was that only close friends and family were invited, so everyone knew everyone. This friendly atmosphere and the DJ’s music found its way to my feet, and soon enough I was dancing around like the others. In the beginning I felt awkward, to be honest, I have never danced at a wedding before, but everyone was doing it and I was already in my happy-dance-mood.
I stopped to drink the free cocktails and overflowing wine while resting my poor feet. The table I sat in was never empty with food. It was a great way to taste authentic Polish food but it was so much that my stomach felt like it was going to explode. The vodka was also endless, one of the hype of a Polish wedding! Singing were often involved as the crowd sang sto lat, sto lat, niech zyje, zyje nam!…. I asked my friend what sto lat means, and I found out it meant a hundred years. This was such a beautiful, enthusiastic and energetic song to wish the couple a lot of happiness!
At some point a crowd gathered in the middle of the dance floor to watch the happy couple danced. One of my favourite songs of all time filled my ear, I’ve Had the Time of My Life, the perfect song for this wedding, for this couple. I watched as they swayed with the music, they have rehearsed dancing to this song and it was so lovely to see them enjoying the moment. Soon after that, the dance floor was again filled with everyone dancing old classic music. It was my favourite part of the wedding.
Then people started dancing with me, our talks were replaced by dance moves. My initial worry disappeared, I was so happy to be approached by people, asking my friend if they could dance with me. It was so special for me to have this kind of acceptance, a very touching moment for me. There was a time when we circled around again and everyone was introduced. Everyone, including me, had to stand in the middle as the master of ceremony called out our names. I was greeted by Agata from Indonesia which was welcomed by a roar and an applause. I liked that moment.
And then it was back to more eating and dancing.
I took off my heels at the end of the party and slipped on flip flops which were two sizes too small for me. The lovely bride thought of this brilliant idea to avoid people getting sore feet and had a bunch of flip flops at the entrance of the hall. I used it and carried on dancing until I was one of the people left there. When I was ready to take some rest, I looked back to the whole evening, not really knowing how I survived this Polish wedding. I smiled at the fun I had and how lucky I was to be there to celebrate that amazing, magical moment.
I may never again experience a Polish wedding. I may never again dance until my feet were sore. I may never hear the chant of sto lat sto lat! And I may never have so much Polish food in one table. But this one unique experience will always be remembered and whenever I think back of Poland, the first thing I will remember is this wedding party.
I am forever thankful for the couple who invited me not only into their celebration but also their culture, family and tradition. Dziękuję!
Have you ever had a unique cultural experience that stuck in your mind?