Last week, I celebrated my 4th wedding anniversary after having been married in a small village called Tymowa, so thought this would be an appropriate time to talk about what we went through to get here.
Weddings in Poland do not have much in common with weddings in the UK from my experience. They are a lot more traditional, and more of a celebration. My wedding was spread across two days, the first day being the ceremony and reception and the second day was a bit more relaxed with a BBQ and plenty of drink. However, to reach this point was not completely straightforward…
The first thing we did was to find a church, which was pretty easy as my wife knew exactly what she wanted. A little 16th century wooden church in Tymowa that she had driven past whilst growing up. So we went to meet the priest and figure out the next steps. We needed to get confirmation that I was not already married in the UK, we needed to attend “marriage counselling” and I needed to learn the vows, in Polish and by heart!
The first step was to somehow obtain proof that I had not already been married in the UK. This needed to come from the British Embassy in Warsaw, so we booked some train tickets and a hotel. This was my first time in Warsaw, and while it does have a bit of that Polish charm and architecture, it felt just like any other busy city in Europe and I definitely wasn’t enamoured by it. We took the intercity train upto Warsaw from Krakow and arrived in the early afternoon and went straight to the hotel to drop our bags off. We were staying at the Novotel Centrum which was opposite the Palace of Culture & Science. We had good view of the city from our room and it was comfortable and quiet. It was also in a good location with the city centre within easy walking distance.
We were not due to visit the embassy until the following morning so we went out and looked around the old part of town. This area was pretty much obliterated by the Nazis during the war, and has since been rebuilt to try to recapture the beautiful old buildings that once stood here. As you might imagine, it’s a busy tourist area and offers a good selection of cafes and restaurants.
The following morning we were up early and found a taxi to take us to the Embassy which is in a suburb with many of the other embassies. It was a large imposing building with a fair amount of security as you would expect. But once inside it was a case of filling out a couple of forms, and handing over several hundred zloty. They would then place an announcement on their noticeboard for a couple of weeks to state that I was intending to get married and if anyone objected they should make themselves known. Now, as this was only going on the noticeboard in the embassy, in a suburb of Warsaw I’m not sure how many people would see this or how much it really mattered. But as usual, bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake!
(I think the Indian Embassy needs some tidying up!)
Anyway, that was over and done. It turns out, that was the easy part. We then had to look forward to “marriage counselling” which is mandatory if you want to get married in a church. Basically you have to meet with someone who has some kind of affiliation with the Catholic church and they will talk to you about your intentions and ask intimate questions, such as have you been living together. Of course we were not living together we said to the church representative, knowing that we could more easily ask for forgiveness during the confessions later for lying than for admitting to living in sin!
We had 3 of these 1 hour meetings in the weeks prior to our wedding, all conducted in Polish so my wife translated anything important for me. The worst part was the 1.5 day lecture that we had to attend, at a church in Krakow. This covered 8 hours on a Saturday and 4 hours on a Sunday, it was completely in Polish and apparently was so the priest could tell us all how difficult marriage was, and how many marriages fail, what responsibilities the wife and husband had to each other. My wife only translated small portions for me, but even those small portions were very depressing. The feeling I got was that the priest was not a fan of marriage and was trying his best to dissuade the assembled couples.