Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Big Fat Polish Wedding...

So I got a really interesting education in the ways of the Polish culture this past weekend. Frankly, I had little knowledge about them except for two things: it's really hard to understand priests that have recently immigrated from Poland that are trying to do wedding mass in English (and I feel qualified to say that because I've seen three different priests do this now including one who kept calling my cousin by our shared last name instead of her first name, hilarious!) and that there are a lot of Polish immigrants in Chicago as evidenced by the fact that when I call my doctor's office you press 1 for English, 2 for espanol, 3 for polska or however you spell that.

I'm not totally sure of the circumstances surrounding this wedding but I think it goes a little something like this. Adam's co-worker, the groom, was actually born in Poland and moved over here when he was 10 or so. I think the story for the bride is pretty similar. Apparently they speak almost exclusively Polish at home. We get to the church and the priest does everyone a favor by not butchering the English language and doing the mass in Polish. We think that he said "welcome" at some point in English but we're not entirely sure. It was actually quite lovely since I've seen about 15 wedding masses in the past couple of years and hearing it in another language was quite the change of pace. There were only about 50-75 people at the mass so I was kind of skeptical about what we might find at the wedding. The only thing Adam could promise was Vodka (which confused me, but more on that later).

There was about 2 hours between the wedding and the reception but the two locations were almost an hour away so we got a head start getting down there. I forgot to mention that we ALMOST missed the ceremony because the traffic was so bad! On a Saturday afternoon! How in the hell do people that live in the Chicago suburbs stand it?!?! Gosh, I am a smug city dweller, but I digress. We got to the reception a tad early but since another blasted cold front was blowing in we decided to go into the hall, which I read on the sign is owned and operated by a Polish family. These people are loyal, folks. I'm not entirely sure that any of the wait staff spoke any English beyond, "Are you done with this? May I take it?". We walk in. The first thing I see is a ridiculous dessert display to the left that was reminiscent of a captain's dinner on a fine cruise ship. I think there might have been a pirate's ship made out of fruit with a Polish flag on it but I was too distracted by the rest of the dessert and the waiter that was busy filling the champagne fountain (!) to further investigate. We grab our place cards and realize that we are at table 26. What are these? 2 person tables? There were only 50 people at the church but this hall was set up for more than 250!!! (I found out later that this is commonplace for people to not come to the church part but show up for the party. Smart.)

We sat at our table to watch the entertainment that was the band. Apparently the band is the most sought-after Polish wedding band in Chicago and you have to book them more than a year out. Seriously, for your music? I am the queen of booking things early and I haven't even given a thought to a DJ or band yet! Pioter, the head of the band (and I know this because he shamelessly brought us his business card but truthfully, I'd consider hiring him just because of the entertainment value), was basically the Polish version of Adam Sandler in the Wedding Singer. Except that he had the Polish version of Angelina Jolie doing most of the singing in a full-length gold sequined dress. I can't even fully put into words just how fabulously wonderful they were. There was unintentional comedy every time you looked at them but they were actually really, really good. Pioter and the other dude in the band were sporting tuxes with fantastic red bow ties. I loved it!

In keeping with the theme from the church, pretty much everything all night except for one sentence was in Polish. I kid you not when I say I felt like I'd actually left the States and gone to Poland. It was easy to forget that we were only about an hour away from home because the whole thing was so insane. I want to kick myself for not bringing a camera! IDIOT!

Before I get into the food, I must mention the scene on the table when we sat down. There were 1 liter bottles of 7Up and RC Cola, a carafe of something reddish and a bottle of Finlandia Vodka... on every table. A waiter brought over some ice at some point and about 20 minutes after we sat down we found the shot glasses on the table. I think I realized then that things were about to get crazy and the first thing that crossed my mind was the scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when John Corbett and his parents go to meet her family and they all start doing shots of grappa. Good times. Good times. The best moment before dinner was when we realized that the red stuff in the carafe was actually white zinfandel, not cranberry juice, after Adam's other co-worker made what we thought was a Cape Cod. Oops.

After the introduction of the wedding party and the first dance (which they totally took lessons for and was awesome... now the wheels in my head are turning, where is the nearest Arthur Murray's?), they started bringing out food. First soup, then salad and then they brought out these huge trays of stuff and put an entree or side in pretty much every one's hand and told us to pass them around. I'm thinking there were about three kinds of meats and several kinds of potatoes. But you know me, I was already kind of full from the rolls I'd been gorging on before dinner so I am pretty much worthless for a main course recap. Oh and most of the toasting was in Polish, but you already were expecting that, weren't you?

After dinner, the real crazy stuff started. The place pretty much turned into a Warsaw Discotheque. It was INSANITY. Everyone knew every song except for us, the weird table of Americans. And I'm not kidding when I say that the grandmas were doing techno polkas with the teenagers and they were all singing together. It was a fantastic show. The bride and groom also spent a lot of time greeting all the tables and doing the obligatory vodka shots with everyone. I have no idea how they did it. Seeing as how the groom did three shots with our table alone (and we were the reluctant table), I have no idea how he made it through the evening. What a champ!

They did the bouquet and garter tosses and then they busted into some random traditions that I can only assume come from Poland. First they got these accordion pumps and hooked them to balloons. They had two guys sit down on chairs and put the pumps on their laps. Then two girls from the wedding party came over and sat on the guys laps, bouncing up and down until the balloons filled with air and popped. We're not really sure what happened there but I can assure you, my words do not do it justice. It was hilarious. Then they sat the bride and groom down and they brought out a sheet for two of the groomsmen to hold. From the front all you could see was the groom's head and the bride's arms and the sheet had a bonnet and diaper on it that made it look like the groom's head on a baby. I'm not sure what exactly happened since the commentary was not in a language that I can understand (and seriously, every word in Polish sounds the same!) but I think they were making him drink Vodka out of a baby bottle at one point.

We come to find out that this party may go all night long but our group was getting a little tired around 11:30 and we started to prepare to leave. The waitstaff (that had pretty much been working continuously all night long) came around with some cups and a teapot. Adam was all over it and wanted some tea since he had a bit of a sore throat (oops, I gave him my headcold). I start to pour it and the liquid comes out blood red. Turns out it was beet soup. Then they bring over a platter of fried stuff, which we found out was roll ups of chicken and mushrooms.

Just before midnight when we were getting ready to walk out the door, they started setting up a table at the corner of the dance floor. First they brought out a basket of bread, which I had to hold myself back from, then a huge bowl of steaming stuff that looked like sauerkraut and then a roasted pig. Seriously, they brought out a ROASTED PIG that was decorated like a Hawaiian luau. After we picked up our jaws off the floor, we went to say goodnight and thank you to the groom, who informed us that feeding everyone again at this point is necessary so they aren't insanely hung over from the copious amounts of Vodka they'd been drinking. I also forgot to mention that the bride came over during dinner and informed us that we shouldn't worry about drinking too much Vodka because if we ran out of that bottle (not a chance!) all we had to do was take it to the bar and they'd bring us a fresh one. WHAT?!?!?! Insanity!

The next morning, I called my dad to inform him of all the amazing things I witnessed when I found out that all of this is normal in the Polish culture and that he's been to several similar Polish weddings. I had no idea! What I'd like though, would be a copy of the wedding video only with English subtitles. We've been to a lot of weddings in 2009 but this was definitely a new experience for me and I feel like I got some interesting ideas. I can't wait for my big fat San Antonio wedding!