Historical story

How was the wedding during the occupation?

We imagine the German occupation in Poland as a series of endless battles between the underground and partisans and Germany. But that was not the only thing about existence under the Nazi regime. On September 1, 1939, everyday life was not suddenly canceled. Poles still celebrated holidays and family celebrations, cooked dinners, smoked in the stove, and ... got married.

Young people in the occupied country did not stop falling in love. When they thought they had found their significant other, only one thing remained - they had to notify their parents and prepare the wedding. Interestingly, weddings were taken much earlier and more spontaneously than before the war. It was mentioned by the insurgent, Kazimierz Zawadka from Warsaw:

No problem, everything was getting married very young. When somewhere round-up, [it was said] that he had a wife, a child, there were certain considerations. Everything got married young because he did not join the army. There was no army, because the occupation .

Before the wedding ceremony took place, one had to go to the priest and decide everything, including the question of "what grace". As the insurgent recalls, in 1942, when he was getting married, the fee for the priest was ... the equivalent of half a liter of vodka.

Wedding in Kępa. (Photo obtained as part of the Digital Archive of Local Tradition program, published under the CC-BY-NC license, author of the reproduction:the Municipal Public Library in Borzechów).

Kazimierz Zawadka had to pay forty-three zlotys for his wedding, which is the price of a decent meat dinner for two in a better pub. A few more coins were added to the tray for the altar boy and the churchman. Most often, the wedding day was set for Sunday, not Saturday as it is today. It was due to practical reasons - Saturday was a working day. The same was done in the first decades after the war.

To church without limo

People didn't go to church either by car or in a carriage, and they didn't gather in a procession led by an orchestra. Being loud or moving in a large group was simply dangerous. Better not to get the attention of the gendarmes.

Sometimes it happened that those people would appear in front of the church anyway and pick up all the wedding guests. In this way, the Germans defeated the "Osa" - "Kosa" unit. During the wedding of two Home Army officers, the Gestapo arrested eighty people. On the other hand, as the insurgent Antoni Bujalski recalls, it happened that the wedding was only a cover. In fact, the assembled group of people was working on something completely unrelated to the wedding.

The female art of survival in Aleksandra Zaprutko-Janicka's book "Occupation from the kitchen". Click and buy with a discount on empik.com .

Jadwiga Szantyr, a civil participant in the Warsaw Uprising, did not want any fete on the occasion of her marriage. She decided that the wedding should be as quiet as possible. Preferably at eight in the morning, when there will be only a handful of people at the church. Years later, she described the day as follows:

It was Easter, we took the tram to the wedding , two witnesses, even [my husband] was holding flowers, and I was modestly dressed in a costume.

The bride and groom usually did not have a special choice in terms of clothes. Most often they rely on their own and their loved ones' wardrobes. The men appeared in their own, often worn and patched suits, and the ladies in modest dresses and costumes. Interestingly, there were clothes rentals operating during the war. The wedding dresses available there did not resemble the fountains of tulle and lace in which modern brides get lost, but they nevertheless offered some alternative to women who wanted to look festive on this special occasion.

A peasant wedding in Radzice near Drzewica, 1940.

A similar solution was used on her wedding day by Krystyna Piórkowska, a nurse in the Southern Śródmieście during the Warsaw Uprising:

I had a bunch ... There was lilac and white tulips. Mother borrowed the wedding outfit from such a rental company, because it was very difficult. It was a hard time to live.

With or without a wedding

The wedding was not a matter of course. The bride and groom often met only for dinner with their immediate family. A real feast took place only where the material situation allowed it.

Ryszard Stankiewicz, a soldier of the insurgent special platoon, recalled his sister's wedding, which was definitely a modest celebration. As he said years later:

There was no wedding. It was a family reunion of two families at home:my brother-in-law, our immediate family and ours. And there were also a few people. And so, what the rich cottage - as the saying goes, it was there to eat - but actually only a tradition, nothing more. Then well - occupation.

In Poland cramped by a German boot, the preparation of a traditional wedding feta, with tables full of all kinds of food, was complicated to say the least. Exquisite dishes and fancy cakes in a country covered by the food rationing system could at best remain in the realm of dreams.

It was the most difficult in the cities. The bride's parents, who by custom was to provide wedding refreshments, had to rely heavily on black market suppliers. In official circulation, even on such an occasion, they could not count on special allocations. Most often, food had to be produced on one's own or smuggled out of the countryside with the help of various contacts.

Moonshine was drunk at home, on various occasions and in pubs. (photo from the book "Occupation from the kitchen").

When the right amount of food was collected, it still had to be prepared. Depending on the skills of the hostess giving up her daughter and her immediate family, the lady of the house cooked for the wedding or hired a talented cook for this occasion. Ryszard Ratajczak, a deportee from Poznań, recalled years later that his mother, who had a talent for making tasty and sophisticated dinner dishes, cold meats, cakes and cakes, was making extra money in this way:

Everyone invited her to bake. And when the neighbors were getting ready for a wedding, my mother spent two days there preparing the feast. Everyone gave something. Efforts were made to reward my mother for the work of preparing such "strange" dishes. So there was - at least partially - something to stand for.

You have to toast something

It was up to the groom's parents to organize alcohol according to custom. Under the conditions of the occupation, you could not count on pure liquor vodka (for example, the famous J.A. Baczewski, or from the factory of the ordinate Potocki in Łańcut). In their place, home-made moonshine reigned on the tables. Yes, in Warsaw and other large cities you could buy almost any alcohol, including French cognacs and fine wines from southern Europe, but they were fabulously expensive. They were satisfied with the moonshine, especially since driving it was a very popular activity, not only in the countryside.

Interestingly, in small towns it was moonshine that was the best guarantor of peace during the celebration. As Maria Kwiatkowska, a teenage girl from Bielsko-Biała, who survived the war in Małopolska, recalls, a local gendarme was asked for a wedding, and the task of one of the men - who knew German and had a strong head - was to quickly get this unwelcome guest drunk. It is best if he is unconscious so that he will sleep through all the fun after he has died like a pig. Other gendarmes, patrolling the area and knowing that their friend was eating and drinking while playing, did not venture into the place.

For Mieczysław Uniejewski, the wedding ended tragically. The Germans arrested him together with his colleagues from the "Osa" - "Kosa" unit.

Deadly Dances

It is difficult to imagine a joyful celebration which is a wedding, and then a wedding, without music. During the occupation, dances and songs were an indispensable element of entertainment. In combination with moonshine, unfortunately, they can be very dangerous, especially in the late evening. As described by Amelia Łobaszewska:

As it was already curfew, after 22:00 the German patrol heard music (harmony) playing softly from the street and they entered our apartment on the first floor and shouted what's up happening. And my uncle, under the influence of moonshine, began to vigorously reply that there was a wedding, we were allowed, etc. The gendarmes took him out of the house, and he broke away and ran into the field.

Although the Germans opened fire on him, the bloody wedding guest managed to escape. However, it was not without lasting mementos of the incident. After the gendarmes hit him in the leg and in the hand, he fell in the field, and they decided that they had apparently killed him and went their way. It was only in the morning that the neighbor heard moans from the window and informed the family that the victim was alive after all ...


The war history of cooking and everyday life is as terrifying as it is fascinating. Meet her with us in the book by Aleksandra Zaprutko-Janicka entitled "Occupation from the kitchen. The Female Art of Survival ". This is what the above article is based on. You can buy the book with a discount on empik.com.