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Popular Months & Weekdays for Polish Weddings

(At the Turn of the 20th Century 1886-1916)

By John L. Rys, (john@john.rys.name)

Introduction

Which months were popular for weddings? Which weekdays? This article analyzes the months and weekdays commonly chosen for weddings by the Polish community at the turn of the 20th century. The data was extracted from a matrimonial database I am working on as part of a Minnesota Polish vital records database project. The data is from Holy Cross Church, largest and oldest ethnically Polish church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The analyzed records are from August 23, 1886 through November 28, 1916, roughly twenty years of data. There were 1,452 matrimonial records for this time period.

Months for Weddings

The book Polish Roots, written by Rosemary Chorzempa (Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1993, page 117), contains a section on "Marriage Registers" and it states there was a pattern to when marriages took place. Quoting Chorzempa, "Most people (In Poland) were married in the winter months between October, (after the harvest) and February (before Lent). Exceptions were usually widows and widowers with small children."

Folk Lore Surrounding Which Month to Marry

The Internet has a variety of wedding related websites, many on wedding planning, with bits of wisdom and old "saws" or "adages" about when to marry. Sage advice on which month to choose is summarized by the following rhyme:

Married when the year is new (January), he'll be loving, kind and true,
When February birds do mate, You wed nor dread your fate.
If you wed when March winds blow, joy and sorrow both you'll know.
Marry in April when you can, Joy for Maiden and for Man.
Marry in the month of May, and you'll surely rue the day.
Marry when June roses grow, over land and sea you'll go.
Those who in July do wed, must labour for their daily bred.
Whoever wed in August be, many a change is sure to see.
Marry in September's shrine, your living will be rich and fine.
If in October you do marry, love will come but riches tarry.
If you wed in bleak November, only joys will come, remember.
When December snows fall fast, marry and true love will last.


Unpopular Months for Weddings

Website sources say: "May has been considered an unlucky month to marry in for a number of reasons. In Pagan times the start of summer was when the festival of Beltane was celebrated with outdoor orgies and was therefore thought to be an unsuitable time to start married life.

"May is considered as unlucky because it is the month in which the Romans celebrated the feast of the dead. The advice was taken more seriously in Victorian times than it is today. Queen Victoria is thought to have forbidden her children from marrying in May. In most churches the end of April was a busy time for weddings as couples wanted to avoid being married in May."

Table 1: Months for Polish Weddings, 1886-1916

Month Weddings in Percentage
   
January 149 10.3%
February 117 8.1%
March 7 0.5%
April 78 5.4%
May 184 12.7%
June 146 10.1%
July 127 8.7%
August 141 9.7%
September 156 10.7%
October 180 12.4%
November 167 11.5%
December 0 0.0%
Total 1,452 100%

"Marry in Lent, Live to Repent." Lent was thought an inappropriate time for a wedding as this was a time of abstinence. The pre-Christmas season of Advent was held in similar regard.

Popular Months for Weddings

More Internet wisdom includes the following: "June is considered a lucky month to marry in, as it was when the ancient Greeks and Romans honored Juno, the goddess of love and marriage. Summer as a whole was considered a good time to marry and this is partly to do with the sun's association with fertility. In Scotland one popular custom was for the bride to 'walk with the sun' to bring her good and she would walk from east to west on the south side of the church."

Months for Weddings at Holy Cross

In spite of the advice in the rhyme, May was the most popular month for weddings at Holy Cross. The autumn months of October, November and September were very popular.

Lent and Advent were church seasons to avoid. The data confirms this, recording no weddings for the month of December (Advent) and fewer weddings during months corresponding with the Lenten season (a shifting season), that is, March and April. The October to February cycle, as practiced in Poland and referred to in Chorzempa's book, gave way to primarily summer and autumn weddings at Holy Cross.

Selecting a Week Day for Weddings

Is there a Monday wedding in your future? From 60 plus years of recollection, most weddings I attended took place on Saturday. However, from what I read on the Internet, Saturdays were considered unlucky and Fridays were considered a bad choice.

Information on weekday selections for weddings was also gathered from various wedding websites. One stated "In early times for Christians, Sunday was the original day of choice for weddings, because it was not a work day. The Puritan revolution in England during the 17th century changed all that - because the Puritans thought it improper to be festive on the Sabbath. Saturday is the most popular day for wedding now."

Another Internet source states "The Victorians believed that it was lucky to marry on a day during the week that the groom was born. The luckiest day to marry was on the groom's actual birthday. And, oddly enough, Saturday was the unluckiest day of all for a wedding!"

There is an oft-repeated rhyme found on the Internet advising for the first days of the week and against the last half of the week.

Monday for wealth;
Tuesday for health;
Wednesday the best day of all;
Thursday for losses;
Friday for crosses;
Saturday for no luck at all.

So how does the Holy Cross data match up with this "old saying"? What a shock when I looked at the data, because it matches up very well! I double-checked the data against a perpetual calendar because I could not believe so many weddings happened on Mondays, and so few on Saturdays. Table 2, at left, outlines the statistical breakdown of the weekday selection for Polish weddings.

Table 2: Weekdays for Weddings, 1886-1916

Day Reasons cited
in the "old rhyme"
Number of Weddings
on this day
Wedding Percentage
on this day
Sunday   61 4.2%
Monday For wealth 782 53.9%
Tuesday For health 399 27.5%
Wednesday Best day of all 167 11.5%
Thursday For losses 25 1.7%
Friday For crosses 5 0.3%
Saturday No luck at all 13 0.9%
Total   1,452 100%

Summary

The October to February wedding cycle practiced in Poland, as referred to in Chorzempa's book, gave way to summer and autumn weddings at Holy Cross. May was the most popular month for Polish weddings 100 years ago, even though the old rhyme cautioned against May. The autumn months of October, November and September were close in popularity. Lent and Advent remained church seasons to avoid.

Apparently the "old rhyme" for weekday selection quoted above set the tone for weddings at the turn-of-thecentury Holy Cross Church. Monday (wealth), Tuesday (health), and Wednesday (best day of all) accounted for the majority (92.9%) of the weekdays selected.


by John L. Rys (john@john.rys.name)

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Last Updated on October 7, 2012