A Bohemian (/bəʊˈhiːmɪən/) is a resident of the former Kingdom of Bohemia, either in a narrow sense as the region of Bohemia proper or in a wider meaning as the whole country, now known as the Czech Republic. The word “Bohemian” was used to denote the Czech people as well as the Czech language before the word “Czech” became prevalent in English. “Bohemian” may also denote “a socially unconventional person, especially one who is involved in the arts.” Wikipedia
On a Saturday, this June, we attended a wedding in El Campo, Texas. It was all out Bohemian and followed the traditions of a long line of Polish and Czech families. With over 1200 people on the guest list and close to 800 expected, we were advised to get to the church an hour early if we wanted to sit down; and, rightly so, I must admit. The service was full of scripture readings to encourage the Bride and Groom to live their lives for God, each other and family first. I was overwhelmed in nostalgia and thought about my own wedding almost a quarter of a century ago to a man of Bohemian descent.
Although we are no longer Catholic, I miss the ceremony and reverence that the sacrament of marriage entails when performed in the Catholic Church. The time frame for the couple to prepare is anywhere from a year to a minimum of six months and followed by a weekend called “Engaged Encounter”. It was tough for us and we almost didn’t make it past that weekend. The counselors reassured us that we would probably be one of the couples who would make it because we were so impacted by what they had to say. Here we stand today, not out of the danger zone, but recognizing that our marriage is not just about us. We were reminded of that immensely as we sat there watching a new generation begin their lives together.
Our marriages are or should be a ministry to others demonstrating sacrifice and commitment which can only come when you stand with God. Our young couple Saturday really seemed to grasp the meaning of marriage in the light of serving God by their commitment to one another. The ceremony was an hour and a half long. Some of the guest were complaining, but I relished it as I sat there and thought this is how it should be and got lost in my own memories of my wedding and how important our marriage is to God.
We attended with a couple who had never been to a Bohemian wedding so we explained that you start with the ceremony at church at around two or three o’clock, and then to a local hall for a reception, dinner and dance. Halls are usually built by organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, Elks, Masonic or Veterans of War and you can bet a close relative is a member of one or all of these . They are dark, sometimes with paneled walls lined with framed photos of their predecessors dating back to the early 1900’s, and you cannot hang anything on the walls. You get real creative and gussy up the place so that your guests will feel festive and the young couple will know how special this day is for all. Not realizing this is a time honored tradition that comes full circle within the community from church, family, friends and those who came as immigrants before them to this country, outsiders may think the hall venue is too informal, plain or even tacky. Knowing that the immigrants who settled the Bohemian communities, fought in wars, married, farmed and built these halls right where they lived so that they could enjoy a sense of community with their neighbors and peers, gives you a sense of how close knit and special it is to pass on these traditions. Plus, the hardwood floors have held up to generations dancing polkas, waltzes and two steps achieving a patina that could never be duplicated without years of wear and tear that only builds character.
Frankly, I am quite surprised at how nostalgic I am about this wedding. We haven’t attended a wedding on my husband’s side of the family for a few years and I guess I missed the point then or saw things differently when I was younger. We were honored to be invited to this wedding and I thought I would share some of the wedding decorations that adorned the hall with you. Most were handmade, including the woodwork, by the Groom’s talented mother, Mary Jean Skow, who paints, builds and organizes to the “T”. I won’t spoil the treasure hunt of telling you all the details; instead, I will let you find them on your own just like a good “I Spy” book. Please bear in mind that there were probably more than eight hundred people floating around so I had to snap these photos fast, and we all know, ‘ Ima not so gooda at the photography’…
AT THE FRONT DOOR
A SMALL SECTION OF THIRTY-TWO FEET OF THE “SWEETS” TABLE
NEAR THE POWDER ROOM
THERE WERE LOVELY VIGNETTES THROUGHOUT
ANOTHER VIGNETTE FOR PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES
GENERATIONS OF FAMILY WEDDING PHOTOS
FRUIT AND CHEESE – ALL FLORALS WERE FRESH FLOWERS AND GREENERY
THE GRAND MARCH IS WHERE ALL OF THE GUESTS JOIN THE BRIDE AND GROOM IN A SORT OF POLKA SHUFFLE AROUND THE HALL UNTIL FORMING AN ARCH AND THEN A CIRCLE AROUND THE BRIDE AND GROOM FOR THE FIRST DANCE. It’s all very organized and led by an experienced couple that can separate the men from women and come together again to form circles and arches.
MY FAMILY AFTER A TOAST WITH SWEET TEXAS TEA. Or, is it Texas Sweet Tea? By any name, it’s a big deal here and has to be just right to get the full name because otherwise, “it ain’t fit to drink.” (There are many things I could point out about this photo besides sweet tea…who is that girl lurking over my youngest’s shoulder?)
I hope you get some really fabulous wedding ideas. Thank you for allowing me to share our day with you.
The Irish Lady (married to a Bohemian)