The Netherlands is now home to 75,000 expats, many of whom have partners and family in the country, and are settled for the long term. If you are an expat who is planning to get married to your partner, there are several practicalities that you will need to arrange – getting married in the Netherlands is different from the UK or the US.
Firstly at least one partner must be legally registered in the Netherlands – if you are living in Haarlem, they should be registered in the Haarlem district. Before you get married, you will need to give at least 14 days notice of your intention to marry (ondertrouw) at the Haarlem municipal authority (gemeente). When you make your appointment to give notice you will need to bring with you identification, proof of your nationality, your birth certificate and proof of address and civil status.
Wedding or civil partnership?
In the Netherlands, heterosexual and same-sex couples have the choice of entering into a registered partnership (geregistreerd partnerschap) or getting married (trouwen). The process is almost identical, however a registered partnership may not be legally identified in your home country. For both unions, only a civil ceremony is legally binding, although some couples have a religious ceremony afterwards. You cannot have a religious ceremony before the civil ceremony has taken place, and you will need to have between 2 and 4 witnesses at your ceremony.
Getting married in the Netherlands is generally cheaper than other countries – according to the Nationaal Trouwonderzoek, the average wedding costs €15,000. The cost of getting married at Haarlem City Hall is around €800. The Dutch tend not to have big, extravagent receptions, but instead will celebrate by having a meal with family and friends or a party at home. Hosting your wedding celebrations at home means you can have an intimate guest list and stick to a smaller budget. It also allows you to be more flexible on the date of your wedding.
Legal rights after marriage
If you get married in the Netherlands, you are not automatically granted Dutch citizenship, however, it may be easier to become an official citizen. In getting married, you will automatically become your partner’s heir, unless you have specified otherwise in a Dutch will. Once you are married, all properties and assets become equal joint property of both parties (including debt liability). You can however get a prenuptial agreement drawn up with a notary (huwelijkse voorwaarden) if you want any specific property excluded. Couples must keep their own names once they get married – you can use either name, or a hyphenated name informally, but all legal documents, such as a driving license, should be kept in your original name.
When you are getting married in the Netherlands, you need to make sure that you have the correct paperwork organised and that you have registered in time. You will then be able to have a beautiful celebration with family and friends.