Dutch Wedding

Planning a Dutch Wedding: One Big Adventure

By a miracle some foreign brides find themselves a romantic Dutch man (yes, romance + Dutch are in the same sentence!). Knowing having a wedding in the Netherlands could have some shortfalls like dry cake with marzipan or fondant, high chance of rain on your wedding day or worse wedding guest that would think wearing jeans are okay.  Many agree to a Dutch wedding as a point to prove that their life is now in the Netherlands and also their social network is in the Netherlands. But never fear, the stress of planning a wedding is sponsored by Dutch culture. So for those who can handle humor.

Let’s explore the many adventures of planning a Dutch wedding.

Judgment Day-Dutch Style

When expat bride to be returned to work as an engaged woman, she found herself at the coffee machine and soon being questioned by a part time female colleague who she tried to avoid anyhow. “I didn’t know you had kids” said the colleague. Expat looked at her with confusion “I don’t”. The colleague responded “oh I thought I heard you were getting married.” “I am, but I don’t have kids and what does that have to do with it?” expat asked. The colleague grabbed her coffee “well you must be pregnant than, I mean why else would you get married?” she said seriously. Bride to be looked at her with a look of shock, however not very surprised. Bride to be could already feel the colleague would be getting something off her chest. “ I am not pregnant and yes thanks for wishing me well,” bride to be replied. Colleague continued “Well you are bit religious so maybe getting married makes sense.”

For the record, expat bride to be is not religious, but perhaps traditional. In addition, expat bride to be is open to all life choices marriage or not. It was too early in the morning to argue with colleague so bride to be smiled and let her continue. “ You know expat bride to be, in Holland you can easily live together, have children, have a samenlevings contract, buy a house together and not be married, it is okay here. I mean who wants to waste money on a wedding when you can do the whole thing without some ridiculous expensive party and some religious element. It is the Dutch way, only foreign people and people from Limburgh do the marriage thing,” colleague explained proudly. Bride to be responded with a smile  “ well thanks again for your most useful yet ridiculous insight.” Bride to be quickly walked away.


By 10am, bride to be received an email from her manager. Naturally, the company wanted to know what day bride to be would have her wedding. Whilst the email was a nice congratulations, it was clear there was a hidden meaning. After all, manager wanted to first know when the company would have to unfortunately give her the 2 paid non-vacation days of bijzonder verlof. More importantly, seemed to be expecting an invite. In the meantime, manager openly expressed their thoughts that bride to be would be getting married which potentially means soon she will have a baby and then work only part time, but manager kept a fake smile on and continued to congratulate

That day at lunch, bride to be decided she would get started with planning and phoned some dress shops to make an appointment. Luckily, her Dutch skills meant she could make those calls in Dutch. A nice lady picked up and bride to be was entering yet again a similar conversation.

“Okay so your children will be the flower girl?” asked the dress lady. Bride to be rolled her eyes “I have no children,” she replied. “ Oh forgive me, normally people who marry already have children. So you two have lived together for what 8 or 10 years?” dress lady continued.  Bride to be responded “No, two years. I know for the Dutch that is like the timeline for a first date, but we have a different cultural background.” Bride to be could hear a pin dropping in the lady’s head. Dress lady replied “Oh right, I get it now, you are foreign that’s why you are already getting married…..”

For the next few weeks, expat bride to be would hear the same thing over and over. In addition, the constant justification that getting married does not mean babies are on the horizon has nearly pushed expat bride to carry around proof of her birth control.


Bureaucracy at its best

Anyone who has married a Dutchie, knows you get an extra step of paperwork. You must first go, fill out a form and then wait 6 weeks for the government to approve that the Dutchie can marry a non- Dutchie. Only once this is done than you can do the ondertrouw and then the marriage. So bride to be decided to go to the wonderful local Gemeente to get that done, they said on the phone it would be quick. At the appointment, everyone sat down and the happy Gemeente medewerker started doing her thing. She smiled at the happy engaged couple and said bride to be is all fine in the system and then worked on fiance’s details and then came back with a sentence starting with helaas. First rule at the Gemeente is if you hear a helaas that you should probably run for the hills and panic.

“ Well, I hope you both haven’t planned your wedding date yet.” She said with a smile and in fact the engaged couple had. “It seems you foreigner who have lived here for 5 years and who is okay at Dutch are all good to go, but your Dutch fiancé is not. He has a Dutch passport, has lived here for 26 years, all information is  in the system, taxes paid, perfect citizen, but the system is missing a copy of his birth certificate, therefore we can’t proceed.” Fiancé looked confused, she continued “of course I see where and when you were born, but I don’t have a copy of your birth certificate, so no wedding forms for you.” The couple tried to contemplate this.


Dutch fiancé who wasn’t born in Holland (okay maybe that explains why he is romantic) responded “so let me get this straight, I have lived here since I was 4 years old, have a Dutch mother, have a Dutch passport and renewed it several times, but I can’t get married because you do not have a pdf file of my birth certificate of which all the details are there are already in the system?”. She smiled like delivering such news was the best task of her day “exactly” she points to expat and smiles “but she is good to go so she can submit the forms to marry another Dutch person today.” She was clearly making a joke, but ill timed. Expat rolled her eyes and decided to jump in.

“Okay so you can get a Dutch passport without your birth certificate, but you can’t get married? Call me crazy, shouldn’t it be harder to get a passport than to get married?!! In expat’s head she was thinking this is the worst policy for national security. After all, expat watches Homeland, fighting the war on terrorist should be first with passports not marriage papers.  The medewerker began to see expat’s frustration and probably felt her daggering looks of being pissed off.

After that appointment expat was beginning to think a shotgun Elvis Vegas wedding was the best idea.

Writing wedding Invitations, no amount of alcohol will help

Bride to be was no stranger to witnessing jeans at weddings or girls wearing white who are not the bride. Out of determination that she would not give the foreign guest a heart attack by witnessing such atrocities, expat knew writing dress code on the invitation would be a must. However, somehow in her last 5 years, expat had forgotten that the term dress code doesn’t exist in the Dutch vocabulary. Writing semi-formal would simply not be understood and would risk guests showing up in only nice jeans and maybe a new pair of shoes. It took hours to think of the right writing. She is still hoping it is understood. Dress codes are not the only headache. Date and time is one that could send you straight to vliegtickets.nl for that flight ticket to Vegas. To her astonishment, people actually gave input on her wedding date and time as they really want to save one of their many holiday hours of the year. An average full-time worker receives 27 days holiday per year, heaven forbid one of those days (not even a whole day) would be dedicated to close friends to celebrate their joyous union.

No country is perfect

No country does it right. Let’s just say planning a wedding in the Netherlands is a daily delight filled with Dutch directness and it wouldn’t be expected any other way. How else would stressful wedding planning be filled with so many laughs and eye rolling? With searching you can find non-judgmental dress makers, nice Gemeente medewerkers and great locations. By luck, it seems to all be found in Haarlem.


Libby Horwitz
3 replies
  1. thankyou verrrymuch
    thankyou verrrymuch says:

    Bit of a shame that there were so many distracting English grammatical errors and awkward writing style in the post. Some interesting points in the article were buried under these, like the birth certificate issue. I actually prefer the non religious, casual attitude of the dutch weddings. On the other hand, never have been a fan of big weddings especially with associated Bridezillas who think you need to spend too much time, effort and money to cater to their idea of a fairytale wedding. I did marry my dutchie in Vegas with my kid and Elvis as witness and don’t regret it one bit.

  2. Laura
    Laura says:

    I’m also planning to get married with a Dutch in the summer. After 10 years I will laugh about it, but not now…

    Our wedding will be held at the end og July in buitenland where I come from. We informed our guests already at the end of October about the date and place, so that everyone can already mark the date in their agendas while our invitations are printed and sent.
    One of our guests was disapointed, because the date is in the middle of school holidays. I asked if they have already planned something. Then she explained that it’s not so easy. They have 6 weeks vacation. The first two they just spend at home and relax. Then they go by car to France. Before you know it, it’s already end of week 4, so it’s time to go home where they relax and enjoy the last two weeks. So how could I ever think that they can find 2 days for our wedding?
    Then there are some guests with fears from using public toilets, smetvrees, flying (going by their Land Rover isn’t an option, because it’s 500km further that their French holiday destination) etc. My boyfriends parents have ruzie with some aunts, so these aunts+uncles aren’t comming to our wedding despite we don’t have any conflicts with them (at least not that we know) and it’s us who is getting married not the parents.
    And so on… So I’m glad that we are getting married in another country with different social norms.

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