Odd Dutch wedding traditions when getting married in the Netherlands

If you thought that a Dutch wedding was quite the same as in a Hollywood movie — well, you’re wrong. 

If you’re planning on having a wedding in the Netherlands, or just love finding out these fun Dutch quirks, here are some great Dutch wedding traditions for you!

You need to get married before your wedding (yep)

After a wedding in the Netherlands that is traditional? If you are thinking of having a traditional church ceremony, be aware you need to abide by the civil marriage rules first. Without a civil marriage, you will not be allowed to marry at a church.

couple-walking-down-the-aisle-at-a-wedding-in-the-netherlands
Getting married in the Netherlands comes with lots of different quirks. Image: Depositphotos

The Dutch Civil Code (Burgelijk Wetboek) and the Criminal Code Act (Wetboek van Strafrecht) state that it is illegal to execute a sacramental marriage without a prior civil marriage.

READ MORE | The Coolest Places to Have Your Wedding In the Netherlands

If you want a church ceremony, go to your local city hall first to find out what paperwork you need before you are legally allowed to do so.

The best (wo)man

The tradition of the best man is not common in a marriage in the Netherlands. At least not as we know the best man from Hollywood movies. The best man is best compared to the Dutch ceremoniemeester (master of ceremonies). This is sometimes best described as the free-wedding-planner-friend.

best-man-speech-at-a-wedding-in-the-netherlands
The traditional best man looks a little different at a Dutch wedding. Image: Unsplash

The ceremoniemeester plans the day, together with the bride and groom. They make sure that on the day everything will go as planned as much as possible, from the itinerary to the decorations to the scathes and speeches.

READ MORE | So you’re getting married in Netherlands

Some weddings even have more than one ceremoniemeester as the job can be quite extensive.

Runaway bride?!

Has your future partner not bothered to show up to the big day? Don’t panic. You can still get married! If, for some reason one of the partners can’t attend the wedding, a marriage can still legally be executed.

wedding dress on a hanger
If the bride can’t be present at the wedding, you can still get marred. Image: Unsplash

This is what we call “marriage by proxy” or, more popularly “marrying with the glove.” This means that you will marry a stand-in instead, as if this was your future partner.

In the past, it was common practice in noble families to use a glove which symbolised the transfer of certain rights as a stand-in for the groom. The glove was placed on the altar as a sign of the presence and consent of the groom.

This also happened frequently after WWII, as young men would emigrate to other countries to later be accompanied by their wives.

Before they would get married, however, the man would travel to the new home country to get a job first. This is so he was able to provide for his future wife when she arrived.

Something old, something new, something Dutch, something blue

A long term tradition in Holland has been to hand out “bridal sugar” to the wedding guests. At the end of the night, there used to be little pouches with exactly five pieces of sugar-coated almonds. (Or sugar-coated rocks as we used to call them).

bride-in-a-limousine-on-her-way-to-the-wedding
The Dutch have some different variations on common traditions. Image: Unsplash

The five sweets represented happiness, love, fidelity, prosperity and fertility. So if you want to gift your guests something typically Dutch to thank them for attending your wedding, you could think about going the coated almond way.

New marriage rules

After 180 years of having the same common law rules, in 2018, the Dutch government deemed it time to modernise the rules. Now they’re a bit more complex.

gay-ciuple-gettng-married
Since 2001, it has been legal for gay couples to get married. Image: Unsplash

For almost two centuries, it was standard to combine both sets of assets, the bride and the groom’s, from the day of the wedding onwards. In case of a divorce, the estate was to be split 50/50, unless the husband and wife had prenuptial agreements.

Now, the husband and wife will keep all their own assets in case the marriage fails. You do, however, have to prove what is yours, so it is advised to see a notary before the big day and keep a record of certain big purchases or gifts throughout the marriage.


What do you think of these Dutch wedding traditions? Tell us in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in January 2018, but was fully updated in November 2022 for your reading pleasure. 

Feature Image:Unsplash
Janneke Hazelaar
Janneke Hazelaar
Janneke is a true digital nomad, business owner, translator and writer. Born and raised in the Netherlands, calling Rotterdam home. She has a master’s degree in Law and specialises in legal translations. She tries to have a location free life as much as possible which has lead her to Perth, Western Australia (for now).

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Janneke,

    I am eager to know about Dutch wedding. Do people tend to celebrate them abroad, for example, in Spain? Is there such an interest? Or do people mainly prefer having their celebration at their home country?

    Thank you and very highly appreciated you response!

  2. It was tradition to plant two pine trees, one on either side of the door where the newly weds were to live. this was usually planted by friends representing each side of the new family. Once they took occupancy the bride and groom would plant lily of the valley all around the house representing love and abundance.

  3. A long term tradition in ‘Holland’? It’s one thing when foreigners refer to the Netherlands as Holland but when it’s by someone ‘Born and raised in the Netherlands’ it just becomes embarrassing… 🤦🏻‍♀️

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