Here are some odd Dutch wedding traditions when getting married in the Netherlands

Grab something old, Dutch, and blue 👰🏻‍♂️

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 man… isn’t really the best 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.

You can still get married if only one of you is present

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.

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.

However, before they got married, the man travelled to his new home country to get a job. This was so he could provide for his future wife when she arrived.

You’ll need something old, something new, something Dutch, and 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-in-the-Netherlands
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.

Once a marriage ends, the rules are different

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-couple-gettng-married-in-Netherlands
Since 2001, it has been legal for gay couples to get married in the Netherlands. 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.

READ MORE | Divorces in the Netherlands: all you need to know

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!

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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15 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… 🤦🏻‍♀️

    • The Netherlands was called Holland well before the Netherlands, so not sure why so many get upset. I also find it interesting that is topic is on marriage and that is what you chose to pick at. Hmm

      • Nope. Long time ago we used to be a union of The Seven Provinces. One of these was Holland. Ages later, we called it De Nederlanden (the Low Lands) and even later Nederland (Lowland). Holland is nowerdays split up in a North and South part. A lot of the provinces were divided after Belgium got separated (there is a North-Brabant in The Netherlands, and Brabant in Belgium. Just Like Limburg & Belgisch-Limburg.

        Besides North & South Holland, there are 10 other provinces like Friesland, Zeeland, Groningen, Flevoland (last one is as also our youngest province, and exists of reclamed land only).

  4. No mention of the party afterwards, which has great traditions of performances/tricks by wedding guests.
    what makes the weddings really stand out. And the registry office is the real wedding. You can go to church for a blessing afterwards.

  5. Good morning,yes I was born in the Netherlands 84 years ago and live in the USA but when you say Netherlands they will ask you mean Holland right and then I explain about North and South Holland are 2 provinces but the Country itself is the Netherlands.
    It’s confusing to some people.
    .

  6. And what about: getting the key of the house and create some jokes for when the couple comes back for their ??? First??? brides-night’?

  7. The best man is hier de getuige van de bruid en getuige van de bruidegom, zeker niet de ceremoniemeester.

    You’ll need something old, something new, something Dutch, and something blue… wat een onzin.. dat hebben we hier helemaal niet

    Heel wat bruiloften meegemaakt maar aan het eind meestal een leuk presentje ipv bruidsuikers.

  8. Why should ones country tradions or rules be “odd”. I have seen many more “odd” tradions worldwide and specigically in the US and therefore the so called Hollywood movies. Have a serious look at your own habits, rules and traditions and respect some elses.

  9. Best man and bridesmaids are not like in America. We have children under 8 as bridesmaids and boys.
    We do give ” thank you gifts” for celebrating with us. Sugarbeans are gifted when you vidit the new baby.
    A legal marriage first and church marriage after, on the same day. You have to announce your wedding 6 weeks in advance ( ondertrouw).
    A weddingplanner is not common. I planned with mil. Asking my husband to be what he liked. My mum was only consulted if I could not avoid it. Bought my weddingdress by myself. Took both mums at my second fitting.
    But not manny get married anymore. If they do they have children already. And then these extravaganza weddings. Its all abouth see what I can do. Instead of starting a life together. And I think thats going on in every country.

  10. I miss the “het bruidspaar uitzwaaien”, where everyone at the party sends away the happy couple (with a lot of waving good bye, cheering and singing) to get on with the party without them.

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