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 the 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.
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. So if you want a church ceremony, to 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 within 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.
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. Some weddings even have more than one ceremoniemeester as the job can be quite extensive.
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.
This tradition is still in use, for example for people who are too sick to attend. However, it isn’t considered common at all. It used to be a more common practice in noble families where a power of attorney was then sent to the future bride. The groom was represented through a glove, which symbolised the transfer of certain rights.
Originally, the glove was placed on the altar as a sign of the presence and consent of the absent groom. It also happened frequently after WWII, as young men would emigrate to other countries to later be accompanied by their wife. 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 would arrive.
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).
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.
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.
It’s worth checking out the government website for more official updates about marriage in the Netherlands
What do you think of these Dutch wedding traditions? Tell us in the comments below!
Feature Image: Jeremy Wong Weddings/Unsplash
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in January 2018, but was fully updated in January 2021 for your reading pleasure.