Dutch weddings: Getting married in the Netherlands
If you are planning to get married in the Netherlands, this guide explains the paperwork and processes for arranging a Dutch wedding.
If you're planning to get married in the Netherlands, you'll need to sort out the red tape in preparation for a wedding among the tulips. It can also be difficult to get legally married in the Netherlands if you don't have ties to the country, so it's important to check the requirements for a Dutch wedding, which are outlined below.
Getting married in the Netherlands
Only civil ceremonies are legally recognised in the Netherlands. After the civil ceremony at the registry office, couples often have a religious or secular ceremony as part of their celebration.
Both heterosexual and same-sex couples in the Netherlands can get married, be in a registered partnership, create a legally binding de facto agreement, or simply cohabit without any legal status.
In 2001, the Netherlands was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage. Both heterosexual and same-sex couples can get married (trouwen) or enter into a registered partnership (een geregistreerd partnerschap). In most cases, the procedures and ceremonies are identical for both heterosexual and same-sex couples, and for marriage and registered partnerships, so unless otherwise stated you can assume that the information below applies to all those circumstances.
All marriages must be registered with the Registrar of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Registered Partnerships. This includes marriages conducted abroad, so if you have a destination wedding be sure to visit the municipal authority on your return to register your changed state. If you get married in the Netherlands, the registration is automatic.
Dutch wedding traditions
The most notable of Dutch wedding traditions to have spread around the world is the bridal shower. Reportedly the tradition of throwing a bridal shower comes from historical Dutch wedding traditions, when if a father disapproved of a wedding and refused to pay the much-needed dowry, friends would instead gather gifts the bride would need in her married life and help prepare the wedding to go forward.
In traditional Dutch wedding traditions, pines or evergreens were associated with 'eternal love' and would sometimes be used in wedding or party decorations, typically with the couple sitting together under a canopy of leaves while guests wished them happiness.
Lily-of-the-valley plants also represented the 'return of happiness' and newly weds would sometimes plant them around the house as part of Dutch wedding traditions. The idea was that the couple could then celebrate and renew their love every blossom.
Today guests are typically involved in events before and after the wedding, including sometimes a short party before the wedding celebration with snacks and drinks. An old Dutch wedding tradition was to eat bruid suikas (traditional sweetmeat, known as 'bridal sugar') and drink spiced wine – sometimes called 'bridal tears' – at the bride's house; today these are just some foods of Dutch wedding traditions you'll see in ceremonies, alongside a number of other sweets and heavy dishes.
One of the more common Dutch wedding traditions is to put a 'wish tree' at the wedding ceremony, from where guests can hang short messages or wishes for the couple, instead of having a guest book.
Although today you won't see many clogs worn in the Netherlands, clogs do play a part in Dutch wedding traditions. One story says that young men once carved clogs to leave on the doorsteps of their chosen ladies, and if she wore them the next day it would signal an acceptance of the marriage proposal. In contemporary Dutch wedding traditions, some couples may wear clogs for the wedding day and later display them on the walls of their home with dried flowers.
Tulips and blue-and-white Delft pottery or colour scheme are common themes of Dutch wedding traditions, although modern Dutch wedding incorporate a great variety of colours and traditions.
You must give notice of your intention to marry (ondertrouw) at least 14 days before your ceremony. You give notice at the municipal authority where at least one spouse lives. It is strongly advised that you give notice one to three months in advance of the wedding, as the paperwork can take more than 14 days, particularly if one or both of you is not Dutch. Once notice has been given, it is valid for 12 months, after which you must reapply.
To get married in the Netherlands, at least one partner must be Dutch or resident in the Netherlands. Both must be over 18 and not already married or in a registered partnership. This is the case for both heterosexual and same-sex couples.
Marriage or registered partnership?
The process is nearly identical, but two main differences are:
- registered partnerships can be dissolved without going to court, as long as there are no minor children affected.
- one or the other might not be recognised and easily understood in your home country. As an example, Britain only has same-sex registered partnerships and heterosexual marriages, while France has same-sex and heterosexual marriages, but no registered partnerships.
Documentation for a Dutch civil ceremony
Expect to have to provide:
- ID (e.g. passport);
- birth certificate ('legalised' and translated, if from abroad – see below);
- proof of address (eg. rental agreement, recent bills);
- proof of nationality;
- proof of civil status (eg. a divorce or death certificate too, if you have been married previously).
A notarised translation is typically required for any documents not in Dutch. Foreign documents may have to be authorised with an Apostille stamp or equivalent, also known as 'Apostillisation' or 'legalisation'. The issuing authority stamps a document with an unique ID, indicating that it is a true and accurate copy to be recognised internationally.
Dutch wedding ceremonies
Dutch civil ceremonies take place at your local town hall, and accommodations vary. In some cases, it is possible to bring a few dozen guests or have a small reception for an additional fee; in others the space is limited.
You must have two to four witnesses, and they will need to bring ID. The ceremony will be in Dutch, so if you, your partner, or your witnesses are not fluent in that language, you should bring a translator. They do not typically need to be a certified professional, but should be competent.
Giving notice that you intend to marry is typically free of charge. There may be charges if additional documents are required. In some areas (including Amsterdam) free civil wedding/partnership ceremonies are offered at certain times, otherwise you may be required to pay a small fee.
The default in the Netherlands is that married couples own all property in common, including inheritance and previous property, and have joint liability for each others' debts. A prenuptial agreement, known as a marriage contract (huwelijkse voorwaarden) can be used to exclude certain properties from this state. It must be drawn up and witnessed by a notary.
Unmarried couples may already have a formal cohabitation agreement (samenlevingscontract), drawn up in a similar fashion. This is not an impediment to marriage. It is typically voided by marriage, and should be replaced by a marriage contract if you do not wish to follow the legal default.
Marrying a Dutch citizen does not automatically grant you Dutch citizenship. The usual application process applies but you are more likely to be granted citizenship. Read more about getting Dutch citizenship.
Couples keep their own names for official documents. However, they may use either name or hyphenate both surnames in informal settings. As an example, a passport must continue to read F Surname, while the mail box could read F Surname and J Spouse, F & J Surname-Spouse, F & J Spouse, or other variations. Combining the two surnames into a new one is not permitted.
This applies to both heterosexual and same-sex couples, whether they are married or in a registered partnership. A name change typically costs EUR 865.
If a child is born to a woman who is married to or in a registered partnership with a man, both are considered lawful parents of that child, even if he is not the biological father. If the couple is not married, are both men or both women, then the birth mother is automatically considered the lawful mother, but other parents must either claim and register their parenthood (biological father) or adopt the child (non-biological parents) to have any legal rights.
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Updated 2011, 2015.
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