Planning your Dutch dream wedding
An expat bride and groom-to-be share their celebration secrets. Marisa Lowenstein writes.
Successfully charmed by the romance of Amsterdam’s canals and old-world architecture, English Nicole Kuys and American Brett Magun have decided to host their most important day in the Netherlands’ enchanting capital.
As Kuys and Magun discussed their fantasy wedding, they quickly learned that many Dutch couples view marriage with a degree of indifference, placing more emphasis on buying a house together or having a child.
Initial research however proved this fact to work in their favour. Encouraged by reasonable fees the international couple jumped into the planning of a magical wedding.
Now two months from the date, they are expat experts – overflowing with advise on masterminding the ultimate nuptial celebration in your Dutch home away from home.
You’re thinking flowers, first dances and cake cutting, but there are several pre-party steps that you must take to be legally betrothed in the Netherlands. The process can involve intensive paperwork and is generally an all around inconvenient experience. Having recently completed the arduous process Kuys suggests, “taking care of the legal marriage in your home country and having the party in Amsterdam.” If this is not an option for you, the Burgerzaken van de Dienst Binnenstad should be the first stop on your list. Here you will be able to ask all of your burning questions (how do we? when should we? where will we? can we?).
Pick up the extremely useful Huwelijksdata Gids or Marriage Guide — which lists lots of vendors in addition to practical information — while visiting. The Burgerzaken is located in Amsterdam at Amstel 1. You can also attempt to obtain information by phone 020-5524275 (English will be spoken) between the very specific hours of 10-11 and 2pm-3pm hrs or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck!
The budget has been established, the date has been chosen, and the guest list has been finalised (and finalised again) – now it’s time to plan a party!
Choosing a home for your celebration is the first step to making it happen. Hotels are the obvious choice for marriages in Amsterdam, as most have banquet rooms that can be rented out for the affair. Kuys and Magun recommend booking your venue at least a year in advance as the height of Amsterdam’s tourist season is also prime wedding season (May- September).
And while many hotels may be intimidating in their opulence, their prices are often surprisingly affordable. Don’t let financial constraints stop you from exploring the venue of your dreams. The Golden Tulip Doelen, The Grand Sofitel Demeure and Bilderberg Garden Hotel/Mangerie de Kersentuinare are a few top choices.
Things to consider:
- The Dutch do not walk down an aisle. As Prince Willem-Alexander and his new Princess Maxima demonstrated on 2/2/02, the bride and groom sit side-by-side facing the official who is seated behind a desk. If an aisle is what you desire, you will have to explain it in detail to your venue.
- Hiring a master of ceremonies (party planner) to guide guests to their tables, ensure the timely arrival of the cake and other important party details may be the key to a glitch-free celebration. Check out bridal magazines Trouwen and Bruid and Bruidegom – they’re brimming with adds for everything wedding – including the planner.
The Dutch have a very different idea of party food. Bride-to-be Nicole warns, “if you’re not careful you can end up with nothing more than nuts and salty biscuits”. Take an active role in your food selection by reviewing the hotel’s list of available menus and requesting a food tasting. Whether you prefer a buffet or sit-down dinner, most hotels (when prompted) will work with you to create an elegant dining experience.
- Compare the hotel’s wine and champagne cost with bringing in your own. Even with the hotel’s uncorking fee, taking the time to bring in your own may save significant Euros.
- Hint: For a wedding cake that tastes as good as it looks check out one of the Arnold Cornelis bakery locations: Van Baerlestraat 93, Elandstraat 78, or 1e Const. Huygen straat 88.
Finding flowers isn’t the challenge in the Netherlands – it’s finding the right flowers at the best price. Navigating the floral sea of Amsterdam can be tricky but Kuys recommends avoiding the expensive florists in the central part of town and heading a bit farther to Old West. Questions are the key to a successful floral experience so be sure to ask a lot of them. Not all florists work with weddings and some that claim to have matrimonial experience deliver standard, uninteresting bouquets. If you’re hoping for something more creative take a few days to check out various florists around town noting those which catch your eye. De Roos 020 616 86 85 has a good reputation.
Keep in mind:
- Tulips are not in season all year long. March and April are prime tulip months. Anytime after that your selection will be severely limited.
- Many Dutch vendors do not require deposits and they often work without creating formal contracts. If this is just too casual for your taste, insist on drawing up a general contract – it should be no problem.
The quickest method of locating music for your wedding is also the most deceptive. The a-z listings are your ultimate resource for music outlets but the word “band” does not exist in Dutch. Tricky! Look under “Artiesten” and be sure to listen to your “band” at least once before committing to them. Struggling? Check out Music a la Carte 020 427 42 83.
You’re getting married in Amsterdam – don’t forget a minute of it. Photographers and videographers are plentiful in the Netherlands and can be found in the a-z listings (under “Fotograaf” and “Videoreportages”) and in numerous advertisements featured the bridal magazines.
- Don’t Forget to ask your photographer several key questions:
- When will we receive the negatives from our photos? (some photographers can wait as long as two years before returning negatives)
- Will you make a photo album for us? Will we be able to choose photos for it?
The most important aspect of your wedding will cost you nothing. Enjoy yourself! This is the biggest day of your life – stop planning and start celebrating. Congratulations!
All names, locations, and notes refer to sources in Amsterdam. If you plan to get married in a different city in the Netherlands, see your local town hall (Stadhuis) for more information or call 017 244 66 52 for details on obtaining the Huwelijksdata Gids (Marriage Guide) for your area.
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