Expatica news

Mass wedding is a success

22 March 2007

BRUSSELS –  Wouter Van Bellingen “married” 626 couples on Wednesday evening from a stage set up on the Grote Markt in Sint-Niklaas. To be sure the “marriages” were purely symbolic, since only one couple was actually legally married by the black municipal official.

626 couples took or renewed their marriage vows during the event, which was a great success. Earlier this year several couples had refused to have their marriage ceremony conducted by Van Bellingen because he is black.

Some 692 couples originally signed up, but many could not make it because of the bad weather. After several speeches, Van Bellingen called on the couples to vow loyalty to each other. He set an example by giving his own wife a kiss.

Van Bellingen says the initiative was a success. “We turned a negative incident into something positive,” he said. “I never considered taking legal steps against the couples who refused to have me perform their marriage ceremony. On the contrary, my door is always open to them and I am willing to perform their marriages if they so desire.”

The event was not only a mass wedding, but also a multicultural feast. The organisers wanted to show that Flemings can be tolerant. The idea came from a group of Van Bellingen’s friends. “Six weeks ago we thought it might be a good idea to organise this, but we were overwhelmed by the responses,” says Tinne De Maeyer, one of the organisers.

Not only was there an enormous amount of interest from the media, but many organisations and retailers jumped on the bandwagon. Two local bakers baked an enormous wedding cake covering five square metres, enough for 750 people.

The event has made Van Bellingen more popular than ever. He did not yet want to answer the question of whether he might run for Parliament or Senate for the Spirit party.

[Copyright Expatica News 2007]

Subject: Belgian news