If you are planning a wedding in Belgium, here are a few tips from paperwork to wedding planning.
Are you an expat in Belgium? Do you have plans to get married or are you engaged? If you can answer these three questions with ‘yes’, then here are some tips for an unforgettable wedding in Belgium. Congratulations on your proposed marriage!
As soon as you have informed your friends and family about your engagement, you can start thinking about what to do and how to start organising your wedding. The wedding process can be difficult, especially for an expat as there are certain procedures that must be followed before a wedding can take place.
From the experience of a staff that comprises some seven different nationalities, Pure Wedding has 12 tips to help your dream Belgian wedding go as smooth as possible.
How to organise a wedding in Belgium
Step 1: Make an appointment at the Town Hall for the intention to marry
The intention to marry (notice of engagement) must be made at the local municipality (gemeente) or town hall (maison communale/gemeentehuis) of the district of residence where one member of the couple lives. This office will be part of the Service de I’Etat Civil/de Burgerlijke Stand and can be found in the municipal buildings of the town hall. This is the notice of marriage and must be done no less than two weeks and no more than six months before the wedding (mariage/huwelijk) is planned to take place.
The municipal office issues a brochure detailing the documents needed. These may vary depending on nationality, previous marriages and residence status in Belgium. It is advisable to have documents ready at the time of announcing the intention to marry.
Step 2: Bring the required documents for both partners to city hall
Original or certified copies (not photocopies) of the following documents may be required:
- Birth certificates for both parties
- Proof of identity
- Proof of nationality
- Certificate of residence, showing full name, place and date of birth, last legal residence, nationality and marital status for both parties. A person who is not a Belgian resident must obtain their certificate from the authorities in their last place of residence. If this is not possible (the US authorities do not issue such documents, for example) then ask the local Belgian authorities what they will accept instead.
- If either party has previously been married (in a heterosexual or same-sex marriage) they must provide a copy of the final divorce decree (or death certificate of the former spouse if widowed). Any divorce decree must show the date on which the divorce became final. If not, the court that pronounced the divorce must provide a statement giving this additional information.
- Once the documents have been delivered, the relevant registrar in Belgium draws up the official copy of the marriage notice form (acte de déclaration de marriage/akte van aangifte van het huwelijk).
Step 3: Start planning the wedding
As of this point and until the validation of the intention to marry, you can start planning your wedding by visiting the venues and churches, choosing the wedding date, ordering your wedding dress, and booking a photographer or a wedding planner.
Once you have chosen your wedding date and booked the venue, save the date cards are an elegant way to request that your guests reserve your wedding date, or try online options, such as emailing a reminder or invite.
Planning a Belgian wedding
1. Search and book the venue(s) and accommodation(s)
Because many venues and accommodations are booked one year before a wedding we suggest you start searching and book the venue(s) one year ahead. If your wedding date is flexible you can avoid the peak season, which is May to September. The low season is October to February. Many venues offer special reduced prices during the low season.
2. Fix the date
You might choose a popular wedding date, like ’01-05-15′ or ’15-05-15′. The benefit is that it is easy to remember. But the disadvantage is that many suppliers double their prices. Choose your wedding date based on your special times: like the date you met or your first date.
3. Arrange the papers (legal issues)
Before you begin the process of registering your marriage, there is required documentation. If you or your future spouse is not Belgian, nor an EU or EEA citizen, or in possession of a valid Belgian residency card, you must first contact the foreign police (Vreemdelingdienst) and request a declaration (M46), so that they do not object to the marriage. There are several other documents you will need: a valid passport, your residence visa, attested birth certificates (if not from Belgium), proof that you are single, and witness forms.
4. Arrange for the dress
The wedding dress is the most important item for the bride-to-be. To make sure that your dream wedding dress is designed, made and delivered on time, you need to order the dress at least six months before the wedding date.
5. Choose your ‘wedding staff’
One of the Belgian wedding traditions is the ‘ceremony master’. A friend or family member usually performs the ceremony master duties. He or she has many tasks to complete and this position can require many hours of planning and coordination with the couple to be married.
However, if you don’t plan on having a ‘ceremony master’, you can hire a wedding planner. This person will assist you with many issues during the planning. The best time to hire a wedding planner is as soon as you know you want to be married.
To ensure that your international guests will be present at your wedding in Belgium, it’s advised to send them the save the date cards as soon as you have fixed the date and booked the venue. The wedding cards and RSVPs can be sent two months before the wedding.
7. Arrange the wedding suppliers
Start searching and book the photographers, videographers, entertainment, caterers, flowers, transport, wedding cake and rings at least eight months before the wedding.
8. Personalise your wedding
The most unforgettable weddings are weddings that are filled with personal details: themes, traditions, music, decoration and food. These details will make your wedding more personal and more exclusively you.
9. Embrace your heritage
When living as an expat in Belgium, no one needs to tell you that your wedding will be more personal when you embrace your own traditions. However, it is great to let your international guests make acquaintance with the Belgian traditions or lifestyle. For example: serve Belgian food or drink or rent an American school bus for a sightseeing tour in Brussels.