Tying the knot in the Netherlands? This guide helps you plan a wedding, explaining the process and paperwork, as well as the special requirements for foreigners when it comes to getting married in the Netherlands.
If you’re planning on getting married in the Netherlands, you’ll need to sort out the red tape before you can say ‘I do’ among the tulips. This guide explains the conditions and what you need to arrange to ensure a smooth Dutch wedding.
Marriage or registered partnership?
In 2001, the Netherlands was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage. Both heterosexual and same-sex couples can get married (trouwen) in the Netherlands, or enter into a registered partnership (geregistreerd partnerschap).
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 involved.
- One or the other might not be recognized or easily understood in your home country.
A registered partnership can be turned into a legal marriage – but not the other way around.
Only civil ceremonies are legally binding in the Netherlands. After the civil ceremony at the registry office, couples often also have a religious or secular wedding. Please note that a religious ceremony can never take place before the civil wedding.
As for the celebrations, if you want to go all Dutch, see our article on five Dutch wedding traditions to incorporate on your big day.
In most cases, the procedures and ceremonies are identical for both heterosexual and same-sex Dutch marriages (as well as for marriage and registered partnerships). The information below generally applies to both.
All Dutch marriages must be registered with the Basisregistratie Personen (BRP). This includes marriages conducted abroad. If you have a destination wedding, visit the municipal authority on your return to register your new status. If you get married in the Netherlands, the registration is automatic. Dutch nationals abroad can register a marriage with the municipality of The Hague’s Foreign Documents Department.
Conditions for getting married in the Netherlands
To get married in the Netherlands, at least one partner must be Dutch or a resident of the Netherlands. Both must be over 18 and not already married or in a registered partnership. There is an exception in the law for women who are over 16 years of age and pregnant.
You must give notice of your intention to marry (ondertrouw) at least 14 days before your ceremony. Give notice at the municipal authority (gemeente) where at least one partner lives. Some municipalities allow couples to notify their intentions online.
However, give notice one to three months in advance of the wedding. 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. During the marriage registration process, you can choose on which date and in which municipality you wish to get married.
The immigration authority, the IND, checks your residence status. The foreigner’s police may also investigate to rule out a sham marriage. Such checks are common when a couple marries or registers a partnership with the aim of obtaining a residence permit.
Getting married in Amsterdam
The process of getting married in the Netherlands varies slightly between municipalities. There are some conditions for getting married in Amsterdam:
- At least one partner must be registered in Amsterdam in order to give notice of your marriage. The partner that lives in Amsterdam does this in the district where they live. If both partners are Dutch citizens living in the Netherlands, it is possible to register an intention to marry online.
- Applicants can get more information on the city’s information number 14 020, as well as make an appointment to register their marriage intention or seek advice.
To find the conditions for your area, check the website of your local gemeente.
The process of getting approval to marry in the Netherlands starts by making an appointment with the registrar (ambtenaar van de burgerlijke stand) in the municipality in which you wish to marry. The registrar tells you which documents you will need to show.
Paperwork may differ depending on the municipality. However, you can expect to provide:
- Identification (e.g., passport)
- Proof of nationality
- Birth certificate (legalized and translated, if from abroad)
- Proof of address (e.g., rental agreement, recent bills)
- Proof of civil status (e.g., a divorce or death certificate)
For those who have lived abroad, the Registrar of Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Registered Partnerships may ask for certain documents to create your civil status record. This includes proof that you are not in a marriage in another country. In such cases, you can apply for a certificate of unmarried status in your last place of residence.
A notarized translation is typically necessary for any documents not in Dutch. Foreign documents may also require authorization with an Apostille stamp. The issuing authority stamps a document with a unique ID, indicating that it is a true and accurate copy.
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 tight. It is also possible to hold the civil ceremony in a destination of your choice. That costs extra, however.
You must have two to four witnesses. Witnesses must bring ID. The ceremony is in Dutch; if you, your partner, or your witnesses aren’t fluent, bring a translator. They don’t need to be a certified professional, but should be competent.
Free wedding ceremonies are typically available on certain days or hours of the week. However, they only include a simple ceremony of a few minutes with no music and few guests.
For the civil ceremony, couples usually provide some personal details for the registrar to include in their speech, such as how the couple met or an endearing story. Otherwise, some registrars ask questions such as why you’re deciding to marry.
Dutch wedding costs
Giving notice that you intend to get married in the Netherlands is typically free of charge. There may be charges if additional documents are necessary.
In some areas, free civil partnership ceremonies are available at certain times. Otherwise, you must pay a fee that depends on the location and time of your Dutch wedding ceremony. Free Dutch weddings are available every Tuesday in all of Amsterdam’s city offices. These spots are in high demand, however; waiting lists can be months in length. The basic ceremony only covers the essential formalities in front of a maximum of 20 guests.
The Nationaal Trouwonderzoek reported that the average Dutch wedding costs €15,000. Money is the most popular wedding gift; interestingly, almost half of married couples admitted to counting it during the wedding night.
Prenuptial agreements in the Netherlands
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. In some cases, it is possible to exclude certain items, such as an inheritance; this is only possible with the testator. A prenuptial agreement or a marriage contract (huwelijkse voorwaarden) allows for couples to exclude certain properties from the marriage. A notary can help draw this document up for you.
Unmarried couples may already have a formal cohabitation agreement (samenlevingscontract), drawn up in a similar fashion. This is not an impediment to marriage. Marriage typically voids this. Instead, couples can draw up a marriage contract if you’d rather not follow the legal default.
Once married, it is the responsibility of the civil-law notary to register you in the matrimonial property register. You can check your details in the Dutch marriage property register online. The rules regarding prenuptial agreements will change in 2018, as new legislation has been passed.
Legal rights and consequences of Dutch marriage
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 how to get Dutch citizenship.
Couples must keep their own names for official documents, such as a Dutch driver’s license or passport. However, couples may use either name or hyphenate both surnames in informal settings. As an example, a passport must continue to read F Surname, while the mailbox can read F Surname and J Spouse, F & J Surname-Spouse, F & J Spouse, or other variations. Combining the two surnames into a new, official one is not possible.
This applies to both heterosexual and same-sex couples, whether they are married or in a registered partnership. A name change typically costs €865.
Once married or in a registered partnership, you will not be obligated to testify against your partner in a court case. The right to decline to give evidence also extends to members of your family and your partner’s family.
Right to inheritance and pensions
Married and registered partners are automatically each other’s heir, unless otherwise specified in a Dutch will. In the event of a death, the surviving partner may also be eligible to claim a survivor’s pension, depending on the pension provider.
If a child is born to a woman who is in partnership with a man, both are 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, and other parents must either claim and register their parenthood (for the biological father) or adopt the child (for non-biological parents) to have any legal rights.
In the event of the dissolution of a Dutch marriage, Dutch law can apply if one partner is still a resident in the Netherlands, although other factors can come into play such as where a child or main property is located. Read more in our guide to divorce in the Netherlands.
See the government guide to marriage, registered partnerships, and cohabitation agreements.