Tying the knot in the Netherlands? This guide helps you plan a Dutch wedding, explaining the process and paperwork, and the special requirements for foreigners.
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 provided by GMW Lawyers 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 recognised 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 recognised in the Netherlands. After the civil ceremony at the registry office, couples often have a religious or secular Dutch wedding as part of their celebration. 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), so unless otherwise stated, the information generally applies to both.
All Dutch marriages must be registered with the Basisregistratie Personen (BRP). This includes marriages conducted abroad, so if you have a destination wedding be sure to visit the municipal authority on your return to officialise 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. You give notice at the municipal authority (gemeente) where at least one partner lives. As of July 2016 it is possible to give notice of your intention to marry online in some municipalities.
However, 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. 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, will check your residence status and the foreigner’s police may investigate to rule out a sham marriage and ensure the relationship is genuine; such checks are typically carried out when a couple intends to marry or register a partnership with the aim of obtaining a Dutch residence permit.
Getting married in Amsterdam
The process of getting married in the Netherlands varies slightly between municipalities, but below outlines some conditions for getting married in Amsterdam as an example:
- At least one partner must be registered in Amsterdam in order to give notice of your marriage, which must be done 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 (or enter into partnership). The registrar will tell you which documents you will need to show.
Paperwork may differ depending on the municipality, however, you can expect to be required to provide:
- ID (eg. passport)
- Birth certificate (‘legalised’ and translated, if from abroad); this requirement has been removed for applicants whose details can be found in the Dutch population register.
- Proof of address (eg. rental agreement, recent bills)
- Proof of nationality
- Proof of civil status (eg. a divorce or death certificate, if you have been married previously).
For those who have lived abroad, the Registrar of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Registered Partnerships may ask for certain documents they need to create your civil status record, for example, proof that you are not in a marriage or registered partnership in another country. In such cases, you can apply for a certificate of unmarried status in your last place of residence.
A notarised translation is typically required for any documents not in Dutch. Foreign documents may also have to be authorised with an Apostille stamp. The issuing authority stamps a document with a 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. It can be arranged to hold the civil ceremony in a destination of your choice outside of the civil-appointed buildings, although that will cost extra.
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).
Free wedding ceremonies are typically offered on certain days or hours of the week, although they usually only include a simplified ceremony of a few minutes, no music and limited guests.
For the civil ceremony, couples usually are required to 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 like to ask questions such as ‘why did you decide to marry?’.
Dutch wedding costs
Giving notice that you intend to get married in the Netherlands is typically free of charge, although there may be charges if additional documents are required.
In some areas, free civil wedding/partnership ceremonies are offered at certain times, otherwise you will be required to pay a fee which depends on the location and time of your Dutch wedding ceremony. As of 1 January 2017, free Dutch weddings are offered every Tuesday in all of Amsterdam’s city offices, although such spots are in high demand and waiting lists can be up to six months long. 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 EUR 15,000, with money being the most popular wedding gift (and, perhaps interestingly, almost half 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 or bequested property, but this can only be done by the testator. A prenuptial agreement, known as a marriage contract (huwelijkse voorwaarden), can be used to exclude certain properties from the marriage. 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.
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 licence 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 mail box 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 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.
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 spouse or registered 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 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, 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 co-habitation agreement.