This article was first published in Iamgreek.nl
You can find this article in Greek here
Until the day I got married in the Netherlands I couldn’t imagine how complicated and time-consuming is the procedure of a Dutch civil marriage! I don’t know if Dutch people consider it difficult every time they decide to get married and to deal with the bureaucracy of their municipalities.
For an immigrant who doesn’t speak Dutch the whole procedure is similar to a small marathon. Today I will share with you a big part of my personal wedding experience and let’s hope that your civil marriage it’s going to be organized in an easier and faster way! I wish you in advance good luck with everything. Stay calm and patient. All the best for you and your partner!
Why to get married in the Netherlands
The reasons could be many and different for each one of us. Me and my partner chose to get married in the city we migrated (Rotterdam) because (a) we wanted to celebrate our marriage with our new friends in the Netherlands (of course everyone from Greece who wanted to join us was more than welcome), (b) we didn’t want to invite our – as usual – big Greek families in a marriage ceremony which lasted 20 minutes, (c) we didn’t want to make our lives complicated because of the Greek bureaucracy (now we know that Dutch bureaucracy is equally hard with the Greek one), (d) we had more options regarding the day and the hour that we could get married.
Many people will probably think that a civil marriage in Greece is a better, easier and more practical solution, than a civil marriage in a foreign country. I don’t say that this idea is wrong and that things are not like that. However, I don’t regret the fact that I got married abroad. No matter what we say civil marriage in countries like the Netherlands is an organized statute since it is the only valid form of marriage (religious weddings are not legally recognized here) so it is considered as an important event and intended spouses energetically participate in the configuration of the ceremony. Just keep your positive spirit and you can have the wedding ceremony of your dreams instead of a typical common civil marriage.
What certificates do the intended spouses need to bring to a municipality
– Birth certificate translated to English or Dutch
– Certificate of civil status in English or Dutch (if one or both of the intended spouses were previously married, otherwise it is not necessary)
-Proof of registration in a Dutch municipality. You can order it electronically and it will be sent to your place. It costs a few euros.
-Certificate of previous marriage/s and divorce papers translated to Dutch or English (if one or both of the intended spouses were previously married)
-The “Brussels II” document translated to Dutch or English that you can take from the court of the first instance that is located in the city you used to stay in Greece (if one or both of the intended spouses were previously married)
-Copies of identity card or passport
-Copies of the identity cards or the passports of people you chose as witnesses
Important note: At the time period we got married every certificate that we brought in the local municipality had to be stamped with Apostille stamp in order our papers to be considered as true and valid. Some months later we were informed that because of a new law Apostille stamp was not anymore necessary for confirmation of certificates from Greece to other countries. Nowadays probably a translation is more than enough for important certificates that you will bring to a Dutch municipality. However, since my experiences from the Dutch and Greek public sectors are not exactly positive, I recommend you to ask around 10 times the employees of a municipality about what is absolutely necessary and what is not to get married in order to avoid transferring certificates from Greece to Netherlands and vice versa.
What you should know in general for a civil marriage in the Netherlands
An appointment with a municipality is usually booked through the internet. You just fill in a digital form in municipality’s website and you choose in which town hall you want to go, what date and what hour. Attention: Be sure that you start the whole procedure in the town hall you want to get married and not to a different one, otherwise it is possible that you will get married in a town hall you don’t want or you will lose a lot of time waiting for your papers to be transferred from one town hall to another (and trust me, it could take some time!).
In the Netherlands you get married if your age is 18 years old or older, if you are not married currently and if you are permanent citizen of the country (or you have residence permit)
Civil marriages are done between people of the same or the opposite sex
Witnesses should be at least 2 but not more than 4 and should be 18 years old or older
At least 15 days before the wedding ceremony you and your partner you sign a pre-wedding agreement in which you both clarify your intention to get married. The day that you sign this agreement you have the right to take a day-off of your job (this is an extra day off on your annual vacation days) and of course you take another day –off the day you get married (if you get married in a weekday)
There is a variety of places where you can get married. Most people get married in a town hall but this is not necessary for your own marriage! Employees of a municipality will provide you a list with different places in and out of the city you live to choose what is the ideal place for your wedding. We chose the safety and the simplicity of a local town hall (it was really late when we were informed that we could have chosen the Greek Embassy in Den Haag for our wedding ceremony). In addition, we could have got married in a big park in the city centre, in a music hall or even in the local zoo.
You will realize quickly that the total cost you will need to pay to a town hall varies depending on the day, the hour and the place you will decide you have your wedding ceremony. In a schedule you will take in your hands you will see that there are days and hours of the week that you can get married for free or with a little cost, while there are other days (basically weekends) that if you pick them you will have to pay more than 1.500 euros!
Whether you choose to pay a large amount of money for your wedding (not necessarily 1500 euros, but enough money to book a well-organized wedding ceremony) then you have the right to give your personal opinion regarding the formation of the wedding. If you have not received a call from the town hall regarding your wedding ceremony don’t hesitate to call them and complaint that they forgot you (I had to do it at some point in order to have the wedding I wanted).
Pre-wedding process and wedding process
Before you book the date and the hour of the “Big Day” to the town hall you chose you and your partner will sign a pre-wedding agreement. For the Dutch Law this is a small “marriage” before the actual one since the employee who will give you to sign this agreement he/she will congratulate you after your signatures have been put on the papers. Remember that you have to wait at least 15 days in order to get married for good. During these 15 days intended spouses have the chance to cancel their marriage if they regret their decision (As you see, Dutch Law takes care of everything!)
A few days before the wedding an organizer (who would be probably the master of the ceremony too) will call you to discuss in details the wedding process. He/she will ask you dozens of things like if you wish a ceremony in Dutch or in English (or maybe in another language e.g. German). Moreover, an organizer will ask you personal details from your life and your partner’s life too (how you met each other, how was your relationship until now, how you decided to get married, how the one proposed to the other etc.). You will need to decide if you and your partner will read vows, if you will exchange rings or if someone of the guests will speak for you.
The “Big Day” try to be at least half an hour earlier to the town hall. A wedding ceremony starts always on time and it doesn’t last more than 30 minutes. The master of the ceremony based on what you have discussed with him/her before he/she will give you a wedding ceremony close to what you have dreamed. He/she will read a personal story of you and your partner, he/she will ask from both of you to read your vows and he/she will ask you to exchange rings (if this is what you decided). Then you and your partner will sign the wedding papers and afterwards the master of the ceremony will call the witnesses to sign. The ceremony will end after the wishes of the master of the ceremony to the newlyweds.
A marriage certificate is received even after the end of the ceremony or through a digital request to the municipality’s website.
Learn more for civil marriages in the Netherlands
Getting Married in the Netherlands. Information on the marriage process for foreigners in the Netherlands: what to expect, where to go and the documents required. Check here.
Marriage, registered partnership and cohabitation agreements in the Netherlands. Check here.
Dutch weddings: Getting married in the Netherlands. Check here.
Photo by Archangel12