Everything you need to know about marriage in the Netherlands

24 Feb 2023·19 min to read
Everything you need to know about marriage in the Netherlands 01

Over 50,000 marriages are held annually in the Netherlands. Civil marriages and religious or traditional marriages are the forms of marriage allowed in the country. However, civil marriages are the only form recognized by law and legally binding. According to the law, a religious marriage is only allowed to take place after a civil marriage has been conducted. There are also several requirements that are expected of a couple before their marriage is recognized and protected by law. 

The minimum age for marriage in the Netherlands is 18 years old. Marriages by minors are prohibited except if the age has been waived by the juvenile court. Also, all marriages must only be held if both partners consent to them; no marriage is to be forced in any way. Marriages between close relatives or siblings are forbidden and are regarded as crimes under the law. Same-sex couples are allowed to get married legally in the country, and foreign citizens may also get married provided that they comply with the current legislation. 

Some of the marriage traditions are the same as the popular ones in western countries, but with some distinct features. Continue reading this article to understand the types of marriages held in Canada as well as the popular marriage traditions.

Types of Marriage Relationships in the Netherlands

For a marriage to be legal in the Netherlands, the couples involved must ensure the registration of their partnership or they must draft a cohabitation contract. These are the conditions that must be met before a marriage can be recognized by the law; couples may also leave together without fully undergoing any civil registrations. These types of marriages are explained in more detail below.

Civil Marriages

A civil marriage is the only form of marriage that is legal in the Netherlands. The registration takes place in a registry office, usually in the same district or territory where the couple is planning to hold their wedding. Couples who also want to hold other ceremonies are allowed to do so after the civil marriage is completed. Some couples may hold religious ceremonies or secular and symbolic weddings. The process of marriage and civil partnership is quite the same for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

Civil Registration

The registration of all Dutch marriages, including those conducted abroad, is held at the Basisregistratie Personen (BRP). Couples who get married in foreign countries must visit the municipal authority upon arrival to register their new status. The Hague’s Foreign Documents Department is the municipality in charge of registering the marriages of Dutch citizens. 
To conduct a legal marriage in the Netherlands, at least one of the couples must be a Dutch national or a resident of the country, and the partners must be a minimum of 18 years old. Below is a breakdown of all the processes involved with the civil registration of marriages in the country. 

There is an exception to the laws hiding the minimum legal age to get married in the Netherlands. Here, a woman who is 16 years of age is allowed to get married if she is pregnant. Once the wedding preparations begin, couples that want to get married must announce the intention of their marriage in the homes of both the bride and the groom. A notice of an intention to marry is a document, which couples are meant to submit at least 14 days before the planned marriage ceremony. The notice must be submitted to the municipal authority gemeente in the district where at least one of the partners lives. 

Most notices of intention to marry are submitted in person, but some municipalities may allow couples to conduct this online. A notice of one to three months from the wedding day must be given because the paperwork may take up to 14 days. It normally does not take that long and is only in situations where one or both of the couple is a foreigner. The notice of an intention to marry is valid for a duration of 12 months from the point it is given to the couple. The choice of the municipality to get married in as well as the wedding date is totally up to couples. 

The immigration authority (IND) is in charge of checking the resident status of couples who want to get married in the country. Here, any form of sham marriage is usually identified, especially when one of the couples enters into the marriage for the purpose of obtaining a residence permit in the country. One of the most common municipalities to get married in is Amsterdam. Different municipalities have registration processes that may vary slightly. Some of the conditions to be met in the Amsterdam municipality are stated below. 

At least one of the couples must be registered in Amsterdam before a marriage notice can be obtained. The partner who is a resident of Amsterdam can do the registration in the district where their address is. However, if both partners getting married are citizens of the Netherlands, the law permits them to register their intention to marry online. Couples may check the website of their local municipality to know the conditions of their area or district.

Required Documents

There is some paperwork that must be duly completed, submitted, and approved during civil marriage registrations in the Netherlands. The first step in getting a marriage approved is making an appointment with the registrar in the municipality where one wishes to hold the marriage ceremony. The documents that must be submitted will be presented by the registrar, and they are not always the same. Different municipalities may require slightly different sets of documents. Some of the documents that are required are:

  • Valid means of identification, such as a passport
  • A government-issued birth certificate. If it is not in Dutch, it must be properly translated. 
  • Proof of nationality 
  • Proof of address. This includes documents like rental agreements and utility bills. 
  • Proof of civil status This includes a divorce or death certificate for someone who was previously married. 
    Some municipalities may also request a certificate of no impediment to marriage to show that there is no obstruction to the marriage and the partner is allowed to get married in the Netherlands by law. Foreigners may be asked to submit some documents so as to have their proof of civil status created. They must show that they are not involved in any marriages in a foreign country. Couples can request a certificate of unmarried status from their previous resident country. Any documents that are not in Dutch must be notarized and translated. Sometimes, foreign documents require authorization with the use of an apostille stamp that includes a distinct ID to prove it is original.

Cohabitation Agreements

This is the second type of relationship that is legal under the law in the Netherlands. A cohabitation agreement is a written agreement that settles matters that are related to living together. A notary is to prepare an official marriage contract. This type of marriage is usually done by couples who live together in the Netherlands and would like to share their wealth and assets. The spouses can benefit from each other’s pension plan. 
In cohabitation agreements, the parental responsibility of a child primarily falls on the biological mother. For the partner to also get parental responsibility, they must apply for joint parental responsibility and follow the due process.

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Same-sex marriage

In the Netherlands, marriage between two women or two men became legal in 2001. This made the Netherlands the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Couples looking to have this kind of marriage can hold a civil registration at the municipality in their district or area. After the civil marriage is held, the couples may decide if they want to have a traditional or religious wedding ceremony afterwards. Not all churches allow same-sex marriages, and couples will have to get married in those that do. Before the ceremony is held, the local municipality must be notified.

Marriage traditions in the Netherlands

Various Dutch families have their own way of celebrating marriages. The Dutch culture is quite unique, and there are some popular traditions that are common to modern marriages. These are stated below.

Bridal Procession (Bruidstoet)

This tradition used to be common in the past; however, only a few couples still do it. According to tradition, a groom picks up his wife-to-be from her family house, and everyone, including family and friends, then proceeds to the wedding ceremony venue with the car of the bride and groom at the front. The arrangement of cars depends on the decision of the couple and their families. After the bride and groom's car, the parents of the couples are usually in the second car, followed by the witnesses in the third car. Some Dutch couples even use bikes in their procession, which builds up a lot of enthusiasm for the ceremony.

Wishing Tree

This is a popular Dutch custom, and it is the equivalent of a wedding guest book based on western traditions. Here, guests usually write down good wishes and prayers to the newlyweds on a paper leaf. The newly married couples then read out the messages to the public and tied them to a tree with various colorful ribbons. It is customary for the tree to be located at the wedding reception.

Wedding Speeches

This ceremonial rite is a part of a marriage celebration that is looked forward to by the couple as well as friends, families, and guests. Most weddings have the maid of honor and best man give speeches. The couple and their parents may also give speeches. But, in Dutch tradition, friends and guests are allowed to give speeches. The process of wishing the couples well is not rushed at all, and everyone who has something beautiful to say to the happy couple is welcome to do so. 
The couple may also give a speech to the family and friends, thanking them for their support. Most guests pray for the couples and wish them well for a long marriage filled with endless joy and happiness. The newlyweds are then congratulated as they begin a new era in their lives together.

Fruit cake celebration

This tradition is unique to Dutch ceremonies. The wedding cake is a vital part of weddings in the Netherlands. There is a wide range of cake options available for the couple to choose from. Some couples may even opt for other confectionery items other than cake, such as doughnuts and delicious baked goods. 
Red velvet and chocolate cakes are very common types of cakes used in wedding ceremonies in the Netherlands. The use of fruit cakes existed a long time ago, and although not all couples still use them due to the various options available, fruit cakes are still used in Dutch wedding ceremonies.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws and Rights

Marriage is only considered by the law in its legal civil relationships. Couples have the freedom to hold any type of marriage; however, a civil registration must be done first as this is the only legally binding one. The minimum legal age to get married in the Netherlands is 18 years. The marriage of minors is prohibited by law except in special cases where a court of law authorizes it. Bigamy and polygamy are illegal in the Netherlands. A person is only allowed to be in a relationship with another person. Same-sex marriages are legally binding and protected by law. 

A marriage must not be forced, and a person must not enter a marriage if they are forced, threatened, or not mentally capable. An adult who has been placed under guardianship due to the habit of alcoholism or drug abuse may not enter a marriage without the permission of his or her legal guardian. According to the laws in the Netherlands, an authorization of marriage takes 14 days from the time it was prepared before it takes effect. A marriage may not be entered if either partner is still actively involved in a previous marriage. This law holds for both nationals and foreigners. A person is not allowed to marry his or her siblings and close relatives, including brothers, sisters, uncles, and aunts. Couples must submit a formal notice of marriage to the registrar of civil status office in the local municipality at least once. 

A certificate of formal notice to marry may only be presented to couples by a registrar of civil status. This is the only notice that is legally binding, and any that anyone gets from an unauthorized person is not recognized by law. Before a marriage can take place, all the required documents, such as a valid means of identification and government-issued birth certificates, must be prepared and submitted as required at the local municipal. A court order of annulment of marriage shall take effect immediately.


The average cost of Dutch weddings is in the range of $14,000. The fees involved in the whole civil registration process do not cost a lot, and most of the marriage expenses are from traditional ceremonies. Some traditional or religious marriages include both pre-wedding and post-wedding rites that may cost a lot of money. The honeymoon and destination choice also play a big part in the overall expenses of a Dutch marriage. 
A Dutch wedding ceremony is as expensive as couples want it to be. Clothing, photography, food, music, and venues are the main expenses in the reception part of these ceremonies. Couples can either go big or small depending on their preference and how wealthy they are.


According to the laws in the Netherlands, a man and woman in a marriage owe each other assistance, fidelity, and support. A husband and wife must love and care for each other as well as their children. The cost of maintaining the household and other financial obligations are to be carried out by both spouses. In the case where only one of the spouses is earning an income, he or she is obligated to take care of all financial matters. Both spouses are entitled to their own property, and if they want, they can decide to share properties, assets, and debts. The primary maintenance of the household and other responsibilities can be decided upon by mutual agreement by both spouses.

Final Thoughts

Both civil marriages and cohabitation agreements are recognized by law in the Netherlands. Before a marriage is conducted, the municipality in at least one of the couple’s districts or where the ceremony will take place must be notified. A marriage approval must be gotten, provided that all the documents are complete. After the civil marriage is done, couples are allowed to organize and hold traditional or religious marriages depending on their beliefs and communities. 
Getting married in the Netherlands is not a difficult process. The country allows both Dutch nationals and foreigners to get married and be recognized and protected by law. Same-sex marriages in the country enjoy most of the same rights and responses as opposite-sex marriages. We hope this article has helped you understand everything you need to know about marriage in the Netherlands.