Pre wedding parties
Guests are involved in a Dutch wedding before and after the event. A lovely old Dutch custom holds that before the wedding day, guests would visit the bride’s house where they would eat bruid suikas, (a traditional sweetmeat) accompanied by spiced wine.
Many Dutch couples will also invite guests to a short party before the wedding itself, to which extended family, friends, colleagues and/ or neighbours are invited. Guests are offered drinks, nuts, olives and tasty finger food before proceeding to the wedding venue.
Dutch etiquette for wedding seating plans
In the Netherlands, the most honoured position is either at the head of the table or in the centre, with the most important guests seated first to the left and then to the right of the bride and groom, in descending order of importance. This fits well with general format for a European wedding seating plan.
Wish treeA wonderful Dutch custom is the wedding “wish tree”. At the reception a beautiful tree branch is placed next to the bride and groom’s table, and paper leaves attached to pieces of colourful ribbon are placed at each guest’s place setting. Guests write their special wish for the happy couple on their leaves, which the bride and groom can then read and hang on the tree.
Dutch wedding receptions are famous for serving sweet and heavy foods such as sugar cake, marzipan, sugared almonds, and a variety of heavy food and sweet cordials. Two traditional items served at a marriage celebration in Holland are sweetmeats called, “bridal sugar” and “bride’s tears.” ‘Bridal sugar’ is a typical Dutch wedding favour consisting of five sweets wrapped in tulle. Dutch custom uses the number five as representing the five wedding wishes of love, happiness, loyalty, prosperity, and virility. ‘Bridal tears’ is a small bottle of spiced wine, which contains real gold leaf to represent tears.
The reception venue is decorated with evergreen leaves, which signify everlasting love. The bride and groom sit under a canopy of fragrant evergreens, and receive gifts and best wishes from their guests. Traditionally in Holland, gifts are unwrapped immediately and passed around to be admired. The bride and groom will personally thank the guests for their gifts as each is unwrapped.
A large silver bowl filled with brandy and raisins is often passed around as a song is sung – “How sweet it is where friendship dwells…”
Renowned for its clogs, Dutch marriage customs reflect this cultural icon.
Traditional tales say that when a boy wanted to ask a girl for marriage, he would hand-carve a pair of clogs with beautiful designs. He would then place them secretly at the girl’s doorstep during the night. The boy would go back to the girl’s house the next morning and if the girl was wearing the clogs, that was the sign that she had accepted his marriage proposal.
Contemporary interpretations of this tradition sometimes see the bride or groom wear a pair of clogs for the wedding day only – they are then hung on the wall of the happy couple’s home, decorated with dried flowers.