Lana & Jeroen’s Dutch Wedding

I was excited when I got Lana’s wedding in my inbox, because, well, I LOVE getting international weddings (I have a few more kicking around waiting for some re-translating, never fear). International weddings always teach me something I didn’t know, and change my perspective on weddings ever so slightly. But, re-reading Lana’s post about choosing to have a wedding even when getting married is out of fashion on Holland, I was really excited by the ways what she says dovetailed into yesterdays discussion of creating our own definitions of marriage, and the sub-discussion that took place about why marriage is something many of us chose. So with that I give you Lana and her sad and joyful, and profoundly hopeful story:

Hi my name is Lana and I’m married.

This is not something I’d usually say because the reaction I get is typically: “why”or “really?”. It’s safe to say that marriage is not a common thing in my social circle. Getting married is for people in their thirties who have two children big enough to be a flower girl. In Holland there is such a thing as registered partners; they have all the same benefits and rights as married people only it’s not marriage, it’s cheaper, it’s easier to get out of, and it’s the thing to do.

Why then did we get married? We’re 26 and 30, highly educated and still we need this silly ritual?

Well, we didn’t need it, we wanted it. Yes, we know more divorced than married people and still we wanted to join the ranks of people like my grandparents who are happily married and have been for decades. I do have to admit, though, I didn’t think marriage was for me at first.

My husband, Jeroen, is the son of a notary. He comes from a traditional family, has one brother and a stay at home mother. To Jeroen marriage is normal. My parents haven’t been together in 24 years. My mom has two children by two different fathers, my father has 4 children by 4 different mothers. Needless to say I did not see marriage as something to aspire to. But seven years with a very stable guy who really did want to put that ring on me and I gave in. I really did not know what deciding to get married was going to do to us, but I thought hey, why not.

After the decision things started to change, I started to want to be married. Not only because of the love I have for Jeroen, but also the thought of starting my own family and not being an extension of my mom’s household anymore really spoke to me.
We dove into planning the wedding. My husband wanted a traditional wedding, I wanted Jewish influences (yes I’m Jewish by blood) and we both wanted to get married outside. Also we both wanted to not be in big debt after the wedding. So in May 2009 we booked a wedding and a party venue a year before our date. Started to make the invites and loads of other DIY stuff and then…. We found a house. We’d been looking for a while and we had a deadline. We did not want to buy a house too close to the big date, but we really wanted to find one. We decided to buy it, even though it needed loads of work. So come January we put the wedding on the back burner and remodeled the house by ourselves.

With a half finished house and our wedding date approaching, we both had to get back to working on the wedding planning. Because there are so few weddings in Holland ours was a really big deal for our families. We were the first couple in our generation in both families to get hitched. Because of this, the anticipation for our day was also big with the people around us. We had a hard time trying to balance our ideas with the wishes of close family. I had a lot of friends telling me “It’s your party”, “Do whatever you want” and you know what… It’s not! It’s a party about you, it’s a party because of you, but unless you don’t have any guests it’s not your party. We made a lot of changes to our original plans because of family. This does not mean that we lost our idea of what we wanted our wedding to be like, but it does mean that beside us, our families and friends were also having the time of their lives. Luckily we found the balance between giving people what they want and doing what we want!

Two months before our wedding, disaster struck. My brother was diagnosed with advanced Hodgekins Lymphoma. He immediately went into the hospital and was really,really ill. My mother was having a hard time handling it, so I quit my job to be able to support my family. In this period I thought about calling off the wedding, the stress of trying to plan a happy occasion while caring for my ill brother and unstable mother got to me. Also, quitting my job had quite an effect on our budget. Through all of this, though, my brother continued to insist we go through with the wedding, so the planning continued.  After talking extensively with my now husband I realized that getting married was even more important now. Strengthening our bond with all the chaos around us would give us a firm base to build the rest of our lives on.

We did loads ourselves and loads together with other people. Our photographer was a group of our talented friends. Doing loads of DIY stuff kept our costs down, but it really isn’t for everyone. Making buttoniers, bouquets, the food for the buffet, the wedding cake, favors, invites, the veil, the flower girl dress, the chuppah and more is something you really have to want to do. Don’t do it to cut costs. Do it because you want to!

Our wedding was such a day of joy! One of my bridesmaids wondered if I took a valium the morning of the wedding because I was totally zen. Even when my flowers were the wrong color and I made a fast bouquet out of our ornamental roses. The Red Cross was able to bring my brother to the ceremony and get him back to the hospital afterwards. We wanted him to be a witness, but Dutch law requires them to be registered two weeks before the wedding and we could not be sure my brother would make it. But he was there and it made the day perfect! My Catholic grandfather gave us a Jewish blessing (he studied Hebrew for decades) and a friend of the family actually married us under our home made chuppah. After which the Klezmer band broke loose.

There was so much joy that day. Everyone was happy and it really felt like the first day of the rest of our lives.

We’ve been married for three months now and I really do feel a lot different. We were together for so many years but getting married has really given us that firm base we hoped for. My mother has realized that I have my own family now and has taken a step back. My in laws see us as adults for the first time and don’t question our judgment as much. I’ve started a new and very demanding job. My brother is doing well on chemo and the house is nearing completion. I feel like our life is ours. I have found that even in Holland a marriage helps people to see you as adults and allows you to do your own things.

I would like to end with something that came to me when we were on honeymoon and was getting used to being married: “the whole world sees us differently, but we don’t see each other differently” A wedding does not change your relationship overnight. It doesn’t fix things but it can underline a good partnership and open doors to new heights of being together.

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  • What a great wedding graduate post – and I LOVE the hats!

  • Sarah

    Oh, Lana, what a gorgeous wedding … and dress … and day … and and… The joy on your faces in the last photo speaks volumes. =)

    And the ducks! I LOVE THE DUCKS!

    On a slightly different note … this:

    “My in laws see us as adults for the first time and don’t question our judgment as much.”

    I could write BOOKS on this. So from a girl who dealt with the same thing … congratulations. =)

    • Ali

      I am a huge fan of the ducks also :)

    • It’s been less than 2 months since our wedding, but I really hope that this happens to us, too. It’s actually one of the things I’ve always wanted for my partner (to have his parents respect him as an adult).
      And I’d totally buy that book if you wrote it! ;)

  • “Strengthening our bond with all the chaos around us would give us a firm base to build the rest of our lives on.”

    That line really spoke to me. I feel like life is unpredictable and there is much you can’t control. Making my relationship a base by grounding it in marriage feels like the best course of action.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    Oh and the hats, the hats, the hats! I have a feeling the hats are going to come up a lot in the comments.

  • Michelle

    This is just the most amazing, life-affirming post! You have such a positive outlook and such an obviously strong bond, and you saw the challenges and compromises in the wedding process with such a clear eye. All my best wishes, and healing thoughts, to you and your family. Cheers!

  • Liz

    What a beautiful story! And I LOVE LOVE LOVE the ducks.

    Lana, my prayers are with your brother and your whole family.

  • This is so lovely. (Can I please have hats, now?!)

    It speaks quite a bit to me: I come from a family of divorce and dysfunctional marriages. C’s parents aren’t married and never have been, but they have the best relationship we’ve ever seen. So to him, not getting married gave a better chance than getting married, and for me, getting married should have been stupid.

    But it wasn’t, and never has been. I’ve waited to get married until I met the right person, and in the meantime, I’ve worked on myself, so I could be my best me for my family and myself. But it is quite important to me to get married, to promise commitment to someone in front of my community.

    Thank you for showing why marriage is a clear choice even when it’s not ‘done’, and for all of the loveliness.

    My thoughts and prayers are with your baby family, and your brother/mother.

  • Jessie

    Beautiful wedding. Good luck in your life together!

  • Great wedding and post! And I’m struck by the similarity of our two cultures (I’m a Quebecer): the society context is pretty much like that, here, as well (and from what I know this does not seem to be quite common). We did get married too, but with our then two year-old boy in tow, so it was sort of a socially acceptable compromise ;-)

  • Alyssa

    I love your attitude, Lana. You did what you wanted and what was best for you and your husband, but you accomodated everyone as well as you could because, as you said, “It’s a party about you, it’s a party because of you, but unless you don’t have any guests it’s not your party. ” Amazing.

    And OHHHHH, your hair and your dress and your VEIL, and your HAIR (I’ve always wanted to be a redhead. It doesn’t work so well when you’re half black….) You are just lovely. SO pretty…

    And why don’t people wear formal hats more often?? The only time I see hats are old ladies’ church hats and on ironic hipsters.
    We Americans need more hats in our life.
    Let us take a lesson from the Dutch and old Christian black ladies.

    • Alyssa

      I was so focused on the hats, I missed the gloves!

      Opera length gloves!

      Who is this woman, and can she dress me for every formal occasion for the rest of my life?!?

      • lana

        That’s my mom! Can you believe she’s 50?

        • Alyssa

          AHH! I love her!! Can we share? Would she like to adopt a Texan? I bake….

          Also, it looks like you made people green bouttenaires and corsages in that lovely green color? Yes? If so, I bow down to your craftiness, milady.

          And also also? I want to cuddle your flower girl and feed her cake.

          • ha! “I bake…” is so going to be the way I try to talk people into doing things for me from now on!

    • Liz

      YES TO HATS.

    • ddayporter

      I was also going to comment on how much I love that line – “It’s a party about you, it’s a party because of you, but unless you don’t have any guests it’s not your party. ” Exactly!

      also. HATS.

      • Abby C.

        HATS! GLOVES! COBBLED STREETS! BOAT! We should all get married in Holland.

        On a more serious note, congratulations on a beautiful wedding. Thanks for sharing your insight into how the process changed you emotionally. You’re so wise, and reading your graduate post was uplifting!

      • Me too. That was one of the biggest things I learned while planning our wedding: it’s not so much about you at all, despite what everyone (even the guests themselves) tells you constantly.

    • My aunt and uncle got married last year in Canada, and we had several British relatives who attended. I didn’t understand why they kept asking for clarification about the dress code, until I realized they were really trying to figure out if they were supposed to wear their hats. When I said no they would actually be the only ones in hats if they did wear them, they seemed dissapointed. I see the point – people wear hats to parties, right? and this is one hell of a party!

      • Likewise, I felt really bad when I had to tell my Spanish mother-in-law that she’d be the only one in a hat at our Midwest wedding… she was so looking forward to a hat-worthy occasion!

  • Liz

    PERFECT follow-up to yesterday.

    and what a gorgeous veil!

  • april

    Big smile on my face today reading this grad post of an absolutely lovely bride & groom. Happy happy – congrats Jeroen & Lana!

    And someday, I really do want to be invited to a wedding where I can wear a dashing hat. Just sayin’.

  • Oh my goodness, what an incredible story! It sounds like you took what could have been a lot of very difficult situations, did your best and focused on the positive with such grace! Even though my wedding is over (2 weeks ago, and I couldn’t be happier with both the outcome and the fact that I don’t have to plan anymore!), this definitely gave me something to aspire to in facing my every day life. And can I second, third, fiftieth the incredible HATS!!!

  • Love this line – “Strengthening our bond with all the chaos around us would give us a firm base to build the rest of our lives on.”

    LOVE the cupcakes.

    I absolutely love all the hats on all the women.

    And I agree. Getting married didn’t change our relationship over night, but it allowed it to grow in a way that it wouldn’t have otherwise. And it definitely changed how everyone else saw us.

  • Marchelle

    This is beautiful. And yes please to the international posse of wedding grads!

    • I feel Meg poking me in the side from across the world every time someone says something like this!
      I’m American and my partner is Spanish, so we had a backyard wedding + reception in Michigan, then a more formal reception in Barcelona. When I get all of the pro pictures from both parties, I’ll put something together for you all. <3

  • didi

    Yay! for Lana and Jeroen and Yay! for their wedding in all its loveliness.

    Getting married in Holland while knowing society in general will consider you super common for doing it (being called common is probably one of the worst insults you can get in Holland) takes a lot of strength and belief in your relationship and all that marriage stands for.
    That said, the Dutch really do love a party. My family was so excited that they got to be part of our day that they drove half way across Europe to Switzerland. The ladies were a tad disappointed they didn’t have to wear their hats though!

  • Erika


  • Jen

    Aw, I remember Lana’s posts on another forum as she was planning the wedding. So lovely to see her here!
    Lana, you’re stunning, and I’m so glad your brother was able to be there to share in your day.
    Also, “It’s a party about you, it’s a party because of you, but unless you don’t have any guests it’s not your party.” Well said, and I couldn’t agree more.

  • Meg B

    Congrats Lana and Jeroen! Mazel tov! So wonderful to see two people buck traditions and do what they felt was right for their relationship. What a beautiful post. I am thinking happy, healing thoughts for Lana’s brother.

  • Joselle

    ” “the whole world sees us differently, but we don’t see each other differently” A wedding does not change your relationship overnight. It doesn’t fix things but it can underline a good partnership and open doors to new heights of being together.”

    What a powerful and wise ending. Thank you for sharing your beautiful wedding and thoughts with us, Lana. Congratulations and best of luck.

  • Another Thea

    Ook gefeliciteerd!

  • Aw, that last sentence is amazing. Congratulations!

  • ElfPuddle

    The Veil! That’s exactly the one I wanted to get, but I listened to my future-mother-in-law, and have something completely different.

    I don’t suppose I could convince you to let me borrow it?

    • lana

      Is your gown Ivory? the veil is quite dark. for a white veil that is. If it’ll suit your gown I don’t see why you couldn’t borrow it.

      It’ll cost a lot to sent it oversees and I would want it back seeing as I made it myself out of parts of my dress. But if all of this fits.

      Sure : D

      • ElfPuddle

        My gown’s white. There are pics at (the guest password is Practical).

        I leave it to you if you think it would work. I’d happily pay for all the shipping both ways. Of course I’d return it promptly.
        Since we’re waiting on his annulment, I don’t have a wedding date yet, so there’s lots of time to think and work with the mail.

        Thank you!!!

        • lana

          I’m affaid it might look dirty next to your dress. I have some spare pieces of fabric that I could send you so you could check.

          • ElfPuddle

            Sounds like a plan! I’ll ask Meg to send you my email so we can figure this out.
            (And even if it doesn’t work, thank you so much for trying!)

  • Honestly, for me, this is one of the best Wedding Grad posts I’ve read. Of course each post speaks differently to different people, and this one says a lot that I agree with & talks about a lot of emotions similar to those that I faced during our whole wedding experience. Especially 1. it’s everyone’s party, not just yours; and 2. everyone but you sees you differently.

    Your hair is gorgeous, and that veil is so perfect for you. I can’t believe you made it! It reminds me of the one my mother wore on her wedding day, actually (no wonder I like it!).
    Congratulations, and may things only get better from here!

  • …“the whole world sees us differently, but we don’t see each other differently”…

    So perfect. We just got back from our honeymoon yesterday, and when we were at Avis renting our car, the guy at the counter took my husband’s (still feel like a weirdo grown-up when I say that) license, but said he didn’t need to see mine because we’re “married, so you can drive the car whenever you want”.

    This was hilarious to us because 2 days before, I could have been $1000 in the hole if I had wrecked a rental car under his name, but today, because of that extra ring on my hand, I am free to wreck his s**t right and left.

  • Harmke

    Gefeliciteerd! This is so cool, I was just scanning APW and saw the first picture and thought: that looks a lot like a Dutch photo. That’s weird, isn’t it, is it the style of photography or maybe just the colours our Dutch weather gives to your pics? Well, whatever, that’s not the point.

    The point is that your wedding looks absolutely gorgeous! I married my guy also in Utrecht (this is Utrecht, right? Lovely gracht but I can’t figure out where the other locations are…)! And we were only 23 so imagine what ppl thought of that!
    We’re christians which makes it even worse because now everyone thought we got married because we didn’t want to have sex before marriage. But, on the other hand, in christian circles marriage at yough age is very common here, precisely because of the sex-thing. Or at least: that’s my suspicion. But I guess nobody gets married for such a wrong reason (alone) now do they? (maybe I should write a post about this…)

    So Meg: love it that APW gets more international (was a little disappointed that all the book-meetings were at the american contintent).
    And Lana: love to see your wedding and hear your story. Oh, and love the hats! Formalwear is as out of fashion as weddings are in the Netherlands, especially hats and gloves. But I reeeaaaally love them!
    Heel veel sterkte voor je broer. Het lijkt me moeilijk om dan niet een gezin als eenheid te hebben om hem en elkaar te steunen. Gelukkig hebben Jeroen en jij dat nu bij elkaar gevonden. Ik heb zelf ook gemerkt dat dat heel waardevol is, een twee-eenheid. Heel veel geluk samen! And thanks for sharing!

  • Alexandra

    Awesome. Many congratulations!