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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