What We’ve Planned So Far for Our International, Intercultural Wedding

The first few days after Ken and I got engaged went by in a blur of champagne, congratulations, and eagerly offered help from friends. Then the dust settled, and the reality of planning a wedding set in. Not just any wedding: an international wedding, split across two continents and incorporating two cultures. As my friends asked about dresses and color schemes, I started daydreaming about city hall. After all, it’s the marriage, not the wedding, that I’m the most excited about. And wouldn’t it all be so much easier?

Easier, maybe. But if I was being realistic, I wasn’t going to usher my friends and family all the way to the Netherlands just to have them come to a courthouse and a casual dinner after. Either I’d invite my friends and family and have the whole shebang, or I’d get married at city hall without my loved ones by my side. And when I put it like that, the choice was obvious. So what did I do?

“Every the Wellesley girl,” I studied. I downloaded three wedding-planning books and a 200-page binder and got to work.

I’ve known since the day that Ken and I got engaged that I wanted to share the process of planning our wedding on my blog. Every time a blogger or vlogger I follow gets engaged, I get excited for seeing how they’ll translate their love story into a ceremony, and I’m always disappointed — not by the wedding, of course, but by the fact that they keep most details private until the wedding itself, or afterwards. For reasons of safety and privacy, I’m planning to keep some of the details a secret until the day of, as well. But I’d like to share what I can, because depending on how long you’ve been reading here, you’ve seen Ken’s and my whole story play out — from first date (referred to cryptically in this post as “something else I hadn’t expected this year”) to proposal. And also because my mom doesn’t especially care about wedding details, and, well, I need someone to rant to.

So with that said, here’s what we’ve nailed down so far.

Ken reading at one of our favorite cafés in the city. Gnarly scar courtesy of a longboarding fall.

We’re getting married in the Netherlands.

Ken and I thought about having two weddings (a religious ceremony in the US and a civil ceremony in the Netherlands), or a wedding in the Netherlands and a second reception in the US. This was especially important when my godmother Kristen was still with us, because she wasn’t in good enough condition to travel at the time, and I really wanted her to be able to be at the wedding. With Kristen’s passing last summer and the fact that all of Ken’s and my elderly relatives live in the Netherlands, we decided it would be best to get married here and not put any money or effort into a second reception. It may mean that not everyone we’ll invite will be able to make the trip, but that’s okay — we’ll find other ways to celebrate with them when we see them next.

We’re getting married next summer.

Dutch engagement tend to be shorter than American ones (when we got engaged in February, Ken’s mom said “okay, but not in April, right? Because I won’t be here in April”). So Ken and I had to decide if we wanted to get married soonish (this summer) or latish (next summer). We decided on 2019 so that our international friends and family would be able to plan a trip. While we have a date in mind, we’re keeping it private for safety reasons, but you can bet on my wedding posts reaching a peak in summer 2019.

Our engagement gift from my mom — portraits of us painted by an old friend of hers

We’re having a …non-traditional bridal party.

Dutch weddings don’t typically have bridesmaids; in Dutch, bruidsmeisje (literally ‘bridesgirl’) means a young girl who wears white to the wedding and doesn’t typically have a big role to play, similar to American flower girls. They do have between one and four official witnesses, getuigen, who sign the marriage certificate, and could be seen as an equivalent in role to a best man or maid of honor. So, no bridesmaids in a typical Dutch wedding; for someone with the wonderful friends that I have, this is problem one. Problem two is that I have several really close friends whom I didn’t want to choose between for ‘maid of honor’ duties. So what’s a cross-cultural bride to do?

I decided that instead of having no bridesmaids, or a typical bridal party with several bridesmaids and one maid of honor, I would have a ‘council of honor’ made of my closest friends. They may not stand behind me when I get married, but I’ve asked them help me plan and celebrate in much the same way. I gave each friend a title according to the role I hoped she’d play in my wedding planning: Maid of Celebration to the friend who would most love planning the festivities, Maid of Ceremony to the friend who would most enjoy choosing readings and structuring the ceremony itself, etc. And while there are five official ‘maids’ in my council, I’m also inviting the friends who will be doing readings to the bridal weekend that we’ll be having instead of a traditional bachelorette party.

All this to say that there will be a virtually unlimited bridal party and no groomsmen. But that’s what you get for marrying a Wellesley grad.

…and a unique engagement ring.

I’m planning to write a whole post on my engagement ring separately from this one, because the way that Ken and I went about choosing it, and the style of the ring itself, is fairly unusual! Because Ken and I decided to get married without a ring at hand (read our very romantic pajamas-on-the-couch proposal story here), we had the freedom to choose an engagement ring together. I’ll be writing about the ring in an upcoming post, but for now, suffice it to say that it’s an unusual choice and I absolutely love it!

If you’d like to know more about any of the above, let me know in the comments. I’m planning on sharing how I asked my ‘council of honor’ (through a murder mystery board game PDF) and what resources I’ll be relying on most. But if you’re curious about any other parts of this early planning stage, let me know below!

Sara Laughed

Author: Sara Laughed

I'm Sara, a writer, programmer, and American in the Netherlands. This blog is about my life, discoveries, and mistakes. Follow along, and thank you for stopping by!

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