Can You Host a Civil Marriage Ceremony before a Church Service?

civil wedding ceremonies

Civil marriage ceremonies are the most wished for legally recognised weddings and the official event is officiated by a registrar. In fact giving notice of your marriage should take place at a register office before you plan your special celebrations.

But, what if you want to get married in the Netherlands?

Well, I’ll let you in on a secret; unless you are a resident, officially living in Holland [settled status] arranging a civil wedding is extremely stressful. Why? You need to gain settlement status and full Dutch citizenship first.

“Registering a marriage with the Civil Registry (Dienst Basisinformatie, DBI) of your municipality is compulsory if you want a church marriage service in the Netherlands”. Source:

So, obtain your marriage license in the country of your residence. Thereafter, book a celebrant to officiate your wedding ceremony.  Otherwise, if you are a resident of Holland read below what you can expect during a Dutch civil wedding ceremony before your church marriage service.

Civil marriage ceremonies

Expat wedding services

Smabs Sputzer (1956-2017)

main image | British celebrant – Clover Jean & Dutch registrar – Betty Sta van Uiter

Firstly, opting for a marriage registrar [affiliated to the town/city hall] or the equivalent a freelance celebrant allows you to host a wedding. However, the registrar provides you with a registered partnership | legal marriage license.

In Holland many Dutch couples like to have an official marriage ceremony before or after their wedding day. A celebrant officiated ceremony, is more personal and adds an extra special touch to the celebrations. Read how it works…


First step

(1) Welcome word by celebrant.

(2) The introduction speech.

(3) Wedding ceremony script speech (personalised on request).

(4) Government official – registrar. There is no legal declarations of consent (exchange of official marriage vows), such as; “Are you free, lawfully, to marry your partner?” proclaimed. However, the following wordings will complete the legal part of your marriage.

  • I do’s and the kiss.
  • Exchanging of the rings | celebrant
  • Signing of the register | registrar
  • Closing statement | celebrant

Civil marriage ceremonies

Legal part I

Equally important is an authorized black pen. Therefore you, your partner and the registrar [only] use it to sign the marriage certificate. Actually, it is customary to sign the paperwork with registration ink. In short, it means your marriage license is legal and registered.

Legal part II

Additionally, the Dutch wedding law | registrar requires you sign 2 significant documents. For instance, an official marriage certificate and wedding book (trouwboekje). The Dutch civil marriage ceremonies legal part II consists of the following acts:

  • Official confirmation and authorization of your marriage | registrar
  • As well as a ceremonial maillot – gavel and sounding block (applicable in Holland) | registrar
  • Finally, the end of your wedding proceedings | celebrant

Civil marriage ceremonies and beyond

(1) For starters, the celebrant can work alongside a local authority registrar. And greets and welcomes everyone. This includes you and your guests.

(2) Another key point is the mandatory verification and identification. The celebrant verifies on behalf of the registrar you and your partner’s attendance.

(3) Thirdly, there is a registration obligation. Therefore, the registrar or celebrant checks, verifies and identifies that you and 2 – 4 witnesses are present and correct.

Wedding ceremony script and speech

Additionally, the celebrant conducts the ceremony. And the registrar is responsible for the contracting words plus signing of legal documentation. Be aware that the declaratory words of consent are not obligatory. However, I do’s, the kiss and vows are compulsory.

Exchanging of the rings

Celebrant task – it is traditional for you to exchange wedding rings after you say your vows. Since these rings are symbols of your union, the words said during the exchange reflect your hopes and dreams for the future.

Signing of the register

In essence, the registrar’s role is to oversee the signing of the two most important parts of your marriage. That is the completion of the official register, the certificate and wedding book (optional). Furthermore, the documented legal paperwork will contain all the specifications relating to your legal marriage.

Legal part I

There is a sequence of events that follows when signing civil marriage legal deeds. And in agreement with you, your witnesses and officiating registrar you sign a valid certificate. Additionally, the registrar’s can assistant facilitate with the signing.

Legal part II

To determine the significant of each witness there is a ranking system during the ceremony. See below:

  • Bridal couple
  • Witnesses
  • Registrar

Declaration of marriage by the government official – registrar

Eventually, the registrar will announce the contractual words. And afterwards, the official signing of paperwork happens. The sounding of a ceremonial maillot confirms that you are husband and wife or long-term companions.

Conclusion of civil marriage ceremonies

  • Closing words | celebrant
  • The issuing of the wedding book and presentation of a pen or other keepsake | celebrant or registrar.

Lastly,  held throughout the year civil marriage ceremonies that incorporate a celebrant led wedding are extremely expensive. However, having a government official and a celebrant officiate your ceremony, gives your wedding the wow factor!

Related reading…


Over to you…

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About Clover Jean: I'm a Londoner enjoying a work-life balance in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. My celebrant | marriage officiant | master of ceremonies | gospel choir services, take me all over Holland. What's my vice? I love on-line retail therapy. Get in touch, via Instagram #cloverjeanamsterdam or Facebook. LIKE, SHARE, SPREAD THE LOVE and see you soon!

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