Welcome to The Expats Wedding Planner’s new blog!

Getting married is one of the biggest steps two people can take together in life and planning a wedding is on the list of the most stressful things you can do in life. The pressure to make sure it is perfect is overwhelming. That is why our main goal at the Expat Wedding planner is to make sure international couples have the wedding of their dreams with as little anxiety as possible. One of the ways we do this is by offering bits of advice, insight, fun wedding traditions and maybe even a little inspiration on how to make your special day a tailor-made event. So, we decided to start a blog to delve a little further into monthly topics to get your creative juices flowing and maybe help you, and us, jump start the planning process. We will be looking at everything from where common wedding superstitions started, to ways to incorporate wedding traditions from around the world into your ceremony, to great planning ideas for a variety of different passions, plus a whole bunch more. On top of our regular monthly blog, every season we will offer up fun trends coming up and how to put your own unique spin on them. So sign up for updates or follow us on Instagram and Facebook for all the latest news from Expat Wedding Planner.

Invitations – to do – or to do yourselves?

This month’s blog : INVITATIONS – to do – or to do yourselves? Invitations. Nowadays many couples ask themselves if they should send them the traditional way (by post) or electronically by e-mail or Facebook-Event. To make this decision easier: just think how many e-mails you get everyday and how many stories you read on Facebook every day. Do you really want your invitation to your Big Day be just another message? When choosing paper stationary it can already tell your guests a lot about the wedding itself: do you go the traditional way with beautifully crafted paper, take a lighter approach by having custom-made cartoons on it, go modern and graphic, choose a certain colour scheme etc. Your wedding is as unique as you are. Let your invite reflect it. Today you have many online possibilities to order and customise wedding invitations. My tip: search around. Don’t go to the obvious suspects as per example Hallmark or Vistaprint and similar online suppliers – or your invite will just be one of a dozen. Here are some examples of bespoke manufacturers. Or – shop abroad. If you do not find what you are looking for in a Dutch webshop, here are plenty of possibilities to  order your stationary from vendors based abroad. Try or they have unusual stuff and will ship to Holland. Another possibility is of course to make the invites yourself. This is lovely, personal and really special to your guests. But here is a word of warning: be aware that it is very time consuming. When I got married, I had beautiful printed invites and wanted to give them a little sparkly extra: Tiny Swarovsky Christal hearts on every invite (and order of service and menu). I ordered the hearts online and had scheduled myself a sticker-duty evening of Chic-Flic movies, a bottle of wine and that would be it. I needed three weeks to finish!!

Tying the knot – in any way possible

Tying the knot – in any way possible Saying “I do”, walking down the aisle, tying the knot or, less romantic, getting hitched, taking the plunge and even buying the cow (!) – there are as many ways to say you’re getting married as there are ways to celebrate that special day. However, one element is the same for all weddings in the Netherlands: without the civil ceremony, your marriage will not be legally recognised. You can choose to have your civil ceremony at the stadhuis (the registry office). The rates for the ceremony are different in every municipality, so if you want to stay within your budget, this might be worth looking into. Most municipalities offer a basic ceremony at no charge once a week, but as these are in high demand, you can expect waiting lists of six months or longer. A new trend is a simple ceremony at a reduced price. Beach, museum or castle? Did you know that  until a couple of years ago you could only get married at the registry office, but a few years ago, the government started recognising other locations as official wedding locations. The location will need to be designated as an official wedding location by the municipality, but after that the choice is yours. How about a beach club in Scheveningen, the Escher Museum in the old town centre of The Hague, or, for a more unusual setting, the fish auction at Scheveningen harbour? If the wedding dress isn’t enough to make you feel like a princess, you can always consider getting married in a castle. Slot Zuylen, near Utrecht, is one of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands to start the rest of your life together. You could even ask the municipality to recognise  the bar where you met years ago while waiting for your friends as an official wedding location for one day. Once the official part is over, there are endless possibilities to give the other parts of the wedding a more personal touch. How about including traditions from both your cultures? For example a Chinese tea ceremony or a henna ceremony at a Moroccan marriage. A bilingual ceremony is an option too. While many people combine the official part with a personal ceremony on the same day, another option is to have the civil ceremony at the registry office on a weekday and the big event at the weekend. Something old, something new A tradition that is used by a growing number of African Americans is ‘jumping the broom’. In the olden days, slaves at a plantation were not allowed to get married. If a couple decided they wanted to spend their lives together they would jump over a broom while holding hands. It symbolises brushing away the old life and starting a new one together. Other old traditions are becoming more and more popular as well. A lovely example is the tradition of ‘handfasting’, which involves binding the hands of the couple with ribbon or cord in public to symbolise marriage vows. The tradition is believed to be an ancient Celtic practice. The term, handfasting, dates from late medieval times and is derived from the Old Norse hand-festa, which means to strike a bargain by joining hands. Some sources say it was used as a pre-marital trial period of one year and one day, while others state that the tradition was used by couples in remote parts of the Scottish Highlands where it would sometimes take months before a pastor came to the village. As I was born in Germany, I have attended several German weddings. Many of these weddings had a big wooden log awaiting the newlyweds on the lawn after the church ceremony. The couple has to saw the log using a two-man saw. This German tradition symbolises the unavoidable – but hopefully not too many – hurdles a married couple will have to take together.

When west meets east – an Indian wedding

The grandeur of an Indian wedding Working in international companies can have some unexpected perks. The daughter of a former colleague was getting married in India’s most populous city, Mumbai. As a friend of the family, I had the honour to attend the five-day event, stretched out over a week. The first event I was invited to was a musical reunion between the two families where the guests were treated to anything from traditional music to Indian rock. Expecting about 40 or 50 other guests, I was somewhat overwhelmed when 800 turned up. On the second day, the family of the bride, including me, went to the bride’s house for the Henna ceremony. I was aware of the importance the family attaches to tradition, and as a sign of respect I decided to buy a traditional Indian dress for this day. I didn’t want to risk not finding a dress in India, so I went to a lovely little shop near The Hague Holland Spoor train station. The owners went out of their way to find me a beautiful and, at my request – and their bemusement! – not too sparkly dress. A smaller gathering, with about 400 guests, took place on the third day. A quizmaster entertained the guests, while they chatted, ate and drank. There was another Henna ceremony, in which the bride was the centre of attention. Her arm was completed covered in Henna tattoos and it would be the groom’s personal quest to find his name hidden there after the wedding – India’s answer to the western garter. On the fourth day, the bride said goodbye to her family. Indian tradition calls for the bride to leave her family home and go and live with the groom’s parents. On this day, she is treated to everything she might need – saris, linen and gold jewellery. Gold is very important in Indian culture. Even in the poorest parts of India, husbands give their wives gold jewellery as some sort of life insurance. If something were to happen to the husband, the wife would be able to provide for herself. The official wedding ceremony took place on the fifth and final day, and was attended by about 2000 (!) guests. The long awaited part of the wedding ceremony was the bridal entrance. She was escorted by the male members of her family to the mandap, a beautifully decorated tent where the bride and groom spent the rest of the ceremony. It is here that the saptapadi, the ritual making them husband and wife, takes place. The bride and groom walk around a fire, with the end of their garments tied together, whilst exchanging vows to each other. What struck me when watching this ritual was that I had seen a similar ceremony once before at a Greek Orthodox wedding – isn’t it wonderful that two very different cultures thousands of miles apart seem to share almost the same ritual? India has many cultures and religions and to make sure all the guests would feel welcome the buffets on every day of the wedding were divided into not only meat, vegetarian, but also other, more strict lifestyles. The attention to detail and the level of care taken to organise the best wedding possible were astounding. I recognize these from my own wedding planning. The one thing I would have handled differently if I had been the wedding planner is the number of photographers. The five photographers and one videographer made it almost impossible to see the actual ceremony. Apart from that, I enjoyed every minute. The décor, the attention to detail despite the scale of the wedding and the spectacular ceremony on the fifth day made it a once in a lifetime experience.

Wedding gifts – blessing or curse?

Past are the days of a dowry. And those were couples moved in together only after they got married. At least in most cases. And even if it should be for the first time they live together both partners probably have already lived on their own before. So the traditional wedding gifts are no longer of these times: no lists with pots and pans, cutlery and china. No need to outfit your home, you already have everything! This of course creates a bit of a dilemma – what to give? More often then not the newly weds receive gifts they neither need nor like. My suggestion? THINK BIG! What is it that you really like? Have you always dreamt of crystal chandelier  above your dining table? Do you want to see a play during your honeymoon and would love to have front row tickets? Seen an artwork but is too expensive? Now is the time to tell your friends and family. For most of my couples I create a webpage with information regarding their wedding for their guests to log in. Take a picture of the artwork and I will place it there. Be open about how much it costs (or how much money you need to buy it). Your guest can then tell me in confidence how much they can afford to put forward to the gift (some might only be able to give 10,00 Euro other 100,00 or more..) and I then put a bar next to the picture so they can see how much of the target is achieved. You would be surprised how well this works.   Your friends and family will be happy to contribute to a big gift you really need or want!!  (artwork courtesy of www.art-managing-partner.com)

Autumn weddings

Autumn weddings Whichever wedding professional you ask – from wedding planners and photographers to bridal wear – they will all agree there is a wedding season. Generally speaking from May until the end of August. The primary reason for couples to choose that timeframe is because they are afraid it will rain. But why? I have been involved in May weddings in the north of Europe (and I do not mean Scandinavia) of Europe where it started to snow! Have seen an entire weekend of rain at a Mediterranean wedding in August. A torrential downpour at a wedding in South Germany in mid-July. This year September has been a wonderfully warm month. You can not influence the weather – so why let the weather take such a big impact on when you get married? In autumn you have some of the most beautiful colour displays in nature. Have you ever thought what a beautiful backdrop a park or woodland would make to your wedding pictures with their yellow and red leaves? And even if it rains – how much time do you actually spend outside on your wedding day? Even weddings in the summer mostly have their ceremony and reception indoors. And even if the weather gods are not with you – it is all about being prepared. A good wedding photographer will have done his research and a backup plan should it not be possible to shoot outdoors. A good wedding planner will see to it your Big Day will still be as beautiful and memorable as you want it to be!! I once suggested to a couple that got married in mid-october to give all their guests umbrella’s with their initials at the beginning of the wedding day rather then wedding favours at the end. It was a huge success and something the guests could take back, use and every time they did remember the couples wedding day. There are other advantages too: wedding venues will be more available and also other professionals from photographer to the wedding cake will be easier to book. The year has 4 seasons – don’t limit your choice of date to two!

Falling in love…when you live abroad

This was the last thing you counted upon: falling in love. You took that internship, signed up for the post graduate degree at a foreign university or moved abroad for a career choice. And now you are faced with the fact that you are deeply in love and have met the one person you just know you want to share the rest of your life with. A million questions start racing through your head and they are not only the usual ones. “How will this work?”is one of the first ones my couples always told me went through their minds. You are thinking about different cultures, different backgrounds, different languages, different traditions. Will he/ she want to come live with you should live move you to another country or prefer to stay – or move back – to where her or his heritage is, roots are. If any of these thoughts cross you mind, just ask yourself this one question: “Are these MY thoughts or am i anticipating what my FAMILY will think?”And 9 out of 10 it will be the latter. Trust your hart. Trust your instinct and trust your LOVE. Beatrice

Different traditions

I always here little funny stories about different wedding traditions in different countries or regions. And my couples always want them to be integrated into their weddings because not only does this give a personal touch to it but is a way connect with heir roots. This is important, because as an international couple (and I am one myself) you learn to give and take and that also includes your heritage. In a way, you and your partner are like trees that are being replanted. You do not loose your roots – but you grow them in new soil and for a big part the success of your marriage will depend on how open you are to the new nutrients of that different soil or if you will reject them because they taste slightly differently. If you know of any funny wedding traditions share them on my Facebook page, you can win something nice, too 🙂 Beatrice  

Say it today – do not wait until tomorrow

Yesterday I got a bit of shocking news, one of my colleague planners of EPIC lost her husband, too soon. She is about my age, they have children together, and now she has to face it all alone. In my profession we are so engulfed in happy times, couples that promise to love each other for of the rest of their lives we do not even stand still at the thought how short a life could be. We have to learn to cherish every day we have together, not wait for the right moment to tell someone you love him (or her) but just to burst it out when your heart tells you to. Life is to short to have regrets and if the head tries to tell the heart what to do..ignore it 🙂 Your heart never lies Live life, love forever !! Beatrice