The offbeat bride: Hanneke, chemistry/philosophy grad student

Her offbeat partner: Laurens, physics grad student

Location & date of wedding: Hortus Botanicus Leiden (Leiden University's botanical gardens), the Netherlands — October 14, 2010

What made our wedding offbeat: We were determined to make our wedding a relaxed, stress-free day that was meaningful without too much hoopla. When our wedding date changed from spring to autumn, we still wanted it to be an outdoorsy affair in our university's botanical gardens. In the end, all big “activities” (lunch, ceremony, reception, and party) were indoors because of the temperatures in October, but we were able to enjoy the gardens. Those gardens have special meaning to me, as I regard them almost as my garden after living downtown without outside space for a couple of years. They also provided a beautiful back drop for our photo shoot.


We kept our wedding relaxed by making it rather short (by Dutch standards) and asking for help and input from friends and family. My mom and I altered a dress we bought on sale. I made the flowers, she did all the “structural work” to the dress. Two friends did all the decorations, after some inspiration from me. A friend provided all the musical equipment, while we hired a jazz combo that we knew through our church.

Close up of cupcakes

Our cupcakes were made by two friends and my sister.


My grandma did a beautiful job making all the boutonnières and two friends were our day-of coordinators and masters of ceremony.

Rebus game

Surprise folk dancing

We made our wedding fun by having good food, good music, and activities other than drinking/talking for our guests. Our family made a quiz about us and a rebus game. They even surprised us with a folk dancing act!

Our commitment to each other was the centre of the day. We arranged the ceremony in such a way that it captured the essence of our commitment and it still being a legal ceremony. While our wedding turned out offbeat lite, it was offbeat in the sense that at the beginning, we stopped and thought about what we wanted from the day. And that was a relaxed and fun day, centred around commitment to each other.

Walking towards the Hortus

Tell us about the ceremony: In the Netherlands, the legal and religious ceremony are separated, because of the separation between state and church. This means in practice that you go to the town hall first, after which you may get married in a church. We felt that getting married twice in one day was a bit much, and, more importantly, that it is a bit odd to repeat the ceremony and vows in church. As if God isn't present at the town hall. Yet it was important to us to receive a blessing over our marriage and big step in our lives. So we had two ceremonies in one location, with a short break in between to keep things legal.

Ceremony; signing of marriage contract

Our pastor lead the religious ceremony and read Proverbs 27:17: “Just as iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen the minds of each other.” This is a good description of our relationship. We then read personal vows to each other and exchanged our rings. We knelt and our pastor prayed for a blessing and all our family and friends sang a blessing song.

Ceremony; blessing

Our biggest challenge: Our health was the biggest concern and we ended up postponing the wedding. There comes a time that no matter how hard you try, you have to be realistic and accept life. Our autumn wedding turned out wonderful and I wouldn't trade it!

Ceremony: vows

My favorite moment: Hanneke: Our vows. Although we wrote them together and I fully knew what he was going to say, I still became very emotional. During the party at night, I was feeling exhausted and sick and wanted to go home. But I felt very badly for Laurens since I was ending all the fun. But he said, “It doesn't matter, we'll go home. I know who I just married and I love you anyway.”

Laurens: The ceremony in which we expressed our commitment to each other. The moment when the government official said “Your are man and wife. You may kiss the bride.”

Leaving the party

My funniest moment: Laurens' roommates performed a song to the music of “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. It was brilliant and contained a lot of jokes about us, such as Laurens love for gaming, his dislike of cleaning, and my concerns about the environment. We laughed really hard.

Group shot

My advice for offbeat brides: The guts to ask people to help out actually came from advice I had read on Offbeat Bride. At first I was a bit reluctant to ask other people to help us out, but it turned out great and meaningful. The advice proved true: when you ask people to do something for your wedding, they get involved and will give you more than you ever asked for.

Also, get yourself a master of ceremony or day-of coordinator! We had two friends who shared this role. Although we did most of the planning ourselves, on the wedding day we handed it over to them and were able to relax and enjoy without worries.

Kissing in the park

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Comments on Hanneke & Laurens’ relaxed Dutch botanical garden wedding

  1. I love the cupcakes! They are adorable! My wedding changed in reverse order, it was supposed to be in the fall and now is in the spring. Glad everything worked out!

  2. Your outfits are perfectly lovely! Especially the longer veil with that dress, and the subtle color scheme… it’s beautiful! And the cupcakes are awesomely amazing as well. 🙂 (as is that last picture of you two…)

  3. Gefeliciteerd! What a beautiful day. Having the two ceremonies together is a good idea. I live in Amsterdam and we are having it on two different days and two different countries. Way to complicated!

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