A Dutch fairytale wedding

We had the very special opportunity to witness the marriage of my cousin, Esmee, to her long-time friend, Stefan. Esmee wanted the fairy tale wedding packed full of traditions and drama. It has been pretty rotten weather in the Netherlands for the last couple months, so people haven’t been too optomistic about outdoor events. However, Esmee was hopeful and she got her wish: a beautiful rainless day with sun and warmth in order to take photographs outdoors and enjoy the grounds of the castle they had reserved.

A brunch at the bride’s home

A dutch wedding begins at the bride’s family home where family and a few close friends will gather and wait for the groom to bring the bouquet and steal the bride. (I guess today the bride has input in the bouquet, but traditionally it is a surprise). Each guest receives a corsage, the men are to pin theirs upside down whereas the girls can do theirs either way.

The groom arrives Part I

Stefan arrived and all the guests hurry out to the driveway where we witness their first embrace. People take photos, the bride and groom examine each other and then off they go to the wedding. After eating some more sandwiches we, the guests, caravan off to the wedding site.

Esmee & Stefan greet guests at her parents' home

This wedding took place about 45 minutes away from their house in a small, rural town. Since the party would go until 2am and offer the guests plenty of, er, refreshments, many guests booked into a nearby hotel where the bride’s family hosted a breakfast the following morning. After checking into the hotel, we boarded the ‘party bus’ out to the Kasteel.

my Dad on the bus

The Kasteel was beautiful! The guests were greeted by the MCs who presided over the whole day. We received cold and hot drinks and meandered around the Kasteel’s restored rooms.

Amanda arrives

note the upside down corsage

I must make a note of the beautiful Dutch light. It makes for amazing interior and exterior photographs!

The groom arrives Part II

So we have a few drinks and then the moment arrives for the groom to make his entrance. We all pack the foyer and wave as the groom arrives in a vintage car.

We clap and then return to our drinks. Minutes later the MC announces that the bride will now present herself down the long flowing staircase. Of course, this is done to music, a country song (Esmee loves country!) I believe. We take more photos, the bride and groom embrace in front of the guests. We all take more drinks and the bride and groom run off to make final preparations for the ceremony. Several drinks later we head into the ceremony room where my mom suggested to the photographer that they ban photographs. This would keep the kind, polite, Dutch guests from ruining the photographer’s job. It seemed to work.

If I didn't have the most perfect wedding, this could've been my second choice.

Bridal Party

Henneke, Esmee's mom made the dress for Evi

I must make a note about the Bridal Party. While the Dutch are generally obsessed with American culture, the bridesmaids/groomsmen thing hasn’t quite caught on. Usually the bride takes young (under aged 12) relatives as her attendants and they are primarily decorative pieces. The bride & groom had their photographer take group shots with their friends as we do in the US, but it isn’t formalized like we do. This certainly doesn’t get the bride’s close girlfriends off the hook with supporting roles. They plan the bachelorette parties, showers (also uncommon), organize gifts, skits, guests, seating charts and other tasks. The guys put on a bachelor party for Stefan (which was reported during the ceremony).

The ceremony:

As in American tradition, the family members were escorted in, the guests took their seats and the groom took his place at the front. The bride entered, escorted by her father and then the bride/groom sat down on two chairs at the front. They had a female officiant whose assistant (?) introduced both her and the wedding couple. The officient then began a series of “this is what we’re going to do, now we’re doing it, there we’re done” instructions. Comical, especially when it’s in another language. My mom tried to translate for the three of us but didn’t want to distract the other guests. So…don’t ask me to give you a word-by-word, but let’s just say it was VERY different than our ceremony.

Officiant introduces couple (duh, we obviously know them already) then tells their back history, how they met, the proposal story and finally compliments them on how they look today (duh, we also know all of this). She then asks them how they are feeling (seriously?!) and then asks her nephews in the audience what they think of everything. She also described some details about the bachelorette/bachelor parties including having the 14 guys that showed up in Stefan’s kitchen buck-naked to take him out to please stand up. The Dutch want to make fun and then be recognized for it (and apparently the ceremony was a perfect place to do this?). Ok, back to the task at hand. Officiant describes that she will ask them if they take the responsibility and will adhere to the law. Then she discusses the Dutch law around marriage (in lieu of religious text passages). She asks them to swear by the law that they will be faithful to one another. They answer : Ja.

The ring-bearer (Benji, their poodle) forgot his cue, so they had to get the niece (the only bridesmaid) to bring the rings instead. They exchanged rings, gave a kiss, more words by the Officiant and finally the congratulations. The officiant shook hands with the couple and each of the family members before she dismissed the couple to proceed out of the room.

Cake Time!

Now, guests could join the couple in the hall again for more drinks and finally the reception line. They brought the cake out and we all shared a piece with our champagne. A champagne toast was followed by releasing of doves/balloons and more drinks. I must say that by this time, though we thirst not, we are hungry; so having the cake helps tide us over until dinner.

(now you know why they 1. rented the party bus and 2. had everyone stay at the hotel)
After the champagne, the couple headed outside to release a pair of doves while the guests released their balloons. Not sure what this symbolizes…

Dinner Time

We filed into another banquet room where a 3 course dinner was served (delicious). My mom went around to every table to explain the ‘make the groom/bride kiss’ game. When she returned, she and my mom started a very popular glass clinking trend that while the guests were enjoying, the bride/groom didn’t seem to catch on very well (shame on you!). There were speeches and gifts presented by the bride/groom to the family and all the people who helped out.

After the dinner, the ‘after dinner’ guests showed up for the dance party. We were encouraged to present our gifts at this time. Each person or group approached the bride/groom to give their regards and gifts.We signed the guestbook and got ready for the dance.

Party time!

The band was setting up in the room next door and the kitchen was preparing the round of appetizers that would be served over the next few hours: Dutch classics like krokets, bitter ballen, chicken nuggets, salted herring, etc.  During the band breaks, the bride’s friends and groom’s friends both presented skits. There were a few videos and slideshows, many with sing-a-long components. The MOB with several friends preformed a special Backstreet Boys song in costume! Everybody was having a good time and had no problems holding back all sorts of jabs and inappropriate sexual references.

in lieu of a photo booth

Somewhere around 2:30am the party bus showed up to drive us all back to the hotel. Pretty much everyone was drunk (save the Cooleys, Donaldsons and a handful of ‘wiser’ guests) and the boys were hanging off every possible ceiling pole in the bus. At one point, his friends had shoved Stefan into the upper baggage compartment!

We fell into our beds dreading the 9am wake up call for breakfast. They made a nice spread and we appreciated being able to see everyone again and have a nice send-off. Not a single Dutch person was late to the breakfast even though rumor has it that Es & Stefan’s friends were running around the hotel drinking and breaking things until 5am. I guess that proves not much gets in the way of Dutch promptness!


The Dutch look

One of things I hope I have learned in Europe (and Amanda hopes too) is to be more stylish. What I am becoming accustomed to is the particular look that the Dutch men go for. Normally is is jeans (hoh boy do they love their denim here!) with brown dress shoes, a slim fit dress shirt and a blazer. When they need to be a bit more formal, you will find a slim fit grey suit, brown dress shoes, light blue slim fit dress shirt and a dark blue tie (I see that combo a LOT. And I love it. Need to get a dark grey suit before too long.)

The younger stylish man wears all of the above, but substitutes the brown dress shoes with neon hightops, skater shoes or some sort of sneaker. This I hate. It’s like wearing a baseball hat with a suit. It’s like saying “I know what looks good….and I’m still in college sucka!!”

But with all of these stylish men I have started my clothes-I-need checklist. And I’m slowly becoming more and more addicted to men’s style blogs. Amanda is happy.

look at those shoes!!

An American’s lovin Paris!

hotel room

Our room in Paris, with a view to the street and a petit balcon.

bistros and chalkboard menus

bistros and chalkboard menus


garden Tuileries

garden Tuileries

Notre Dame

the backside of Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Notre Dame Cathedral

the most delicious ice cream: Pear and Blood Orange

prints in a small antique shop

prints in a small antique shop

Amanda and the Eiffel Tower

Please enjoy this little video that gives you a taste of our time in Paris…more video footage to be posted later.

Interesting things about Milan

The city is under construction due to the expo in 2015. I guess if the Duomo took 500 years to complete, it’s a good thing the city is getting ready now.

near Brera Art Gallery


Ladies over 65 wear fur.

ladies in fur


They overcharge for dining and undercharge for the metro. In Italy, the practice of charging a ‘cover’ for dining guarantees a nice tip for the serving staff. The bummer part is that it’s charged per person instead of per table. Jerks.

Abundance of: cars, traffic lights and concrete. Not ideal for snooping.

Italians smoke WAY more than the Dutch. I felt like I was constantly inhaling.

Milan is NOT where the leather goods are at. But at least it has a 5 floor Tom Ford flagship!

Tom Ford store in Milan


It’s pretty hazy in Milan. In fact, you can’t drive on Sundays in the center in effort to cut down on pollution.

Toddler clothes/lifestyle stores are everywhere! Chic moms have plenty of options for their tots including daywear, lounge-wear and of course, the bedroom.

chic toddler fashions at Nanan in Milan

Den Haag; part I

Opera House

Den Haag

dyes for textiles, I think


We saw this really cool shop that of course wasn’t open, which contains many jars of what looked like ground pigments used for dying textiles. Next to those were shelves of paint cans labeled in the same hues as the dyes. Would be cool to return and chat with someone about the uses and meaning of all this 🙂

Dinsdag: Model for a day

My make-up artist in training, Mariska.

Sarphatipark School of Ethetics & Cosmetology


Graeme & I were a little late for our usual morning walk through Sarphatipark. Rounding the corner to head home we heard this woman yelling behind us. Thinking I’d dropped something I turned around. Her Dutch changed to English when she read my confused face, “Would you be able to model for me?” My first thought was life modeling. I saw the group of young women huddled by a studio door and not being able to read the overhead sign just assumed it was an art studio. “I am in beauty school and my model canceled and it would really help me if you could just come for a couple hours”. Well, you can tell from the photos what my answer was.

She was friendly but nervous. She’d only been in the course for 6 weeks and this was her second career. She was a painter “colorful work with animals and things”. She mentioned the Cobra, so I assumed weird modern art. She & her partner just moved out of the city for the space and savings due to their young children. While painting my eyelids green and my lips red, we talked about my design intentions, my Dutch mother, Canada, her floral designer friend (featured on Martha Stewart) in NYC who pays €4,000/month for his apartment (I thought Dutch people didn’t like to talk about money??!!). When I mentioned Graeme was a tutor and looking for opportunities to connect at schools and with eager, proactive parents she exclaimed that he must be in high demand, no? I said, “one would hope, but no real bites yet”. So, I gave her my card and maybe she’ll contact me if she comes across anyone who might need those kind of services.

She also promised to pass along the photos of the shoot should she receive them from her instructor. I will update you in a week’s time…