A Boerenbruiloft

Boerenbruiloft is the Dutch word for a farmers’ wedding. Here in the Achterhoek area of the Netherlands, the sense of tradition is still very strong, so last Saturday I was able to be an onlooker of a boerenbruiloft. It was actually all a bit of play-acting from the members of the local horse and carriage club to celebrate thirty years of their existence. So they set out to show how a happy couple would get married with all the trappings and traditions that would accompany a typical farmer’s wedding in the first couple of decades of the 20th century.

That would involve the bridegroom travelling in horse and carriage to the house of the bride’s parents:


Once the bride was collected, the whole entourage (bride and bridegroom, parents, witnesses, and guests) would set off for the wedding ceremony:








This being the Netherlands of the 21st century, Health and Safety issues seemed to also be creeping in…


The “marriage” ceremony itself was conducted in the Hofshuus in Varsseveld, an old farmhouse that dates from the 17th century.

Here in the Netherlands, marriage is a secular institution, with marriages conducted by a civil servant (ambtenaar) who has the right to perform marriages (an ambtenaar van de burgerlijke stand). So the “ambtenaar” formally asked the parents and the couple if they assented to the marriage, and then invited the couple to exchange rings.


Following the “marriage” ceremony, we had a re-enactment of another tradition that was once common in the Actherhoek: the presentation of a cow (the bruidskoe) to the bride by the bride’s father:


The people living in the neighbourhood (the buurt) of the new couple would also traditionally present the couple with a gift to welcome them into the buurt. Very often this would be a clock for the farmhouse:


There would then be a communal meal for everyone to celebrate the marriage:


The forms may change, but the essentials remain the same, from the time of Brueghel the Elder to today…

Following the meal, the bride and bridegroom would travel back to their new home, but along the way, the buurt would stretch a rope across the road, and demand payment of a toll.


That would take the form of a glass of strong drink offered by the couple to the buurt. Note that the glasses have no foot – you’re meant to down the drink in one go…


About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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