Wedding Album

“And while they did live happily ever after; the point, gentlemen, is that they lived…”
– Jeanne Moreau as the Grande Dame, in “Ever After“.

From January 1998 onwards, it has been possible to get a “registered partnership” for both heterosexual and homosexual couples in the Netherlands. This is, to all intents and purposes, the same as a full civil marriage. Well, there are a few differences, but it brings with it more automatic rights (just like a civil marriage) than the drawn-up-by-a-lawyer “living together (samenwonen)” contract Martin and I originally had. Sooo, we thought, should we? shouldn’t we? And basically, everyone said go for it, so we did.
We were married in a civil ceremony on June 12th 1998 in the historic Gouda Stadhuis. It also happened to be my mother’s 94th birthday, and she was there to make it a double celebration.

The Gouda townhall (stadhuis) is the only remaining late-Gothic townhall left in the Netherlands. It was built originally in 1448, although rebuilding occurred in 1517 and between 1692 and 1695. It has a splendid room (the trouwzaal) where civil marriages are carried out.

050619-1413-26 Stitch

Stadhuis - Trouwzaal

Here we all are, listening to the town councillor who is performing the ceremony. She did a great job, blending formality and informality with the right amount of humour and gravitas.

Because there were so many overseas visitors (my family and friends), she also arranged for an interpreter to translate into English. 

The serious bit – giving the “ja” word which signifies agreement that we are prepared to enter into the partnership:

Stadhuis - Trouwzaal

The sentimental bit – exchanging the rings:

Exchanging the rings

The legal bit – signing the documents (in duplicate):

Trouwzaal - Signing

Jellie Gorter (the town councillor who married us) saying to Martin: “it’s too late now!”

Trouwzaal - Signed

The proud bit – mother with her new son-in-law at her right arm.
We walked out of the stadhuis like this, arm in arm. I heard later that as we descended the steps outside, a puzzled passerby asked one of the guests “Er, which one did she marry?” Another passerby was heard to remark  in shocked tones to her friend “God, Mary, it’s two men!”


After the ceremony, we went to the nearby Agnietenkapel for our reception party.


And the obligatory wedding photo – two generations of the van Hoofts, and four generations of the Coupes.

Family Photo



On the 12th September 2000, the Dutch parliament voted 109 – 33 in favour to change the law and give gay marriages the same legal status as heterosexual marriages. The law came into force on 1st April 2001. From that date, gay married couples have complete parity of rights with heterosexual couples in the Netherlands. Another bill passed at the same time gave them wider rights to adopt Dutch children.

The Netherlands thus became the first country in the world to include same-gender couples under the same marriage law that joins heterosexuals.

On the 26th May 2003, we got the upgrade! We went to the Town Hall and signed the formal document that changed our registered partnership into a full civil marriage. It was a few days before Martin’s 50th birthday, so we thought that it was good timing.

Upgrade at the Town Hall

This is us coming out of the Town Hall, with Martin clutching the copies of the signed document. It literally only took a couple of minutes to get the “upgrade” – we, and the Town Clerk had to sign our names in duplicate on the original documents.

The children are from Martin’s school – each and every one of them presented us both with a flower so that we were left holding a sizable bouquet at the end. One small boy kept asking me to kiss Martin to prove that we were married. I said we had done that inside!

Our friends Carolien and Mariette promised they would be at the Town Hall for the signing. What they didn’t tell us is that they would turn up with coach and horses to take us for a ride through Gouda after the ceremony.

In the Carriage

So off we went, being driven through Gouda. We made the obligatory stop in front of Gouda’s original Town Hall in the market square for the obligatory photo. Several people congratulated us, and wished us happiness for the future, which was rather sweet…

Pause at the Stadhuis

The pause that refreshes – we stopped for a beer at the Hotel De Zalm on the market square.

By Hotel de Zalm

In the evening, the four of us went out to dinner to celebrate. It was a great day, thanks, girls!


13 Responses to Wedding Album

  1. A lovely blog post. Thanks for sharing.


    • Cher says:

      Wow Geoff, what a very handsome couple. Very elequant ceremony, hmm? I think though, that the two of you on the bench at the beginning look like you are about to be seriuos. The photos are beautiful seriously. Lovely scenery, and home as well. It must have been so very special to have your Mom there. Mine is 87 and will be 88 this month. She cares for me alot as I am chronically ill, what a blessing to have her. Love your blog, so glad to have found it. Thank you for sharing. Cher.

  2. Wonderful stuff!
    I got here because I was looking for info on the Windows 8 release preview, and got interested by your profile (a foreigner in our country). Refreshing to see that there are foreigners who still perceive this country as generally tolerant.

  3. Pingback: Onward Christian Soldiers… | Geoff Coupe's Blog

  4. Mark says:

    Very cool! Great pictures and it looks like it was a wonderful time. So great to be surrounded by friends and family on such an important day

  5. This is beautiful! I can’t wait for full gay marriage in the State of California. Before I could enjoy marriage, I need to find myself a husband to get married. I found you and your blog because I was looking for Lightroom’s DAM capabilities. Thanks for the both the shares. May longevity and great health follow you and Martin where ever you go.

  6. mike says:

    This goes against the natural designations of male and female, at the least, no different than shacking up with someone before marriage.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Martin and I have been together for thirty years. I wonder if you can say the same about yourself and your wife, Mike?

      • mike says:

        This is with all due respect. You’re married longer than I am alive, so you could say that I will never have the credibility if we go by longevity over quality of marriage. I agree that marriages are no longer sacred, and by the word sacred, we define that through a moral framework. Which moral framework? If the moral framework in which we derive from is used to define marriage fidelity, does that same framework offer a helpful definition of marriage?

        What I’m saying is that the terminology “marriage” is used by the majority society, and by attempting to be like the social norm, it negates gay living. Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, gay rights activist, explains that assimilation is a negative approach to gay rights. While I do not agree with his moral decision, I happen to agree with her logical reasoning behind her argument. Here’s a transcript of his interview:

        • Geoff Coupe says:

          Oh dear, where to start? I fear this reply will become a little long, but it’s clear that your worldview, if I’m understanding it correctly, certainly isn’t one that I share. Who said anything about longevity versus quality being an either/or thing? In my mind it’s a both/and measure; with longevity often being a pointer to quality (although clearly not always).

          I’m not really sure what you mean by the statement: “I agree that marriages are no longer sacred, and by the word sacred, we define that through a moral framework.” The issue at hand here is that of civil marriage, not religious marriage. So clearly, it’s not “sacred” in that sense. But then you seem to introduce the idea that a moral framework requires religion; i.e. morality derives from god. You may happen to believe that, but I certainly do not.

          I fail to see how being married “negates gay living”. I read the transcript of the interview with Ms. Sycamore, and I hear her, but I don’t recognise myself in her railings against gays. When I was in my twenties and running around with GLF folks, there were plenty of people like Sycamore around. There’s something quaintly old-fashioned about her; a Queer Fundamentalist, with the same conviction that she’s right that I see in a “fire and brimstone” preacher or an unreconstructed Marxist.

          I note that she said in the interview: “I mean, if we look at the mainstream gay movement at this point, it’s centered around this assimilationist access. So, you know, the dominant issues have become accessing straight privilege. So marriage, military service, adoption, ordination into the priesthood – those are all straight issues last time I checked, right?” Well, apart from the last, all those are no longer straight issues. And it’s telling that she uses the phrase “straight privilege”. Her worldview is that it’s queers versus straights, and that we queers are culturally erasing ourselves by demanding equality with straights. It’s not a worldview that I share anymore (although back in the 1970s, when I was far more politically active, I was closer to it). But now, with the benefit of living longer, I’ve mellowed, and come to understand that, for example, the social institution of marriage has been enriched, not made poorer, by its extension to same-sex couples. The diversity is still there, just taking new forms as society evolves.

          • mike says:

            I think its interesting that you said you once felt alobg the same lines as her. I think Mathilda never really said this, but probably the side motivation to having access to straight privileges are because of straight benefits. For example, with legal marriage, you can be recognize legally in ways that a couple would not. What if we completely remove all the health insurance benefits, tax benefits, and all other things associated with legal marriage? What is the remaining motive to assimilate, I’d there are any left? All that’s left is the desire to model after straight privilege. Mankind must rely on male and female to procreate, and by that requirment, we become dependent on a straight society to advance population.

            • Geoff Coupe says:

              Oh dear, once more. It’s clear that there is little point in continuing the discussion. It’s not about assimilating – it’s about participating fully in a society. If you had read and absorbed what I had written in the original passage, I stated that participation in a civil marriage ceremony, and its consequences, go beyond having a legal contract drawn up by a lawyer. Here in the Netherlands, there are four options open to any couple. (1) Simply living together (what you originally termed “shacking up”, I think). (2) Bolstering that arrangement with a legal contract that lays out rights and responsibilities. (3) A Civil Partnership, recognised in law, and (4) a full Civil Marriage. People here are free to choose what they wish. We chose to progress through to Civil Marriage, and the reasons were nothing to do with assimilation, but all to do with participation. Procreation had nothing whatsoever to do with it, and seems a complete non-sequitur. The human race will quite happily procreate, marriage or no.

  7. amandacrusoe says:

    Comment from a completely random person who stumbled upon this blog somehow. How absolutely lovely! This blog and your wedding makes me wish I knew you.

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