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A few days ago Argentinean blogger Ana O'Reilly, author of A pinch of this, a dash of that came up with the idea of having a "weddings around the world" blog series. When she contacted me with the suggestion of posting simultaneously about this topic, I thought it was a good opportunity for me to write about my first experience with party-making in the Netherlands just a very short time after arriving in the country.
Please, visit Ana's blog entry to read all about her and her Welsh husband Sean's wedding in Argentina.
Also taking part in this series is American blogger Katie, author of "Seashells and Sunflowers" You can read her story about her first Argentinean wedding party in her post: "Party 'Til the Crack of Dawn"
I was still in expat baby diapers, so to speak, in terms of knowledge of the Dutch culture and way of life, when my husband came home from work one day, with the news that we had been invited to a wedding - his colleague Bas was getting married and the party was to be held in a restaurant just outside Zwolle. This was very exciting news! A party! The chance to dress up, get my hair done, wear a lovely evening dress which I hadn't had much chance to show off back in Argentina, and an opportunity to have nice food and dance...! I couldn't wait.
|Our wedding day in Argentina, back in 2003.|
Next, when my husband opened his mouth again, my hopes of a red carpet moment at a Dutch wedding were cruelly crushed: people in Holland, he explained, or at least people in this part of Holland, did not dress up that much for a wedding but rather use normal everyday clothes; still smart, but nothing like that dress I was planning on wearing!
I was shocked! Did these people know what they were missing? What of looking smashing, what of all the excitement of finding the right dress, what of all the glamour and glitter?
In hindsight now, after years of living in the Netherlands and learning how practical Dutch people are, I can say they are indeed missing a lot, but not in a bad way. They certainly do not go through all the fuss and stress of finding the perfect Cindirella dress and shoes to match, and they definetely probably don't throw away an entire month's salary on a single night for a wedding that is not even their own nor their sister's nor probably even their best friend's.
|Guests who are not directly related to the couple, normally wear informal clothes to a wedding.|
In Argentina, even if it is now becoming more and more popular to celebrate weddings in the morning and having parties during the day, the norm still is to have the ceremony at around 9 or even 10pm (like my own wedding); therefore, parties don't generally start until 11pm or midnight and they last until the following morning.
Upon arriving at the party, I left my coat in the cloakroom and walked right into the restaurant, eager to start my first Dutch wedding experience. So eager was I, that I blindly walked past the bride and bridegroom at the entrance where they were lined up, together with their direct family, to welcome guests to the party. Surely ignoring them completely, was not exactly the way to make a good first impression, was it?
My excuse of course, was that this line-up procedure was a total novelty for me. In Argentina the guests arrive first at the party and are served amuse-bouches and some kind of bubbly wine or cocktails while they wait for the happy couple to make their grand entrance.After this, the party can begin.
|Our friends' wedding ceremony, held in the Burgerzaal of the City Hall in Zwolle.|
Meanwhile, I was introduced to some of my husband's colleagues and I had a chance to talk a bit to most of them. There was a band playing live music which I thought was a brilliant idea and is not so habitual in my own country. Many of the guests were singing along, while in the centre of the room, a group of women were dancing on their own - that is, without partners. My husband doesn't like dancing, so I looked at them with a bit of envy, for I was dancing in my head all the time. I considered walking up to the group myself and joining in, but I wasn't sure what the right thing to do was in these circumstances and after my first blunder with the hosts plus family line-up, I was afraid of making yet another mistake.
|Arriving at the place where the wedding ceremony was to be held.|
At a wedding I attended last year, I decided to ask a (Dutch) friend, why this was the case and he replied that indeed, men usually prefer to step outside (weather permitting) to smoke, drink and talk for the duration of the party, while the women inside dance on their own. He also pointed out that he normally only asks someone to dance when he goes to discos or clubs while on holidays abroad, but never in the Netherlands.
Back at the party and some time afterwards, the waiter came back with pretty snacks and my face must have lighted up at the sight of the food. I was so hungry by now, that I could have taken the whole tray that he was carrying and gobble all that food at once. Instead, I picked some sort of crostini that tasted very good, and waited ...
When later (a lot later, actually) the waiter showed up again with the second round of snacks, I said no, for I didn't want to eat too many snacks - I wanted to wait for dinner. My husband instantly saw what I was doing and, in a whisper, he warned me that .... dear Lord, I could not believe what I was hearing, there was not going to be any dinner!
After doing some research aftewards and asking around, I found out that here in the Netherlands, it is customary to invite only family and close friends to a wedding dinner and then have a party with friends and acquaintances. But how was I supposed to know this? In Argentina wedding parties usually include a three-course dinner, a buffet sweet table with different sorts of cakes and desserts and because the merriment lasts until the following morning, it is also usual to offer a "breakfast" of either pizzas or -the most common choice- a flambée whole.... leg of beef! Think "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" to get the picture....
Snacks it was to be, then! And they did look appetising, so even if I was not going to get a full meal as I had expected, I was going to enjoy the party food. More talking and more females-only dancing was done, before the third round of snacks came along. By now I was nearly starving because I hadn't had anything to eat since my quick lunch hours before the party. I quickly scanned the pretty hors d'ouvre on the tray and I picked one without thinking too much of what it was made of.
The minute I bit into it I knew that I was going to regret it. Unlucky choice of snack I had made! The gelatinous, soapy texture of the thing in my mouth told me that I had taken a bite of the one Dutch delicacy I had been avoiding to eat since arriving in the country: hollandse nieuwe, which is actually ... raw herring!
|A hollandse nieuwe snack, that is, the first young herring of the season. Photo credit: Jerulobe for Wikipedia.|
Needless to say, I was forced to spend much of the rest of the evening visiting the same Ladies' room time and time again, because despite drinking gallons of water, cola and other beverages, I did not succeed in washing out the taste of the bit of raw fish from my mouth.
So much for having fun and enjoying my first Dutch wedding...Like Groucho Marx once said, I had "a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."