A Sunny Royal Wedding in Amsterdam

The Prince of Orange and his fiancée, Argentinian Máxima Zorreguieta, couldn't have chosen a better day to be married. Before, everybody had been prepared for a freezing cold day, but Saturday, 2 February 2002, turned out to be the most beautiful day of 2002 so far with 15 º C and lots of sunshine.

The celebrations had started with a government dinner at the Knight's Hall on 25 January hosted by Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok and his wife, Mrs Rita Kok-Roukema, that was attended by members of the Dutch royal family and the Zorreguieta family, members of the Cabinet, and other important politicians, some of whom came from the Dutch Antilles and Aruba. Three hundred family members and friends were invited for the following weekend which turned out to be both rainy and windy. The guests were received at Madurodam, where tourists usually can see the Netherlands on scale. Photographers and royalty watchers managed to get a glimpse of the bride and groom-to-be and their guests outside the gates, but beyond that the party was quite private. A reception held at Madurodam seems to have been a great success and even Queen Beatrix danced to the cheerful music which was played. In the evening the party went continued at Palace Noordeinde in The Hague. Inside South-American music sounded in the ballroom of the palace: a salsaband and a DJ. The Cuban dance orchestra Manolito Y Su Trabacho was flown in especially for Maxima. The bridal couple and their guests swung until the late hours. On Sunday morning the bridal couple offered their guests a brunch at the Kurhaus in Scheveningen.

On Thursday, 31 January the partying went on when the wedding guests who had arrived early were invited to the 64th birthday party of Queen Beatrix at the Royal Palace on the Dam Square in Amsterdam; this event doubled as the wedding ball. Hundreds of curious people stood in front of the palace to catch glimpses of the royal guests dressed in grand gala and cheered the few they knew. Bride and groom had already arrived at the palace in the late afternoon, so unfortunately nobody saw them all dressed up, only in a photo in the newspapers the next day. Some go-getters stayed at the Dam Square until late at night when the last guests left about 3:00 in the morning.

On Friday a concert including lunch was held at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam to which 1600 guests were invited. After playing and singing the Dutch national anthem, Sergey Prokofiev's 'Romeo and Juliet' was executed by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. In his speech after the performance the Prince of Orange joked that for this occasion they could better have rewritten the end of 'Romeo and Juliet'. As a surprise for Máxima Zorreguieta at the end a tango was played: "Habanera". But the day wasn't finished yet as a huge party had been organised at the Amsterdam ArenA. Fifty thousand people from all over the country were invited to this event. The programme of the evening, which was kept secret until the end, offered music, theatre, acts, and dance. The theme of the evening was "More together, together more". After bands from all 12 provinces, the Dutch Antilles and Aruba had played, the Prince of Orange and Máxima Zorreguieta arrived in an oldtimer. Together with family and guests they very much enjoyed the rest of the programme that started with singer Willeke Alberti, who sang her old success 'Morgen ben ik de bruid' (Tomorrow I am the bride). Also the wedding song 'Lopen op het Water' (Walking on the Water) by Marco Borsato and Sita was sung. During the programme at one moment some old photos of the little Prince of Orange were shown, to the great enthusiasm of the bride, but the Prince of Orange himself seemed a bit relieved when it was over. At the end the national wedding present - the Orange Fund, that is levelled at the mutual alliance between the various cultures in The Netherlands - was handed over to the Prince of Orange and Máxima Zorreguieta. After the couple had left the arena and went on partying with their guests at the Amstel Hotel, the public enjoyed a final concert by singer Marco Borsato.

Already quite early on Saturday morning buses full of wedding guests came and went. Initially, royal guests arrived at the back of the Royal Palace to be in time for the first photo session inside. Not that much later the first buses full of ordinary guests arrived at church. Around this time, cars left for the civil wedding at the Beurs van Berlage with the bride and groom who could be spotted in public for the first time. The Prince of Orange wore his full dress uniform of a Captain in the Royal Netherlands Navy as well as four decorations. The bride looked stunning in a long-sleeved gown of ivory Mikado silk with a cowl neckline. The dress was close fitting and flared slightly from the waist. The five-metre train was inset with panels of embroidered lace while the luxuriant point d'esprit veil of silk tulle was decorated with hand-embroidered flower and tendril motifs. The gown was designed and created by Valentino Couture, Rome. The bride carried a bouquet of white roses, gardenias, lilies of the valley, and two kind of foliage. Her diadem existed of a 19th century bandeau and five sparkling diamond stars that originated from another diadem from the 19th century. The bride and groom were accompanied by four bridesmaids, two flower girls, and four page boys all dressed in red satin duchesse and red velvet clothing.

Meanwhile at about 10:15am the bride and groom arrived at the Beurs van Berlage for the 30-minute civil wedding. The wedding ceremony was performed by the Mayor of Amsterdam, Mr. Job Cohen, in his capacity as special registrar and was attended by about 650 guests. The Mayor started his speech in English saying: "Unfortunately for our English and Spanish speaking guests we will, as you may understand, speak Dutch. But actually, it is quite simple. In Dutch, the English word 'yes' and the Spanish word 'si', are pronounced as 'ja', so it should not be too difficult for you to understand the most important part of this ceremony." This beginning immediately caused a short laughter. After a good speech about love and being in the public eye, water and ice (passions of the groom) as well as the bride's new life in The Netherlands, bride and groom were asked to stand up and hold each other's right hand. Both bride and groom said 'ja' unconditionally, after which Mr Cohen declared that they were joined together in matrimony as husband and wife and was the first to congratulate them. Since that moment the bride became Princess Máxima of the Netherlands, Princess van Oranje-Nassau, Mrs van Amsberg. The marriage certificates were signed and witnessed, with the bride and groom also receiving a booklet of poems especially written for them by a number of Dutch poets. After a short private meeting in a hall at the Beurs van Berlage, guests and the bride and groom left for the church wedding.

Around the time the civil wedding ended royal guests started walking from the palace to the New Church under a 150ft walkway partly made of bulletproof glass. Among them were not less than four kings, two grand dukes, eight queens, two grand duchesses, eleven crown and hereditary princes (some with partners), one hereditary grand duke, and one crown princess. All together about 75 royals were present at the wedding. All European monarchies, as well as Jordan, Japan, and Morocco, were represented. Very much appreciated was the presence of former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa with his wife Graça Machel and of Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations. Finally at about 11:30 bride and groom arrived at the New Church loudly cheered by thousands of people outside. In church about 1700 guests were waiting for them. The Dutch Reformed wedding service was officiated by C.A. Ter Linden, Minister Emeritus of the Kloosterkerk at The Hague. The bride had gotten permission from the Catholic Church to be married in a Protestant service.

In his speech of welcome Mr Ter Linden referred to the fact that the parents of the bride weren't able to attend the wedding of their daughter, because of the problems many Dutch have with her father's past as member of the government under Argentinian dictator Jorge Videla at the end of the 1970s. Dr Rafael Braun, a Catholic priest and friend of the Zorreguieta family, read Ruth 1: 1-11, 14-17 in Spanish, while the other lesson, Mark 10: 42-45, was read by the groom's brother, Prince Johan Friso, of the Netherlands. A touching sermon went further into the story of Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah in an attempt to obtain an answer to the question 'what is at the core of our lives?' The story was central in the church ceremony "for despite all the differences between this ancient tale and the story of your lives, there must have been times, Máxima, when you asked yourself: 'should I really do this, go with him to a country far from my own homeland, to a foreign country with a people I don't know, who have a different history, a different identity, a different culture?' A choice that would cause some pain, and has indeed made demands on many people. You must sometimes have heard a voice saying: 'go back, my daughter ... go back to your people.'" But Máxima Zorreguieta chose for a public life together with the Prince of Orange, in a new country, strange people, a different history, identity and culture, and mastered their difficult language. After the sermon the union was solemnized and while the couple exchanged the marriage vows at 12:28pm a thousand-fold loud cheering was heard from outside the church, which made the guests and the couple inside the church burst out into laughter. The exchanging of the rings was followed by the tango 'Adios Noniño' played by Carel Kraayenhof, that moved the bride to tears. Afterwards two bibles were presented to the bridal couple, one in Dutch for the bride, and a Spanish one for the groom. A beautiful sung 'Ave Maria' by soprano Miranda van Kralingen gave a Catholic touch to the Protestant ceremony. Prayers were followed by À toi la gloire, a benediction, and at the end of the ceremony the sixth verse of the Dutch national anthem was performed.

At 1:00pm the bridal couple left the church where the Golden Coach was waiting for them. Quite a short tour was made through the centre of Amsterdam, only disturbed once by a few demonstrators. Thousands of enthusiastic people, many of them dressed up in the national colour of orange, stood along the route to cheer the couple. The tour ended at the Royal Palace and the couple went inside. Impatiently the thousands of people gathered in front of the Royal Palace waiting for the balcony scene. Finally the bridal couple appeared on the balcony and there it was: the long-expected kiss. And not one, not two … but seven of them! By then the official part of the day had ended and the couple went inside for their reception. It was not until 5:30pm that they left the Royal Palace and travelled to their secret honeymoon destination. Only two days later it was clear that they were skiing in Sankt Moritz, Switzerland, and that they were joined by Princess Máxima's parents. A couple of days later, after a photo session in the snow, they left again for an unknown destination.

Netty Leistra
Royal Watch
March 2002

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