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How to best plan your civil wedding?

Following my beautiful proposal, we took the plunge and got married in May 2022, in two steps:

- First, civilly at the beginning of May in Brussels (Etterbeek), where we live, during a weekend in a very small group of 15 people, with our parents and our witnesses.

- Then, during a secular ceremony at the end of May, at the Domaine de Ronsard, in the Parc Naturel Régional du Perche, in Normandy, during a weekend with a larger group of 90 people, with our families and friends.

In this article, I share with you my experience and give you the necessary advices to prepare your civil wedding in the best possible way and in the smallest details!



  1. The administrative steps with the municipality: the choice of the place and the date of the civil ceremony, the reservation of the date with the civil status department of your municipality, the filing of the marriage file and the possibility of a personalized civil ceremony (according to your municipality!)

  2. The choice of alliances

  3. The choice of outfits

  4. The choice of flowers

  5. The beauty treatment

  6. The course of the civil ceremony

  7. The civil wedding lunch at the restaurant

  8. The rest of the civil wedding weekend at home


1. The administrative steps with the municipality: the choice of the place and the date of the civil ceremony, the reservation of the date with the civil status department of your municipality, the filing of the marriage file and the possibility of a personalized civil ceremony (according to your municipality!)

Before arriving at the pretty aspects of the wedding, the way obliges to pass by less pretty perspectives, but nevertheless essential: the administrative steps, that I explain you here.

=> Try to determine your place, as well as your ideal date of civil ceremony, as soon as possible, according to your obligations and those you wish to invite, in order to have a real chance of being able to effectively reserve this place on this date!

First of all, it is necessary to determine the place of its civil marriage, knowing that one can marry, either in the commune of its place of residence, or in the commune of the place of residence of a parent of one of the future spouses. We chose Etterbeek (Brussels) because we wanted to get married in the commune of our place of residence.

Then, the second step of the preparations consisted in determining very early (in our case, 8 months before) which date would be ideal for us to have the civil ceremony, in order to be almost sure to be able to reserve this date. We had two conditions regarding the date: we wanted it to be on a Saturday and not during the week so that it would be as easy as possible for our parents and witnesses to come from France and, in addition, we also wanted it to be the Saturday closest to my husband's birthday to "kill two birds with one stone", if I may say so!

=> Two pieces of information: if you get married in Belgium and you have a foreign nationality, you will be asked to provide a certificate of capacity to marry (plus possibly a certificate of custom depending on your origin), to be obtained from the embassy of your country of origin. Moreover, depending on your place of residence, the wedding may be charged depending on whether it is during the week or on Saturday!

As soon as we had fixed the ideal date for us (beginning of May 2022), I contacted the civil status service of our municipality of Etterbeek by e-mail at the end of 2021 in order to make a request to reserve the date. The service then asked me to contact them again in January 2022, date of opening of their calendar 2022, what I did, still by e-mail, and I could then reserve very simply the date of our choice.

The civil status agent then asked me to send by e-mail a copy of our identity cards so that the service could draw up a personalized list of the documents to be provided in the context of the opening of our marriage file (in this case, the integral copies of our birth certificates and our certificate of capacity to marry, as we both have foreign nationalities, I, French-Belgian, and my husband, French-German). I received this list by email, as well as the information that in our municipality, weddings are paid for from Monday to Thursday and on Saturdays, with varying prices (they are only free on Fridays). The next step was then to make an appointment at the commune about a month before the civil ceremony date to come and drop off our file both in person.

All these formalities are obviously specific to each municipality, so the best thing to do is to contact your local registry office directly!

=> It is possible to have, depending on your town, your civil ceremony filmed and broadcast live on the Internet, which allows you to share it with more relatives and also to record it!

About a month before the civil wedding, we both went to the commune to deposit the papers indicated on the list for our wedding file. We also provided the list of our witnesses, with a copy of their ID (you should know that in Etterbeek, you can have up to 4 witnesses). Finally, it was also on this day that we paid the fees related to the wedding (the price of the wedding celebration + the price of the administrative fees and the wedding book).

We have also chosen an additional paid option that was offered in our town, namely the filmed wedding and the live broadcast of the ceremony on YouTube. This option can be useful in various cases: sick relatives or those who have difficulties to move for various reasons (pregnancy, old age, distance abroad, etc.). The video remains on YouTube for a few days before being deleted, which also allows you to record it and keep a souvenir! As far as the municipality of Etterbeek is concerned, it happens on this YouTube page for the curious.

=> It is possible to have, depending on your town, a personalized civil ceremony (and a sworn interpreter)!

Indeed, we had the chance to have a nice personalized civil ceremony, both funny and touching, in our commune of Etterbeek. But, what does a personalized civil ceremony mean? It means not only having a ceremony of about 15 minutes dedicated to the reading of the articles of the Civil Code concerning the duties of the spouses towards each other and the exchange of the consents and the rings, but to have a longer ceremony (ours lasted about 30 minutes), with a presentation of the two spouses, the story of the meeting, the proposal, the life of the couple, anecdotes about the two spouses, etc. It is adapted according to the history of each couple.

From a practical point of view, this option was not charged in our case, but it was not proposed automatically, we had to ask for it, which I think is a pity because a lot of couples miss this possibility because they don't know that this personalization exists. Fortunately, in our case, a couple of friends had told us about this possibility. So, once you have made the request for personalization to your municipality, it consists of a simple appointment before the wedding with the civil registrar in charge of your ceremony so that he can ask you all the necessary questions about your couple in order to take note of them and prepare the ceremony accordingly. Once again, it is to be seen directly with your municipality if they propose this possibility of personalization and, if yes, it is really worth it because a whole new perspective is then given to the civil ceremony, which is often very formal!

Finally, for foreigners getting married in Etterbeek who do not speak the language of the ceremony, it is possible to have a sworn interpreter during the ceremony. You must inform the civil status department of the municipality of the interpreter's contact details at least one week before the wedding.

=> Do not hesitate to ask to visit the wedding hall in which your civil ceremony will take place in order to be able to imagine at best the entrance, the layout of your relatives, a possible floral decoration, etc!

Concerning the wedding hall of the municipality of Etterbeek, you will find above three pictures of this hall that I had visited before. Indeed, as the town hall of Etterbeek has moved in 2021 to a brand new building, I was a bit worried about what the new wedding hall (which is also the council room of the town hall) could look like. Indeed, it is very modern and relatively soulless, but it is on the other hand ultra bright thanks to its bay windows (if you are lucky enough to have sunshine on your wedding day) and the presence of a pianist throughout the ceremony (which we discovered on the D-day that he sang live) has considerably warmed the aseptic atmosphere. So, for the inhabitants of Etterbeek, don't worry, we don't have a charming wedding hall anymore, but you don't have to move to Brussels-City and its Grand Place to have the chance to enjoy a nice civil ceremony!


2. The choice of alliances

=> Two recommendations: the jewelers Mauboussin (choice of a complete round in diamonds and pink gold) and Gemmyo (choice of a male wedding ring in black gold, with an engraving inside in Morse code (yes, you read it right!)

For me, the choice was quick because I knew I wanted to get my wedding ring from Mauboussin, where my engagement ring was also from. For the wedding ring, I chose the Capricime model (which is no longer offered by Mauboussin France) because I wanted a full diamond and rose gold band, which is thin and without edges. To buy my wedding ring, since there is no Mauboussin store in Belgium, we took advantage of a trip to the North of France to buy it in the store in Lille, which fortunately had my finger ring in stock.

I am aware that many negative opinions flourish on the Internet about the quality of Mauboussin products but, as far as I am concerned, I have always worn, since my childhood, several types of Mauboussin jewels (earrings, necklaces, rings) and I have never had the slightest problem with this brand or the slightest loss of quality over time. So, of course, Mauboussin is not an ultra-luxury brand, but you have to remember that the quality-price ratio is, in my opinion, interesting, as well as the large choice of models in various styles, in white, yellow or pink gold.

For women, the jeweler Gemmyo also offers more expensive, but original and refined models and, in particular, models that can perfectly match engagement ring and wedding ring.

Gemmyo also offers models for men and this is where my husband found his wedding ring after (long) research because he wanted a ring that was both simple, discreet, but original, which he found at Gemmyo with a black gold wedding ring, which gives it a more masculine side. What is black gold? Black gold is white gold that is called rhodium-plated, which means it is covered with a thin layer of metal to give it its charcoal gray color. Moreover, black gold is a very resistant metal, stainless and therefore very durable over time. However, one important thing to know is that black gold requires more maintenance. Indeed, like all rhodium-plated metals, black gold is a metal that develops a patina with time, rubbing, shocks, etc. The rhodium layer applied on black gold will fade, which certainly gives it a certain charm, but you will have to think about having the black gold wedding ring re-rhodium plated relatively regularly, depending on the condition of the ring, in order to restore its initial color.

One last discreet originality that I love: my husband had both of our first names engraved in Morse code on his wedding ring (I think I'll remember for a long time the look on the saleswoman's face at Gemmyo when my husband made this request, to which Gemmyo agreed) and the date of our civil marriage.

To buy my husband's wedding ring, we went to Gemmyo's elegant and sleek Brussels boutique, where, in all honesty, we had an absolutely impeccable customer experience, which is rare enough to mention! So we can only warmly recommend Gemmyo on all levels: originality and quality of the jewelry, made in France, and perfect customer service from start to finish!


3. The choice of outfits

There are no rules concerning the outfits for a civil wedding, just as there are no rules for the wedding in general: if there is one day in your life when you MUST do as you wish, it is the day of your wedding, a phrase to NEVER forget throughout the preparations and on the big day! Therefore, you can choose dressy but more casual outfits for the civil wedding day, or more formal outfits, especially if the civil wedding is followed by a religious and/or secular ceremony on the same day.

=> A recommendation for a civil wedding in jumpsuit: the brand Septem for a total elegance and self-confidence on the D-day!

I'll start with my own outfit for the civil wedding. It was an obvious choice for me for a long time: being a jumpsuit fan, I wanted to wear one on this special day, and I knew exactly which brand to turn to, namely Septem, created by a former Belgian lawyer, Jessica Troisfontaine, who initially specialized in jumpsuits, before declining a range of clothes all more sublime than the others. She wanted to help women take power over their lives through their clothes and I must say that it works wonderfully... In my case, I chose the off-white Coup de Coeur jumpsuit, which was both simple and elegant, with short sleeves, a wrap-around V-neckline with collar and lapels, a tie belt and straight pants with pockets. Plus, it was so comfortable I felt like I was in my pyjamas at my wedding, dream on!

As the civil wedding was scheduled for the beginning of May and the weather can be capricious in Belgium, I had associated this jumpsuit with a white tweed long jacket with pearly and golden Mango buttons which finished the outfit well (but which is not on sale anymore), open sandals with 7cm golden braided heels Jonak (Vaemis model), a half-moon braided clutch found on Vinted (never hesitate to take the time to search on Vinted, you can find real treasures, tested and approved! ) and gold plated Gingko earrings (Adélie model from Anne de Lafforest). Finally, around my neck, I wore the Mauboussin star pendant in pink gold and diamonds "French Valentine" that I never leave.

=> The choice of a reusable men's outfit, mismatched beige and water green, with a feather bow tie from the talented milliner Atelier B in Normandy!

Regarding my husband's choice of outfit, he wanted something elegant, but not too formal, and especially to be able to wear this outfit later. To compose his outfit, he started with a beige wool jacket and a white Suitsupply shirt, no longer sold by the brand, that he already had and that he particularly liked to find the rest of his outfit. We went to the interesting Cameleon outlet in Brussels, which we discovered at the same time, where we found the green cotton pants of the brand Bellerose and the brown suede shoes of the brand Sartorini.

My husband didn't want to wear a tie, so all that was left was to find the final touch that he wanted to be a little original: a bow tie. We found it at the milliner Atelier B based in Normandy where I had my white veil made for the secular wedding. It was a bow tie made of pheasant feathers in the center and goose feathers on the sides, in shades of green water perfectly matching the pants. And there you have it!


4. The choice of flowers

=> Do not hesitate to be original for your bridal bouquet, the ideas are infinite: a bouquet all in colors, all in wild flowers, all in height with gladioli, all in dried flowers, all in aromatic herbs, or even unusual all in lego, etc!

Concerning my bridal bouquet for the civil wedding, I knew that I wanted a very colorful and rustic bouquet, because, on the one hand, I had chosen a more sober and classic bouquet of white peonies and olive branches for the secular wedding, and, on the other hand, I had fallen in love with a Brussels florist who proposed exactly the style of colorful and rustic bouquet that I was looking for: Atelier Morgane Steygers. One month before the civil wedding, I contacted her by sending her a picture of one of my favorite bouquets that I had seen in the past and by explaining that I wanted something exactly in the same spirit, with seasonal flowers and also by specifying the flowers that I did not like. She delivered the bouquet the day before the wedding to my home, belted with a pretty white bow that gave it the final touch. She also gave me the boutonniere as a gift for my husband (which I kept in the refrigerator crisper the night before the wedding on her advice). I was so pleased with the result!

=> Whether you organize a post-ceremony meal in a restaurant or at home, do not hesitate to decorate the table with fresh flowers, and why not floral arrangements in hat boxes?

My mother wanted to give us floral arrangements to put on the tables of the Brussels restaurant, Origine, where we had our civil wedding lunch. I wanted arrangements in soft pastel colors and I had previously spotted the idea on Pinterest to make these arrangements in hat boxes, which I found both elegant, original and also convenient to carry to the restaurant because my mother brought these flowers from a very creative florist I like a lot, which is located near their home in the Paris area and where I always pick up a bouquet when I'm there: Tout Autre Chose, located in Rubelles, in Seine-et-Marne.


5. The beauty treatment

=> Three tips: if you want to make your hair (and nails) grow faster and make them stronger, suppler and shinier as the wedding approaches, you can take a three-month course of brewer's yeast (for my part, I chose the organic course from Belle & Bio, which was effective, even if the tablets were big and bad to swallow). On the other hand, don't hesitate to set aside two hours on the big day for makeup and hair styling, ideally in a place that offers both services, so that you have all the time you need and also so that you can enjoy this moment of calmness just for you before the storm! Finally, don't hesitate to decorate your hairstyle with an accessory (pick, barrette, comb, crown, headband, veil, etc.) made of fresh flowers or dried flowers!

As for my beauty treatment for the civil wedding, I had chosen a hair salon / beauty institute near my home that I already knew and where I knew I could do both hair and makeup so as not to lose time on the big day: Butterfly Hair and Beauty Salon, located in Etterbeek. About a month before the wedding, I tried a hairstyle because I was hesitating between a braided crown on the head or a braided bun with a long comb made of dried flowers (bluish oats) and stabilized flowers (eucalyptus leaves in natural and silver) from Les Fleurs Dupont (Turquin model, Orichalque collection). I finally opted for the latter.

On the big day, I had planned two hours of appointment in order to be able to be styled and made up without stress and also to be able to take advantage of this moment of relaxation that I had chosen to live alone. As for the makeup, since I hardly wear makeup on a daily basis, I asked for a natural makeup with a luminous complexion, an eye makeup in golden and brown tones (I have blue-green eyes) and a rosewood mouth. The result was perfect, especially for me who was not used to be made up! And don't forget to wear a top that you can unbutton so that you don't have to take it off by the head and take the risk of ruining your beauty routine...!

Finally, as for the manicure and pedicure (since I was wearing open-toed sandals), I had applied clear polish on my hands and red on my feet the night before. And there you have it!


6. The course of the civil ceremony

=> Don't hesitate to arrive well before the civil ceremony to take full advantage of the reunion with your guests and already take some couple and group photos!

On the day of the wedding, we chose to drive to the town hall because, even though it was not far from our house, I could not see myself walking to the place in a bride and heels. Moreover, there was an underground parking under the town hall, allowing direct access to it, which was very convenient.

The commune had asked us to arrive at least 15 minutes in advance in order to check our IDs for my husband and me, as well as those of our witnesses. We chose to arrive 30 minutes in advance to have time to enjoy the reunion with our loved ones and also to take some couple and group photos.

By the way, in this article, I didn't make a specific section dedicated to the choice of a photographer for the civil wedding, because in our case we asked a friend of my husband to take the pictures on the D-day. So I don't have any specific advice to give, nor any feedback to give on this subject.

=> The course of the personalized civil ceremony: the entrance, the placement, the personalized passages, the reading of the articles of the Civil Code, the exchange of the consents and the alliances, the handing-over of the family booklet and the exit!

Our civil ceremony lasted about 30 minutes, as it was personalized. Here is how it went so that you can have a feedback, but it will obviously be specific to each one.

Concerning the entrance, it is first our relatives and our witnesses who settled in the room of the weddings. We entered last, welcomed by the registrar, all to the piano entrance music (and sung!) that we had chosen: Feeling Good, by Nina Simone.

In terms of seating, we were both in the front facing the Registrar and there were four seats behind each of us. We had previously decided that the family would be behind my husband and the witnesses behind me. The partners of our witnesses who were present sat on the circular bench at the back.

Concerning the different steps of the ceremony, the Civil Status Officer first talked about us, about our meeting, our qualities, our defects, the marriage proposal, the life of the couple, before reading the articles of the Civil Code concerning the respective rights and duties of the spouses, the whole punctuated with beautiful interludes sung on the piano. Then came the famous moment of the exchange of consents, the big YES, and the exchange of rings (which we had entrusted to one of our witnesses). Finally, the officer gave us the family booklet (which can be found in photos at the beginning of the first section of this article devoted to administrative procedures). We will keep the memory of a very HUMAN, funny and touching ceremony. Finally, we all left the room, to the sound of piano music that we had also chosen: My baby just cares for me, once again, by Nina Simone!

=> An idea for the traditional launch at the exit of the town hall (check before if it is authorized in your commune): provide small braided baskets containing dried eucalyptus leaves and dried limonium flowers!

After leaving the hall, we took couple and group photos. Then, a hedge of honor was waiting for us for the traditional launch at the exit of the town hall, before we took the way to the restaurant. Check beforehand if your town hall authorizes any launch. In our case, it was possible only if it was with biodegradable elements.

From then on, I had planned two Dille & Kamille mini braided baskets, containing dried eucalyptus leaves and dried limonium flowers. For the dried eucalyptus leaves, you can buy bunches of eucalyptus, dry them, and then detach the leaves yourself, which is what I did (it's a little work, but the result is worth it and you'll get the added pleasure of enjoying the smell of eucalyptus, if you like it) or you can buy boxes of eucalyptus leaves already ready to use!


7. The civil wedding lunch at the restaurant

=> If you can, don't hesitate to organize your civil wedding meal in a restaurant so that you can really enjoy the moment all together! Another interesting option is also the chef or the caterer at home, especially if your wedding takes place in the nice days and you have an outdoor space...

As far as we are concerned, we had chosen to organize our civil wedding lunch in a restaurant, for practicality, as we were about fifteen. We chose the restaurant Origine, located near our home in Etterbeek, that we had the opportunity to test during Covid thanks to the take-away and that we loved for the quality and originality of its plates. They dare unknown ingredients and daring mixtures of flavors, never disappointing. The inscription on the front of their restaurant "Amour, Boire & Manger" (Love, Drink & Eat) was enough to convince me that it was the perfect place for a wedding meal!

Before the event, we went to meet the restaurant's team and the chef Xavier Lizen (all very nice!) and see the place to imagine the layout of the table, finally all in length, as we could privatize the restaurant. They offered us a choice of a four course menu, where each guest could choose between two possibilities. Here is the menu that was proposed to us, which can give you a better idea of the spirit of their cuisine that we can only recommend (their proposals in terms of champagne and wines were also of excellent quality):

=> An idea for a little attention for your guests: personalized cookies, and why not those from Shanty Biscuits, in personalized boxes from Cotton Bird?

On the big day, despite our delay after the civil ceremony, the Origine restaurant staff was waiting for us with a big smile, we could play our own music and the table was beautifully set. By the way, I had planned a little extra attention for the guests: on each plate, there was a personalized box from Cotton Bird containing two personalized cookies from Shanty Biscuits, one in French and one in German, to celebrate our Franco-German couple (you will note our passion in life for raclette...). We were able to enjoy the restaurant until late in the afternoon, the meal was divine, it was really a moment out of time!


8. The rest of the civil wedding weekend at home

=> Two ideas that do not require any preparation: a wine, cheese, charcuterie and wedding cake evening where everyone can eat according to their hunger after a big meal and a brunch the next day in the late morning!

After the civil wedding lunch, everyone went to their hotel to rest before meeting again in the evening at our place. We had planned a wine, cheese and charcuterie evening so that everyone could eat according to their hunger, as we were finally leaving the table shortly before (and also not having any preparations to be able to, again and again, enjoy instead of being locked in the kitchen that day)!

For the people of Brussels, three tips: we always buy the bread at the delicious artisanal bakery and pastry shop Gâteau, located in Etterbeek, and the charcuterie at Traiteur Roland, a high quality butcher shop with a very large choice, located in the Cimetière d'Ixelles. Finally, for dessert, we had planned three beautiful and good desserts from my favorite floral pastry shop in Brussels: Cokoa. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures worthy of honoring her work, but check out her website to make your mouth water! She is located near the Place Flagey and also offers cakes, cookies and macaroons, which can be eaten endlessly/hungryly. She also gives masterclasses in her space in Uccle to teach different pastry techniques.

Finally, the next day in the late morning, we had planned a classic brunch with seasonal fruits, pastries, cheese, charcuterie, fruit juices, etc. We enjoyed it until our guests left, before starting the organization of our secular wedding which was going to take place three weeks later and which still required a little (a lot...) of preparation!


=> I hope that this article has helped you in the preparation of your civil wedding and, if you have any questions or comments, please, don't hesitate, I will be happy to get back to you!

Don't hesitate to check out my other articles dedicated to decorating inspirations for your reception hall, as well as five original ritual ideas if you are also planning a secular ceremony. And, if you're dreaming of a made-to-measure wedding dress, I've got just the address you need: Annabé Créations Singulières! Finally, if you are looking for a dream destination for your honeymoon, why not Namibia?


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