I Do, I Do!

By Leigh Robertson

“Everyone says it was the best wedding they’ve ever been to,” enthuses a newly hitched and clearly elated Tracy back home in London. “Our friends and family were so impressed and no one wanted the night to end. The venue was spot on. And so was the food, which everyone’s still talking about. Not to forget the perfect weather...”

For South African born Tracy and her husband Eldon, the decision to invite their friends to the Cape to share in their celebration was incontrovertible. They wanted to show off the “best of South Africa” to their UK mates. As part of a modern, sophisticated bash taking place over a full weekend, complete with pre-wedding barbeque and finale brunch. For the wedding itself, the couple had a clear vision of a chic outdoor affair with mountain and vineyard views. All this needed to be at the same location, along with stylish lodgings for 20. Quite the tall order. But via a flurry of emails and long distance calls with a Cape Town-based wedding coordinator, they easily found their dream spot at a wine estate in Stellenbosch.

Tracy’s reminiscences could be those of any of the hundreds of over-the-moon newlyweds, from South Africa or overseas, who have chosen to marry in the winelands, says Christina Holt, who says she’s more an event manager and stylist than wedding planner. “Winelands weddings are a huge trend,” she says. About 90 per cent of the nuptials her company, Wedding Concepts, handles are in the winelands, whether in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl, or newly popular areas such as Elgin and Walker Bay. And it’s for good reason. 

“From a value perspective, it’s astounding what you get here compared to, say, in the UK,” says Richard Holt, Christina’s husband and business partner. “For the same budget, Tracy and Eldon may well have ended up with an indoor wedding, by necessity considering the weather there, with a sit-down meal invariably comprising soup, meat with a starch and three vegetables, and a piece of cake. Sure it would still be a lovely day, but when you look at what the couple got for their money here...”

He describes how four different parts of the wine estate were used for the ceremony and pre- and post-festivities. With elegant outdoor seating areas and a dance floor under the stars, and different food stations offering sushi and other exciting dishes from which guests could pick and choose. “It was the stuff of fairy tales,” he says. “In their eyes, the kind of wedding celebrities might have.”

As the trend for destination weddings has exploded, the Western Cape has become one of the top locations in the world. “We’ve got everything the rest of the world has to offer,” adds Christina. “But what’s special is our incredible diversity and outstanding value. Then we have top notch suppliers providing a professional service to international standards, and usually with the kind of creative edge that can really take a wedding to the next level. People from overseas cannot believe what they get here.” Christina cites lists of catering companies, florists, photographers and even lighting specialists who are pushing the boundaries of quality and creativity. 
For weddings with more specific requirements, a coordinator will know what kind of venue will accommodate the most exacting of needs. “The vast majority of our clients are busy professional people in their 30s and up, all of whom have a good idea of what they want,” says Christina. And she’s not only referring to flush ‘wedding tourists’ either.

“The economy might have slowed down and prices gone up, but while people have become more conscious of costs they’re still willing to splash out for their special day. But only if they’re getting value for their money.” She adds that local couples wanting a wedding without blowing the bank will get closer to achieving their dream by involving a professional.

It’s definitely worth it for the sage advice you’ll get: “When couples tell us they want a March wedding, they get rather shocked when we explain they’ll probably have to wait a year,” laughs Christina. The Cape wedding season extends from October to April, over which period most of the popular venues have waiting lists.

Capetonian newlyweds Tanja and Thijs discovered it was worth the wait when their happy day, a “glamorous family celebration”, at a Franschhoek estate arrived. From a “beautiful ceremony” overlooking the vineyards to sparkling wine at the entrance to a lovely old cellar, the couple was “completely enchanted”. How could they not live happily ever after?

What’s New in Weddings?

What’s ‘in’:  Weddings with more of a party atmosphere focused on friends and family—couples are turning the occasion into a three-day event. A more personalised approach—there was once a surge in sending invitations by email, but now there’s a return to tangible, old fashioned printed invitations, using bespoke, beautifully designed stationery. Couples are also honouring their guests by offering tiny tokens throughout the day, whether it’s flip flops, fans, pashminas or estate wines (sugar coated almonds are definitely out!).
Other trends:  Creating a number of different environments for your guests, encouraging them to get up and move around, but also making them comfortable. Strategically placed panelling can be used to create clever divisions within open spaces—whether for dining, dancing or lounging—and can serve as an attractive way to maximise the design theme. 
Music:  Invest in music to create different atmospheres for the ceremony, pre-drinks, dinner and dancing. Some clever local bands have expanded their repertoire to offer everything from marimba to smooth jazz, pop and even opera. Couples with a large contingency of overseas guests are still choosing to incorporate an African element, but these days it’s more cross-over. A wedding coordinator will help to tailor music exactly according to your needs.
Wedding Concepts, Tel. (021) 426-5783.

What’s ‘in’:  Long, leisurely meals where food is enjoyed and shared. Catering is veering towards lighter food, served in smaller portions. This might be a five course meal, or it could be mezze or tapas style with lots of dishes and platters brought to the table for guests to share. Platters and bowls of food to be passed around serve as a great ice breaker and the best way to get interaction among guests. Another exciting trend is having several food stations where guests go to sample different kinds of food. Using seasonal and local ingredients is another important trend and one that’s here to stay.
What’s ‘out’:  Meat, starch and two vegetables. Buffet food where guests have to get up from their seat and stand in a queue to get their food. Fast food. Anything that is on the endangered fish list. 
Food themes:  Popular themes for day time weddings are Italian or Mediterranean. Light and fresh food is the key. In our climate, room temperature or cold food is more popular for a hot summer’s day. Evening weddings are usually a little more formal, though it can also be fun to try warmer colours and tastes lent by Moroccan or Asian cuisines.
Eating with the seasons:  Summer cuisine needs to be light and fresh, whereas winter menus tend to be heavier, spicier and warmer. Seasonal winter ingredients like butternut, waterblommetjies and rhubarb lend themselves to warm wholesome meals. We recommend any type of curry be it Indian, Thai or South African, or a Moroccan tagine
Nici & Jen, Zest Catering, Tel. 083 720 2202 or 084 716 2488.

What’s ‘in’:  Wedding dresses are taking on more individualistic styles. Vintage is still very popular especially if the venue is appropriate. Also on trend are the very clean modern styles currently seen on the catwalks. Using the best fabric is always in, as are custom-made gowns.
What’s ‘out’:  That generic style that we see again and again, usually in stark white, which is not a very flattering colour. Slavishly following a look that is not your own. Synthetic fabrics—because it’s important to feel fantastic in a special bespoke gown in the best fabric you can afford. Not taking your designer’s advice, what with all their knowledge accumulated over the years.
White wedding dresses:  White wedding dresses will always be popular, but in kinder shades of white such as winter white, ivory, oyster and cream. There are, however, a larger percentage of brides choosing colour options or colour trim and accessories. 
Fabric:  Silk is wonderful for gowns because it’s a natural fibre, feels good against the skin and comes in array of natural shades of white. Texture is very important as it can provide an accent or interest even in the plainest gowns. Lace is very popular at the moment as well as satin and embroidered, beaded and ruched fabrics. 
Cost:  All brides want to be the main focus on their wedding day and will see to it that they get the dress they want. I think we are seeing more quality and less quantity with weddings since the economic downturn. 
Patrick Mullins,Couturier, Tel. 082 672 3805.

Current trends:  There’s a definite return to traditional antique roses in shades of peach, dusty pinks, creams and off whites. Weddings are bigger and ‘showier’, often at very classic venues or in large marquees, with opulent silver candelabra, old fashioned draping ivy and innumerable roses. Also big is the use of multiple containers of differing heights, shapes and sizes, with bunches of like flowers or single stems. Popular flowers are lilies, lisianthus, roses, gerberas, lace and Irish bells, in creams, off whites, greens, peach and pale pinks. For bridal bouquets, the more spilling and trailing, the better. 
What’s ‘out’:  Small weddings. Overly modern and minimal flowers. Bright flowers in shades of cerise and orange. White orchids (Philaenopis).
Cost  Couples are still splurging on flowers for their wedding. The attitude is that this is an event of a life time, so let’s spare no expense. The minimum couples are spending for really beautiful flowers at their wedding is R6000 to R10 000, right up to R40 000.Tracy & Garth, Lush Flowers, Tel. (021) 423-5503