It’s like ray-eee-aynnnn… on your wedding day… Pretty much every bride’s worst nightmare, right? You spend months, sometimes even years planning an outdoor wedding with the decor and the entertainment and the sunshine, and of course you’re relying on the good old South African weather so at no point in all your visions of loveliness do you imagine yourself huddled with your new husband under an umbrella. But for all that, rain happens. And actually, it’s not the train smash that many brides imagine it will be. Yes, it changes the game plan and yes, it’s a little disappointing, but with a bit of forethought and creativity, it can be one of the things that breaks the ice for your guests and makes your wedding day extra memorable. And today’s wedding at Honeywood Guest Farm is the perfect example. When I first saw a few pics of it on one of my favourite blogs, Lanalou Style (Lana was one of the lucky guests), I was drawn not only to the quirky, handmade details, but to how sweet everything looked even after a bit of a downpour. I had to know more, and as soon as I saw Alan and Heather van Gysen‘s photographs I fell in love with them. The sun may not have shone, the bunting may not have been strung from the trees, and the meal may not have been a picnic as planned, but this eco-tastic, heartfelt wedding was every bit as special for it. I think the final photo, with all of the colourful beach umbrellas and an intimate moment between bride and groom, has to be one of my favourites ever – this is love, come rain or come shine. Suck it, Alanis.
The lovely Olivia (who is a blogger herself – check out her eco blog here) sent over lots of background for us:
Richard and I met in London about ten years ago, through a mutual friend. We had never really thought about getting married until my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She was given less than a year to live and we wanted her to be able to be at her daughter’s wedding. Sadly, she died a few weeks later. But the seed had been sown and two years later Richard asked me to marry him while on holiday in Spain. We stayed on an olive farm in the countryside in a tipi, where we could see the stars from our bed through the roof . We went on a hike along a river through a ravine, which gradually got steeper. At one point we had to take our backpacks off and hold them above our heads while we waded through chest high water. There was no one else around and at the top we had a picnic by the water’s edge where Richard proposed. He had realised halfway there that he had left the ring behind, but he couldn’t think of any excuse to go back without raising my suspicions. So he made me a ring out of grass, which I still have and is one of my most treasured possessions.
The theme of our wedding was ‘green’ but not in the colour sense, but in that we wanted our wedding to have as little impact on the environment as possible. I work in the environmental sector and Richard and I are both passionate about sustainability so it was very important for us that our wedding would be as ecofriendly as possible. It was great fun coming up with ever new ideas to keep our wedding footprint small.
We both wanted an outdoor, informal daytime wedding and picnics are one of my favourite things, so we decided to have a picnic wedding. We wanted our wedding day to be an expression of us, so we wanted to be very involved and do as much as possible ourselves. We also wanted the day to have a vintage rustic feel.
Two important things for us were to be able to provide our own bar and have no closing time so it was difficult to find a venue that would allow us such freedom. But then we found Honeywood Guest Farm, a stunning honey farm near Swellendam, who were wonderfully flexible. We knew it was the perfect venue for us when we saw the beautiful tree on a hill with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
Unfortunately the wedding did not go as planned as it rained most of the day, not ideal for an outdoor picnic! But thankfully the rain held out until after the ceremony. Our ceremony was perfect and exactly what we had hoped for. It was a short non-religious ceremony based on the humanist philosophy and performed by my godfather, a practicing Buddhist. We wrote our own vows, and I think there were no dry eyes in the audience, especially when Richard, who is not known for being sentimental, choked on his words. We had tied our wedding rings to a long piece of ribbon which was then passed around to everyone to bless before we gave them to each other.
One of the best things about our wedding day was having all our friends and family there to share it with us. Both Richard’s and my respective siblings live overseas, so it was wonderful to have them with us. We also had many friends and family travel from overseas to be with us. As my father passed away when I was 15, having my brother walk me down the aisle was a very special moment. We still wanted to include my parents in our day so I printed out a photo of them on their wedding day as well as both sets of grandparents, who were all also deceased. I framed them in antique cardboard frames with ribbons and hung them overlooking the tree under which we were married so that they could all be part of the ceremony too.
The plan was to have a picnic afterwards on the lawn, but as it started raining the wedding was hastily moved indoors at the last minute! While all the guests chipped in to move everything inside, we had our wedding photos taken in the pouring rain. Richard’s shoes got so wet that the photographer had to take him to our honeymoon cabin to get another pair! But standing in the rain, huddled under the umbrella with my new husband was one of the most special parts of our day. I don’t think I could have been happier.
We considered everything for the wedding, from our rings to the paper we used to be as eco friendly as possible. So most things we had were reused, second hand or rented. My engagement ring is an art deco antique ring from the 1920s, as we were concerned about the social and environmental costs of gold and diamond mining. For the wedding rings, we melted down some old jewelry and made our own wedding rings at a friend’s jewellery studio. Some of the gold used in my ring came from my great grandfather’s gold fillings! It makes a great story when people ask me about my wedding ring. To fit in with my second hand engagement ring I wanted to get a second hand dress too. I tried on a Jenny Packham dress at bridal boutique in London and was lucky enough to find it on a once-worn wedding dress website and then had it altered to fit. The flower in my hair was an antique bought from Second Hand Rose in Cape Town.
As favours we had a mixture of gazanias and cape daisies in biodegradable pots which could be planted straight into the ground, and used pink fynbos flowers grown on the neighbouring farm for confetti. These also doubled up as table decorations. Having imported cut flowers would definitely not have fitted into our green theme, so we opted for a mixture of fynbos, herbs and flowers picked by our helpful family members on the morning of the wedding. I had forgotten to organise a bouquet, so my poppies were hastily picked at the last minute and I used the ribbon from my dress hanger to tie them together! We used my grandmother’s antique lace tablecloths for overlays on the tables and made our own bunting (we invited our friends round for a bunting party and sewed a total of 60 meters!). We had a cushion made for each guest out of used coffee sacks and sewn together by a lady in our community. A good friend of ours works in advertising and was able to help us rent the rusty watering cans we had as centrepieces filled with flowers, the galvanised buckets for the wine and ice, Bashews boxes for the cutlery and crockery for each table. This gave the wedding a lovely rustic feel. Most of our rentals came from Propeller, a props hire place with a great vintage selection.
All our wine (Waverly Organics) and Champagne (Avondale) was organic, and all our food was locally sourced and organic where possible (a lot of it was grown on Honeywood). We offered guests Pimms on arrival, with fresh strawberries, cucumber and mint and then a selection of cocktails throughout the day as well as beer, wine and champagne. We also served fair trade coffee from a community project in KwaZulu Natal. Miranda from Honeywood also did the catering (all vegetarian), making delicious quiches, dips, breads and salads to go into each picnic basket. Richard’s parents made jars of green fig preserve from the fig tree in their garden – a big hit! We also had jars of olives from a community project in Malmesbury and bought all the cheeses from Kimili, a small artisanal dairy near Tulbagh which cares lovingly for its herd of cows. For dessert we had soft serve ice cream from the local ice cream van! This was great fun, especially for the children (I think the record was ten ice creams had by my cousin!).
I think our favourite ‘green’ idea was our wedding invitations. We printed the invite on growing paper, which can be planted and would grow into basil and rocket plants. The invitation was in the style of a country fair poster, designed by my brother, which fitted our rustic picnic. The rest of our stationery was a mix of vintage greeting cards, adapted for table settings.
My advice to future brides is to savour the build-up to your wedding – looking forward to your wedding can last months, whereas the actual day will be over before you know it. And don’t be afraid to do it all yourself, it is a lot of work, but it is such fun and will give your wedding individual character. Also, why not have a ‘green’ wedding, there are so many great ideas that are also eco-friendly that will set your day apart from the rest.
Big thank you and lots of lovely wishes to Olivia and Richard for sharing such an awesome wedding with us, and to Lana for the referral. And then of course a big welcome to Cap Classique and thank you to Alan and Heather van Gysen – Alan’s also a top surf photographer, so go check out his blog for some amazing pics!