As a proudly South African wedding blog, one of the things I want SBB to do is to showcase the depth and breadth of awesome that getting married here in my lovely homeland offers. Sometimes, that includes something REALLY special and uniquely Saffa, and that’s what you’ll find in today’s wedding. It doesn’t get more African than having a herd of elephants among your guests (although, I should point out, for all the foreigners who think that we live in huts and ride to work on impalas, that this is a pretty unusual experience, even for us!). Keith and Caroline are two of our own, now living overseas, and they wanted a wedding that really honoured their heritage. They chose to get married at Knysna Elephant Park on the Garden Route, an extraordinary venue where the couple and guests can get up close and personal with the resident herd. I just love this idea, and what makes it even better is that the park makes such a valuable contribution to elephant conservation. Add in an intimate, close-knit family group, a pretty pink and pewter colour scheme, a wonderful photographer (Judy Stofberg of Just Judy) and a very happy bride and groom, and you have the loveliest of lovely South African weddings.
From Caroline, the bride:
On 1 January 2011, Keith and I were at home, having just returned from a family holiday in Belgium. We’d already planned to get married and I knew the ring was sitting in our safe. In fact, because we live in the Middle East, we had already had a quick ‘one minute marriage’, as we like to call it, so that we could live together legally. Only our immediate family knew that we were married and yet still not officially engaged. I really wanted my ring! Then Keith’s brother had proposed to his girlfriend, and we’d had to wait until the hype of their engagement died down. Keith didn’t want to plan a romantic dinner or weekend away, as he knew I’d be expecting the proposal, so everyone thought he would ask me in Belgium that Christmas in the snow. He hadn’t!
There we were in our pyjamas. I’d bought a new phone and texted Keith ‘I love you babe’, just to see if it worked. He texted back: ‘I love you too angel. WILL YOU MARRY ME?’, then whipped out the box to prove he wasn’t kidding. And after waiting so long to send out all of those SMSes telling everyone we were engaged, when it finally came to it, I didn’t. I wanted to bask in the moment with him.
We are still proud South Africans even though we are living overseas, and with the possibility there that we may never return permanently we wanted a truly South African wedding. The Knysna Elephant Park offered this. We were able to interact with the elephants, and the reception area was a beautiful thatched lapa in the middle of the veld. We were able to see the stars that night. We also chose food that was typically South African, including babotie squares, lamb sosaties, fried calamari with inkomazi, braaied meat and fish, melkterts and koeksisters.
A Knysna destination wedding also gave us the opportunity for a family holiday. However, as we’re from Jo’burg and were planning from overseas, we had to keep the décor simple, as getting it there would be a mission. We chose pink and pewter as the colours and silver hearts played a big part in the design. I got lots of DIY ideas from Martha Stewart Weddings, including the ribbons I had on my table instead of overlays, and pink lemonade as a welcome refreshment. It was hard to get across to our florist what I wanted without meeting her, but she pulled it off and the flowers were beautiful. We made all the stationery ourselves.
We are a very relaxed, laid-back couple and love to be outside whenever possible, so having the wedding out in the African veld (and photographs with the elephants) was very important to us. I wore flip-flops (albeit beautiful sparkly ones) and also had slippers on offer for our guests (‘for tired feet’) so ladies could kick off their heels and be comfy. We only had our closest family and friends (about 40 people) and everyone had a great time.
As we were already married, I offered my dad the choice of walking me down the aisle or conducting the ceremony. He chose the ceremony, so my youngest brother walked my sister, and my older brother walked me down the aisle. Keith calls me his sunshine (inside my wedding band is engraved ‘SUNSHINE XX’) so our hymn was ‘You are my Sunshine’ by Elizabeth Mitchell.
On our invitation I had requested all of our guests to write a limerick about us, and this was the winner: “There was once a couple who nested, the emirates laws were being tested, once wouldn’t suffice, so he married her twice, now they can kiss without be arrested.”
My advice to future brides is that once you’re engaged and have set a date, book the venue and photographer, the most important things, think about the theme etc, then STOP. Do not use a year to plan the wedding, you’ll go crazy searching, researching, making things, changing things. Get the ball rolling, but then let it be until about six months before the date. Service providers and vendors don’t really care about what you want a year ahead, and will only focus on your wedding much closer to the time. Even though you only have one wedding to plan, and you want it all sorted out NOW, the vendors have many more to organise before your special day.
Elephant-sized congratulations, Caroline & Keith, and thanks so much again for being part of the new blog! And thanks as always to Judy – you can catch more wonderful pictures on her blog.
Venue & catering: Knysna Elephant Park | Photography: Just Judy | Flowers & decor: Flowers 4 U | Cake: Simon Ash (Knysna Elephant Park) | Stationery: Bride & Groom | Bride & bridesmaids’ dresses: Bride and Co. | Makeup: Ivana Bertoni | DJ: Liquid Sound & Laser