For a while now, I’ve been a big fan of Durban photographer Jacki Bruniquel‘s work – I’m sure you’ll agree it’s absolutely gorgeous! I especially love what she does with reflective surfaces – so clever and beautiful. Anyway, so I was thrilled when she contacted me to submit this wedding because not only is it super stylish, but it’s at one of my favourite venues outside Cape Town. The Oyster Box Hotel is the grand old lady of Umhlanga, which just happens to be near where my beloved grandparents lived when I was growing up. I remember visiting them every year and sometimes going to the Oyster Box, which seemed impossibly glam and sophisticated to my little eyes. After a two year rebuild it reopened in 2009 to wow us yet again, this time with beautiful wrought ironwork, inlaid hand-painted tiles and murals and a stunning gazebo you can choose to get married under. I visited it last time I was home (my parents live in Durbs), and totally fell in love with the decor. Not to mention, of course, the iconic lighthouse. And that’s just the visual aspect – they also do delicious food, and the location is completely amazing. I’m not always a fan of hotel weddings, but this one is something special, and just hosting a wedding there makes it special as well. Gaelene and Richard understood that. They kept their wedding simple and classic to best complement their surroundings, with clever, personal touches to make it their own. Gaelene herself described it best: “beauty in the simplicity of things: beach air, sunshine and our wedding vows”. LOVE.
From the lovely bride, Gaelene:
Richard and I knew each other in our high school years and we even attended a matric dance together. There was always a hint of chemistry and this continued during our university years but nothing serious ever came of this. I moved out to the U.K. for five years and we lost touch whilst Richard spent some time in completing his studies and travelling abroad. After a couple of months of being back in S.A., I bumped into mutual friends of ours whom I hadn’t seen since I left. They were planning a holiday to Mozambique and asked if I’d be interested in joining them. The trip was planned for the next year and I agreed to join them; Richard would also be coming along. It so happened that the big group of friends who were intending to go to Mozambique dwindled into very few and the night before our departure the last person cancelled leaving only these mutual friends of ours who were dating and Richard and myself. The rest is history….
Richard proposed in Zimbabwe at the Victoria Falls. He picked a prime position as the falls were the fullest they had been in many years and he walked us to the nearest point where we could barely see straight as the falls literally fell upon us! It was an awesome moment.
Our first criteria, was to be near the beach. We liked the idea of sharing a weekend celebration with those we love rather than a day or evening. I had seen a picture of the Oyster Box a year previously and knew that we would get married there. We planned a weekend of venue hunting at the coast and we saved the best for last. When we walked into the Pearl Room at the hotel it literally took our breath away and there could be nowhere else we would even consider.
Our second criteria, was that we wanted the wedding to be our own, a true reflection of our characters and personalities. Therefore, it was easy to decide on keeping it intimate and elegant with a touch of sophistication.
We chose to keep our reception in white as the room is particularly beautiful in its surroundings of white, with a splash of silver. To balance these colours we decided to choose plum as our accent colour, since we wanted unusual flowers, which were plum lilies. There was just a touch of colour on the tables complimented by the plum macaroons and sorbet. We also chose to use table names in addition to numbers. Each of the table names represented the qualities we hoped to have in our marriage i.e. love, passion, wisdom, prosperity, joy, laughter, etc.
We did everything ourselves from menus to ceremony leaflets, gift boxes and ‘thank you’s’. We included white satin fans in the church to stick with our theme of white to lighten up the church. We also re-arranged the order of the day to have our Belgian chocolate cake (Richard is a huge chocolate fan) after the service and before the reception to allow our guests time to enjoy the view from the hotel and to occupy them before beginning our reception early so we could see the sea view from the Pearl Room whilst we began our starters and speeches.
Although quite traditional a wedding we broke convention in little things. No hymns, no veil, no bouquet. Instead, we opted for popular songs that each had a meaning to us and a lily and tie for ALL the single ladies and men, wishing them each the opportunity to find whatever they may be looking for. Short, heartfelt speeches, early dinner and a handful of family photos. We loved hosting a joyful occasion and being together, surrounded by the people we love and who love us.
My advice to future brides and grooms is that while it should be a happy time, it can be stressful so try not to lose sight of why you are doing this. Agree on what you both like and go for it. Let go of other people’s opinions and trust in yourself and your abilities. The most valuable thing for us is that if you are not afraid to be creative and get involved in the little things, it makes a huge difference to the day and can lower your costs. Outsource as much as you can and be resourceful in going direct to the factories. As we did not have a retinue (only our witnesses), we decided to include a little splash of plum on everyone who was involved in the day. I went directly to the factory to have all of the guys plum ties made and to the fabric markets to have waist bands and other accessories made for the girls. It made a big difference. Just remember to think big and have fun!
Massive thank yous to Richard and Gaelene for sharing their swish and lovely wedding, and to the lovely Jacki Bruniquel for being our first Wildcard Wedding photographer! You can see more on her blog.
Venue & catering: The Oyster Box Hotel, Umhlanga
Photography: Jacki Bruniquel
Co-ordinator: Ginny Elsick of The Oyster Box Hotel
Florist, cake & decor: Kobus Niemann, Designer Flowers ([email protected])
Dresses: Ahmed Vidal
Hair: Drew Christie and Norman from Evolve Hair Dressing Salon (031 564 5035)
Makeup:Charelle McAllister (079 888 8777)
DJ: Angelo referred by Jacques Van Zyl of Exclusive Entertainment (via the Oyster Box Hotel)