Deciding to get married during COVID times
I walked down the aisle to marry Keenan in December of 2020. Looking back, it feels like a crazy decision, but we made the call to host an intimate wedding with just our nearest and dearest during a haze of post-first wave, pre-second wave excitement. We’d been back and forth for months, postponing our big day in the hopes that we would still be able to host our original big wedding, with the 100 guests we had on our list. But when the Covid situation in South Africa seemed to ease up during the summer, we decided to host a different version of our dream wedding, with just 5 weeks to plan and the knowledge that many of our beloved friends and family would not be there to witness it.
The Right Decision For Us
Even with the clarity of hindsight, I am so grateful we made the decision to go ahead and get married when we did. If we had decided to postpone again until December 2021 or January 2022 so that our sisters (who both live in Australia) could attend, or to “wait Covid out” we would have been forced to push our wedding out again anyway until who knows when. It was not the day we had originally imagined, but it was such a beautiful and happy celebration of love and life and really, it was exactly what we all needed after the year we’d survived.
Keenan was in Nairobi while I was in Cape Town when we made the call to go ahead with our wedding, so all our decisions were made over the phone – he arrived a week before the wedding. Thankfully, we had already been together for 7 years, so we knew each other well enough to handle the planning and decision making long-distance. There were fundamental choices which we had already discussed, like the feeling that we wanted at our wedding. We both felt strongly that we wanted our guests to feel like family – and with a guest list of just 38 people, we knew they would. Other than that, Keenan was happy for me to make most of the aesthetic decisions, which I was very happy to do. Neither of us cared about ours being “wedding of the year”. We both felt strongly that it would be a happy, love-filled day. In terms of the budget, we wanted a great photographer, excellent food and lots of wine. Flowers and other decor were not as important – especially with such a beautiful, outdoor venue. We both agreed not to go over the budget, which is very important to talk about before you start planning!
My tip for future brides: Make a list of what’s important to you, and what’s important to your fiancé. If they are wildly different, find the middle ground where you’re both comfortable with what you’re getting and what you’re sacrificing. Do this before you start planning, to save yourself any fights along the way. Know that planning the wedding is going to be stressful. Know that you will cry. Know that you will think “let’s just cancel the wedding and get married in court” a few times along the way. But know that no matter how many things go wrong, it will be the happiest day of your life.
All The Details From Our December 2020 Winelands Wedding Day
The Wedding Planner
I was planning on being a very relaxed bride. I consider myself relatively oraginsed and I’ve always loved planning. I wanted to keep the details as simple and easy to pull together as possible. But the reality is that planning a wedding simply is not an easy feat. It is honestly more stressful, all-consuming and eye-wateringly expensive than you can imagine. After many (like, many) tears during the first couple of weeks of planning, I reached out to Dayna Viglietti from Strawberry Weddings and Events and asked for her help. From literally the first moment that I reached out to her, Dayna went above and beyond for us, and her help kept me together in those few short weeks. You can’t actually picture just how much work goes into planning a wedding before you start – even if it is a micro-wedding, but I wish I’d had her expert guidance from the very beginning. When it came to double-checking lists, setting up expert timelines, keeping an eye on easy-to-miss details and masterminding foolproof backup plans, Dayna was always there to remind me, support me, encourage me and allow me to vent.
My tip for future brides: It’s not worth losing your mind, driving your best friends crazy and making your mom cry just to say you planned the whole wedding yourself. Find a wedding planner and hand over the reigns. This is supposed to be a happy and exciting process, not the most miserable few months of your life. On the day, you’ll want to have your bridesmaids and mom around to get ready with you, not setting the table in the blazing heat.
Boschendal is one of my favourite places in the entire world and it had always been my dream to host a Boschendal Wedding. But our budget would not have accommodated our original 100 person guest list at this beautiful venue. With our dramatically downscaled guest list of just 38 guests, I decided to reach out to the venue for a cost estimate. The Boschendal Weddings & Events team is absolutely incredible – extremely helpful and as flexible and accommodating as possible. Their wedding offering is a slick, personalised operation. With their help, we decided to host our marriage ceremony and reception dinner at the Rhone Homestead, under the summer sky. One of the best things about hosting a wedding at Boschendal is that there’s enough accommodation. This was especially important due to South Africa’s 11pm curfew at the time. We stayed in the jaw-dropping Mountain Villa with our family, which is also where we invited guests for a toasted-cheese-sandwiches-after-party.
My tip for future brides: If you have a dream wedding in mind but you’re not sure if your budget can stretch to make it work, it’s definitely worth reaching out to them to discuss your options. Sometimes a weekday or off-season wedding can work, or a smaller version of what you already had in mind. Be honest about your budget and your expectations, and see if they are able to accommodate you.
My only real vision for the decor was light. I wanted candles and fairy lights to give the wedding a soft, romantic glow. And tbh, most of our budget was going to food, wine and photography, so we didn’t have much to play with in terms of nice-to-haves like under plates and speciality cutlery. Personally, I didn’t feel these were very important to hire in, as the venue’s cutlery and crockery were already good quality and I don’t actually remember these details from other weddings I’ve been to. To add to the effect of the lights and candles, I wanted lots of glassware (provided by the venue) and ghost chairs (hired) to reflect the sparkle. We didn’t have the budget for elaborate florals, so I sourced greenery from a local market to use as a table runner.
My tip for future brides: Don’t feel pressured into elaborate table decor because “it’s what people do”. Your wedding is a reflection of your vibe as a couple and if that means paired-back table decor in favour of two extra cases of bubbles, that’s great. The wedding industry is just that, an industry, but you are the client and your tastes are more important than the latest trend in tablescaping.
I’ve spent a lot of time at Boschendal, so I knew the food and wine would be flawless. In fact, I didn’t even have time to go to the venue to taste their wedding menu (which is included in the wedding package), but it was not a big deal because I knew whatever they served would be delicious. We served two plated courses and cake for dessert. My only real non-negotiables for the food were that I didn’t want a grazing table standing out in the heat while we were taking pictures and I didn’t want guests to have to stand in a queue for a buffet-style dinner. The cake for dessert was the perfect solution to the old “but no one ever eats the wedding cake”, conundrum and so so delicious. I really didn’t want to go through the process (and cost!) of ordering a “wedding cake” so I ordered the Frilly Antoinette from cult cakery, Sweet Lionheart. A great tip from Dayna was to create a seating plan, even though I didn’t think we needed one. Not only does allocated seating help avoid guests having to ask the wedding planner, the waiters – or you, the bride – where they’re supposed to sit, but it makes catering to different dietary requirements easy.
My tip for future brides: Like Dayna, my wedding planner, says; guests are not going to remember what the decor looked like, but they are going to remember if they were hungry, thirsty, or cold. A wedding is a celebration, and we celebrate with food. If you’re stuck deciding between two different venues, pick the one with the best food.
With only 5 weeks to plan our wedding, I knew I had to find a dress off the rack. Custom dresses typically take around 6 months to make, and I just didn’t have that. I only visited one studio, and I found my dress in my first fitting. I went to my fitting with an open heart and mind and I trusted the process completely. I tried on about 15 dresses – trusting the studio stylists and trying on everything they offered me. Some were too small, some were completely different from what I would have imagined myself wearing, but there was something I loved about all of them. Ultimately, it was the dress that made my bridesmaids say “you look so comfortable” that I knew was the dress for me. The Bo & Luca studio in Cape Town is a little slice of heaven. It’s all silk and beads and Jo Malone candles burning and bottles of bubbly popping. My sense of style is quite bohemian, and I love a bit of beading and sparkle, and Bo & Luca is absolutely perfect for a bride with these style sensibilities. If you don’t already, you need to follow them on Instagram just to enjoy their beautiful dresses in your feed. I really feel that I will look back in 10, 20, 30 years and still think “that’s the perfect dress for me”.
My tip for future brides: Try EVERYTHING on. Even the dresses you don’t think will fit, or suit you. Trust the process and the studio team and enjoy the feeling of trying on these beautiful gowns. No matter how long you’ve been dreaming about your wedding, you can’t imagine what will bring tears to your eyes until you’ve tried it on.
The Hair & Makeup
I ended up doing my own hair and makeup, because of COVID and because well, I just really like the way I do it myself. I’m actually a qualified makeup artist, so I do feel like I was the right person for the job. The day ended up being so relaxed that I did my mom, mom-in-law and two of my bridesmaids’ makeup too. It was good for me to keep my hands busy and have my girls close as the time ticked by until I could walk down the aisle.
My tip for future brides: I have done the makeup for countless brides and they always start off by saying “I just want something really natural”, to which I always reply “Natural looks different to everyone, so show me the celebrity whose makeup you love and we’ll use that as a starting point”. Next, I remind them that you are going to be wearing the most elaborate and expensive dress of your life and your hair is going to be done, so you don’t want to go too natural on your wedding day. You’re going to be hugging and kissing and photographed all day and you need your makeup to last.
The Photographer & Videographer
Photography is such a big part of my life and I wanted the best for our wedding day. Skillie from Kikitography came highly recommended and was so great to have around on the day. I wanted our pictures to feel and look natural, and he was great at capturing special moments between posed shots. Keenan really didn’t want to spend hours after the ceremony taking pictures, and Skillie did a great job of capturing our couples session quickly.
I asked for videographer recommendations on Instagram, which is how I found Aletta Francina. Her style was exactly what we were after – a moving and emotional highlight reel of our day. I watch this video so often, and I’m always reminded of a new special memory that she managed to capture on the day. I’m so grateful for this video, which was a gift from my sister and brother-in-law and my childhood best friend Leanie and her husband Edu.
My tip for future brides: The day really does go by so quickly, and in such a blur. The only thing you are left with at the end of the months and months of planning and the thousands and thousands of Rands are the pictures and the video. If you’re on the fence about whether you want a wedding video or not, I would like to add my vote to the “yes” pile. It’s such a special and lasting memory of such a fleeting day where you are absolutely overwhelmed with joy and love. Hire the best photographer and videographer you can.
Due to the curfew, we knew we wouldn’t have time for a dance floor. So we asked Gary Thomas aka Moodship to perform throughout the day, for the ceremony, pre-drinks and dinner. So many of our guests commented on how lovely the music was and he added so much to the day. For an outdoor winelands wedding, he provides the perfect sound track.
Hair & Makeup: DIY by Natalie Mulvaney
Wedding Ring: Gold & I
Bouquet: Fleur Le Cordeur
Wedding Planner\Coordinator: Dayna Viglietti, Strawberry Weddings and Events
Venue: Rhone Homestead at Boschendal
Decor/Lighting/Furniture: Baie Goeters
Cake: Frilly Antoinette by Sweet Lionheart
Wedding Favours: MaMère Confections
Videography: Aletta Francina
Music: Gary Thomas aka Moodship
Officiant: Pastor Patrick Boucher