Sara & The South African Wedding

So in my post-burned out state, or my trying not to be burned out state (turns out re-launching a blog is TOUGH, y’all) it seemed the perfect time to bring you Sara’s South African wedding. Unbeknownst to Sara when emailed me about her wedding, South Africa is the first country I ever visited outside of the US… when I was 21 (which is bizarre, right?) So we bonded over the intense and wonderful and complicated and hard and amazing place that South Africa was. And then there is her wedding, which is just so right. I’ve said for years that if I had a generous amount of money to spend at our wedding, I would rent a place out and have everyone stay all weekend, because what could be more blissful than that? (Hint: not an ice sculpture.) That’s exactly what Sara and Stof did, and they have such a great story to tell, with such wise advice.I’ve been reading your blog for months and months and it is the one *weddingblog* I can’t seem to pull myself away from (even 4 months since the nuptials). So I thought I’d send in some thoughts and pics from my own nuptials which happened all the way in South Africa. Actually, our wedding was held in a nature reserve VERY close to the southern most tip of Africa, so you should be chuffed to know that your philosophy has even sifted down to the very edge of Africa!

Your yourweddingisnotashow post particularly resonated with me. It wasn’t something that we particularly planned to be that way, but my overwhelming and lasting memory of our wedding is that it was the antitheses of a stage production. I have been struck by how many weddings are very showy. Maybe the nature of a wedding lends itself to that tendency: the guests arrive, take a seat, and the carefully scripted “entertainment” unfolds before them – complete with costume, hair, make-up, a pretty chorus line, romance (maybe a tear or two), scene changes and (hopefully) some pretty hilarious one-liners. AND, usually, the bridengroom throw in food drinks and some dancing: all for the cheap price of a (pre-selected) gift off the registry!Our wedding had all of those elements, but more than anything, it was just such a fabulousa party. A week after we returned from honeymoon, our friends and family got together and organised a “reunion” – ostensibly to look at photies, but actually I think they just wanted to hang out, tell crazy stories from the weekend and re-chant the cry of the wedding: WHoop! WHoop! (We got married in a place called De Hoop.)Actually, the venue was the starting place. We got engaged at the De Hoop Nature Reserve when we visited it on a day trip and it was too lovely to not imagine getting married there. Once we had made the decision that we weren’t getting married in Cape Town, but under that spectacular Wild Fig Tree (followed by a party in the old barn) the rest of the decisions were easy to make (although, not always easy to achieve without angst).I think the main reason for our wedding not being a show is that we stretched it over a long weekend (Thursday (a public holiday) to Sunday)… which we needed to do because we held it in a ridiculously beautiful place a good three hours outside of Cape Town (or any metropolis, really).Everybody could stay at the reserve in amazing accommodation to suit all pockets (from LUXURY houses to camping) so everybody got to know each other over the weekend. Obviously, it was essential to try and get as many people there as possible for the whole she-bang, so we incentivised things a little: a good portion (probably half) of our generous budget (thanks both Mums and Dads!) went towards relieving the cost of accommodation for those people who stayed for Thursday, Friday AND Saturday night. We also subsidised the Friday night, but made the suckers who only came through for Saturday pay full price: evil, I know.The next thing we did was throw in a bit of competition! On the Thursday evening we held a barbeque competition. South Africans LOVE a bbq so much that we even have our own name for coal-cooking: a braai. My husband (Stof), our brother in law, and I (the braai’d, as I called myself) were the judges and on that first night all our guests set up in teams and tried to outcook each other. By the end of the night (which ended in wild dancing. Of course), everybody had met and mingled: if only because they were testing the other person’s lamb to see if it really was better than their own! The winners? Those old friends my parents had INSISTED on inviting, but whom neither of Stof nor I knew too well. They were awesome.On the Friday we had a day of activities – including a full morning treasure hunt – which ended with whale-watching and sundowners on the dunes, wine-tasting and a pub quiz! All with a hint of competition as well…Now I realise that organising two full days of stuff for people to do prior to the actual wedding could be overwhelming, but my Number One Tip for any part of the wedding process is: don’t try to micro-manage your guests. Most of them are grown-ups (and the children are even harder to organise). Micro-managing (which includes micro-planning small stuff like favours and anything overly elaborate) might be appreciated by a grand total of five people, but on the whole, guests probably couldn’t be bothered: they’ll do what makes them happy in the context of celebrating your marriage.We outsourced the “organising” of the different pre-wedding events to people who love that particular kind of activity, but nobody spent too much effort on any one thing. Some people LOVE to organise sh*t. (I know this because I’m one of them.) (editors note: ME TOO!) Find those people. Use them, but insist that they don’t stress. They will love it. Our collective attitude was to provide the elements, throw in some awesome people and hope for the best. Whoop! Whoop!I guess my Second Important Tip is: once you have found and debriefed your vendors or talented mateys, let go! We were able to “in-source” so many of the elements of the wedding weekend, but I also consciously told (erm, forced) myself to trust those people who we chose. I chose to see it as a fairly indulgent experience: their gift to us was the way in which they carried out our “dreams”. Our gift to ourselves was not having to actually do it! I think this attitude also allowed ME (i.e. the marrying one) to be surprised and delighted by the day/weekend. If had been deeply involved in every aspect and had specifically planned each detail and minute, there would have been no room left to actually experience the time as it unfolded.When the Wedding Saturday finally rolled around, everybody was relaxed and so comfortable with each other. Old friends had reunited and countless new friendships had been forged. The family had met all the new babes and sussed out the new boyfriendsandgirlfriends. Our community had been built. When I walked down the aisle with my parents, it felt less like I was making an entrance as that I was welcomed by the warmth. Stof and I made an intensely private commitment public, but we did so within a group of people who had come to appreciate each other almost as much as us, so we felt *held* by our community.All the stuff that went wrong didn’t matter: like rain and completely screwing up the table seating and nearly forgetting to serve ALL the food we’d brought with from CT for the buffet (and actually forgetting to collect the oysters). Of course it didn’t matter to us because we were just so stoked to be marrying each other (erm, that heady-lovey-newlywed feeling IS all it’s cracked up to be)… But all that didn’t matter because in the end our wedding relied on more than just Stof or me: it was a living and breathing celebration of life.
Amazing photos by friend of the couple Rowan Pybus

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