My Wedding in Africa
Planning a wedding in South Africa is one of the most exciting and exhilarating undertakings I’ve been fortunate enough to experience. It’s no wonder that couples from around the world seek to spend their wedding day in this beautiful country, and the Western Cape in particular, given its it’s spectacular scenic beauty, world-class wineries, outstanding beaches and tip top weather for the majority of the year.
I was lucky enough to get married just 4 weeks ago, on 12th March, just outside Cape Town. If you’re considering coming to Cape Town (or South Africa) for your own destination wedding, or visiting for the wedding of a friend or family member, or thinking of spending their honeymoon in South Africa, here’s my story:
THE VENUE DECISION
Pretty much immediately after my lovely husband proposed, back in May 2015, our thoughts turned to where, out of the many thousand spectacular locations to tie the knot, would we personally like to do it. Having worked in the South Africa Travel industry for many years, I considered many of the iconic luxury hotels in Cape Town, the wild and rugged sun-kissed beaches, also the historic and vastly beautiful wineries around Paarl & Stellenbosch… but we chose to venture a little further off the beaten track, to the quaint town of Tulbagh. Roughly a 2 hour drive from Cape Town city centre this magical gem is a lesser-known & slightly more remote stem of the Cape Wine Route, adorned with fruit farms & wineries that offer the same rustic beauty as the better known farms of Franschhoek & Stellenbosch, but at a slightly more manageable price bracket.
The ethereal sight of the chapel at Montpellier de Tulbagh, perched proudly & peacefully amongst the vines, the white stone walls glistening in the midday Tulbagh sunshine pulled us in. We paid a visit and took a stroll around the farm and were welcomed with open arms by their exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable staff. Our decision was made – there was nowhere else we would rather spend the most important and special day of our lives. This was our venue.
We chose March as our month to catch the end of the African summer. The mid-summer months of December, January and February are the most popular wedding months, and the weather is almost guaranteed to be glorious (bar the odd gust of wind and occasional rain shower in December), but can be swelteringly hot and venues are in high demand. March marks the start of slightly cooler weather, with long, warm, balmy days, and the wind has died down to a gentle breeze. Tulbagh experiences very little rainfall in March and, true to form, the day was as perfect weather-wise as anyone could wish for.
The old Cape Dutch farmhouse, together with the surrounding farm cottages, can accommodate 41 guests and the venue fee secures the entire farm for you and your friends & loved ones for the whole weekend (Friday to Sunday). The fabulous staff are on hand throughout the countdown to the wedding to ensure everything is in place for the big day. Their in-house event coordinator will work together with you on the finer details to make your dreams a reality, remove any stress & nerves, and in my experience no request was too big or small; from the watermelon martinis, to fairy-lit trees and bringing in our own freshly-brewed wedding beer.
THE WEDDING DAY
The wedding day was more than we ever could have imagined. I woke up at 5am, crept outside the manor house and sipped my coffee in peaceful silence, watching the sun rise over the magnificent Tulbagh mountains whilst the rest of the world slept. The break of day in Africa; not a cloud in the sky, just the sound of crickets and frogs busy in the long wheat grass and birds singing… I was tingling with excitement and took a moment by myself to savour it – the start of OUR WEDDING DAY.
Gradually the service providers began to arrive – the florist bringing baskets full of fresh flowers, the hair & make-up artist (one the finest in stylish Cape Town) began to lay out her colourful palates (not only is Cape Town home to some of the most spectacular wedding venues, but also world class vendors; award winning make-up artists and photographers, wedding dress designers and gourmet caterers).
The day as I had planned it began to unfold before my eyes – beautiful tables being laid under the huge oak trees in the enchanting gardens, Proteas (South Africa’s national flower) standing proud as center-pieces and caterers setting up to start to prepare the gourmet feast.
One by one the guests began to enter the gardens and marveled at the beauty of Montpellier – enjoying a glass of the award-winning wine by the pool or exploring the majestic wine-cellars.
The ceremony took place late afternoon in the beautiful chapel, avoiding the midday heat, followed by a reception at sunset in the manor house garden. We danced under the stars in the warm evening in until the early hours, to the outstanding tunes of DJ Phil. We snuck away around 2am, elated and floating on cloud 9. Montpellier did us proud.
Originally from the UK, many of my wedding guests travelled from overseas to be with us on our special day, and while Cape Town is an unrivalled wedding destination, home to some of the most spectacular wedding venues on earth, it is also the perfect holiday destination. Africa&You took care of travel arrangements for our international wedding guests before and after the big day, making them feel completely at home in the most beautiful city in the world and ensuring they saw the finest destinations during their fortnight’s stay. They arranged special deals on the finest hotels, wine-tastings and adventure activities, through to incredible luxury safari experiences in Kruger National Park and the scenic Garden Route.
Two of our guests, Hywel & Lani spent 3 days on safari before the wedding at Narina Lodge in the Lion Sands Game Reserve, Greater Kruger, where they were treated to exceptional 5* service and luxurious game drives in one of the world’s prime safari destinations, and as a result enjoyed 2 free nights at More Quarters, a luxury apartment hotel in the hip and trendy Kloof Street area of Cape Town. They also enjoyed tasting some of the world’s finest wines in Franschhoek, in the Cape Winelands before taking the short drive to Tulbagh to meet the rest of the guests for our wedding weekend.
Now back in the UK, this is what Hywel had to say: “The best holiday of my life. To be able to visit South Africa and celebrate the wedding of my closest old friends and experience the safari of a lifetime, the winelands and a dream hotel in Cape Town – for FREE?!… it was more than I ever could have imagined and Africa&You made it all so easy. Thank you!”.
My husband and I (the novelty hasn’t yet worn off in saying that yet) decided that we would wait a while until our official honeymoon and have planned a trip to Zanzibar through Africa&You in June this year. This gave us chance to spend some extra quality time with our friends and family from overseas while they were here in South Africa and also to stretch the excitement out – we can’t wait to jet off in 2 months time! However immediately after the wedding we disappeared for 2 nights alone together at a wonderful boutique luxury hotel in Stellenbosch, in the Cape Winelands; Majeka House (we like to call it a ‘mini-moon’). The perfect secluded escape with an excellent luxury spa (we treated ourselves to much needed full body massages), heated indoor pool, jaccuzzi and one of the best fine-dining restaurants in South Africa, Makaron. It was the perfect wind down after what was undeniably the best day of our lives – hands down.
Keep an eye out for the honeymoon blog!
Thank you to the Africa&You team for all their help with wedding guest travel and with our honeymoon arrangements!
We look forward to welcoming you to Africa!
Photos by Natural Light Photography