LAID-BACK LUXURY | COCKTAIL STYLE GARDEN WEDDING
I love love. I’m one of those people that gets all emo at the drop of a hat whether it’s over something personal or on someone else’s behalf (I get it from my Mom, thanks Mom). Although I don’t think you could pay me to plan my own Wedding again – I do tend to get rather excited about love stories and celebrations.
Alongside many other Heartable topics, I plan to feature the Weddings of friends and strangers alike on this blog with an aim to inspire couple’s planning their own big days but also to keep it real and be truly and honestly informative. What better way to kick things off than with a post about our own special day, and yes I got a little emo writing this.
MEET THE DEVILLES
Vaughan and I are fun-loving musicians that adore and encourage all things ridiculous in life and in each other. Vaughan was in a glam-rock-pop-opera band that my sister loved, and thanks to my sister we met at one of Vaughan’s gigs. We both knew almost immediately that we’d found something extraordinary. 6 years later Vaughan proposed and I said ‘of course!’
KNOWING WHAT THEY WANTED
Both being professional performers, we’ve been on ‘the other side’ of hundreds of events, (Weddings included) over the years, which has given us a unique perspective into the inner workings of what makes memorable occasions tick. We know what’s going on behind the scenes; we know where the awkward pauses often occur and what makes people uncomfortable or makes them loosen up; we took absolutely everything into consideration and we decided a cocktail and lounge style Wedding was for us. We wanted it to be a celebration, a party from the moment our guests arrived till we forced them off of the dance floor.
SETTING A DATE
We were engaged for 8 months before getting married. Being freelancers we live from gig to gig, so we set a date and focused on making it happen, we felt like the longer we waited and planned the more we’d spend as it came in. Both sides of our family helped us out in big ways too.
Vaughan and I live in Cape Town, but I’m originally from Zambia. We chose to have the Wedding in Cape Town as the majority of our friends live here, but that meant my family had to travel to Cape Town and my Mom and I had to plan the Wedding via Skype. We discussed every last detail. We were online all day every day for a few months, bouncing ideas off of each other. Vaughan’s Mom does decor at Weddings and events and so she knew all of the right places to go to hire things like glassware and furniture which was also super helpful.
I added my bridesmaids and my Mom to my Wedding inspiration board on Pinterest, so everyone was able to contribute ideas from wherever they were in the world and be kept in the loop. I also initially bought a stack of bridal magazines. I’m not sure how much they helped with anything aside from giving me an idea of local pricing on a few bits and bobs; but I loved reading funny tales from real Weddings and the mags added to my general excitement for sure – there was much ‘ooohing’ and ‘aaahing’ over pretty things whilst I was killing time on flights.
KEEPING IT REAL
I’ll be honest, I didn’t enjoy the planning process much, but I learnt a lot about handling difficult situations and my own limits from the experience. I also learnt how to use a phone. I avoided making phone calls at all costs before the planning began but quickly learnt that sometimes you have to just get over it and a phone call is a necessary evil.
I’m not at all confrontational, but if I had to do it all over again I would have put my foot down a lot more firmly about the things that were actually non-negotiable – I think if I’d been more assertive from the get-go I would have saved everyone a lot of time and avoided unnecessary tension along the way.
With 100 guests, our Wedding took place at the exquisite Noordhoek home of very good friends of Vaughan’s parents. We looked at quite a few venues in the winelands not really knowing what we were looking for. The expense aside though they all seemed to have restrictions in place: can’t have music beyond midnight, can’t have your own catering, can’t have more than X number of people etc etc.
When the offer was made, I thought it was a terrible idea to get married at a friend’s house (I could kick just myself now). I thought it would somehow make it less special. That was until I went there for the first time and absolutely fell in love! We were married in front of a picturesque pond and our Reception was held on the lawn under the stars. As cheesy as it sounds: it was everything we could ever have hoped for and so much more.
Our colours were red, black, silver and white. We wanted it to be quite dramatic and true to our actual style and taste, not too obviously Wedding-y. Vaughan’s Mom arranged all of the flowers (including her speciality, the bouquets) and decor with the help of her good friends Susan, who owns the decor company ‘Susan Lomas Event Styling’ and Bernard, of ‘Display Scenes’. They did a fab job, as beautiful as the setting was to begin with the space was transformed into our own party palace.
TRADITION WITH A TWIST
I wore ‘something old’ (a christening bracelet which still fits me); ‘something new’ (my dress and my lace headband); ‘something borrowed’ (crystal earrings from Vaughan’s Mom) and my ‘something blue’ as well as the ‘penny in my shoe’ were a blue crystal and actual penny charm my Mom gave me which I attached to my garter.
We hadn’t given much thought to a ring bearer, none of our friends had kids yet so we didn’t have flower girls either. The day before the Wedding we decided to have the home owners’ beautiful Labrador be the ring bearer which worked like a dream with the help of some biltong in Vaughan’s pocket!
MUSIC AND MERRIMENT
We’re both gamers and so I surprised Vaughan by walking down the aisle to a beautiful song called ‘Nerevar Rising’ from the game Morrowind which our amazingly talented friend Ant, played on piano. Vaughan said he was totally calm until the song started and made him feel all the feels, nailed it! The Dixie Swingers, a super cool, brass jazz band with old-world charm, performed at the ceremony and then lead our guests over to the Reception area.
We didn’t expect people to wait for us to have our first dance and so the party kicked off straight away with the upbeat gypsy jazz band ‘Manouche’.
When we did have our first dance, we’d edited together Sara Bareilles’ ‘I Choose You’ (which Vaughan chose, after hearing it on a late night show a few months before the Wedding), and the electro-swing track ‘Cinnamon Girl’ by Dunkelbunt ft. Boban Marko Markovic Orkestar to get the floor going again. Our DJ was awesome; the floor didn’t have a dry spell until the party ended and the music was turned off.
A highlight of the night was when my sister donned Vaughan’s old band outfit, re-enacted the story of the night Vaughan and I had met and then sang one of the band’s songs with reworked lyrics. She was amazing and it was so hilariously special to us.
FASHION AND FINERY
I fell in love with my boho, Spanish lace YolanCris dress the first time I happened upon it on Pinterest. Then I discovered it was a designer dress and promptly dropped any hope of having it. As luck would have it, my parents happened to be on holiday in Spain and my Mom picked up a catalogue featuring some dresses she knew I’d love. It turned out to be a YolanCris catalogue!
It felt like it was meant to be but my Mom knew that I wasn’t sure whether or not to go for it, I’d only planned on spending about half of what it would cost on my dress. I remember I was in Australia at the time for a gig and staying with one of my bridesmaids when my Mom messaged to say she’d paid the deposit and I only had the other half to pay – it was so exciting! (yes, I’m having one of those aforementioned emo moments, bear with me).
We had it couriered in from the little boutique in Spain that my Mom had originally taken the catalogue from. I hadn’t tried it on but I knew it was the one. Vaughan’s Mom’s friend, a skilled seamstress, did the necessary alterations and it was perfect.
My bridesmaids all wore different dresses in black and silver/grey. I wanted them to be comfortable and happy and so I gave them the freedom to choose whatever they liked using those colours. They looked gorgeous and the guys looked dashing in their waistcoats and cravats – very much Vaughan’s style.
CREATIVE DIY FAMILY
My parent’s produced all of the chalkboard signage that directed guests to and around the Wedding. They created a large main menu board and smaller ones for the food stations as well as a few signs which featured special quotes we’d chosen that added a lot of “quirk” to the whole day.
We designed our own stationery – everything from the save the dates and invitations to a little booklet which told our story, introduced our Wedding party and families to everyone and explained how the day would work, it also included the menu and drinks options – a sort of a pocket guide to our Wedding.
FOOD AND DRINKS
Although we opted to not have a sit down affair, we made sure nobody went hungry. Once we were officially married the food started rolling out and didn’t stop until after the midnight-snacks. We had a delish selection of canapés and more substantial mini-meals going around; we also had a Sushi bar (our favourite food), a dessert and candy bar and a coffee station. There was so much food and something for everyone.
I’m a dessert and sweet treat fiend! Our cake was a magnificent, darkly decadent 4 tier chocolate-covered beauty that had a granadilla-sherbet layer, an Italian Torta de la Nonna layer, a gluten-free chocolate torte layer and a white-chocolate tiramisu top layer. Oh-my-so-much-goodness!
Final budget: R200-R250k
We splurged on the food, the entertainment and the technical setup – we wouldn’t have done it any differently though. Everything ran seamlessly; we didn’t have to worry about anything going wrong; the entertainment was killer, the food was amazing and it all worked out exactly the way we wanted it to.
For those of you thinking that getting married at a friend’s house or non-established venue may work out cheaper, just be warned that that may not be the case. Depending on your style you may need to take into consideration the cost of hiring waiters and barmen, hiring tables and chairs and furniture, the logistical costs to get everything where you need it all to be – the list goes on.
As APracticalWedding.com points out in their article ‘10 Tips To Consider Before Planning A Cocktail Wedding Reception’ – “turns out that heavy appetizers could cost twice as much as a seated dinner…” We know this to be true. We did our homework; adopting the cocktail style setup but making sure that there was enough food to be considered the equivalent of a full meal (or more than in our case because we had the sushi bar and also catered for an additional 10 heads just in case) actually worked out to be more expensive than a buffet or plated meal. So don’t think you’ll be cutting costs just because it’s a laid-back vibe that you’re after.
WORDS OF WISDOM
We almost skipped having a pro photographer all together just because we didn’t want to disappear for an hour or more to have any posed photos taken. We have friends and family that are skilled photographers and thought that between them they would be able to cover the day and capture some memories for us.
A few days before the Wedding, a friend suggested that we have a professional photographer friend of his cover our day. Our friend wanted to enjoy our Wedding and of course that was what we wanted to, we realised that it had been a little unfair to ask a friend to take on that sort of responsibility and in trying to keep things super laid-back we may have ended up with hardly any photos. We couldn’t be more grateful for that turn of events because we ended up with the most stunning photos and have since become great friends with our Wedding photographer so it was all quite serendipitous.
A pro photographer is so so important and we can’t believe we almost didn’t have one; he did manage to sneak us away for about 10 minutes for a couple of more posed shots though!
DO IT YOUR WAY
Make sure that your day celebrates the two of you and what you’re about, you don’t have to turn into a bride-zilla but don’t be a pushover either.
LAST MINUTE COSTS
Try to save an extra 5-10% of your total budget for unforeseen last minute costs. It doesn’t matter how over prepared you may think you are, things just pop up during those last few days.
Consider placing a camera on a sturdy tripod and asking your guests to help each other take photos at your photo booth, it worked out perfectly for us.
Think about including a midnight snack to your food offerings; if your guests have been drinking – chances are that they’ll be peckish again around then and they’ll love you for the extra sustenance.
Prioritize your loved ones’ safety and look into shuttling guests to your Wedding and/or having taxis available for them afterwards; you may be pleasantly surprised at how affordable such an important and much appreciated detail can be.