This post has been a long time coming, but I’ve been waiting for my professional photos to arrive – and arrive they did this weekend!
This is going to be a mixture of a personal post, tricks and tips for weddings and a big thank you to the vendors and professionals who made our day what it was.
WARNING – this is going to be photo heavy, so grab a cup of tea or even a snack!
We got married at the gorgeous Calderwood Hall in Boston in the Kwa-Zulu Natal midlands. The venue is a beautiful Edwardian-style house with stunning grounds and an ivy-draped chapel. It was the first and only venue we looked at, and we both immediately knew it was the one for us. The staff there went above and beyond to make sure our day was special, from setting everything up to my specifications on the day, to ensuring our bridal suite was decorated for us after the wedding, complete with snacks from our harvest table, and doughnuts from our wedding cake. Our food was phenomenal (our guests are still raving) and everything ran as smoothly as it could possibly go.
TIP: The coordinator at the venue quit the month before our wedding. I momentarily flew into a blind panic, but what kept me sane was keeping a big file with different tabs for the vendors, a printed out timeline of the day, and I even drew up a ‘map’ with a key for how the decor was to be placed in the reception hall. I then went the day before, once the linens, cutlery and crockery had been placed on the tables, and I put coloured post its for where I wanted everything placed. Not only did this make the staff’s job easier, it ensured that which ever family member watched over all of this knew what was going on. Plus, it allowed me to relax on the day. I knew that everything was written down, and everyone knew what had to be done.
OUR EXTRA DECOR
We were lucky that our venue had most of what we needed. We used their cream linens, their vintage charger plates and napkin rings, their crystal glasses, votive holders and their tables and chairs.
The only other decor we needed (and that we hired) were the copper sequin runners for the tables, the burgundy napkins and the copper sequin table cloth we used for our cake table. We hired them all from Labola Decor, and the ladies there were so helpful. We wanted more runners than they had, and the outsourced them all for us. They also allowed us to take a napkin and a runner to our mock ups at the venue (we did two mock ups) at no extra charge.
TIP: Don’t overdo your decor and try and have a mock up. Rather have a minimalist look than too much. I had been tempted to go with more copper items and copper charger plates, but I was so happy with the more basic ones at the mock up. It left our tables looking classy as opposed to cluttered.
Our flowers were done by Coralees Florist, and were a mixture of burgundy and white cala lilies, trailing ivy, heather and cream roses. They were absolutely stunning, the arrangements on the tables were perfect and exactly what we wanted. I loved the bouquets as well, but there was some kind of miscommunication between the florist and I. She thought I’d said for them to be collected on the Friday early morning, but we were only getting married on the Saturday afternoon. Obviously I was worried, as the bouquets might not survive. I was lucky that mine made it well into the photos, but one of the bridesmaid’s bouquets had a brown lily (she strategically held it against her so it didn’t show), and the mom’s corsages were too limp to be worn, after being made over 24 hours before the wedding. This wasn’t due to the travel, or the weather, as they were kept in the kitchen in water until needed, they had just been made too far in advance.
TIP: Always have everything in writing for your vendors – thank goodness I had in writing that I had requested for the flowers to be collected on the Saturday morning. There are bound to be mix ups when a vendor is doing many other weddings as well as events and markets – it was no fault of anyone’s! It was just unfortunate that the flowers in the bouquets didn’t last too long, but the arrangements on the tables were perfect thanks to the water-soaked oasis they were organised in. It was a disappointment (and the only one of the day), but it wasn’t a crisis thank goodness! There is seldom a wedding where there isn’t a problem, and we were very lucky that this was our only one!
We briefly contemplated making DIY Gluwein kits, with a dinky bottle of red wine and a packet of spices. Then my hubby figured that the guests would end up drinking the red wine, and the expensive packets of spices would go completely to waste.
We ended up making Pinecone Firestarters – pine cones wrapped in a wick and dipped in wax. Pinecones help to start a fire beautifully as is, but this way works even better and with them dipped into white wax and dusted in iridescent glitter, they looked like they were covered in snow. Such fun to make, albeit messy!
TIP: We used our favours as our seating cards too – we organised them in the entrance to the room with a name tag tied around each one, with the person’s name and table number. They could then sit anywhere they wanted at that table.
OUR WEDDING CAKE
Our venue set up our ‘cake’ under a fairy-light covered gazebo, and surrounded by braziers with burning fires in. We went for the unconventional choice of Krispy Kreme doughnuts rather than a cake that we needed to cut, or cupcakes that have been used for every other wedding.
We were very lucky with how Krispy Kreme handled the whole event – they even had us in at the Gateway store to see how they would be decorating our doughnuts. We chose the OG glazed doughnuts, with half of them dipped in white frosting and the other half dusted with rose gold metallic powder. You can only pick up the rose gold in certain photos as it was very subtle – we didn’t want it to be too much, and they nailed it! We also had a ‘special’ doughnut for our cake cutting, and chose our other favourite, the New York Cheesecake.
Krispy Kreme sent an extra New York Cheesecake just in case something happened to the one, as well as a few extra plain OG glazed, just as a backup. They also decorated 3 of the doughnuts with the words ‘Just Got Married’, which was super cute and unexpected.
These doughnuts disappeared FAST! People got so excited when they saw them, and when word hit the crowd that they were from Krispy Kreme, things went crazy. I was glad I’d asked the owner to put a few up in our bridal suite in case we didn’t get any!
TIP: Don’t worry about being unconventional. The dougnuts ended up so much cheaper than a fancy wedding cake, and there was none left for us to worry about it going stale. We even placed white pastry packets on the cake table and dessert table, and people who didn’t feel like a doughnut right then and there could take one home, either for themselves or their kids.
P.S. We had no children at our wedding. I know this could seem rude, but when you consider how expensive weddings are, and how much it costs to feed each person, we put our foot down. That way the guests with little ones could also have a night off and let their hair down. I encouraged the friends and family with little ones at home to pop a few doughnuts into the white pastry packets and take these home for the kiddies.
Our photographer was our biggest stress. It took us SO long to find one! The first few we liked weren’t available on our wedding date, and the others were so crazy expensive.
Now, I understand why photographers charge a lot. Don’t get me wrong! But some of them take it to extremes. I also know that usually when you pay a large chunk less for a photographer, your photos will then show exactly how much less you paid. We didn’t want to find the cheapest one. We just wanted someone who’s style we liked, and who we’d enjoy working with on our big day. The photos will last a lifetime, after all!
I lucked out in that on one of our community groups on Facebook, someone was asking about affordable photographers. I did some research on the list I found, put aside the few that I didn’t like, as well as the ones I liked but were just out of our budget. Then, I found Dani Jensen. He was not only really good, he fit our budget AND he was available on the date!
Dani was a pleasure to work with, he made sure we were comfortable, and he got both of us to relax. That in itself was hard, as the hubster doesn’t enjoy having his photo taken. We were so so happy when we received our photos from him – he’s an incredibly talented man, with a really down-to-earth attitude and a calming personality. He truly managed to capture both of our personalities, and all of the special moments during the day.
My incredibly romantic husband organised a series of letters for me, some with lines from my favourite movie ever, Beauty and the Beast (the original, animated movie was always my favourite as a little girl). And to top that off, his wedding gift to me was a Swarovski heart.
TIP: We only had two bridesmaids/groomsmen, as we wanted it to be a small bridal party. My bridesmaid Sash kept my phone in her handbag, and would take pictures or videos at random moments during the day. I didn’t know until the following day when I was going through my phone. It was such a lovely surprise, and so appreciated!
TIP: While I went for the conventional dressing gowns and earrings as my bridesmaid gifts, the hubby had beautiful wooden baseball bats made for his groomsmen from Rhodesian Teak. Myles from Just Plain Craft made the bats and had them engraved with the groomsmen’s names and the date of the wedding.
HAIR AND MAKEUP
I had the lovely Brittany Jane Smith of Nixon Makeup make my face look all kinds of pretty, as well as the faces of my bridesmaids and my mom. She also was so calming and kept me chatting while she was there. I loved my makeup, and my eyes popped so beautifully! I just wish I’d kept myself together enough to not cry. In some photos you can even see tear-tracks down my cheeks, which no amount of touching up would fix. In the end I stopped trying to make it look perfect, as it already looked damn good, and I just went with it – it added to the feel of the day, and showed just how much I happy-cried!
My wonderful hair dresser Charmain Marshall has done my hair since I was in primary school. I’ve never had another person colour my hair, and she did my hair for my matric dance too! It was a given that I’d ask her to please do my wedding day hair, and being the wonderful person she is, she did! She even took the day off, and attended with her lovely hubby, as they’re close family friends too. She gave me a super glamorous 1940’s kind of hair style and it was everything I wanted and more.
TIP: I went with a burgundy/purple lip which I loved, but the formula didn’t dry down nicely on my lips at all. I think I didn’t wait between coats for it to dry down properly and it ended up peeling off my lips. I had packed a good nude in my touch up bag, along with a makeup wipe in a little zip-lock bag to switch to after photos, so I could eat and drink without worrying about touching up. I managed to take of the bitty, peeling lipstick straight after the ceremony and apply my MAC Velvet Teddy, and I was ready for photos!
I took a long time finding my dress, and eventually found ‘The One’ at Jasmins Bridal in Umhlanga. We had a few issues with fittings and appointments, but the dress was perfect and I wouldn’t have chosen any other one. It was comfortable and it made me feel so special. It was an A-line dress with (originally) a straight neckline right across my collarbones, but I had that lace taken out and it was cut down to the sweet heart neckline of the actual bustier part, and made more flattering for my chest. I loved the long lace sleeves (which had been my one thing I really wanted for the dress) and the little buttons down the back.
I had a veil made that was 3.5m long, which my mom loved the idea of. It was beautiful and a real statement, but it was a pain in the butt. I had to keep it looped over my arm so that I didn’t trip over it. Or anybody else for that matter. I was actually quite grateful when I could take it off.
I had ordered a hoop petticoat to wear under the dress, as it was supposed to make walking easier. However, the one I tried on brushed the ground, and the one they gave me didn’t and sat higher up at just above my ankles. The dress kept slipping under the hoop so I kept tripping anyway, and it pushed the bottom of my dress out, taking away the A-line effect and making it look ‘poufier’, which I disliked intensely. I took the hoop off straight after the ceremony, and not only was I more comfortable, the dress looked and draped better.
Tip: Always ensure that you collect EXACTLY what it was that you ordered and paid for. I knew the hoop didn’t seem right at my final fitting, but the ladies there told me it would work ‘better’. I was so unhappy with it and I wish I’d insisted on the original style.
OUR FIRST DANCE
We chose not to go to dance lessons and learn a proper waltz. After my amazing sister taught us a little, we ended up deciding that we’d rather just slowly dance in a way we were comfortable with. It ended up being a little bit of slow dancing really, but because we weren’t worried about remembering moves and counting steps, we were completely present in the moment and were in our own little bubble of happiness and romance the entire song.
Our first dance song was ‘How would you Feel’ by Ed Sheeran. Go and give it a listen, it’s so beautiful that I get misty eyed when I hear it!
And finally – my biggest wedding tip.
Things may go wrong. Things might not happen exactly as you’d planned. But it’s your special day, and you’ve spent a lot of time and effort and money to make it just that. I was so damned nervous the entire day that I was over emotional, but once the ceremony was over and done, I relaxed so much that I kept forgetting to fix my hair and touch up my lipstick. I ate delicious food, I drank wine and shooters, and I danced so hard my feet WOULD have hurt if I hadn’t switched from wedges to my sheepskin slippers after the first dance. And everyone knew I was wearing them and I didn’t care at all. I made mental notes to calm down and take note of everything happening around me, and all the people there to celebrate the most important day of my life and my husband’s life, and I remember everything like it was yesterday. My day was perfect.