Today is a public holiday in South Africa. Which means it’s a long weekend for most people. But for those of you who have to work (like us here at The Pretty Blog), we have this beautiful wedding coordinated by Evegenia Poplett from Splendid Affairs.
It was an office romance and it took 2 South Africans moving all the way to the London office (of Standard Bank) to meet and fall in love! We were working on a deal together – Standard Bank was purchasing a Russian investment bank, Troika Dialog – and it became love over a spreadsheet. On our first date Bryan took me to a gorgeous little French restaurant called La Cave and was really trying to pull out all the stops – ordering bottles of champagne etc. At the end of the meal he discovered that he had left his wallet at home so I had to pick up the tab (a 200 pound restaurant bill after all the champagne!!!)
So how did he pop the question?
Bryan had moved back to South Africa 7 months before me but I had to stay on to finish my Masters so we had been doing long distance for a while – lots of Skype!!! On the day of my last exam, I woke up early to the door bell ringing. I was really annoyed because I thought it was my neighbour who I had been having an ongoing argument with because she always complained my TV was on too loud and I really didn’t feel like dealing with her on the day of my last exam. So I just turned over and ignored the door bell. The bell carried on ringing so I eventually got out of bed all grumpy only to discover Bryan on the doorstep with pain aux raisins and coffee! He had flown over to surprise me. I still didn’t think anything though because he told me he had flown over to spend my last weekend in London with me. He told me that he was taking me out to dinner that night after my exam somewhere as a surprise. After my exam, we were in a cab and I saw that we were on our way to the area that the French restaurant was that we had our first date. When we got there, Bryan told me we had come back there because we wanted to take me out to dinner again there properly and this time pick up the bill! I stupidly still didn’t suspect anything – Bryan is such a romantic and so spontaneous that anything is possible with him! The first time I got a hint of something going on was when he kept on going to the bathroom with his jacket on despite it being a very warm July evening. After our main he got down on one knee and popped the question in the restaurant – I obviously said yes and it was just magical!!! The best part was afterwards when I discovered that he had organized for all my friends to meet us somewhere to celebrate. I was supposed to be having my farewell that evening and he had got hold of my best friend to re-arrange the whole thing and the 2 of them had been in cahoots the whole time. So I arrived at the pub after the dinner to our own little impromptu engagement party – it was really wonderful!
What were the highlights of your wedding day?
Dom – I loved the moment of walking down the aisle and seeing all my friends and family and then seeing Bryan. I will never forget that feeling of having all my nearest and dearest there in one place on such a special day and how handsome Bryan looked!
Both of us found the ceremony really special – we had an amazing marriage officer who made the service really personal and unique and her message was so beautiful. We loved saying our vows to each other – it felt so special, perfect and lovely!
The time we had with our photographers when we did our one-on-one photos was also really special. The photographers were wonderful and were so funny – we had such a good time with them and it was just such a special time. We had a moment to breathe and just spend some time together – catch our breath away from everything and reflect on what a special day it was. We had photos at the top of the mountain looking down over the venue and could see all the guests mingling below and we had this special moment just the 2 of us which was just really special when we realized that we were married and how blessed we were!
The first dance was also really fun. We had gone for loads of private dance classes and had been practicing a routine to our first song which was Snow Patrol’s “Just Say Yes”. When we got up to dance though, we forgot most of it and couldn’t remember what to do next so we just did our own thing and had a blast! It was so much fun dancing to one of our favourite songs, in such a beautiful dress and having all our friends and family cheering us on!
Any advice for brides-to-be?
Just relax – don’t sweat the small stuff and enjoy the day! It doesn’t if the groomsmen’s waistcoat’s don’t match the bridesmaid’s outfits and if you cant get your favourite flowers because of the time of the year or whatever is stressing you out! Things will go wrong on the day but they won’t matter – the only thing that counts is that you have a fabulous day! The trick to a good wedding is lots of food, booze, good music and a happy bride! Guests can really pick up whether or not the bride is stressed out or is having a good time. So many people came up to me on our day and commented on how happy I looked and they couldn’t believe how relaxed I was – I told all of them – how couldn’t I be – it was my wedding day and I had just married the most amazing man in the world!!! I didn’t stress about my dress – it got dirty in about the first 3 minutes after the photographer and I were flinging ourselves in the bushes for my one-on-one photos; my 18 month old niece had jammy hands and kept on running up to me; it didn’t matter – I was just really relaxed and had lots of fun. Our wedding day cost us a lot of money but I can honestly say it was worth it because I loved every second of it and I had so much fun in the lead up to the day and on the day. No one
Did anything unexpected happen?
I discovered my husband is a “chicken whisperer”!!! They say the key to a happy marriage is to keep each other interested and never get bored, well my husband certainly managed to surprise me on the day! I discovered that he has an ability to hypnotise chickens! There were loads of chickens and guinea fowls running around the venue and when we were doing the photos with the groomsmen and bridesmaids, the groomsmen thought it would be amusing to try catch a chicken and get a photo with it. They managed to do so and then Bryan surprised all of us by stroking it between the breast bone and hypnotising it! He told us he had learned it as a child and it never failed – it was something I never about him and it provided great entertainment!
What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome while organising your dream wedding?
Luckily we decided early on to have a wedding planner. Neither Bryan nor I have a lot of time available to organize anything – we both work really long hours and knew that organizing a wedding wasn’t our strong point. So bringing Eve (from Splendid Affairs) on early on in the process made the whole thing a dream! She managed the process so well for us and was so professional and had everything under control so we didn’t have to do much except the fun stuff like menu tasting, cake tasting etc! I am a complete control freak in most areas of my life so I knew that the best way to maintain my sanity was to let someone else micro-manage this for me so that I could enjoy the experience! I found it really fun picking out ideas and things I liked and then handing it over to a professional to turn it into a reality for me! The thing that we probably found most stressful were the dance classes – our dance instructor was amazing but we were not very good students and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get it right so it wasn’t a lot of fun. It landed up becoming a bit of a chore so we probably could have done without it
Any time saving or organising tips?
Get a wedding planner – it is worth every penny and then some!!! Honestly, having Eve on board turned our day from good to fabulous and so many of our guests commented on just how amazing the day was and how it was evident that a professional had been involved – it was the little touches that just made the difference. Those are the things that I would have found it very difficult doing myself and having someone like Eve manage and put together took all the stress away from me. I cut back on things like my dress/ shoes/ bridesmaid dresses/ decor etc to make sure we could afford a wedding planner as I thought having the reduced stress levels was worth it!
Any hints for other brides on how to keep your wedding budget friendly?
I saved a lot of money on my dress! It was from GF Couture and was one of their top end dresses. However, I bought it last year late October in their clearance sale so I got it at 75% off! So I managed to get a top end designer dress for a very budget friendly price! It was from their previous year’s range and because I went at the end of the year when they were clearing their stock, I got a good deal – top tip number one!
I bought the bridesmaid dresses off the shelf – that also saved a lot of money. If I had got them made, they would have cost 4x as much and I wouldn’t have known if the style would have suited all of them. I went for a very simple style that was fairly neutral and decided to rather jazz it up with accessories (which again I got in a 75% off sale – I am a bargain hunter of note!). I think they looked beautiful – simple, elegant with a touch of something special with the accessories!
We saved a lot of money on the booze by choosing a venue that charged a per head rate rather than a per drink rate. It was our deciding factor for choosing Shepstone Gardens. For us we knew that the secret to a good wedding as lots of good food and lots of booze so having a venue where they just charged a per head rate and then people could drink whatever they liked for that amount (including spirits) saved us a lot of money and meant that a really good atmosphere could be created! If we had been at a place where they charged per drink, it would have cost us a lot more and we may have only been able to go the traditional beer/wine/ cider route as opposed to the full open bar route.
We saved a lot of money by choosing table decorations that combined flowers and other interesting things like photo frames/ vases/ books/ etc. This meant that we didn’t have to spend as much money on fresh flowers (which can be really expensive) but we still got a really beautiful table setting that was really unique and different.
We didn’t send out paper invitations – both for the cost and the carbon footprint. This saved a lot of money and hassle as it was much easier to track RSVPs and people really liked it. We got a designer to design the e-vite (which is much cheaper than designing paper invitations) and then just emailed them out!
We were also quite creative with the food and negotiated a really good deal. There was a lot of food but because of the way we structured it we got a really good price. We had large canapés – I always find that people are really hungry just after the ceremony – so we wanted these to be fairly substantial. We then didn’t have a plated starter – we just had a mezze style starter which was a bit lighter but also created a nice ambience as it got shared around the table and got people chatting etc – it was a combination of salads, breads, dips etc. Then there was a plated main and then a dessert buffet table. It was nice having different experiences for the different courses. It meant that there was a lot of food, well spaced and was all reasonable
What song did you choose for your opening dance and why?
We chose Snow Patrol’s Just Say Yes.
What was the “theme” of your wedding?
We had a book theme because we both love books and reading. Each table was named after some of our favourite books and we chose our favourite quotes from those books – these quotes were then printed and put in picture frames and put on each table – it was really beautiful! It added a very personal touch to the wedding because all our friends and family know of our love of books and it was a real talking at the tables as the guests discussed the books and the quotes
How does your wedding reflect your personalities?
Our wedding was totally us – it was romantic, quirky, relaxed and fun! I think the focus on the guests and making sure they were looked after (with lots of booze and food and good music) was indicative of how important our friends and family are to us and how the day was really a celebration of our love with our nearest and dearest. It was less important for it to be stiff and formal and perfect – it was important that everyone had fun and remembered it for being a celebration.
Bridal Accessories: GF Couture http://www.gfbridal.co.za/
Bridesmaids dresses: Colleen Eitzen at The Space www.thespace.co.za
Cake: Exquizitely Yours www.exquizitlyyours.co.za
Coordinator: Evegenia Poplett from Splendid Affairs
Décor: Eve from Splendid Affairs
Dress: GF Couture
Entertainment: Soweto Marimba Youth League
Flowers: Eve from Splendid Affairs
Food: Taste Explosion
Gift registry: YuppieChef and Boardmans
Hair: Rhode Truter – freelancer
Make-up: Clarissa Pretorious
Photographer: Dror Eyal
Rings: Charles Greig
Venue: Shepstone Gardens
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