A Secret Forest Wedding

Surrounded by their nearest and dearest and with the smell of fresh pine trees lingering in the air, Wessel and Clarissa said their vows. The beauty of the forest served as the perfect backdrop for this folk inspired outdoor celebration. With wooden picnic tables and rustic decor touches all set between the beautifully lit trees, they celebrated their love in a truly personal way. Unconcerned about the expected, this couple created a day dedicated to all the things that they truly enjoy – with street style food instead of a sit down meal, quality coffee to keep the celebration going and most importantly their friends and family by their side sharing in the joy of the day. All perfectly captured by the talented Fiona Clair.

Their Story

Wessel and I met in church. I was volunteering a year of my life and he was looking for a place to volunteer too. After our first coffee date that lasted for four hours we felt there was something more to us meeting that day. Let’s just say things escalated, and two years later both of us were working for that same church, very much in love and engaged.

Whilst dating, I once mentioned to him that I didn’t mind where or how we got engaged as long as I was completely surprised. The day of the proposal was just like any other Saturday filled with the things we love to do. Starting with homemade waffles, then off to The Biscuit Mill for coffee at Espresso Lab, a great lunch and a drive around Cape Town admiring the strange weather that it so often has to offer. We made our way to Camp’s Bay where a layer of mist had rolled in despite it being a sunny day. Wessel suggested that the mist hovering over the bay would be an amazing photo opportunity if we stopped in the little secret place we loved on the summit of Table Mountain. With my birthday party planned for that night, it was going to be a squeeze for time but I was just excited that he finally wanted to take a photo.

So we stopped and the view was breathtaking. The sun was setting on the mist making it seem as if we were on the highest peak of a mountain, high above the clouds. While I was naively posing for a photo he was behind me down on one knee. And so the birthday party turned into an engagement party with all my unsuspecting friends waiting to celebrate with us.

The Style

We decided from the beginning that we wanted everyone to feel comfortable, relaxed and have fun (including us) at our wedding. That’s easier said than done on a traditionally stressful day but all our efforts were aimed at trying to make our wedding just that. People call Wessel the ‘King of Smallies’ (meaning Small-Talk) as he loves to chill, hang and chat to people, and we wanted an atmosphere that created those opportunities. We weren’t going to do anything just for ‘wedding-sake’. We only planned things that would be special and add to our friend’s and families enjoyment. Nothing stiff and boring, but everything to do with a party and celebration. We made a wedding full of everything we love in life; friends, family, coffee, gourmet street style food, donuts, a forest full of lights, good music with the smell of pine all around. We figured why just do everything you’re expected to do. Why not make it just what you’ve dreamt of.

The Venue

Come rain or shine we were having our entire wedding under the open sky beneath a forest of pine trees. We had no plan B. As you can imagine this rattled our friends and family, but we had faith for it, even when the weather forecast predicted rain. We always dreamed of a forest wedding and after a month of scouting, exploring, and adventuring all over Cape Town, we found the perfect hidden location. We discovered a remote forest and walked around, just the two of us planning and envisioning all the possibilities this ‘venue’ had to offer. We started with nothing but the most beautiful elements nature had to offer. Rows of trees and ferns, pine needles, a lake, mountains all held together by brilliant white sand. We could create anything our hearts desired.

Most Memorable Moments

Groom

The moment I always look back on is the first glimpse of my bride arriving through the tree line. My only reaction was to look away and crack a joke with my groomsmen, secretly to avoid being so emotional. The morning I was woken up by rain on the windows and later as it cleared a beautiful rainbow running down the slopes of the mountain in the freshly wet forest. It all played out to be the most breathtaking sunset as we said our vows in the picturesque forest with the heavens turning bright shades of red and pink. But no celebration will be complete without the people you love. I clearly remember as we were taking photos out on the hills, hearing the band playing and people singing, down in the beautifully lit up forest below.

Bride

The entire reason I wanted an evening wedding was because I loved the idea of a green Pine forest lit up at night… the smells, the sounds and the sights. I remember at some point arriving at the reception looking around everything just as I had imagined except better somehow. I remember sharing those first kisses as husband and wife. They were different than before. There was a certain bliss that would well up inside every time and a feeling of security that couldn’t be shaken.

The Dress

Looking around, I quickly came to realise I would only really be happy making a dress from scratch. What I wanted was going to be too specific and detailed to find. I took elements from many different Boho style dresses and worked them together with the help of my designer Magda Grove. I absolutely love the full lace back of my dress and the lace trim finish around the bottom and neck. I loved my dress so much I’ve been brainstorming ways to make it appropriate to wear to another occasion.

The Unexpected

Our favourite time of day is dusk or when the sun sets and so from the beginning, we had planned that our couple shoot would be at that time. The clouds had pulled over at some point and I was kind of disappointed because I thought any chance of seeing a sunset was gone. But, to our complete amazement, right at the end of our shoot, the clouds opened up and the sun streamed through in brilliant oranges and pinks. It was a stunning moment.

The Planning Process

Our ideas and wedding was always going to be a little unconventional. Maybe even a lot unconventional. There will always be opinions but if you stay true to your dream anything can be achieved. I’ve learnt that even when it seems impossible, there’s always a way to make something happen. We used our wedding planner, Michelle Bothma as much as we could, which helped with tons of unforeseen logistics and details that no bride or groom think about. A wedding planning book is essential from day one, as trying to keep all details, names, suppliers in your brain is overwhelming. Choose your bridesmaids to help you – they are life savers for all the small things, don’t be afraid to use them – most people want to help you.

The Budget

We decided from the beginning that we would only have things we and our friends loved. We wouldn’t be afraid to splurge on those non-negotiables, but everything else was up for discussion and cutting. We would ask questions like “do we really need that?” and if ‘yes’ we would keep it, explore all alternate ways of doing it and then settle. If the answer was ‘no’ we would cut it and let it go. We had a food truck for the catering that helped to cut costs by more than half and did quite a few DIY projects instead of having to pay someone. Warning: this is not for the faint hearted. There’s a reason you have service providers, but I felt confident enough to take on the challenge.

The DIY

We pretty much made everything ourselves. This included the entrance teepee, all the signage, the ceremony backdrop with hanging plants and bulbs, all the table decor and the hanging plants. We also designed all of the wedding stationery ourselves. Including our own logo and stamp to brand our invite, coffee cups and some bottles of wine in gold.

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