Genevieve and Kelly’s Wildly Bohemian Wedding

When Mark and I got engaged I spent hours looking for inspiration for our wedding day. One day I came across what was the most amazing bouquet I had ever seen. When I looked further, images of an incredible baroque wedding celebration opened up and I couldn’t believe my eyes. The boldness of the bride’s dress and the gorgeous ensemble of bridesmaids had me entranced. This wedding really got me thinking out of the box as I planned my own – and it also led me to the wonderfully talented Heike & Shanna, a formidable creative-combo. Here’s to it having the same effect on you … enjoy this bold, baroque beauty! 

The Story

Kelly and I have had a large circle of friends for many years, like a cluster of different groups that all knew each other well. We knew who the other was, but never actually had a conversation up until just over four years ago when we were both out one night. He with some of the guys and I was with some of the ladies … a bit like Grease. Anyway, we struck up a conversation and I don’t think I’ve ever spoken that much to someone I had just met – it flew by. Because we were both single we started seeing each other out quite a bit for the next month, which was weird as we never used to … it was like the universe was pushing us into each other’s orbits. One of those times which was the big bang for me (Kell would say it was the first night we chatted), was at the Design Indaba afterparty of 2011.  We caught the other’s eye from across a stream of people back and forth from the bar and something quite literally caused a physical reaction deep within me – like the cliche of butterflies in the stomach, but this flock were caffeinated. So as we chatted throughout the night that electricity grew and then as if I couldn’t experience more amazingness because of this special human, he took to the dance floor. I knew then that he was the key to my lock, the piece to my puzzle, the balsamic to my olive oil. I love to dance and come from a family of professional ballet and contemporary dancers, and know a talented mover when I see one. Let’s just say he popped ‘n locked his way right into my heart that night – the man can move! The next day we emailed each other, and  on my way home from work (feeling quite fragile from the night before) I stopped past the DVD shop for some quiet time recovery, and as I pulled up –  low and behold – Mr. On Fire walked out with plans to do the same thing that night. Soon after that friends of ours had a birthday weekend on a houseboat in Langebaan. It was one of the last scorching hot weekends of the summer, late in March, and there was a super moon that weekend, which is when the moon is the closest to the earth and the biggest of the year. It set the scene for a very romantic two nights and that’s when our journey officially started. Two and a half years later he would be mine.

Most Memorable Moments for Him

Hmm, so many. ​But I would have to say there are two moments that I will forever beam over …

Firstly, the Bedeken. I hadn’t seen Gen in a week and I had started to pine. My mates had complained about me being soppy and quiet. So when I was led into a tiny old room, filled with both our families and Gen veiled in the middle, my chin wobbled. There was only one window that lit the wooden walls and shone through my bride’s veil. Tradition had me lift said veil and check if she was in fact the right bride and not an impostor. Nose, mouth and eyes were all in the right place and we saw each other for the first time.

Number two. When Gen came down the isle. She instantly reminded me of the “Oracle” from Never Ending Story. Flanked by her dad and beautiful mum, Gen came at me with a strand of gold ribbon in her hair. Her backdrop was the huge domed ceiling of the “Centre For The Book” which looks a bit like something out of Hogwarts. With every eye on her, Gen split the room and came to stand by my side. Not even Gen’s dad’s oldest friend who stood with his iPad filming the whole thing in the middle of everything could’ve ruined that painting. It was a peach.

The Dress

My eldest sister Lisa is a designer and although she has a lifestyle clothing brand called Yogafunk, she started her career over 30 years ago designing couture. We’re very close and both have a deep love for fashion and often send each other links to amazing finds on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook. She understands my style and my need for comfort and clothes that move with you and don’t limit or inhibit you.

It was always going to be her designing my dress and when we first started brainstorming I knew I wanted a lot of drama and a lot of black, yet with some traditional elements. I spent a lot of time on Pinterest and created the look on my own: off-white long lace over-dress with a black under layer and removable long train. We eventually locked it down after her advice and my references and the off-white lace dress proved to be very challenging as the fabric was extremely weighty with thousands of tiny pearly beads embroidered onto the lace. She had many sleepless nights over it. The under layer comprised of a long black petty coat that skimmed the floor, like a Spanish dancer’s dress with many layers, and a black body-stocking beneath it from H&M that my friend sent over which Lisa customized with black sequins. I initially wanted a very long black train but when we had the second last fitting and realized the 3m of black layered tulle was too heavy to wear under the dress she came to the rescue like a true creative and repurposed it to be this even more dramatic black cape that cascaded down from my shoulders and a metre and a half onto the floor. The result was more incredible than I ever thought possible. I felt completely glamorous yet so comfortable the whole night. I’ve worn the body stocking and petty coat since then but the lace over layer and the black cape are aching to bust out again.

The Wedding

Both Kelly and I have a deep appreciation and flair for the dramatic. Coming from a family of performers I spent much of my childhood in Joburg’s theatres watching dance and musical theatre performances. As a Creative Director of an ad agency and with his own foray into the dance world- he spent two years after college as part of a dance troop at raves and concerts, I kid you not – he also honed a love for performance and drama. This, combined with our choice of venue were the starting points to curating our special day. In our first meeting with our wedding co-ordinator, Anne Mann of Anne Mann Celebrates, we decided on the venue. The Centre For the Book in Cape Town’s CBD was key for us because we both love the city so much and weren’t keen on doing the usual wine-farm wedding … why, when there are such treasures in the most beautiful city? It’s a very old building across from the Company’s Gardens that is government owned where old books and archives are stored. It looks like something out of a baroque European opera, or Hogwarts even, complete with Juliet balconies lining the large domed semi-circle interior.

The baroque vibe carried through from the incredible overgrown flower arrangements by the wonderful Heike of Fleur Le Cordeur through to the huge platters of rustic food by Jacques Erasmus of Hemelhuijs. Because Kell and I are both writers, he a copywriter an me a lifestyle features writer, we decided on old cheesy romance novels from the second hand book store, CAFDA as wedding favours in which we wrote a personal note to each guest thanking them for being part of the beginning of our story that day.

We also decided to go all out with regards to entertainment and roped my family in to make it a memorable affair. My mom, Adele is a choreographer and her dancers performed a beautiful pas de deux that my other sister Natalie assisted with. My nephew’s father, Mapumba is a musician and he sang and performed an acoustic guitar rendition of Wonderwall to walk Kelly and his groomsmen down the aisle and he also sourced the singers that gave us a gospel choir performance from the balcony to welcome us into the hall after the ceremony. Our precious furkids even came for photographs. There was drama, sentimentality, a bit of OTT and so much soul!

Most Memorable Moments for Her

There were so many! The first was the traditional Jewish ritual called the Bedeken which happens before the ceremony and comes from the biblical story of Jacob marrying the wrong sister … quite possible in my tribe as we all look alike. I was waiting in a room with all my girls and the women in my family, covered with a veil when the rabbi, all the groomsmen, my Dad, brother and nephews, and Mapumba singing accompanied Kell to the room where he checked under the veil to see me for the first time. We’d spent a couple of days apart before the wedding and seeing him looking so dapper and excited was the best.

Then there was the gospel choir who sang the rendition of Oh Happy Day (from the Sister Act movie) which was so soulful and beautiful it made me well up – I always knew I’d have a gospel choir singing at my wedding and actually experiencing it was quite overwhelming. The dancers who performed to This is a Man’s World, sung by Mapumba, was also very emotional. And then of course there was our first dance to the song Hope by our favourite band of all time – Fat Freddy’s Drop. It literally felt like Kell and I were the only two people in the room.

Tips & Advice

First and foremost, a wedding coordinator is ideal. I know some couples think it’s a waste of money and that they can do it themselves but in our experience there is no way Kelly and I could’ve pulled it off on our own. It was worth every cent and it went off like magic. No matter what your budget there are many boutique wedding co-ordinators out there who can work with whatever your requirements are, alleviating any stress is really worth it. On our day and leading up to it we were both completely stress free (aside from writing our speeches!) and enjoyed every minute. 

Secondly, spend as much time on Pinterest as possible – having references for your dress, flowers, decor and overall look and feel is the best way to hone your ideas.

Thirdly, do some research into wedding photographers who’s style you like and bare in mind that it’s totally worth the money – the pictures will outlive you both and be passed down to your future generations so they have to be amazing. I’ve known Shanna Jones for a while and her unique style of photography was exactly what we wanted, not to posed or blue-steel, rather capturing the special moments as they unfolded. She has an unbelievable knack for getting these right. To this day I still have strangers coming up to me and telling me how moved they were by the pictures, which they saw online or on social media.

Lastly, when it comes to bridesmaid’s dresses my advice would be not be too prescriptive. I gave the girls colour references- neutrals from off-white, to beige to taupe and even light baby pink pulled together with black accents like belts, shoes, stockings, nails, hair pieces and accessories -and let them find their own dresses. They all looked ridiculously gorgeous because they rocked their own looks and style.