The three gorgeous bridesmaids, in their softly flowing blue and white china-plate dresses floated in on the piano and cello notes of “I’ll love you for a thousand years”. The groom and his best men stood under a halo of pink, blue and purple flowers. The guests gasped in the wonder of so much pretty and the drizzle fell gently on the large tented roof over-covering a beautifully manicured, much tended and loved home-garden.
And then… the bride.
On the arm of her father, covered in cream lace and a cloud of fine netting, the two paused at the start of the white chairs and neatly rowed family and friends. He gently removed her veil, taking back his fatherly ownership, and prepared to give her away. The song “Marry me” serenaded and all eyes, mostly tear filled, were on the beautiful bride as they walked up the green grass aisle for her to be married.
The ceremony wasn’t as much a statement of commitment, they’ve already been at that for a long time, as a magnificent celebration to a life of possibilities still to come. Cousin Brett sincerely spoke the formalities and bride and groom exchanged vows and rings true to their own personalities and evident long-time love for each other. More tears. An aunt on each side gave their own words of blessings, both profound and deeply meaningful.
Building a wedding is grueling fun wrought with expectation, muddle and the unpredictable. This one was planned with precision for two years, wanting to make something truly memorable and thoroughly beautiful. Items were collected and stored by friends, both sides of the family, and mother-of-the bride, Kerry, pulled out all the stops and weeds to make a cover-page garden around the home in which Paula grew up, all the while not letting cancer or chemo hinder her in any way. An incredible testimony to love and determined longevity.
Paula is detail oriented, almost to a fault. She wants what she wants, always the best and with huge enthusiasm, even down to the glass jars for the candles being the same shape and size. No big coffee jars in this lot of jam jars, please. The waitrons had clothes specially made to match the pastel colours of the garden and flowers. Even their shoes coordinated, bought to size and brought from South Africa. The tailor sitting patiently on the khondi all week, waiting for the on/off power problem to stabilize. It never did, an on-going Malawian problem which reared its irritating head all too often. Out of town guests were organized in lodges, hotels and homes, lifted and shifted in cars and buses and on arrival given chitenge made welcome bags with a poem, phone cards, general warm-heart-of-Africa information and a list of local taxi drivers. Just so thoughtful. And what about food to feed the community the week before the wedding? And the buddymoon afterwards? Thin, elegant glasses, pure linen table cloths and the cheeses amongst other things were imported. Tree trunks were thickly sliced to carry the starters and delectably display the desserts. The menu planned with precision – finger nibbles to go with the Gin bar with a sign behind it inviting the fun to beGIN. The gins themselves crafted with care and originality, infused for weeks before. Starters, mains, desserts, coffee, cheese, chocolates. Wedding cake. Each course impeccably planned, presented and so pleasing both to eye and palate. The passing of the chief caterer a few weeks before, handled with grace and dignity. A live band before the ceremony, with the lady singers voice strong and pure, setting the tone of what was to come. A large photo wall, telling of the life and times of the couple’s courtship. Two long drop toilets in the back garden, dug and built specially, then draped with hessian and flowers. Oh yes – flowers. Everywhere. All in the blue, purple, pink wedding hues. In bouquets, in pots and in hanging baskets. In buckets and watering cans and wheel barrows. On the tables. Next to the ceremony chairs. Over the arch and under the trees. Stunningly beautiful and fulfilling the brides dream of a truly exquisite garden wedding. It was everything she wanted and hoped for.
Then… the rain.
Despite all the precision planning, there was no controlling some of the elements. Power cuts, cancer, the caterer and weather. The skies opened with a no-mercy-monsoon just as the ceremony ended and the pictures were being taken on the vastly green school fields. No problem for this lot. Living in the moment, Paula hitched both her now filthily muddied skirt and a ride on Greg’s back and laughed the way through a very wet photoshoot. An excellent omen for times to come. This bridal party got good and properly drenched. It made for exquisite photos and soggy hair do’s.
And then… the party.
Undeterred, and after a wipe down with every towel in the house, heart and body warming speeches were made, dinner was served and the party began. Fueled by heavy handed gin pourers, an excellent DJ and the legacy of Rhodes Uni alumni there was oh-so-much merry making. Foot stomping, arm shaking, head swaying stuff. In fact, the party got so good, the dance floor broke and had to be carried out. The grass sufficed and even Nana, Greg’s 84-year-old granny got up to do her thing.
The festivities ended with the die-hards going for a dip in the pool and Greg losing his brand-new wedding ring at some hour close to sunrise, only to get up and go, lunch time later to a hamburger and boerewors braai at the same place. This was followed by the cutting of the wedding cake, which somehow didn’t happen the night before. Three layers of decadent chocolate, carrot and poppy seed bringing a sweet close to a perfect celebration.
And then…the end.
But not really. Some went home. Some stayed at home to clean up. Some caught airplanes out of the country. Some went to the lake to relax and a whole lot went on a buddymoon on the shores of Lake Malawi with the bride and groom. It may have been the end of an extended and joyous celebration, but only the beginning of a wonderful new life.
And then…in closing.
Paula and Greg – flower petals, family and friends, fine food, flavor-filled gins and fabulous dancing, weren’t only created for wedding receptions.
Let them fill your everyday life. I have a very strong feeling you will.
See the slideshow and more pictures here: