Holidays to remember – South Africa, Part 1 – The Wedding

Way back in 2012, my brother in law got engaged to his girlfriend, and swiftly it was announced that they would be tying the knot in sunny South Africa in December 2013!!!

On the one hand – hooray!! – how exotic (well it was for us as we’d never been there before)

On the other – ooh – that sounds expensive and travelling with an eight month old and a three year old could be interesting!

I was overwhelmed when the bride to be asked me to be a bridesmaid. Of course I said yes! Mr B was to be an usher and H, her very first time as a flower girl.

So, after much planning, excitement, Pinterest pinning, girly chats, international hen and stag do’s, penny saving and not eating(!); my little family took a flight to spend the most wonderful action packed two weeks in an amazing and colourful country.

The trip was pretty much split into three parts – the wedding, general holiday fun, and a romantic luxury safari mini break for two!!

So, the wedding itself was planned for December 7th – South Africa’s summer – so we took the red-eye flight on the Tuesday night prior to this, in order to get the kids settled and comfortable in their new surroundings ready for the big day.

Travelling light was not an option!!

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Normally you just pack your holiday clothes. We had……

Two buggies
A car seat
Three suitcase full of clothes to cater for beachwear, formal wear, bridesmaid, usher and flower girl outfits, shoes to suit every occasion going and golf attire
A soft bag full of clothing for the safari
And a set of golf clubs

Anyway, the airport staff were extremely polite and helpful and we were assisted at every opportunity!

The kids were ok on the flight – though no sooner as we’d settled E in her ‘basket’ which was strapped to the tray table in front of us, H woke up crying her eyes out as was uncomfortable, which subsequently woke E up too. So then we spent a rather agonizing hour or so of firstly trying to get the kids to stop crying, then trying to settle them back off to sleep, at the same time as trying to avoid eye contact with the rather tired and angry looking passengers scattered around us!

Honestly – if looks could kill!!

In the end it was ok though and they did get back off to sleep.

(It could have been worse – like the time we flew back from Turkey when the flight was so hot)

It soon grew lighter outside and we had arrived!

What a country!

The first thing you see on taking the drive out of Cape Town airport is miles upon miles of multi coloured corrugated iron rooftops. Row upon row of tiny shanti town huts, stretching as far as the eye could see, and further still!

It was the first time I’ve ever really seen anything like this, or at least, in real life and not off the news! And especially to this scale.

I was rather taken aback and overwhelmed with a mixture of fear, sadness and almost with guilt. This is where that that lady was taken on her honeymoon where the husband had allegedly had her murdered!! All a little too close for comfort!! Especially with my babies in the car!

We took the short, 50kish, drive to the Town of Stellenbosch, in the Western Cape province. A beautiful town surrounded by spectacular green, mountainous views and backdrops and field upon field of neatly lined vineyards.

One of our favourite sites of the holiday were the lines of beautiful purple jacaranda trees – which we turned into a car game with H…. first one to spot the next jacaranda!!

We were very fortunate in that Mr B’s parents had rented a house for the entirety of our stay (as it was their son, Mr B’s brother who was to be married), which we used as a base for the holiday. It was superb. A little daunting initially with bars on all the windows, security gates on entry and a speed dial for quick response guards(!), but we soon got used to it. Actually, practically all the houses we saw were either protected by bars, security or were in gated communities due to the general crime levels. I was informed this is just the norm out there in the suburbs.

The house itself had four bedrooms, so it was great to have H and E in separate rooms, as E was only 8 months, and was still not sleeping through the night, although her sleeping pattern became totally erratic whilst out there and she was really unsettled for quite a few of the nights. We think it was the heat. Only two rooms in the house had air con; the main living room area and the master bedroom. This was the one our parents were staying in, so we got by (just) by using powered fans in each of the remaining bedrooms.

On the day we arrived the weather was overcast and cooler (although this was to change dramatically!), so although a bit disappointing to us, it worked well for E as it gave her more time to adjust to the heat.

Outside the house had a covered patio/entertaining space, with steps leading up to a pool area on the terrace. The pool was a great size, and kept H amused for hours.

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It was superb. Totally tranquil and easy!! If H needed the loo – we just nipped inside. If she needed a snack – we just popped to the fridge. I could totally get used to having my own pool in the back garden of my house here in the UK !! Though I doubt Mr B will see it this way!! And not sure the weather would oblige either!

The garden was filled with shrubs and flowers, my favourite was the pretty agapanthus – which also seemed commonplace about South Africa.

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In the week prior to the wedding, we had different events each evening to attend.

On the Wednesday night there was a ‘do’ at the bride’s parents house where all the close family and friends met one another over drinks and canapés.

Thursday night was the wedding rehearsal, with again more drinks and canapés!!

And on the Friday night Mr B’s parents held a party at the house (mainly to welcome any guests who had travelled from the UK) whilst the bridesmaids all spent the night together with the bride at the wedding venue.

Wow! What a place that was!

It was held at Webersburg Boutique Vineyard & Wine Estate.

It was stunning. Lush green grass, with majestic oaks, beautiful purple jacaranda and bright white typically South African Dutch architecture buildings overlooking a lake with the Stellenbosch mountains in the distance framing everything!

Here, have a look and see for yourself…

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The bride’s family had hired out the entire estate for the duration of the wedding which was to consist of the night prior to the wedding for the bridesmaids, and the two consecutive nights for the bride & groom, bridesmaids and ushers. Basically three nights to party, relax or just enjoy the spectacular scenery around.

Ours was certainly not the ‘party’ option of the above, as we had the girls with us in a family cottage room, which again, was wonderful. Although we did find it tricky in that there was no catering at the venue after breakfast, and not being forewarned that nowhere did ‘delivery’! we were a bit stuck with what to feed both us and the kids!! But heh – it was only a couple of nights, and whilst the couples went out into town, we stayed in and played with the girls, put them to bed and then just sat and enjoyed the views.

The bridesmaids all got up for breakfast on the morning of the wedding to be met with beautiful gift bags as table settings, each with our own wedding survival kits, and personalised T-shirts were laid out over the backs of chairs.

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We all sat around talking and wondering how the day ahead would unfold. The bride was surprisingly calm!

Not long after breakfast it was time to start getting ready – hair, makeup, dresses, I also had to get H ready for her big day too. Then it was time for pictures! These lasted forever! And the heat was nearly unbearable – especially with heavy dresses on, and really not too good for keeping makeup on your face!!

The time then soon came for us to head down to the building where the ceremony was to take place in, so we all tottered in our heels down the cobbled pathway ready for our big entrance!

The bridesmaids all walked in one by one before the bride entered, in height order with me second in due to the height of my heels!!! Hooray – not the shortest!

I arrived at my seat only to glance over at Mr B, who unfortunately looked as though he’d entered a wet t-shirt competition as his shirt was completely see through!! Everyone was super super hot!!

The orders of service were being used as fans instead of being read so as people didn’t overheat in what unfortunately felt a bit like a sauna!! I can’t imagine how warm the bride was – although when its actually your own wedding day, things like this just seem to go unnoticed as you are totally overwhelmed and taken in the moment!

As beautiful and emotional as the service was, we were all a little relieved when it was time to file out into the fresh air – though it wasn’t that fresh. They’d arranged for the service to start at four o clock so as to time it as the air was cooling outside, but it was still sweltering!

Lots more photos (and Pimms and champagne) later and it was time to head into to dinner.

This was something I was rather nervous of, as the wonderful bride and groom had decided it would be good if each bridesmaid/usher pair devised their very own dance entrance into the dinner area.

Brilliant!!! Just brilliant!!

Nervous didn’t quite cut it, so I was glad to have had some drinks beforehand so as to numb the pain!!

For some unknown reason, Mr B and I decided to do a dance where I walked downstairs first into a sea of eyes watching us, then turned back around and cast my fishing rod back up the stairs, where I ‘caught’ Mr B and ‘hooked’ him down each of the stairs!!

Don’t ask!!

Timing, rhythm and dancing are really not Mr B’s strong points. I can quite honestly say this is not one of the reasons I married him!! But anyway – it was funny and a relief as the audience laughed with us and not at us!!

It’s going to be one of those moments I just wish would phase into distant memory! Quickly!!

Once everyone was down it was time to tuck into dinner.

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The speeches were between each course and were fantastic – actually it was the best grooms speech I’ve heard to date. Brilliantly stitched together video clips, hilarious stories and as is always the ‘done thing’ at a wedding, many ‘tear jerker’ moments too

In amongst all this, I then somehow managed to pour half a magnum of red wine down my dress also!! Not good! For some reason (after some confusion with the waiter I might add!) I thought the cork was still in the bottle – went to pose for a picture while ‘pretending’ to drink the wine, and yes, subsequently tipped half the bottle all over my bridesmaid dress!!

Thank god it was a midnight blue colour!! As the rest of the table gasped in horror, I quickly stuffed the pristine white napkins down my cleavage and blotted!!! The napkins came out looking tie-dyed! I had another napkin for my chin and décolletage and that was that! Good as new! You wouldn’t even have noticed the difference!!

After food, there was the usual madcap dancing and general shenanigans that go on at a wedding. There was a photo booth and fancy dress station which everyone (including us) loved and fully embraced!!.

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And shortly after the first dance, the guests were corralled onto the veranda and into the dark night sky to watch a spectacular fire spinning display across on the other side of the lake. With the fire mirrored in the glassy water it was truly magical and really topped off a great day.

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Mr B and I then headed back to our room a little earlier than the others, as I don’t think I’d eaten enough to eat throughout the day, but had certainly drunk enough, in the sun and therefore was feeling pretty ill by this time!

By the morning though, I was feeling ok again, and the four of slipped on our flip flops and trundled out to take an early morning stroll around the venue with the girls, who we hadn’t really seen the day before (especially little E as she had been looked after by nannies).

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It’s a real shame when you see a wedding venue on the morning after the event. A real come down. So many months of planning all to be ripped out overnight leaving nothing but an empty shell with the odd broken glass or missed decoration. Quite sad really.

But at least we still had the two further days at the venue to enjoy it as I mentioned above.

The venue came complete with swimming pool so we just whiled away the hours in the sun watching the girls (and the odd duck!) playing and splashing in the pool.

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Soon it was time to leave Webersburg, and Mr B and I bid a teary farewell to our girls and their Grandparents,who had kindly offered to look after then for the week, whilst we jetted off to a luxury safari for four nights.

But that’s the next installment as there’s way too many pictures to bore you with for just this one post…….:)

xx

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