Destination Wedding: South AfricaApr 04, 2019 03:53PM ● By Danell Wilson-Perlman
Bliss Travel writer and owner of Reno-Tahoe Limousine, Danell Wilson-Perlman, a native South African with over 30 years of experience working in the tourism industry and an impressive personal travel log, explains why her home country is a top choice for your destination wedding.
Interested in planning a destination wedding? You’re not alone! According to the WeddingWire.com 2019 Newlywed Report (the largest survey of its kind with over 18,000 respondents), 25% of couples are now opting to get out of town to tie the knot. Imagine…your closest friends and family all embarking on a new, exciting adventure together, making memories that will yield family stories to be cherished for years to come.
While a destination wedding doesn’t have to take you abroad, once the wedding is over and both finances and focus start turning toward work and family, the likelihood of your travel plans taking you halfway around the world may decrease. You’re already aware that weddings can be costly and you may be willing to stretch your budget now more than ever, and that goes for family members too. A wedding is a great way, and perhaps the only way for some, to justify time away from work for international travel with loved ones. So, why not choose a bucket list destination like South Africa for your wedding celebration? You may find it is a swift and easy decision considering that, at the time of print, the current Dollar/Rand exchange rate is 14 to 1!
I'm going to touch on four stellar properties I've experienced as a bride, wedding guest, and vacationer. They are all unique, and you will want to return for more.
Agulhas Country Lodge
It was October 1997 when I first met Ron. I rented a car from his company in Truckee, CA and we became fast friends. There was an immediate connection and over time, we fell in love, talking for hours on end any chance we could. About two years later, I was back in South Africa visiting my family for the holidays and Ron proposed over the phone on Christmas Day. We decided then and there to fast forward the wedding to February 13, 2000. We only had six weeks to plan the wedding! And, due to work commitments, Ron did not arrive in South Africa until five days before the wedding. How did we pull it off? It was truly a case of put your mind to it and make it happen! Not only was my dress custom designed and handmade but I created and hand wrote the wedding invitations too—it was a labor of love. Prior to Ron and I ever crossing paths and 10 years before tanzanite was famous, on a whim he asked a friend who was traveling in Africa to bring him back some tanzanite from Tanzania. It always makes me smile to know that he requested a gem from Africa…the gem showed up and then me a few years later[Symbol] Ron brought this fortuitous gem with him to South Africa along with some of the diamonds from his mom's wedding ring and our wedding rings were handmade in 24 hours-we are still in love with them today.
Our reception took place at the beautiful Agulhas Country Lodge, which is built from natural limestone and blends into the background of a rocky hill at the southernmost tip of Africa. We were the very first wedding they ever did, and boy, owner Sue Fenwick and her team hit it out of the ballpark with our day. She even fulfilled the groom's carrot wedding cake request and decorated it with fresh lavender from her herb garden. It was a magical day with blue skies and breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean from every vantage point. You can’t beat the fantastic photo locations; from the longest stretch of sandy beach in the southern hemisphere to the second-oldest lighthouse on the continent of Africa, and the monument marking the southernmost tip of Africa. These are fond memories we will cherish for years to come.
This January, I had the privilege of attending the wedding of my dear friend, Elmarie, back in my home country. The wedding weekend was an unforgettable all-inclusive stay at Elandskloof, a working guest farm within a 90 minute drive from Cape Town. Spending two glorious days on a farm with no cell service was a dream come true! The best part was reconnecting with college friends I hadn't seen since we graduated in 1994. Cottages were spread out in clusters all over the farm, each one with stunning views of either mountain scenery, pastures, or grazing livestock. The rehearsal dinner took place on a Friday night under starry skies with a traditional braai (South African word for BBQ) like no other. Coming home and enjoying the foods I grew up with added some special fairy dust to this experience. Starting the long-awaited wedding day with an early swim in the river set the tone for a magical day to come. I went out on a limb and got a hair appointment in the nearby tiny village of Greyton to make sure my hairdo looked appropriate for the occasion! The stylist was top-notch, and I even left with glitter in my hair. The ceremony took place under the trees next to the river, a perfect spot for this special couple to say their “I do’s.” The reception happened in a stunning stone barn with so much character. Our friends at Okasie produced breathtaking arrangements of fresh roses throughout. Custom-made pastel candles flickered as we listened to the most beautiful wishes of family and friends for the best life together as husband and wife. After we had enjoyed another five-star meal, we danced and laughed until the wee hours of the morning, celebrating love and friendship. After Sunday brunch at the river’s edge under willow trees, it was time to say our goodbyes. Elmarie and Andre’s wedding celebration was truly a weekend like no other.
The Jan Harmsgat Country House and Guest Farm date back to 1723 and can accommodate up to 50 wedding guests. From the moment you set foot on this historic piece of land, you will be transported to a time of yesteryear but will still have all of today’s luxuries. It is a working pecan and pomegranate farm – wait until you taste the pomegranate juice! Spacious bedrooms, claw-footed tubs, fresh flowers, a fresh apple, and a personal greeting card await your arrival. During my last visit, our group was starving by the time we arrived at the property. A call to the General Manager, Francois, 15-minutes before arrival produced the most delicious charcuterie platter and a specialty cocktail for each of my guests. You will experience outstanding customer service and attention to detail by a staff who you can feel genuinely care. The onsite restaurant, Just Amy, is located in another historical marvel of a building. Here, you will be treated to a very detailed and informative wine tasting featuring a selection of Jan Harmsgat's boutique wines followed by a magnificent five-star dinner featuring local specialties. To finish your wedding weekend, you and your guests will indulge in a picnic brunch on the mountaintop. Trust me – you will not want to leave.
Sibani Wilderness Lodge
Now, we will embark on a journey to the “Cradle of Humankind,” 35 miles from Johannesburg in Gauteng, South Africa. Sibani Wilderness Lodge in the heart of Mt. Savannah Game Reserve is a magical place I can't describe in words. It is home to a vast array of wildlife (no predators) including giraffe, impala, zebra, as well as an impressive variety of bird life, flora and fauna. Whether you choose to stay in the main lodge, royal cottages, or luxury tents with amazing views of the landscape and watering hole, you will feel as if you’re in Paradise. It's an authentic African landscape setting where your wedding party may enjoy hot air balloon rides over the Savannah, horseback riding, game drives, mountain bike adventures, and luxurious spa treatments. Start your wedding day with yoga and journaling at the watering hole; the rest of the day will unfold like a magic carpet ride!
AgulhasCountryLodge.com – Photos courtesy Agulhas Country Lodge
Elandskloof – ElandskloofFarmCottages.co.za
Floral Design and Décor – Okasie - Okasie.co.za
Catering by Driefontein Restaurant
Elandskloof/Elmarie and Adre photos by Monette Grobler Photography
Jan Harmsgat – JanHarmsgat.com – Photos courtesy JanHarmsgat, The Curd Companies
Sibani Wilderness Lodge – SibaniLodge.co.za – Photos courtesy Sibani Lodge, The Curd Companies