At the heart of the Hooray Weddings ethos, is love. We don’t discriminate when it comes to this topic and therefore recognise subtle exclusions in the wedding industry. There are a lot of blogs who do not feature same sex weddings. We aren’t sure why, maybe it’s for religious reasons or maybe they want their articles to appeal to the masses. As long as a handful of people enjoy our articles…we’re happy. And it is for this reason that we will be featuring ALL types and styles of weddings that come our way. Straight, gay, lesbian, transgender, black, white, alien….we love them all.
Duane Smith is a KZN photographer who now works and lives in Cape Town. I came across a wedding that he shot at the Views Boutique Hotel and Spa, and I was determined to feature it on our blog. I asked Michelle and Karien questions that I knew had the potential to make them feel awkward (I have a knack of doing this) but really wanted other same sex couples to learn about their experience of planning a wedding.
If you are interested to learn more about the laws of same sex marriage in SA, be sure to read our article on Same Sex Marriage that walks you through SA’s history and current laws.
I’m going to get right to the point here and ask Michelle & Karien some questions that had me the most curious and then we’ll move onto the fun stuff.
HOORAY: Did being a same sex couple effect your wedding planning at all?
MICHELLE: I always dreamed of my wedding day, not knowing that it would end up being a same sex couple wedding as I dated a guy for many years previously. So when planning, I planned it as if it was any normal wedding, including things that were important to us as a couple & leaving some traditional wedding traditions out – like throwing of the garter or bouquet.
HOORAY: Did you tell vendors from the start that you were a same-sex couple or did that detail come out later? Did anyone give you a hard time about it, or perhaps turn you away?
MICHELLE: I started off not knowing if it was going to be an issue with vendors. I received a suppliers list from our wedding venue of vendors in the area that they had used before, so I started with getting quotes from them. I chose a photographer on the list that I liked and proceeded with booking. I had not mentioned to the photographer that we were a lesbian couple and before paying I thought I should phone her and let her know, just to make sure that she was comfortable with it. Fortunately I did, because when I told her she said that it was against her beliefs and that she did not want to be a part of our wedding. It was very upsetting to me that people could still be so judgmental and I was worried that we would not be able to have the quality vendors we wanted for our day. So from then on with all vendors I told them upfront that we were a gay couple & checked if they were ok with it before getting quotes. After searching the internet & getting referrals I found our photographer Duane Smith Photography – who was truly amazing. I really believe that things happen for a reason and we would never have had Duane if the other photographer hadn’t turned us away. The result of this, was the most beautiful photos taken by someone who captured the love of two people, no matter what sexual preference they had. The other vendors we chose were very accepting and I found the majority to be open and kind.
HOORAY: How did you choose your outfits? Did you go shopping together or did you keep it a surprise from one another? We LOVE Karien’s gold outfit!!! Had you always known you wouldn’t wear a white dress Karien? Did you change your mind at all during the process? Why gold?
MICHELLE: We went shopping for our wedding dresses separately as we wanted it to be a surprise for one another. I went with my mom and bridesmaids and Karien went with her mom and sister. I always knew I wanted something ivory with lace. I searched for the perfect dress eventually finding a beautiful lace dress at DeLaVida Bridal Couture – altering the style and adding lace and beading to make it just what I wanted. Karien didn’t want a traditional dress or the clichéd suit as many lesbian couples wear. She wanted something original that suited her edgy personality, so opted to get her outfit made by Norman from ‘The Boys’. Her outfit had a skirt for the ceremony but was removed and changed the look into a cat suit for the reception so she could be more comfortable and party the night away. She knew she wanted rose gold which was one of the colours for our wedding and spotted a piece of sequin fabric in the dress makers studio that she fell in love. That was the starting point of the whole outfit. The outfit changed 3 times from when they started designing it but it came together in the end. I think our outfits complemented each other and suited our individual personalities very well.
HOORAY: How long have you been together? How did your families take the news that you were getting married? And who proposed? Do you both have diamonds or wedding bands or both?
MICHELLE: We have been together for 4 years. We were seeing each other for 3 years when we went on a holiday to Greece where Karien surprised me and proposed at the top of the Acropolis in Athens with a beautiful white gold diamond ring. We spent the rest of the romantic holiday in Santorini & Mykonos. We were engaged for a year while planning our wedding. Our parents were very supportive and happy for us, as they had already had the time during our relationship to accept us as a couple. They were amazing at our wedding and we are so grateful to have the families that we do.
We added 2 eternity diamond bands to my ring on the wedding day. Karien, being the non-traditional and not so girly type, wanted to have a ring that was different and made a statement. I bought her a black diamond as it was something she always wanted, and then we designed the ring together. It is a chunky white gold ring with the diamond in the centre. We had the co-ordinates of Athens where we got engaged, as well as the co-ordinates of the Wilderness where we got married engraved on the ring.
HOORAY: Did one of you take the lead with the wedding planning? Or were you both equally involved?
MICHELLE: I am definitely the planner between the 2 of us and also super organised. Being a designer and trend forecaster I love anything design, décor and party planning so it was only natural that I took the lead. Karien was pretty easy going and allowed me to make most of the decisions, except for the flavor of the cake which she wanted to be orange. She also requested a lot of tequila – Which we run out of anyway – What makes you think it was a great party 🙂
HOORAY: Being wedding photographers ourselves, we appreciate great photography and we love Duane Smith’s work. How did you choose him? Would it have mattered to you if the photographer you chose hadn’t shot any same sex weddings before?
MICHELLE: The photographer was one of the most important things to me and it was the very 1st thing I organised. After being turned away by the 1st photographer I chose, I looked at many photographer websites and fell in love with Duane’s work, His photographs were so natural and beautiful, his use of light and capturing each little detail make his work special. When I saw he had photographed another lesbian wedding and how gorgeous the photos were, it made the decision very easy. I wanted someone who would make us feel comfortable and be ok with photographing a same-sex wedding and he really did. It was about capturing the love of two people and having those memories in photos forever.
HOORAY: What was the highlight of the day for each of you?
MICHELLE: I don’t think I can pick one highlight of the day, there were so many moments that were special, from the whale splashing about in the ocean just before we walked down the aisle, my dad giving me away, Karien singing to me at the reception and our first dance to a very sentimental song “She keeps me warm” by Mary Lambert.
Karien’s highlight was before the ceremony when the elevator door opened and she saw me for the 1st time in my dress before we walked down to the beach.
HOORAY: Was there anything that you regret ?
MICHELLE: The one thing I regret was not doing a rehearsal of the ceremony with the bridal party, just to make sure that everyone knew what to do when. There were over 100 steps to walk down to get to the ceremony sight and we weren’t prepared with how much time we needed for the songs to play as we walked down. Its something you don’t think is necessary but actually helps with the flow of the day & makes everyone feel more relaxed.
HOORAY: Best spent money was on?
MICHELLE: Definitely our venue “Views Boutique Hotel & Spa“. It was worth every cent, it was such a magical setting with spectacular sea views. We didn’t even need that much décor because the space was beautiful enough in it’s raw form.
HOORAY: Karien sung to you at the reception. How awesome is that? Was it a surprise?
MICHELLE: Karien studied music and drama at Afda. She was in the music & TV industry when she was younger but now has a Swim School. She still has a passion for music and enjoys it in her spare time. As writing lyrics is something she loves, she wanted to write me a song to sing at our wedding. It was such a special moment that made me laugh and cry.
A line from the song she sang is “Out of all the mathematical equations we seem to make sense most. Not even E=MC squared could ever come close” It had so much personal meaning for us and the guests loved it.
HOORAY: Traditionally the father of the bride says a speech and the groom does too. How did you run the speeches? Did you both say a speech? Did both your Dad’s say a speech?
MICHELLE: Both our dads did speeches that were very special. My dad had to do a “Whoop Whoop” with the guests every time he got a bit emotional. We also both did a speech, standing up at the podium side by side as the 1st duty of support as a married couple. We wanted to personally say thank you to all the people who mean so much to us and to everyone who made the effort to travel to the other side of the country to share the day with us, as well as say some words to each other in front of everyone.
HOORAY: Because this blog post is centered around the fact that you are a same sex couple, have you got any advice for others who may be feeling nervous to plan their wedding?
MICHELLE: Firstly, definitely be upfront with vendors from the beginning to avoid disappointment. Secondly, as a gay couple its quite difficult to find a marriage officiator to do same sex ceremonies so don’t leave it too late. And lastly, I think the most important thing is to remember that it’s your day, do what you feel works for you as a couple and don’t worry about conforming to the typical type of wedding… be different, be yourself. The people who want to be there to celebrate with you will be there and those are the people to carry forward with in your life.