Real Wedding | Eloping in the Mountains

If you are in the throws of planning a wedding, I can guarantee that the thought of packing it all in and eloping has crossed your mind. Melissa and Paul did just that, and after a week of making the bold decision to change their plans to an intimate wedding in the mountains, they had booked their venue and accommodation. 

Some advice from our bride Melissa before you read on:

“If you are eloping, you still have the right to be excited about your plans and have a smashing dress. Be bright and confident about the whole thing and get people to be excited for you. I found a lot of my family and friends never really came around to the idea of an elopement and we definitely felt their confusion and wished they could have been more supportive. It’s easy to feel maybe like it means less or isn’t important when people aren’t making any hype around the event. So if you need the hype – create it yourself.
You’re allowed to!”

Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains

Hooray: Before we go any further, WHY did you decide to elope?
Melissa: So my father had given us a small budget and we wanted to do a DIY sort of wedding that was very creative and simple yet tasteful and still quite non-traditional as far as wedding days go.

We had hired a wedding planner, Rebecca from Runaway Romance, as those types of weddings are her speciality. We had paid her a deposit and had started looking at venues. The non-wedding kind like restaurants, warehouses rooftops etc. I fell in love with a fairly unknown space at the top of a building in Jeppes Town in Joburg. The views were stunning and I knew nothing would compare.

It was going to eat at more than half our budget without food, music etc. We started to feel a bit stressed. We took a step back and basically realised that we weren’t stressing over the act of getting married, we were stressing over a view, over a building, over a day made perfect not for vows but for a perfect setting, a perfect party.

I did not want to wait to get married so that we could save more money, but these were our options – wait a long time for a few perfect hours OR get married sooner and smaller and have a real life, looking forward to real dreams and saving money for real assets and real investments. 

A wedding and a marriage are two different things and we had to really remind ourselves of this. Saying your vows and having a big party don’t have to go together and having a crowd witness them does not validate that commitment in any way.  We realised we didn’t want to get lost in that confusion and so we changed course and have yet to regret it.

Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains

Hooray: How would you describe the style of your wedding? Did you have a theme, or colour scheme? What was your inspiration in planning?
Melissa: We didn’t really have a theme other than keeping everything super low key. We were lucky enough to get married at a beautiful lodge in the Drakensberg which provided all the decor, colours etc. that we needed. The style of the lodge was rustic but modern with lots of white and custom wood pieces, which really suited Paul and I, so we struck it lucky!

The inspiration to do the berg thing was from Paul who said he always wanted to get married there. I felt overwhelmed after just the small amount of planning I had started so I shut our big wedding down, spent a day googling and within the same week blindly booked the accommodation and held thumbs for the rest!

Hooray: Where did your wedding take place and why did you choose that venue?
Melissa: The lodge is Qambathi Mountain lodge. As I said above it was simply by chance we knew no one who had been there, I simply liked the look of the place and most importantly how romantic the rooms looked on the site.

Hooray: Were there any DIY elements to your day?
Melissa: A bunch! My mom made our cake – traditional fruit cake with delish marzipan icing. She also made the cutest little paper flowers to top it. She also brought a long all the goodies that made up platters for snacking with our champagne. I made my dress and my brother and dad set up go pros and a camera to film the ceremony.

Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the MountainsHooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the MountainsHooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the MountainsHooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the MountainsHooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the MountainsHooray: Your dress is definitely one-of-a-kind. There is a reason for this isn’t there?
Melissa: I am a designer so luckily I can sew and decided to make my own. This proved more difficult than expected. Like most brides I think you never know what actually suits you until you put it on!

I made a dress about two weeks before that was nice but I just didn’t feel like it was my wedding dress. So I cut it up, salvaged the sleeves and made a new top and skirt. I did this on the Sunday evening a day before we left for the Drakensberg and with a hangover from my bachelorette party.

Doing it last minute was fantastic, I had no time to second guess things and I felt inspired while making it as it only built up my excitement to get married. All in all, even with the failed first attempt and a second white outfit I made for our mini reception back home after the wedding, I think I spent around R1500.00.

Hooray: And our dashing groom – where is your suit from?
Paul: All Woolworths! Top to toe. Originally the suit was going to be black but all the black suits at Woolies didn’t have great fit. I found a navy wool suit that was just right. I wore that with a baby blue shirt, navy polka dot bow tie, matching socks and pocket square. Even navy leather shoes. Quick and easy – my kind of shopping, fuss free!

Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the MountainsHooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the MountainsHooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the MountainsHooray: If you think back to that magical day, is there a moment that stands out for either of you?
Melissa: I think just standing together and realising you are getting married is a feeling no one can prepare you for. It’s a rush of emotion and it comes out in ways you don’t expect. We cried and laughed A LOT during our vows. Not because they were funny but because that kind of raw emotion just kind of bursts out in weird ways. It was strange and messy but memorable and special for us.

Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the MountainsHooray: Was there anything that you were particularly worried about on or leading up to the day?
Melissa: I was worried a bit about the lodge itself seeing as we had never been there. It ended up totally exceeding our expectations though is every way!
I was also worried about my back tan. I had a terrible one from working in the garden a few weeks before. I didn’t have time to tan over it so it’s in my pics now and it’s not great but who cares!! Hahahaha

Hooray: Your wedding was very intimate. Who did you share your day with?
Melissa: We had our parents and siblings with us. 8 people in total, plus a harpist.

Hooray: Weddings are not easy to plan. What did you find most challenging?
Melissa: Trying to explain to family and friends why we were having such a small wedding. For the most part we found people won’t always understand but you just gotta stick to your guns!

Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the MountainsHooray: “We could have done without….” 
Melissa: The rain on the day. The morning was beautiful but then it came down on and off the rest of the day. We had all hands on deck though and moving a setting for 8 people is not so hard hahaha, so it was still pretty perfect.

Hooray: “Best spent money was on…”
Melissa: Toss up between the lodge and our photographers. Both really made our wedding what it was and we were honestly immensely impressed by those two things. They formed the bulk of the cost, and I’ll have to check with my Dad but I don’t think he has any regrets either;)

Hooray: What was your biggest priority when planning your wedding?
Melissa: The Venue

Hooray: If you had an unlimited budget, would you have done anything differently?
Melissa: Maybe, but that wasn’t the case and we loved our day exactly as it was. It wasn’t a show or about spending money, it was saying this is a wedding between two people and their immediate families, you don’t really need anything more.

Although maybe one thing. We would have liked to stay on at the lodge a few more nights, just to keep the good times rolling! Alone though.. Hahaha

Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the MountainsHooray: Music sets the scene for any event. What were your song choices? 
Melissa: My brother was wonderful and organised a harpist to play for us. She played Canon in D. We didn’t have any dancing but two other songs that were played that day that we loved were True Colours and Songbird which the harpist played and sang for us which was so lovely.

Hooray: Were you the first or last to leave your wedding?
Melissa: After getting married and having our photos taken we had a five course meal and by the time dessert came round you could see the effects of the excitement and long day and all the champagne in everyones eyes! My mom couldn’t resist requesting the harpist to play one last song, one of her favourites from Les Miserable. That was it.. the day had officially ended and we all said good night!

Hooray:  “We are so grateful to…”
Melissa: …Our photographers Knot Just Pics for adding a cool and fun element to our day. We enjoyed the time away from our family, alone in the beautiful Drakensberg, and they made us feel like we had just invited some friends to take pics for the day. Best decision ever.

Hooray: How did eloping affect you financially? Was it a big saving?
Melissa: We saved loads of money in that all Paul and I paid for was our suit and dress. The accommodation for 8 people for two nights having bed, breakfast and a 5 course meal each night and drinks fitted into my fathers budget. Our reception, which included about 40 people at a restaurant, also came out of that and our guests were able to order a wide variety of food from the menu as well as table salads and breads. We then paid a small ‘cakage’ fee and bought 5 different cakes from woolies for dessert on that day. All in all – a massive bargain. This all came in at round R50 000. 

In the end we really got it all. We made wonderful memories, we didn’t fight about money and we came out married! 

Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the Mountains Hooray Weddings | Let's Elope in the MountainsHooray: Now that it’s all over and you have had time to reflect, what advice would you give your bestie?
Melissa: Think hard about what your wedding day means to you and your partner. If you want to party then party. If you want to show off then show off. Or if you want to simply get married, just get married! It’s important to have a strong idea of where the planning is going to take you. It doesn’t matter how big or small – weddings are stressful. Even a small one like ours, you’ll be surprised at the issues, emotions and unnecessary stuff you have to deal with. Eye on the prize. Our wedding planning brought my husband and I closer and any drama in our families etc. prepared us to lean on each other and break away from leaning on them. It turned out to be a good experience because of that in the end.

Photographer: Knot Just Pics
Venue: Qambathi Mountain Lodge
Caterer: Mom
Florist: N/A I did have flower earrings from Lovisa and Paul wore a white flower from woolworths on his lapel, if that counts!
Stationery: Mom
Wedding Dress: Me
Bride’s maids dresses: N/A Thank goodness!
Groom’s suit: Woolworths
Groomsmen: N/A
Cake: Mom
DJ: N/A
Entertainment: Christy – Lyn (harpist) christylyn1@gmail.com

3 thoughts on “Real Wedding | Eloping in the Mountains

  1. Marna says:

    Melissa, we want to elope, but the struggle is real by finding the rught location. Our minds are pretty set on nature and great scenery for the photos. The reason for saving money and spending more on the honeymoon is our main focus! But I’m stuck! I’m not sure on how to budget, how much cheaper is an elopement, and how much in total dit you spend at your venue? What was the venue hiring cost? And is it true that if you tell venue owners you are eloping they would charge you a cheaper fee or do they still over charge because of ‘wedding’ shinanikinz? I hope you can advise me. X

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