Early on in the planning stages of our nuptials, Bordeaux and I peeked into a wedding magazine together. It was filled with images of white gowns and bridesmaids—and not much that applied to us. So we realized early on that we wouldn’t be doing much as usual with our wedding. In the end, this meant greater freedom—we could have our wedding however we wanted. Our wedding day was relaxed and very casual, centred around celebrating with our family and friends and, of course, enjoying a delicious meal.
Since the announcement of our engagement coincided with our return to South Africa several months ago, we decided to go for a distinctly South African wedding. In particular, we focused in on the style and food of the Karoo, the arid semi-desert that fills much of South Africa’s interior. We had visited the region together on a road trip shortly after we started dating, and in some ways the desolate landscape seemed an attractive counterpoint to the usual frilliness and extravagance of a typical wedding.
In keeping with the Karoo theme, we went with something spare, domestic, and slightly retro. A simple sawhorse table was set up for the buffet, and covered with raw hessian. Food was served on wooden cutting boards and a mix of retro plates and platters in creamy shades of blue and pale yellow (we found many of our serving platters among the treasures at the Milnerton Market). We borrowed some vintage chairs from our friends to fill out our under-furnished apartment, and set up a bar on an antique table. Bordeaux’s mother arranged bouquets of indigenous flowers, such as proteas, fynbos, and calla lilies, adding some subtle colours. Bordeaux’s family also very kindly brought down several beautiful aloes with them from their home in Limpopo—they transported them so carefully that two of the aloes still had their tall flowering stems in tact.
The one thing Bordeaux and I obviously had to have at our wedding was incredible food. To fit with our Karoo theme, we served a boerekos feast of traditional Afrikaner dishes. We had a great time doing the sourcing for the wedding. Since we were doing the wedding so small, we didn’t have to bother with caterers, and could instead really just have the foods we love and enjoyed. We were also able to source each menu item and ingredient individually, which ensured that we were shopping locally, and working with small-scale producers. The highlight of our meal was a delicious Karoo lamb (which we actually picked up several days earlier from a butcher in the small Karoo town of Prince Albert), roasted with rosemary and garlic. On the side was a butternut salad with goat’s milk feta (one served with roasted cherry tomatoes for the vegetarians, and one with biltong- a dried South African meat- for the carnivores). In addition, we had a massive spread of artisinal breads and locally made cheeses. There were accompanied by jars and jars of interesting preserves that we gathered from different farm stalls, like green figs in syrup, gooseberry and granadilla jam, and apricot and walnut chutney. And all of this was of course served with many bottles of South African wine. Just before our guests arrived, I looked over the spread we’d set out on the table, and joked to Bordeaux that he had probably never expected to serve boerewors and biltong at his wedding. But somehow, it felt perfect—delicious, relaxed, and unfussy, the kind of food people went back for thirds of.
Since there were not going to be any big white gowns at our wedding, a big white cake would have felt just as out of place. In its place, we offered some local desserts. We had an array of milk-tarts (creamy pies sprinkled with cinnamon), and koesisters,
(syrupy and spicy Cape Malay coconut donuts). The milk-tarts were made by a friendly trader at the Neighbourgood’s Market (she sweetly surprised us by making the smaller tarts in the shape of hearts), and the koesisters came from a woman who bakes them in her home in the Bo Kaap (an historic Muslim neighbourhood of Cape Town).
The day worked out perfectly—we even had brilliant summer weather, despite it being the middle of winter—and we were able to totally relax. The South African theme worked well since we were able to really take advantage of the best foods the country has to offer, but it was also a tribute to my adopted country. After all, the right for Bordeaux and me to get married is one we don’t yet have in my country, but one that thankfully we do have here.