I doubt any of us could forget Wanjiru’s AMAZING red fairy wings and her “practical,” floofy, pink reception dress. Now, for your drooling pleasure, is the full deal on this colorful, to-die-for wedding! -Becca
The offbeat bride: Wanjiru, Doctor (and Tribe member)
Her offbeat partner: Ricky, Administration
Location & date of wedding: Emoyeni, Johannesburg, South Africa — October 10, 2010
What made our wedding offbeat: I refused to wear a veil let alone have hair on my head. I love to play with hair, grow it, straighten it, braid it, weave it, ‘Fro it, but I always felt fresh and new and clean without hair. The first time I shaved my head it felt amazing, and I didn’t see any reason why I would have it any other way on my wedding day.
I mish-mashed ideas from everywhere. From the enormous pool of great minds and spirits on OBB, I drew courage and inspiration. I also bought a library of local and imported wedding magazines and let go of my inhibitions. This meant my wedding was a bit crazy, but I loved every moment of the madness.
I refused to choose a color theme. I’m a terribly fickle person, so when I got to choose a second time (with our second venue) I decided to be true to myself and refused to let the vendor push me into a corner on the color choices. I’m glad I stuck to my guns. Despite all this, we both wore gold and red shoes as an ode to the traditional red and gold of Chinese weddings.
I compiled my playlist. I ripped the thousands of CDs in my collection to a friend’s laptop over a few weeks. The day before the wedding, I picked out a few hundred songs (overkill, I know) handed back the laptop and went with the flow.
We had an eight course cocktail dinner followed by a five course dessert. It was a cocktail dinner simply because the sit-down-and-eat hour or two of torture is just that to me — P A I N F U L and forced. I love it casual and light. Eat as much as you want of whatever you want wherever and however you want it with no need to waste what’s on your plate.
We had a teensy decor budget and decided to bring in my small tribe of stuffed toys to help out on the day. Totoro was our doorman, Domo and Mogwai (The Gremlins) cheered on from the concrete pots on the balcony, and my black Gloomy Bear photobombed the dress-up and formal pictures. Various other toys rampaged about the building at random.
My mom also volunteered her suncatchers for the wedding (she sells them at fleamarkets and the like) and they were strung along the pathways bringing color and sound and helped direct people to the ceremony.
Roses were banned from the day. I wanted the florist to use his imagination.
The day before the wedding we all got a bunch of guys over to the house and started tying up the hundreds and hundreds of meters of fabric, ribbon and tulle that I had amassed over months and months to decorate the wedding ceremony site. All that tying, all that fabric, all the weight! It was epic! My mom-in-law was amazing and made sense of all my madness and got everything under control. It all would never have happened without her help.
My wings were custom-made, feather-free wings by etsy vendor Up from the Ashes at the last minute! Rebecca (also preparing for her nupitals at the time) rocked and was able to promise and deliver them in perfect time. The feedback and follow through on every emailed interaction we had was outstanding. I would recommend her without a question to anyone anywhere in the world. Awesome fun seeing them for the first time 🙂 wohoo!
Johannesburg, a city renowned worldwide for its astronomical crime and violence rates. As a student, I learned to love this drab, crazy city with all its thorns and dangers. When I saw this refurbished Edwardian venue nestled on a ridge overlooking the city as if untouchable, I knew that this was it. It was amazing inside and out and the decor meant we barely needed to do anything to make the place sparkle. I wish I could live there forever!
Tell us about the ceremony: The wedding began with a Marimba band from Soweto. They played our instrumental wedding march as both our parents walked us to meet each other at the front of the gathering out on an open field.
Our High Priest then cast a circle and began with a neat, heartfelt reading as the wind blew rows of ribbons and clouds of pollen through the warm spring air around us.
The reading was followed by our vows to each other followed by the High Priest cleansing our rings and performing the handfasting. After that we shared our first meal and kiss together.
When complete, we did a little jump over the broom. Then we knelt before our parents to serve them tea (as per Chinese custom) with them in turn giving us gifts.
Our biggest challenge: Our first venue had terrible service. I lost it eventually and sent them a furious email dismissing them. They didn’t take it well. They were indescribably rude and pushed me so far I wasn’t capable of functioning at work. I eventually asked to speak to the person running the show: the owner. She was fantastic and apologetic and offered us our *non-refundable deposit* as well as a post-wedding dinner to ameliorate the frustrating experience.
It was a similar story with the wedding dress and this time it was the contract that was the issue. The bridal saleswoman was very happy to verbally oblige (with a sale looming for them) and promised me the world, but I got a funny look when I asked for all that we had agreed on to be written down on the sale contract. The month after I bought the dress, I went back and the saleslady informed me that the store had supposedly changed its policy and all alterations were now at additional (exorbitant) cost. I brought out that piece of paper that my saleslady had clearly forgotten she had written and she landed up in a world of trouble with her manager. It was a very bitter experience.
My favorite moment: On the wedding day, as we were about to walk out for the ceremony, I was told by one of my brideswomen that only half of the guests had arrived for the day.
I wanted to burst out in tears! My girlfriends being so matter-of-fact made me take a deep breath and ask myself what I was getting upset for — we all looked amazing and I was about to commit to the man of my dreams in a ceremony out of my imaginings, surrounded by all our family and best friends.
That moment woke me up to the day.
I made my mind up that it was going to be a beautiful and wonderful day, no matter what happened, and it was.
My funniest moment: Taking our couple shots in the streets of Johannesburg (the most dangerous city in the world?) and having friendly strangers stop by the roadside ask us what photo shoot we were modeling for, and me pointing at Ricky and saying out loud for the first time, “That’s my husband!”
My advice for offbeat brides: Get everything in writing and countersigned no matter how sweet and convincing someone is. I learned the hard way. Take notes at all your vendor meetings and have them sign off on whatever you have agreed.
Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself, and at worst, don’t be afraid to walk away from a bad situation with your vendors if it gets that bad (and don’t forget to ask for that supposedly “non refundable” deposit if they are at fault)
Second best may actually be the best, and maybe sometimes NOT buying/paying straight away may be the best move. I ended up with bags on bags of decor I didn’t even get to put up on the wedding day! A total waste of money.
Get a wedding planner. And get one who gets you. I don’t know how I would have managed without the extra help! I needed someone who would not judge me or my decisions and would work on the tons and tons of things I had to sort out without me feeling guilty that I was invading their space and time. It’s their job. They know people in the industry and their angle and experience can be invaluable and, despite the cost, there isn’t a price I can put on the value of that feeling of having an enormous weight taken off your shoulders.
Get great photographers: then trust them to do their job as well as you know they can. If this is something you’re particular about, gather the photos you absolutely love from wherever you’ve seen them and take them along to your pre-wedding consultation. They will be invaluable especially if you’re not versed in some of the more fancy photographic styles.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? I have family and friends whom I don’t deserve. My thanks are heartfelt when I say that I’m so glad they were there with us, supporting and encouraging us on our wedding day.