Getting married on Robben Island
The prevailing South Easterly wind held its breath on Valentine’s Day morning of Tuesday 14 Feb 2017,as the 18 lucky couples selected to participate in the annual Robben Island Mass Wedding ceremony set off across Table Bay aboard the Sikhululekile – we are free.
Against the backdrop of Table Mountain lace, veils and wedding dresses billowed in the breeze as the excited brides and their husbands-to-be made their way towards one of South Africa’s most sacred land marks to take their wedding vows and celebrate one of the most special days of their lives.
Gold balloons, ribbons and popping flashes from the barrage of media welcomed the couples to the island.
After the official chapel ceremonies presided over by Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaga, the newly-weds, families, dignitaries from the Department of Home Affairs, the National Department of Tourism and Robben Island management were treated like celebrities, loving their big moment on the “Oscar-style” red carpets leading up to the historic Manor House towards the reception. A sumptuous lunch awaited guests within the stretch marquee which had been decorated simply but effectively in white and gold, with bunting flags, gold chairs and trees, frosted ice buckets and strings of twinkling fairy lights.
As there are no facilities on Robben Island,every single item from the food and drink to the décor, the hundred metres of red carpet, ice and even the 260-seater marquee, tables and chairs had all been transported across from Cape Town over the preceding days in quite a feat of logistics and planning. Luckily nothing was forgotten and the day went off without a hitch.
This did not seem to faze the couples, who took to arranging the hairstyles, accessories, diamante tiaras and bouquets suitable for an early morning cruise across Table Bay in their stride. Most of the brides elected to wear classic white. Many themed their retinues and partners with red accessories and bouquets to coincide with Valentine’s Day, some looked like the ultimate hipsters with stylish tattoos, sock free turn-up trousers and bow-ties for the guys, while one or two of the couples and many of the guests looked stunning in more traditional African style. Others went the complete individual route opting for romantic pastel lilac or classic nautical navy, red and white.
Corks popped and chilled sparkling grape juice,provided by wholly woman-owned BEE sponsor Zari Sparkling Grape was served from frosted ice buckets. Non-alcoholic bubbly is a growing trend for multi-cultural events where serving alcohol may not be appropriate, because it still allows people to indulge in the age-old rituals of popping corks, making toasts or as mocktail mixes which provide a satisfying sense of occasion to any celebration. Some couples said they were going to keep the corks from their bottles as souvenirs of their special day.In the case of the Robben Island wedding reception, the gold foiled bottles doubled as table décor and the perfect refreshment for a hot summer’s wedding day.
No wedding is complete without a cake cutting ceremony and after the all the toasts to the health of the couples had been made,the sumptuous red velvet heart-shaped cake donated by PnP was ceremoniously carried in.
It was heartwarming to see how the event, which annually attracts global media attention, transformed one of South Africa’s most emotionally charged locations into the ultimate romantic rendez-vous destination.
Words: Terry Levin
Images: Carmen Visser