Sand, sunsets and saying 'I do' – beach weddings in South Africa
While beach-wedding pioneers were typically barefoot, white cotton-clad couples tying the knot at their favourite surf spot, contemporary beach weddings are more sophisticated, with crystal, silver, white linen and all the trimmings one might expect of a top-class hotel – on the beach.
While some couples envisage taking their vows on the sand as the sun sets over the ocean, for others, perfection is just being close enough to hear the breakers and smell the sea.
To make your day as memorable and successful as possible, destinations offering beach weddings are generally quite flexible when it comes to accommodating requests.
In the Western Cape, The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa in Camps Bay holds ceremonies in an indigenous fynbos garden with panoramic views of the ocean and mountains. From morning teas to elegant cocktail receptions and grand dinners with customised menus, a dedicated wedding planner is all yours.
Abalone House in the West Coast village of Paternoster is ideal for intimate ceremonies, with 10 top-class suites surrounding a courtyard, a rooftop jacuzzi and sweeping sea views; or, for an open-air experience where surrounding rocks and stars create a life-size fairy castle where guests dance under the open sky, Weddings@theRock in Lamberts Bay should be your choice of venue.
From intimate to large ceremonies and receptions indoors or alfresco, Lagoon Beach in Cape Town promises excellent cuisine, superb service and breathtaking views. The bridal couple receives a complimentary stay in a plush hotel suite.
Birkenhead House in Hermanus overlooks the whales in Walker Bay. Plan your wedding between and May and December to synch with the passing marine mammoths.
Camps Bay's white sandy beach is world-renowned for its beauty and popularity, which makes it a popular choice among the trendy set and soon-to-be-wed. There are dozens of hotels lining the water at Camps Bay, including the luxury, five-star The Bay hotel, where wedding planning is one of the many excellent service offerings.
In the Eastern Cape, Knysna’s The Featherbed Company is in the business of creating morning, noon and night-time beach weddings and old-fashioned Knysna cruiser ceremonies. Buffet menus include the freshest local fare, including the town’s famous oysters.
Up the coast in KwaZulu-Natal province, a romantic Ballito or Umhlanga beach wedding can easily be teamed with a safari honeymoon at one of a number of nearby game destinations.
Palm Dune Beach Lodge on the Dolphin Coast is 30 minutes from King Shaka International Airport and close to Zululand's Big Five game reserves and the Isimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site. It offers a private deck and boma area for intimate weddings and has 44 en-suite air-conditioned rooms for guests.
More centrally located on the Durban beachfront, the Blue Waters Hotel offers a choice of wedding venues suited to the size of the wedding party. There’s also affordable accommodation for guests and complimentary honeymoon accommodation for the bridal couple.
Then there’s the doyenne of the North Coast, Umhlanga’s Oyster Box hotel, where a dedicated wedding co-ordinator and banqueting team are on hand to attend to every wedding detail. From menu choice to floral decoration, wedding cake, photography and music, they have it covered. Venues range from the elegant and sophisticated Pearl Room to a romantic Victorian gazebo, secluded in the lush, tropical gardens.
Further north,the Salt Rock Hotel is legendary for its spectacular setting atop a rise overlooking the ocean. Beach weddings on the sprawling lawns among the palm trees are a popular choice during the summer months (November to February), while traditional venues are also available.
With direct access to the beach for that perfect beach wedding, Canelands on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast is the perfect venue for a formal or informal wedding. The restaurant seats 50 for a private brunch, lunch or dinner, while 100 people can be accommodated on the pool deck and grass verge overlooking the Indian Ocean.
If formality is not your chosen path and you’re planning your own beach wedding, you should bear the following in mind:
- Consider the wind and weather. Summer can be especially hot, windy or stormy. An early morning or evening wedding would be a good choice; April/May is a better time of year
- Be aware of the tides on the day. High tide completely covers some beaches
- Make sure you have a permit from local authorities for your beach wedding. South Africa has bylaws and regulations governing beach use
- Ensure that ablution facilities are in close proximity
- If you’re having dancing and seating on the beach, make sure you have a sturdy platform in place to avoid everything sinking into the sand