Did you know?
You can sometimes hire vintage cars in the Karoo to add atmosphere to your wedding day.
South Africa’s arid heartland, the Karoo, a vast, semi-desert area lying in the middle of the country and taking up 40% of South Africa, is becoming a favoured wedding destination.
Getting married and inviting 200 of your ‘closest’ friends to the wedding reception is one of the most important – and expensive – undertakings in the lives of young couples the world over.
They want to make their vows in a romantic setting, bond with their family and friends afterwards, and then head off somewhere exotic on honeymoon.
Karoo weddings offer the whole romance package, at much lower prices than regular urban venues.
The many exquisitely built Victorian-era churches in Karoo towns are the first stop on your wedding journey. Be it Dutch Reformed, Anglican or Methodist, they range from huge ‘half-cathedrals’ to intimate little places of worship. And there’s always a justice of the peace around to make it official.
The after party can be held in either the church hall or the town hall for a relative pittance. Or, if it’s the wide-angle wonder of a Karoo landscape you’re after, you can book a guest farm venue.
Accommodating large numbers of guests in the Karoo is also no problem because of the hospitality network that exists – especially in the bigger centres like Graaff-Reinet, Beaufort-West, Oudtshoorn, Calvinia and Cradock.
You don’t even have to ‘import’ your team of hairdresser, photographer, make-up artist, flower arranger, caterer or décor specialist. The Karoo has these people waiting to serve you.
Take, for instance, Cradock in the Eastern Cape. The little river town has a church that’s a spitting image of St Martin in the Fields in Trafalgar Square, London.
A highly regarded wedding photographer and his assistants form the nucleus of a group that offers a very good hairdresser, a wellness studio, musicians, and someone who grows and sells specialty roses, while a heritage street of Victorian cottages can accommodate more than 170 guests.
‘A Karoo wedding is normally a weekend affair,’ says Ryno Ferreira, the Karoo’s most sought-after wedding photographer. ‘We all have a lot of fun, taking photographs on country roads, at old farmhouses, in the middle of absolute space. There’s also something special about photographing in the Karoo, with its clear air and the intensity of colours late in the day.’
Then, of course, when the band begins to play and the barmen start pouring the champagne, the true spirit of a Karoo party takes over.
And when the bridal couple leaves on its honeymoon, it could be to a secluded hideaway in, say, the Sneeuberg mountains, to complete a magical Karoo experience.
Here there's space to dream, to love, and be loved…
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
We suggest you look through the listed provincial tourism websites for more information about locations.
Ryno Ferreira, wedding photographer
Tel: +27 (0)82 927 3645
Best time to visit
The Karoo is sunny most of the year. Midsummers (December to February) can be oppressively hot, while midwinters (June to August) might be very cold at night, with pleasant days.
One of the delights of staying in a Karoo town is that most venues are within walking distance.
What will it cost
Costs depend on the size of the wedding and many other variables, but are often half those of city prices.
Length of stay
Wedding guests to the Karoo usually make a long weekend of it. This is a great bonding experience.
What to pack
Bring the all-important wedding dress. Almost anything else can be arranged.
Where to stay
The larger Karoo towns like Cradock, Graaff-Reinet, Beaufort West, and even some smaller ones like Calvinia, have accommodation that can be blocked off for you.
What to eat
Karoo lamb is recognised as one of the world’s tastiest meats (the sheep eat fragrant herbs all year round). In winter, there is often venison. In fact, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Karoo people love cooking and eating.
In winter, look out for warm mohair scarves, beanies and jerseys.