at-home wedding in Durban South Africa

Darling AT-HOME WEDDING in Durban – and top tips to plan your own!

With weddings finally happening again (YAY!) but international travel plans still on hold, many couples are considering an at-home wedding for their 2021 and 2022 nuptials. I love this idea – after all, there’s no place like home! Backyard weddings tend to make the most of outdoor space and have a personal, heartfelt vibe about them that it’s hard to reproduce in a big venue. There’s something extra special about inviting your guests into a space that holds meaning and memories for you, and we love that you can really spoil guests with special touches. But planning an at-home wedding can also be a challenge! As a KZN wedding planner, I’ve helped lots of couples create their perfect at-home wedding. I’m so excited to share one of my all-time favourites with you today! Heidi and Shaldon were married on a gorgeous summer day in Durban. Although this at-home wedding took place a while before COVID-19, it’s filled with easy elegance and inspiration for couples considering their own at-home fete or minimony as a result of the pandemic. Plus, it has THE CUTEST doggy bridal party!

We adored this couple and their sweet love story from the moment we met. Both have been married before, and met while working in the local fashion and textiles industry. They wanted their wedding to be relaxed and intimate, with just 38 of their closest family and friends. A garden wedding in their own home was the natural choice, and gave us such a pretty, meaningful venue to build upon.

Heidi and Shaldon’s biggest request in terms of design was that we created something casual, stylish, and non-traditional, to suit their personalities. A colorful, eclectic summer garden wedding perfectly fit the bill. We transformed their backyard into a beautiful outdoor space for both the ceremony and reception. They exchanged vows beneath an arch dripping with roses and bougainvillea, with their guests seated on a multi-colored mix of plush furnishings. After the ceremony, guests were treated to a live performance by acclaimed local singer, Dave Starke, while they were served floating canapés and Pimms cocktails around the pool.

They were then ushered to the back garden, where the reception dinner had been set up under wooden pergodas. Guests dined al fresco at long wooden tables, under curtains of twinkle lights that mirrored the stars above. Menus were printed on pretty cloth napkins as a nod to the textile industry that brought the couple together; we also used simple linen runners. The table design included a whimsical mix of colorful glassware, both at each place setting and as vases to hold small posies of bright blooms. Gold accents were brought through in the flatware and gold-tipped underplates, to add a note of formality. And, while there was no main table, we differentiated the bride and groom’s seats using macramé signage.

One of the most memorable and adorable elements of the day was the way that the bride included her beloved pups. Heidi is a dog trainer and her dogs are like her children, so of course we had to include them in the wedding (another benefit to an at-home celebration!). She was escorted down the aisle by her Australian Shepherd, Cuba, who looked dashing in his tuxedo collar. The rest of the pups acted as her bridesmaids. Honestly, they were the most well-behaved bridal party I’ve worked with!

In keeping with the feel of the day, Heidi wanted to wear something a little unexpected, instead of the usual white wedding dress. She chose a gorgeously flowy, colorful dress that she bought in Spain and embroidered herself to make it truly one-of-a-kind. She carried a floral hoop instead of a traditional bridal bouquet.

Delicious food and personal details were also important aspects of the day. Heidi and Shaldon wanted their guests to feel like they had been treated to the most incredible gastronomic experience, and keeping the numbers low meant that each guest felt like a VIP. A highlight was having chef Andrew Draper come outside and greet the party after they were seated and explain the various courses he was preparing for them. It was a personal touch that guests wouldn’t normally get to experience in a traditional wedding setting, and one that made a big impression! Later they enjoyed another tasty treat – a croquembouche-style tower of Cinnabon pastries in place of a classic wedding cake.

Considering your own at-home wedding? Here are a few of my top tips to plan!

  • Give the neighbours a heads-up. Send them a note and a small gift and let them know about your plans, to avoid noise complaints.
  • Make the most of your space. Move guests through different parts of the property for ceremony, drinks, and reception, as Heidi and Shaldon did. If the house has any unique architectural features or sentimental spots, be sure to highlight them!
  • Rent a generator. Because Eskom. But also, many houses aren’t able to accommodate the additional surge of power needed for professional catering, lighting, and sound equipment, etc.
  • Have a bad weather plan. This is always important, but especially so for an at-home wedding outdoors. Budget for (and reserve) an emergency marquee.
  • Hire a cleaning crew. It’s a good idea to have professional cleaners make your home sparkle both before and after your wedding. Be sure to provide plenty of large bins and factor in the extra cost if you’re having them in on a Sunday.
  • Make sure the toilets are cleaned regularly. Make sure you have a member of staff refreshing the toilets after every use. Have loads of fresh hand towels available, as these get used up pretty quickly. Even if you hire a portable toilet, it’s worth paying extra to have a janitor on standby to clean and monitor the restrooms every hour.
  • Don’t forget parking. The best option to ask guests to Uber (which also avoids drinking and driving issues), but you could also arrange for them to park at a nearby lot and provide a shuttle service.

For more of my advice on planning an at-home wedding, be sure to check out this post.

Heidi and Shaldon’s at-home wedding was truly a special day in a sentimental place, filled with love, laughter, and deep connections between the couple and everyone who attended. We weren’t the only ones who loved it – in fact, it won Oh Happy Day Best Wedding Concept at the Top Vendor Wedding Awards in 2018. I’ve loved re-living it through these gorgeous images!

Photography: Bright Girl Photography
Design, Planning, Coordination and Styling: Oh Happy Day
Floral Design: Oh Happy Day