This Couple Tied the Knot in a Garden in Cape Town—and Then Celebrated in a Restored Wine Cellar
Rorisang Lekalake and Stephen Buchanan-Clarke's Cape Town wedding is proof that you absolutely can plan a wedding from half-way across the world—just ask the bride, who was based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, getting her Ph.D. at MIT, for the majority of the preparation process. Her failsafe? Her fiancé, Stephen (he's an analyst, based at home in Cape Town, and he handled the food, wine, and cake) and a next-level vendor team. "Pretty early on, I realized that it would be too difficult to plan everything from afar while doing intensive coursework," says the bride, noting that it couldn't all fall on Stephen (he travels for work!). "We therefore reached out to our planner, Tracy Branford, prior to my trip home in December 2017 and it was probably the best decision we made! She was amazing throughout and went above and beyond to make the process as smooth as possible for us."
The couple's January 5, 2019, wedding wasn't their first; they held a traditional Tswana ceremony at the bride's family home in Gaborone, Botswana, in June 2018. "This is fairly common in Botswana and South Africa and allowed us to have two completely different styles for each [wedding]," notes the bride. Their vision for this celebration? "Our primary goal was to have an intimate event that reflected who we are as a couple and would stand the test of time," notes Rorisang. "While an event with over 100 guests is fairly large, this was a fraction of the guest count at our traditional wedding, as it is custom to welcome any and all who show up on the day! We wanted to create a classic, elegant atmosphere that still felt somewhat relaxed and to emphasize the elements of weddings that we personally appreciate; namely, good food and wine, music, and minimal formalities."
Let's Get Ready
Rorisang spent the morning of the wedding with her bridesmaids; they donned coordinating robes and matching slippers while getting ready (and made plenty of toasts to the bride, who stood out in a floral getup). "Getting ready with our closest friends was a really special time. We are grateful to all of them for their support throughout the planning process and on that day," says the bride.
With This Ring
On the big day, the bride added a pavé diamond band to her platinum-set round solitaire engagement ring.
A Fashion Surprise
Rorisang didn't see her wedding dress—the modified silk satin, Chantilly lace, and tulle A-line, complete with a sweetheart neckline and chapel-length train, was custom made by Anomalie—until it was fully completed; she actually never even went into an atelier to try on a gown. "All the women in my family have had custom dresses made for their weddings, which is generally done by a trusted family seamstress or tailor—so the fact that mine was the customized via the Internet was the most surprising aspect to family and friends back home," she explains. While the virtual approach was stressful at times, "it was definitely the right decision," the bride explains, noting that the bespoke design process allowed for all of the tiny details she really loved, including personalized embroidery (she requested the couple's big-day logo be inscribed inside the dress in blue). "It does mean that you have to be very sure about what it is that you want. It can also be difficult to communicate one's ideas, but everyone I worked with was extremely patient and helpful throughout."
There was, however, one part of her ensemble that was handled at home. "A coordinating three-quarter sleeve topper was made for the dress," she says. "My mother hand-appliquéd the lace on this piece once I got home for the holidays, which was very special experience for both of us."
"The bridal bouquet was untamed, yet very whimsical and romantic," says florist Anli Wahl of Anli Wahl Floral Artistry & Design. "It was very loosely arranged, as if the bride could have picked it herself before she walked down the aisle."
The natural clutch was composed of garden roses, cafe au lait dahlias, phalaenopsis orchids, foxgloves, cosmos, olive leaves, foraged berries, scabiosa, and agrostemma—all tied together with a hand-dyed silk ribbon.
Rorisang kept her remaining accessories minimal to spotlight her detailed gown; she donned jewelry she already owned (a necklace and bangle from Tiffany & Co., and pearl and diamond studs from Tanur Collection, which is based in Cape Town) and slipped into peep-toe kitten heels by Christian Louboutin ("They were not originally purchased for the wedding, but were a practical choice given how much time we spent outdoors," she says). Her just-as-simple cathedral-length ivory tulle veil was also by Anomalie.
A Thematic Hair Piece
A wreath-style halo comb from Brides & Hairpins reinforced the wedding's garden theme while also flawlessly completing the bride's look.
A Dress of Her Own
Rorisang gave her bridesmaids nearly full autonomy when selecting their big-day attire; she gave them basic color guidelines (the blush family!) and let them handle the rest. "Each bridesmaid sent me a couple of options—except for my cousin, as I found a sequined rose gold dress online that I thought would be perfect for her!" says the bride. "As they all have great taste, all the dresses came together perfectly, with a mix of lengths, shades, and textures."
Come the wedding day, the ladies chose their own bouquets (all were slightly different colors) and the order in which they would stand and walk down the aisle.
A Calming First Look
Both Rorisang and Steven felt nervous leading up to their first look, which took place in Langverwagt Farm's garden. Those butterflies dissipated once the big reveal was over. "I had some nerves while waiting by myself in the gardens for Rori," says the groom. "When I was finally allowed to turn around it took by breath away how beautiful she looked in her wedding dress."
Ultimately, Rorisang was grateful for the moment: "It was really reassuring to see each other before the 'big moment,' away from our guests and wedding party. I had been staying in a different location, so it also gave me an opportunity to take in the venue and see how all the lounge furniture I had picked out came together. Afterward, I felt calmer and ready to take on the rest of the day."
A Warm Welcome
A framed piece of signage, detailed with golden leaf laurels, greeted guests upon their arrival to the ceremony space and outlined the day's events.
To set the tone, the couple hired a harpist to perform during the guests' arrival and eventual ceremony. "Having live music was especially important to me, as I had studied classical music during my childhood and adolescence," explains the bride. Her father walked her down the aisle to gentle strums of "Pachelbel's Canon in D."
The Ceremony Unfolds
During the duo's non-denominational Christian service, the couple exchanged Celtic vows at the altar—defined by a vintage rug and grounded floral arch—to honor Stephen's Scottish heritage; they also performed a handfasting ceremony.
"Our wedding was held a year after a historic drought in Cape Town and we were very happy that the region experienced a fair amount of rainfall in the intervening period. The ceremony area was very green and lush that time of the year, so we thought that doing any greenery and flowers in an arch would get 'lost' in that background," explains the bride. "Together with Anli and Tracy, we decided on a beautiful Persian rug at the end of the aisle and a half-moon floor arch, like a little garden growing at our feet, around the carpet."
The fragrant arrangement was comprised of fresh rosemary, olive branches, garden roses, dahlias, delphiniums, alium flowers, lisianthus, cosmos, and green privet berries.
After recessing back down the aisle as husband and wife, Stephen and Rorisang joined their guests for the first portion of their extended, two-hour-long cocktail hour. A three-piece marimba band provided entertainment during the interlude. "That definitely injected a touch of local flavor and made a nice contrast to the classical harp pieces enjoyed prior to the ceremony," explains the bride.
Long cocktail tables, surrounded by bistro stools, and comfy outdoor furniture allowed guests to lounge, eat, and mingle in comfort during the cocktail hour.
Attendees were treated to a slew of canapés, including these crispy panko prawns (served with spicy coriander aioli).
The couple could still hear the lively marimba band as they traveled deeper into the venue's gardens to pose for portraits.
Into the Wine Cellar
Celebrants traveled into the venue's former wine cellar for the reception, a choice made with the blazing heat in mind (the enclosure remains cool, even in the arid summer months). "As the cellar space is quite narrow, we took a minimal approach with our place settings, using classic silverware, a mix of cut and plain wine glasses, and botanical-inspired napkins at each," notes Rorisang.
Overhead, sparkling chandeliers—which were brought in from the party—cast a glow on the floral-filled tabletops, which were covered in neutral blush linens. A mix of taper candles, housed in both crystal and brushed-gold candlesticks, completed the look.
A Floral Vision
"We communicated our overall reception floral vision to Anli, but otherwise gave and her team free reign over the specifics—and did not see any of the actual arrangements until the day itself," says Rorisang, of the event's centerpieces. "Beside the color scheme, we placed an emphasis on organic, asymmetrical designs with the aim of bringing the outside in."
The botanical creations, which featured garden roses, tulips, delphiniums, dinnerplate and ball dahlias, cosmos, foxgloves, scabiosa, agrostemma, lisianthus, phalaenopsis orchids, and more, were ultimately inspired by the gardens of Langverwagt; arrangements, placed in in footed glass vases, were kept low to the table to keep the designs light and airy ("This also allowed for our guests to interact with each other during the dinner," adds Rorisang). The pastel palette was translated in a myriad of ways—each arrangement was a different hue.
Behind the head table, Anli created a foam-free arch of delicate greens and ferns; the installation crept up the wall to frame the couple.
A Meaningful Dinner
The couple minimized the number of traditional formalities on their big day, but they cite the evening's speeches, which were delivered during dinner, as one of their most beloved memories. Rorisang's father's toast, in particular, "perfectly encapsulated what the wedding symbolized for our families," adds the bride, who shared her favorite part: "Happiness is infectious; it brings joy and that joy is particularly potent if it is predicated on love. I have loved my daughter throughout all her life, but this thing called love is not quantifiable nor does it have an accurate, scientific description. All I know is that I have to let go because the type of love she is now going to experience is not the type I can give her. I just want to briefly say that I want her to also experience the joy that she has given me watching her grow up to today."
Rorisang changed into a knee-length dress from BHLDN—embroidered with florals similar to those on her wedding gown—just before the cake-cutting ceremony and first dance (which they took, under a flurry of golden confetti, to Etta James' "At Last").
A Porcelain-Inspired Cake
The couple's classic three-tier was embellished with sugar leaves and flowers, designed to emulate porcelain. Sugar peonies adorned the top layer. Inside, the confection featured two flavors: lemon poppy seed cake with lemon cream frosting and dark chocolate truffle cake with chocolate ganache filling.
Photography, Catherine Mac Photography
Venue, Langverwagt Farm
Wedding planning and Design, Tracy Branford, Trunk Events
Videography, Vizion Photography & Films
Flowers, Anli Wahl Floral Artistry & Design
Stationery and Day-of paper goods, Minted
Officiant, Johan Botha, Fairest Cape Weddings
Bride's gown and veil, Anomalie
Hair and Makeup, Lesley-Ann Solomon, LA Makeup Artistry
Groom's attire, Fabiani
Engagement ring and Wedding bands, Lucinda Dabbs, Pretty Found Things
Guest book, Starboard Press
Catering, Salt Catering & Events
Cake, Wade's Cakes
Favors, Kenneth Buchanan-Clarke (groom's father)
Transportation, MF Tours and Transfers
Lighting, Trilogy Lighting
- Party of Two: This Couple Pulled Together Their Virginia Elopement in Just Eight Days
- Prince Harry Just Revealed Exactly When He Knew Meghan Markle Was the One: "We Went from Zero to 60"
- A Small, Sweet Brooklyn Wedding with an Unforgettable City Backdrop
- Colin Jost and Scarlett Johansson Are "Concerned" About Their Mystery Wedding Gift from Michael Che