It seems that in the Western world almost any pretty space you can lay your eyes on is available as a wedding venue. I mean, Carrie got the NY Public Library for Pete’s sake! I’ve seen reality shows where couples had receptions in opera houses, at the zoo, on ships or on the London Eye. I didn’t want anything that wacky, but I felt a bit constrained within our local wedding industry where your choice is basically town hall, hotel, beach or wine farm.
The town hall wasn’t going to appease my need for some style, hotels are mostly too anonymous and I’m such a control freak that I couldn’t even contemplate battling the elements on the beach. Cape Town weather is just not predictable enough! I also didn’t want to get married on a wine farm.
Cape Town is surrounded by vineyards, which makes for countless picturesque venues ideally suited to weddings. However, all my friends and I have been to a minimum of 10 weddings each and 90% of these were on wine farms. All the farms are beautiful, they all run very slick operations with perfectly sized reception locales that you can bedazzle into your perfect vision of bridal bliss, but I didn’t want that. This stubborn desire to be different was presenting a real challenge.
Next stop was fishing out some interesting, smart hotels with character. I nearly lost my heart on a marquee brunch in the garden of the Mount Nelson.
The Nellie is a grand old hotel that happens to be home to a certain champagne bar where BB and I initiated our whole relationship. I was delighted to find that they don’t even charge a venue hire fee! No, it turned out their special little arrangement is that you have to buy all your beverages from them, at full retail price. This means 5star hotel prices on every glass of water, juice or bubbly and let me assure you it adds up in a second.
Then I remembered a trip I took a while ago with Fashionista. We’d driven out to a small town about an hour from the city, to find ourselves in a lush green valley covered in wheat fields and olive trees and okay, yes, the occasional vineyard. The day was cloudy and grey but even in that dampened atmosphere I fell in love with the feeling of rustic charm, spruced up by some stylish city influence. The town is a popular weekend retreat amongst nature loving trendsetters needing a break from the daily grind, so the guesthouses, restaurants and shops display an effortless mix of local flavour and big city chic.
BB and I drove out to Riebeek Kasteel for the weekend. The town’s name even has ‘castle’ in it, named for the Kasteelberg (Castle Mountain) that frames the valley, how romantic. We drove around looking at various venues, from guesthouses and restaurants to olive- and wine farms. Traditional architecture in the Cape is a style called Cape Dutch and while it’s very pretty, grand and historic, I don’t fancy it much.
This irrational dislike quickly ruled out a good couple of venues. Which left only one place left to view.
The Royal Hotel.
Forgive my delusions of grandeur but all these references to castles and royalty gave the little princess in me a smug smile. The other reason for the smile growing even bigger was that the concept of the Royal Hotel references a bit of Afrikaner folk humour. Too complicated to explain but fellow Afrikaners will surely hear the singing voice of David Kramer at the mere mention of the words Royal Hotel.
We drove up to the semi-regal semi-folksy Royal Hotel. We walked up the wide steps; we took in the long, wide veranda under the slow-turning ceiling fans, palms rustling in the breeze… And fell in love, again.