South Africa is a go-to destination for couples getting married. As a result, local wedding coordinators have a real sense of the latest international trends. Belinda du Toit of South Hill Vineyards in Elgin shares her observations.
As the Events Director at South Hill Vineyards, I have been privileged to help countless brides realise unique weddings that leave a lasting impression on their guests. It’s no surprise that the question I get asked the most is, “What are the latest wedding trends and what are all the other brides doing?” While some classics remain, there are some fresh new trends emerging in 2023/2024.
One of the most popular trends we have seen is the rise of Destination Weddings. Couples are opting for out-of-town locations that encourage their guests to break into holiday mode and feel more relaxed. As a destination wedding venue, we recommend considering a few things when choosing your venue.
It is crucial to consider the venue’s accommodation capacity, as well as nearby accommodation for guests. For example, our guest house, cottage, and houseboat can accommodate 20+ people, which is more than most venues, but we also understand wedding numbers are increasing. Our priority is to recommend nearby accommodation so that wedding guests can book well in advance. Shuttle services, babysitting, external supplier policies, and set or customisable menus are also essential factors to consider when hosting a destination wedding.
Another trend we’ve observed is the extension of wedding celebrations over a few days, with guests arriving one or two days before the wedding. This creates a sense of community and allows guests to meet and greet, mingle, and form newfound friendships. By the time your guests are seated at your reception, they are well-acquainted and getting along nicely.
If you choose to invite guests beforehand, consider the venue’s available activities so that your guests are entertained during their stay. The wedding coordinator at your destination should be able to offer great ice-breaker ideas. For example, our wedding parties have enjoyed the steam-punk Elgin Station Market, zip lining, golf, horse riding, hikes through the vineyards, sundowners at the viewpoints on the farm, fishing at our dam and, of course, wine-tastings in the area.
Welcome parties and rehearsal dinners are also becoming increasingly popular as couples wish to entertain their guests before the big day. Whether it’s a few days before your wedding, hosted at home or at a destination, couples are wanting to spend more time with their wedding guests to prolong the celebrations. We have hosted a variety of options such as picnics in our vineyard maze, harvest tables down at the dam and a pizza or braai evening.
When it comes to decor and floral arrangements, we are seeing a shift towards maximalist concepts, featuring bold patterns, lots of colour and floral displays that span the entire roof area. Think extravagant picture-perfect settings – we’ve conceptualised incredible red-carpet entrances for our brides and used our art gallery as a true masterpiece backdrop – when you choose a venue, consider the “photo ops”.
My advice to brides is that they question everything – evaluate the arrival/pre-drinks area, ceremony, and reception capabilities. Insist on seeing (and feeling!) the table linen, ask about the dessert station and see what ideas your potential venues come up with. Question who they’d recommend for the smaller details like, bridal flowers and boutonnieres. Do they have out-of-the-box ideas for confetti alternatives? Take the time to interrogate the food options. Is there an experienced sommelier (in our case, a highly regarded wine maker) who can advise you on the best wine-pairings for your menu? Be aware that brides are opting for over-the-top, statement cakes – evaluate whether your venue can deliver what you envisage, or recommend an expert provider?
In 2023, when it comes to going big, the sky has become the limit – your venue’s capabilities shouldn’t limit the most important day of your life so ask the hard questions before you sign on the dotted line.
In terms of fashion, we are seeing a rise in the use of colour in wedding dresses and bridesmaids’ dresses, as well as detailed textiles such as lace, feathers, and long veils. Brides are giving their bridesmaids the freedom to customise their dresses in terms of colour, style, and cut. 2023/2024 has invited a sense of freedom to be playful in patterns and colours and makes for vibrant, fun, photography.
Finally, sustainability is becoming more important to brides, through decor, wedding favours and even materials. I believe that it will be more prominent in 2024, but I can say that we are starting to see it evolve.
As an event director, I’m in the business of making dreams come true, like a fairy godmother. I love what I do, but it’s essential to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and help brides plan a unique, one-of-a-kind wedding that will stand out and offer their guests an unforgettable experience. I learn a lot from our wedding couples, and I love sharing that knowledge.
For more information on South Hill Vineyards, please visit southhill.co.za or call (+27) 21 844 0888.