By Daniela Degrassi
Just a few weeks ago we featured South Africa’s capital Cape Town as an ideal honeymoon destination for vegan couples. Not only you’ll be mesmerized by its beautiful nature and adventurous vibes, but you’ll totally dig the plentiful plant based options the area has to offer. It’s no wonder that local vegans can easily pull off a plant based wedding with ease. The breathtaking basin of Witzenberg Valley, just 90 minutes away from the State capital, is the breathtaking setting of today’s featured vegan wedding. Let’s meet our bride and groom, Riante and Bjorn, as they share all the details on their modern South African vegan wedding.
Riante, how did you meet Bjorn?
I am a born and raised proudly South-African and Bjorn a European from the Netherlands. Me and Bjorn met about 5 and a half years ago in the Western Cape while he was was working in South-Africa on a project building wind turbines. I offered to show him around Cape Town (the local way) during his off time, and in return he would show me around Holland when I would be traveling there later the next year.Bjorn fell in love with the country and the people, and as fate would have it, naturally we also fell in love. Long story short, after 3 hard years Bjorn was finally granted with a permanent Visa and is now a South-African citizen. Two years later we bought a house and decided to get married.
What made you become vegan?
Me and Bjorn where both not vegan when we met, I was a typical Afrikaans girl growing up as an animal lover but still consuming lots of meat. Three and a half years ago, I made an offensive joke towards a vegan friend of mine and later told her I would go vegan for a week to make up for it. I enjoy cooking so was excited to give all these new recipes a try, 3 days in she sent me a link to Gary’s “Best Speech Ever” and after that I never looked back (you could say I became vegan overnight). Bjorn supported me but still had an omnivore diet when we where out, until 10 Months later when he met two plant based brothers who explained all the health benefits to him and that was also it for him. Now we live beautiful cruelty free lifestyle and could not imagine it any other way!
Was it a difficult decision to plan for a vegan wedding?
With us having a non vegan wedding was never an option. One of the things we did struggle with however was that I was not planning of having a dress made but rather rent one, because I had no idea what I wanted, and having to except the fact that there might be silk in the dress. (I ended up buying my dress from a bridal rental company “Ever After Bridal” and plan on donating my dress to less fortunate brides that can’t afford a dress). Also renting a suit that did not have any wool in is also a struggle, a family friend and also guest at our wedding owns a big suit rental company “Mr.Suit Hire” and said that he would sponsor the groom and groomsmen for free. We decided to accept the offer and did not ask about the wool content of the suits.
Where your family/friends supportive?
I think everyone respected the decision, we didn’t add it on the invite and none of our guests asked if the food would be vegan, they just assumed it would be. As it always goes, everyone around you tells people you are vegan before you even get the chance… when me and my mom (non-vegan) were looking at venues, the first question she always asked was “Can you do vegan?”
Did you have a wedding planner help out?
We had an “On the day” coordinator Anna Marcelle , who helped us out a lot before the wedding as well. I found out on the day of our wedding that her assistant is vegan.
What were the major obstacles in planning your wedding?
I don’t think there was anything too major to actually stand out. the professionals we used where all amazing and helpful throughout our planning and in their industry everyone knows everyone, so contacts where easy to get hold off. I think we stressed the most about the braai the night before. I have a very Afrikaans family who are all big on meat and hunting (you could compare them to Texas men). we did the catering for the braai ourselves and it turned our amazing! for the braai we did Linda Mcartney burgers, mock chicken skewers from a local guy, potato salad and a traditional pasta salad.
What did you wear?
My wedding dress was a Sophia Tolli, shoes from Staccato (nothing fancy, just white shoes I picked in a shoe store that didn’t have leather in), Swarovski earrings borrowed from my aunt, perfume from the Body Shop.
Did you have a vegan hairstylist/makeup artist?
I struggled a bit to find a makeup artist that only uses cruelty-free products. Kristy from Smudge uses only Inglot makeup products which I understand has become under fire from many people saying that Peta’s cruelty free standards are not that good, but it’s probably the closest I could get to a cruelty free professional. My bridesmaid is also vegan, her hair and makeup was also done by Kristy.
What did your bridesmaid wear?
She borrowed a “Marie Lund” dress from her sister, that fitted in perfectly with our color scheme. She bought her shoes from one of our outlets in Cape Town called “Foshini”.
I gave thank you gifts in the form of an Ultimate Bridal Guide Book on the day to my bridesmaid, flower girl, mom and aunt, which consisted of “Getting ready robes” from Bridal Aisle which was made from satin material that contained no silk; vegan and cruelty free body butter from Back2nature, perfume from the Body Shop, lipstick from “Wet and Wild” and tissues for my mom and aunt 🙂
What did Bjorn and his groomsmen wear?
Bjorn’s suit was from Mr. Suit Hire. He wore vegan leather shoes from Nae and belt from Slide Belts ordered online. His groomsmen suits were also from Mr. Suit Hire and all their gifts included cruelty free day cream and beard oils from the Body Shop, cigars and cutters as well as engraved glasses and flasks.
Where did you get married?
We got married at Olive Rock, Wolseley. We chose this specific location because of the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and of course because the chef was very willing to create a fully vegan menu for us along with a cash bar. We had vegan wine from Warwick Wine Estate here in South Africa.
Who made your wedding cake/desserts?
We ordered our cake at Wades Cakes. Wade was very helpful and also very open to helping with our vision for our wedding cake. We worked together to make an icing suitable for a navy blue 3 tiered cake.
What did you use as wedding favors?
We wanted to make our wedding favors personal, but also eco-friendly. We made wood keychains and burned the guests name into the keychains which also served as their name placement at the table with the message “Wood not be the same without you” written on cow dung paper that we had in the house by chance. We also gave everyone a succulent in a wooden pot which was also home made. The succulent we chose (Spekboom) is one of our favorite plants due to its sustainability, low water usage and being one of the best plants to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. One of the plants great advantages is that you can clone them by planting a branch. So 9-6 months before the wedding we started planting. The guests loved the idea and we even had Dutch family who successfully sneaked them back to Holland.
Were your guests pleased/surprised by the food quality?
Oh yes! But also, as a vegan of 3 years who loves cooking and trying out new foods, the food was really impressive and much better than I had anticipated. It was the venue’s first fully vegan menu and they also said they felt really calm while making the food (wonder why that is ;-)).
Was your wedding all you wanted it to be?
Our wedding was magical and I felt so happy the whole day! I would not had wanted it any other way. As vegans you often have to deal with situations that you can’t control, like being at a family braai or eating with friends who prefer the meat option above trying something vegan or vegetarian on the menu or even getting teased for choosing to be against animal cruelty.
Having a vegan wedding took all of that negativity away and made us so happy to see people enjoying our day with us. It also surprised me how respectful everyone was the whole weekend.
PHOTOS by Wesley Vorster Photography
A feminist and independent spirit since she could remember (her childhood heroines were Pippi Longstockings and Katharine Hepburn) Daniela Degrassi found her creative outlet as a lifestyle photographer, working mainly in Northern California where she lived for 15 years before moving back to her native Italy to continue to be her autistic sister’s primary caregiver. Vegan since 2014, she found a perfect way to carry her message of compassion while celebrating her love for the wedding industry launching The Kind Bride in February 2018.