Paula & Doug's DIY Barn Wedding
From the proposal on Table Mountain to dancing under the stars, Paula and Doug were determined not to let bad weather stand in the way of creating their magical wedding day.
"We were sight-seeing Cape Town and the weather on the mountain wasn’t looking great," recalls Doug. "Paula didn’t want to go up the mountain because there would be no view. The ring was burning through my pocket and I was getting increasingly worried carrying a diamond ring around the streets of Cape Town."
Luckily Paula's mum helped, "As I was texting Paula’s mum asking for advice on how to get her up the mountain, Paula was texting her mum complaining about how I wanted to go up the mountain."
Once they were up there, Paula still didn't make it easy for him! "She was walking ahead of me, and I was just trying to find a spot that looked reasonably comfortable for my knee. Eventually, I just got down on one knee and called out to her. She had to come running back once she realized what was happening."
When it came to choosing the wedding venue, things were a lot easier. "We knew we wanted a barn wedding so we just Googled barn weddings," says Paula. "We came across McGrath Estate and thought it looked beautiful, then my brother and his wife popped up in their photos on the website! Turns out they had their engagement photos taken on the farm. We took this as a sign that we should get married there and didn’t look at any other venues."
Starting with the blank canvas of an empty barn, Paula and Doug rolled up their sleeves and literally built their wedding decor themselves. "We chose a rustic wedding with pink, white and wood/hessian tones." They hired tables and chairs from the venue and spent the next year preparing the rest. They chopped down a tree and sanded the rounds for centrepieces, made chiffon draping to separate ceremony and reception areas, made hessian and lace table runners, cut and sewed hundreds of triangles to make bunting, melted wax and made over 100 candles, cut, sanded and stained old bits of decking board to make wedding signage, plus made a bar out of pallets.
Even the wedding stationery was created from a friend's beautiful, hand-drawn image of their wedding flowers. Paula lights up when discussing flowers, "Ahhh flowers! The most important part of my day! My favourite flower, which is also the national flower of South Africa, is the protea, so I knew I wanted them at my wedding! We got in contact with a grower and went out to his farm a couple of days before the wedding," says Paula. "My mum did all the floral arrangements at the venue and on the tables and the proteas featured in them all."
Pulling the wedding together was a big task. "We spent the whole day before the wedding setting up the venue so that it was just how we had envisioned. Obviously, all of the prep and set-up was very time consuming and lots of work, but I would do it all again. We got to enjoy the day before our wedding with each other, our families and close friends and it got to ‘extend’ our wedding."
When the day finally came, Paula and Doug didn't wake up to sunshine as they'd hoped. "The venue itself has beautiful views but it was so rainy and overcast you couldn’t see any of them," Paula recalls her disappointment waking up to the stormy weather. "We didn’t have a first look but we got ready in adjoining rooms so we stood behind the same door, held hands and gave each other a letter and present. It was really nice doing this, feeling his touch calmed me from all the worries about the weather."
Paula bought her wedding dress from a small boutique her mum found. "The dress was absolutely beautiful and my mum altered it to make it even more beautiful. I’m not a high heeled kind of girl so my wedding shoes were actually wedding ankle boots." Paula’s bouquet was a huge feature on the day too. “I had Florienne florist do my bouquets and my brief was as many flowers and colour as possible with limited foliage, please. And boy did she deliver! Absolutely stunning and so many flowers I couldn’t even hold my bouquet it was too heavy!"
Tying into the rustic feel, Doug opted for a mismatched look instead of a formal suit. "I went for a charcoal blazer, white linen shirt and khaki green pants, paired with brown leather boots. I wanted the guys to look similar but not identical to me. So they had the same pants and shirt but no blazer. They each had suspenders and either a bow tie or a normal tie."
When they first locked eyes on each other, it was as Paula walked down the aisle. "I always told Doug if he doesn’t cry when I walk down the aisle I’ll turn around and keep trying till he does! Luckily I only had to walk down the aisle once. We were both crying messes - luckily it was tears of happiness and joy."
While reminiscing about the ceremony, Paula laughs "Douglas and I just kept whispering to each other and having our own little conversation. A lot of it went like "Doug these flowers are too heavy, please hold them for me, …swap, you hold the flowers again please I can’t anymore.""
By the time they got to their reception, the heavens had cleared and the storm had stopped. "After dinner and photos, we had our first dance to ‘Bow and Arrow’ out on the deck under festoon lights and the stars, with our guests lighting us with sprinklers."
Doug and Paula share their advice to couples planning a wedding. "Decide what’s most important to you and start your budget there. Don’t feel like you need to do things because that’s what people expect. Don’t invite people just because your parents want them there or your friend wants their partner to come - don’t feel bad for not being able to invite everyone. Once the day comes, try not to worry, you’ve done all that you can do to make it perfect - now enjoy it with your loved ones."