Once we actually GOT engaged (I knew it was coming, it was just a matter of when), I made all nonchalant-like and pretended to start looking for a venue. Luckily Mr Slippers was quite content for me to create a shortlist of places I liked, and help me choose from there. (Read as: Miss Ruby Slippers does the gruntwork while Mr RS plays computer games. Luckily Miss Ruby Slippers really enjoys this sort of work!) So I went into intense search mode. I must have been to every South African wedding planning site there is. Some venues I disregarded immediately because they were going for a bushveld or safari feel, which was so not what we wanted. The bride petting an elephant? Yeah...um, I don't know, it just feels a bit forced. Not to mention I would flip out if my dress got dirty! And elephants are not clean, trust me. So me, in my wedding dress, anywhere NEAR an elephant? I think not.
But I digress.
Other venues asked more for venue hire than we were willing to pay. Others either had crappy websites (I'm a stickler for that kind of thing; seriously, if you can't get your website right, how are you going to get my wedding right?) or the venues themselves just didn't look that nice. We also knew that we wanted to get married near enough to Johannesburg that we could go out to the venue when we needed to organise things.This was after witnessing the mission it was to pull my sister's Drakensberg wedding together from here. She'd never met the florist, seen the bouquets, met the officiant, hair & make-up people, photographer, NOTHING. Unbelievably it all pulled together pretty well, but I vowed that I had to have a closer rein on things than my slapdash sibling!
So getting married near home ended up meaning one thing: The Wedding Mile inMuldersdrift. So named because it has so many venues in such close proximity to one another. It's like Wedding City out there. And it makes for such easy scouting! They even do tours, though we didn't. That seemed a bit...weird.
First up on our list: THE BRIDGE.
I'd been recommended this by a work colleague, and they don't charge venue hire, which was a huge plus in our somewhat skint books. It consists of a reception hall, simple chapel, and lawns which roll down to a river running along the length of the property, and on which the bride is brought on a little raft or barge to meet the wedding party. It's a lovely idea, but the place as a whole didn't blow us away. The river was rather muddy, and the place, while well-kept enough, just didn't seem special. It would be like having our wedding in our grandmother's garden, we felt. No matter!
Onto venue two:AVIANTO
Wow, is all I can say. Avianto is a Tuscan-inspired village (Read:mansion) and it is gorgeous. Picture Monte Casino (those of you in Joburg) without the casino and shops and dodgy gamblers. Again, we were recommended it by a friend who does dancing shows there occasionally. It is on the pricey side, but it's stunning. Perhaps...a little TOO stunning? Mr Slippers and I are not fancy-shmancy people; we don't worry about etiquette and we seldom have people over for an elegant dinner. This place just didn't seem like us. I think I'd have felt underdressed at my own wedding. This is why:
Bring on Venue Three: KLOOFZICHT.
We'd been to a wedding here in 2006, so we knew we weren't likely to choose it for our wedding. It just felt like THEIR venue, not ours. It has the most beautiful scenery, though - our friend got married under a gazebo overlooking a lake surrounded by hills - very calm and beautiful. But we didn't like it enough to want to "repeat" her venue so soon afterwards. So onward and upward!
Venue Four:OAKFIELD FARM.
Sorry, but I've got to say, I wasn't really impressed with them at all. Considering they're the premier wedding venue out that way, and they do all the bridal expos and publish a magazine, I just expected something more...special. Parts of it are very pretty, but most of it I thought was kind of average. I've seen some gorgeous photos online that were taken there, though, but you can do wonders with great photography! In reality it's really rather plain. And can I just say that a pet hate of mine is excessive white fabric draping? They use it everywhere!
Venue Seven:GLENBURN LODGE.
Venue Five:TOADBURY HALL
It looks soooo cute and picturesque on the website, so despite the steep venue hire I told Mr Ruby Slippers we should look at it. I was in love with the Olde Englishness of the name. It is very quaint there, and the chapel is lovely. There are rose gardens and a river (or perhaps it's a lake, I forget). But we couldn't find anyone to let us into the main building, and it wasn't quite stunning enough to justify their price, so we left.It just should have been SWEETER, you know what I mean?
We tried to stop into VALVERDE next, but it was closed for the day, so we gave it a miss. But it looks nice on the website, so I've counted it here as venue Six.
Venue Seven:GLENBURN LODGE.
Apparently there are two venues at Glenburn, but we only looked at the one, as there was something happening at the other one and we couldn't gatecrash. It's set in what appears to be a holiday resort, complete with rondawels just like we used to stop over in on our way to the Cape on family holidays. We found this a bit odd! The chapel is roofed but open at the sides, and both it and the hall overlook a wide, fast-flowing river (the same river that runs through half these venues, I presume!).There is a bridge overhung with a weeping willow, which I found quite charming. Think of the pictures! But yet again, we weren't bowled over by the place. It had to speak to us! This was beginning to be harder than finding a husband. Just kidding, that WAS hard. I honestly don't know how I got so lucky to find my perfect match. Oh wait, this isn't the mushy "What I love about Mr Ruby Slippers" post. My bad. Anyway, the end of our venue search was nigh! Bring it on....