'Can I afford a wedding planner?'

You might just be surprised what good value a wedding planner adds, says Cape Town’s Pam Gray

Engaged? Congrats. After having the shiny ring on your finger, the fun starts.

'What is our wedding budget? How can our wedding be different to all the others? Must my dress be white?' – these and lots more questions might be on your mind. Weddings are supposed to be fun, so we put some random questions together and who could answer them better than an experienced wedding planner such as Pam Gray from Affinity Weddings? Enjoy and we hope you get some inspiration.

1) Pam, you have been in the wedding industry for quite a while – don’t these 'cheesy weddings' bore you to death?

I am so lucky not to have had many 'cheesy' weddings in my career, although the few I have had, it has been a challenge to try and turn them around to something with more style. Sometimes they are dead set on a certain theme or style that isn't great, so you just have to bite your tonge and get on with it. I never get bored with weddings as they are all different.

2) Where are the wedding trends going? Still big and grandiose instead of a small family wedding? Still girly and 'cheesy' where the girls are in charge (I mean, come on, which man chooses pink as a wedding colour)?

Over the past couple of years, I have found that the weddings have become smaller. With the recession, couples still want the quality, but are having to reduce the guest list in order to have exactly the type of wedding they have always dreamt of. I do have some couples where the men are quite involved with the colour scheme, although generally the lady has the upper hand here.

3) You are a wedding planner. Many people think a wedding planner is not affordable. Who can afford a wedding planner?

You would be surprised! Hiring a wedding planner can save you a lot of money. Because of the extensive database of good service providers that we build up over the years, we can find all the service providers that will suit the couple‘s budget. Knowing them personally, we can assure you of good service delivery. If a couple decides to surf the net for the cheapest service providers, they can never be sure what they are getting and if they will even show up on the day. A lot of wedding coordinators also offer packages that are partial coordination or just 'on the day management' of the wedding. This is suitable for those on a tight budget.

4) How much money do I have to spend at least on a wedding?

This is like asking 'how long is a piece of string'? It is all dependant on the cost of the venue hire, food and number of guests you are having. An average wedding of about 80 -100 guests, with a venue hire of approximately R25k you would be looking at about R100 - R130K. It can be done on less if you chose a cheaper venue and you cut your guest list.

5) What was a wedding that you will never forget?

That has to be one I did for an Irish couple with 40 guests that all flew over from Ireland. The best friends of the couple were Kian Egan from the band Westlife, and his actress fiance. I spent three weeks with them all and by the time the wedding came around, I knew all the guests by first names.

I found Kian to be the most humble and funny guy, who just wanted to be treated as 'one of the boys'. The couple were so stunning, they were great to work with. They got married on the beach on the West Coast. That wedding was great fun!

6) What are the favourite wedding locations in the Cape?

A lot of couples choose a wine estate, some choose the country, this is becoming very popular, and of course the beach. I prefer to do my beach weddings out of Cape Town as the beaches around the city are always very crowded and parking is a problem. Logistics can also be difficult.

7) Must it be a white dress for the bride and a suit for the groom?

Most definately not. Although a white dress is still a favourite, some brides choose various other colours. For the men, I find that many are opting for a more casual look and for the beach weddings, many will wear light coloured pants and an open shirt with sandles.

8) Some people are sick of weddings. Always the same: ceremony, reception with drinks and too much food (and often the same food: chicken pie, slice of beef, potatoes etc.), too long speeches, sitting with people they don’t know at the table. How can one change that?

It is important to think outside the box to see how you can make each wedding different, while still showcasing the characters of the couple. One can do different things with the decor, choose a form of entertainment that will be new to the guests, this will depend on where they come from (i.e. overseas). Speeches should be kept to a minimum of four minutes per person. Menus can be very different. Perhaps the couple can have portable dining instead of having set tables, you can have informal lounge areas. This also deletes the problem of awkward table seating.

9) How much does an average wedding dress cost? Is it cheaper or more expensive to have someone make it?

If you choose to have it made by one of the top designers in the country, you will be looking at anything from R10k – R50K upwards. Then on the other hand if you go to a really good dressmaker you will pay around R6k – R10K depending on the cost of the material. If you buy a dress off the peg, it will be between R5k- R20K

10) What are good alternatives to a honeymoon in the Seychelles?

If you want to lie on the beach, I would say Mozambique, or Madagascar, for a bush experience, there a lots of game farms, even a couple in the Cape. Otherwise just somewhere local like Hermanus. It is all dependant on the budget.

11) Who must I invite? Everyone I like only or also all the family that irritates me?

My rule of thumb here is if they don't know the name of your dog, don't invite them. They are obviously not that close to you. When it comes to family, send the invitation, so as not to offend them, and hope they decline.

12) Okay, let’s do things differently – what do you suggest: I want everyone to be suprised in a positive way (including square family)?

I would create a wedding with a Mardi Gras/carnival theme to it, with games and stalls and candy floss. Really fun and vibrant!

by Antonia Heil  | pictures by Desmond Louw

Be sure to read our overview of Planning the Perfect Wedding in Cape Town

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