For the Midlands, every season is wedding season! With its ample space and hilly mystique, this area is the quintessential foreground for countryside weddings and enchanted ceremonies. We take a closer look at three lovely wedding venues and discover the unique element that distinguishes each one from the rest.
The style: With its charming English country homes nestled amongst the rolling hills of Caversham Valley, The Orchards is a romantic and elegant estate in which people come together to celebrate the simplicity of love and marriage. The white paint, thatched roofs, and rose gardens transport people to a simpler time, when weddings were classic and uncomplicated.
The venue: The estate is 3 hectares large and comes equipped with everything, from accommodation and reception areas to the chapel and a halfway house, and even a river and swimming pool for aquatic activities in the Summer. “It’s like a little rabbit’s warren,” says Jen Pretorius, who just took over ownership in July this year. “Since the very first time I stepped foot into The Orchards, I have been in love with the venue and I asked the owners to ever contact me if they were going to sell. It’s always been so special to me, from the chapel all the way to the river, and all the many nooks of charm all along the way”. The river runs three quarters around the venue, which used to be a derelict farm home less than eight years ago. Today however, it is a cosy bungalow offering the quintessential countryside experience. With little pockets or river and forest, the natural beauty of the venue is preserved for all to enjoy. “Every single wedding here at the Orchards is so unique and so special” Jen adds.
The chapel: Adorned with natural light, the chapel sits rows of light-wooden pews and a brilliant white piano as a centerpiece on the altar. It boasts the perfect lighting to capture the spiritual union of marital bliss.
The stables: Used as a halfway house for canapes and drinks between the ceremony and the reception, the refurbished horse stables open up into each other, with large glass panels overlooking the secret garden and swing below. Exposed brick floors hold up one long table, and there are plenty of seating areas, both inside and outside, to rest and recuperate before the reception ceremony.
The reception area: White washed, classy and simple. An elegant space with hanging light bulbs and fairy lights intertwined in the ceiling panels, with vertical wall palettes for decorating ease. The large ‘Beauty and The Beast’ fireplace makes it that much more cosy and enchanting.
The accommodation: Charming, warm and well-sized rooms, with modern cottage-like furnishings and touches of colour here and there, the thatched roof lodgings can sleep up to 14 people.The Honeymoon Suite is open-plan with a generously sized dresser, lounger and luxurious bathtub. The outside braai area is a favourite, and sees many bridal parties congregate and exchange well wishes on the eve of their big day. Within 5km of the venue, there are multiple accommodations for additional guests all located within Caversham Valley.
Crystal Barn Country Estate
The style: Crystal Barn is a truly unique and unforgettable venue, modelled after the Exotic Marigold Hotel in India. Its original owners brought back crates of furniture from India many years ago, a diverse collection including palace doors, crystal chandeliers and many vibrant fabrics and throws. Every turn and every corner holds something exotic and eclectic: brass bottles and vases, Persian rugs, or explosions of purple, bright turquoise or deep pinks.
The venue: The estate is an enormous 49 hectares, adorned with its own forest and freckled with trail runs, a bountiful dam, an extensive outside deck and tennis courts. It has so much interest and character throughout the grounds, that it makes a spectacular backdrop for wedding celebrations and photographs. A favourite photo spot has to be the “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” scene set deep in the forest with velvet chairs and an impressive table candelabra. Along with a multitude of seating options, the venue also has its own independent restaurant onsite, as well as a new resident chef, Jeanne Law.
The Ceremony: There are three options for the ceremony, including a gorgeous little chapel, a forest location and the beautiful lawns for a garden ceremony. The forest ceremony takes place in the estate’s woodland forest, usually during golden hour, when the sun sets right over the dam. With the forest being the perfect palette for enchantment and splendour, it’s no wonder it won the award for the best ceremony spot in 2017!
The accommodation: After a stint in London and six years on the yachts, Kate and her husband moved back to KZN to start a family, and recently purchased the Crystal Barn business. “My husband and I actually used to live here but now we’ve moved off the property and converted the house we used to live in into more guest rooms”, she tells us, as she takes us to look at all the rooms. “As you can see, anything goes”, Kate remarks as we notice recycled saris used as wallpaper! Each room is unique and visually interesting. They also converted an antique shop into a new and improved honeymoon suite, with big bay windows and a generous dressing room. In total, the lodgings can sleep up to 32 people, and have 1X family room too. There are other rooms of interest, including private lounges, libraries, billiards rooms and of course, who could forget the “Legless Bar” which gets quite festive the night before the wedding!
The style: Situated against the backdrop of rolling hills, where herds of cattle graze happily under the sun, the setting can be described as idyllic, farm-style and rustic chic.
The venue: Just over the hill beyond the famous Blueberry Cafe, lies the wedding venue, equipped with a modern, open-plan reception area, a historic chapel with breathtaking valley views, and an exquisite farmhouse mansion overlooking the paddocks and trout fishing dam.
The chapel: Perched upon a natural rock outcrop, the chapel boasts extraordinary views of the cascading valleys, where worn-in pine trees act as curtains, gently filtering the setting sun. “The photographers usually have a field day up here,” comments Marita Bester, assisting manager of Netherwood. The chapel is an unusually contemporary design, with glass walls that can open completely on both sides for a 360 degree view of the ever-changing landscape. It has a truly tranquil and spiritual energy – the perfect environment for exchanging marital vows.
The reception area: From the chapel, a natural forest path leads guests towards the reception area – a structure of steel, glass, sleeper wood and stone that overlooks four inter-leading dams, each of which become an enormous mirror at sunset. The contemporary interior boasts on-trend banquet tables, impressive light fixtures, a fairly large floor space, a fully equipped kitchen, and cute, quirky bathrooms. The bar opens to both the inside hall and outside lawns. Pre-drinks on the manicured lawns in front of the bar, overlooking the serene tiered dam, is the perfect setting for guests to soak up the natural surroundings. “The cattle in the distant hills are also gorgeous to capture”, Marita tells us.
The accommodation: The estate mansion is a whole other pocket of country life in itself. Picturesque and expansive, Lidgett’s Grant Lodge is the original farmhouse on Netherwood Farm, and is frequently rented to bridal parties and other private guests. “It really is quite cosy inside”, says Marita as she drives us past the palatial abode. In total it sleeps a maximum of 20 people, with 6 en suite bedrooms, 1 family room en suite and 2 bedrooms with a shared bathroom. A fully equipped kitchen, three lounges, fireplaces, and a self-catering pub ensures that guests fully enjoy the comfort and communion of everyone staying together under one roof.