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Kelse and Neill’s Forest Wedding

Is there anything more romantic than exchanging vows among the trees? This DIY wedding is full of rustic projects, pretty dresses, candid moments and of course, a happy bride and groom. You wouldn’t guess that Kelsey-Anne and Neill were on a small budget, because their DIY decor is simple and effective, while their talented photographer captured their wedding perfectly. Tabitha, from Illuminate Photography is one of my favourite wedding photographers and she has outdone herself this time around. Don’t believe me? Take a look…

How did you get engaged?

Oh boy, the engagement tale – a fun story that is.

It was university and work holidays for Neill and myself, and one of my closest girl friends was down from PE for a visit. She made a friends watts app group, under the pretence that she wanted to have an evening beach visit to Llandudno with us all, before heading back to PE. And of course, sensing nothing amiss, when Neill asked if I was keen, I happily agreed. So we packed a few blankets into the car, and off we went to Llandudno, me of course expecting to meet everyone there.

But once there, to my surprise, nobody else had arrived yet. (And you must understand, Neill and I are NEVER the first people to arrive anywhere) So slightly confused, I of course messaged the group to ask where they were, and got the response: “Stuck in traffic, on our way.” So Neill, ceasing the opportunity, suggested that we go up onto the rocks to wait for them. Now I should have seen it coming – beautiful evening, beach, blankets, and sunset. But nope, totally unaware was I.

So we sat down, got comfortable, and started to chat. And Neill, obviously nervous, brings up the topic of tsunamis. (Romantic, right?) And from the start, I am super  invested in this conversation – suggesting things that we could do should it ever happen, analysing which houses I think would be the safest inside, etc. (Poor man was probably thinking I would never be quiet!) So as the sun was in its last few moments of setting, the pinky-sky reflecting beautifully off the waves, and me still chattering about Tsunamis, Neill stops me and interrupts: “Kelse, there is a reason nobody has arrived yet…”

I knew the minute the words were out of his mouth, what was happening, if nothing else but for his heart against my shoulder, which I could feel beating extremely fast. And the next thing I knew, he got down on one knee, pulled out the ring, told me how much he loved and cherished me, and asked me to be his wife!

What inspired your wedding colours and theme?

Neill and I knew from the get-go what type of wedding we wanted – something relaxed and laid-back, small and intimate, and in a forest. We both just love the outdoors, and the idea of a forest wedding – come on, how beautiful? Where better to have a wedding than under a canvas of trees? Thus, when thinking themes, we didn’t want to take away from the beauty of a forest, so we decided earthy and laid back – in other words, rustic!

Once we had that decided (which took us all of two minutes), PINTEREST, PINTEREST and PINTEREST!! Pinterest was our best friend during the wedding planning! There were thousands upon thousands of wonderful, simple ideas on pinterest, all for the taking. Neill easily found a groomsmen style he loved, fitting in with our neutral and rustic theme, and I instantly fell in love with the idea of a neutral-blush colour palette for my girls.

But advice for those pinterest-lovers out there: once you have settled on an idea/theme, don’t keep looking on pinterest. The thousands of ideas can be a bit overwhelming, and can make you second-guess your original choice. Stick with your gut!

Did you include any DIY projects?

DIY? Definitely. Neill and I were on a pretty small budget, and the wedding industry is so expensive, so from the get-go we set out on a mission to DIY the heck out of our wedding! Basically all our décor was DIY; from the crates on the tables, the jars for the flowers and candles, the table runners and napkins, signs etc. We had great fun putting together all of these projects, but a little advice for future brides: it is never too early to begin! It can be time-consuming, so get an early start, and don’t decline help when offered!

How involved were your bridal party and family?

Hmm, this is a tricky question, because there was only so much my family and bridal party could help me with, because up until the final months before the wedding, it was mostly decisions and research that only Neill and myself could do together.

But no doubt, when I asked for help, my bridal party was always willing and ready, and my family was always ready to offer extra help. One of the biggest helps to me and Neill was the ‘décor’ day we organised with our bridal party – they all dedicated a full day to help us with wedding stuff, whether it was cutting bunting or washing tons after tons of jars. It was such a blessing to Neill and I, and was a great opportunity for bonding and a good time!

And future brides, don’t forget the importance of good old mothers – I know my poor mom listened to just about every idea and thought throughout the wedding planning, and gave me her honest advice every time! I would never have been able to do it without her!

What was your favourite thing about planning your wedding?

Please don’t be fooled – planning a wedding is not as fun and worry-free as it seems in the movies. Neill and I actually found that towards the end, we just wanted the day to come already, so we wouldn’t have to faff any longer with napkins, emails, or bunting. (Can you tell, neither one of us is much for planning and admin?)

But all in all, I think my favourite part was actually at the beginning of the entire process  – before the hustle of the real planning started, I really enjoyed just being ‘engaged’ to Neill. I loved the time we spent together; looking at Pinterest, looking at venues, discussing our possible ideas, and quite frankly just being excited that we were finally going to be husband and wife.

What stressed you out the most about planning your wedding?

Budget, budget and budget. If you have an endless budget, than the sky is the limit! Wedding planning is going to be a breeze for you!

But Neill and I, me still being a university student, we were on a pretty small budget. And man, can I tell you… The wedding industry is SO expensive! So trying to fit within the budget was, eish, tough! But I can definitely tell you that in the end, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. As stressful as it was, it forced Neill and I to really trust in the Lord to provide, and provide He did. It also kept us focused on what was really important – not the materialistic things like the décor or the dress, but on the fact that we would be joined as husband and wife, for the rest of our lives.

Looking back on your day, would you have changed anything if you could?

No, all in all the day was perfect!

Tell us about the dress! How did you know it was ‘the one’?

Ah, the dress… Well, you know how in the movies they make wedding dress shopping look glamorous, with the bubbly and smiling bridesmaids? Not quite my experience… I had the smiling bridesmaids of course, and actually a ton of fun, but not so much the glamour. Just about every dress that I tried on, practically fell off of my tiny frame, and EVERTYTHING, I mean everything, was puffy, heavy and sparkly! Not at all like the simple, flowy and slightly boho dress I had in mind. So in the end, while it was fun to look, I ended up getting my dress made. I knew pretty much what I was looking for, so I searched on Pinterest for something similar, and actually ended up choosing two different dresses, and putting them together! (top of one, bottom of another) The combination was exactly what I had in mind. And boy, I cannot tell you how much I loved seeing my dress take form – from the very first fitting, I knew I had made the right choice. On the day, I could not have been happier with how my dress turned out!

What is one of your favourite memories of your wedding day?

Hmm, I actually have two favourite memories of the day.

My first was seeing Neill at the other end of the aisle, as I walked towards him. Words cannot express that moment when our eyes met, and I saw him crying (and not a little glimpse in his eye, but proper tears streaming down his face). It was the most special moment ever, to see the man I love, unable to contain the love that he held for me!

My second favourite, was just taking a step back later in the evening – when the ‘I do’s’ had been said, the speeches done, and the food eaten. Neill and I just took a few moments to ourselves, newly husband and wife, to look upon the entire wedding reception, and to see it in its entirety. After 9 months of planning, it was such a precious moment to see it all come together, filled with our friends and family.

Where did you go on honeymoon and who planned it? Was it a surprise?

Aah the honeymoon… Our honeymoon, three short days, (Neill and I both had to be back to work a few days after the wedding) was spent in Franschoek at a lovely self-catering apartment called Los Olivos. It was cozy, well-kept, beautifully decorated, and really just an amazing accommodation. I highly recommend it to others.

The honeymoon was planned by the both of us, and thus was not a surprise. But this I found to be better – because let’s just imagine that Neill, surprisingly, took me to the Karoo… Yay, desert… This way we both knew we were happy with what we chose!

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Food by French Afrik Bistro Food Truck | Wedding photos by Illuminate Photography  | DJ: Play4u | Venue: Helderberg Plaas | Dressmaker: Deidre Unser | Makeup: Chelsea Abrahams | Coordinator: Bells and Whistles | Engagement photos by Caitlyn Grace Photography

Kevin and Cara

Kevin and Cara's proposal story

  1. How did you meet?

If you ask Kevin, he’ll say “we met at a braai”… but if you ask Cara, she’ll more likely say “through a mutual friend”. In fact, both are true. A friend of ours decided during one summer holiday to organise a get-together where the people he knew from all different churches could meet and get to know each other. A few of us got on particularly well and after that first braai we ended up spending the next 4 days in a row together. That set the stage for Kevin asking Cara to go for a walk in Kirstenbosch together…and the rest is history!

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  1. How did you get engaged? 

The proposal story started long before the actual proposal day. We had been speaking about getting engaged for quite a while but Kevin wanted to make the actual day a surprise. So from the beginning of the year he began taking me (Cara) on ‘special dates’ every weekend. Each one was masterfully put together and many of them involved reliving some of our very first dates and memorable moments. We visited markets, watched sunsets from many viewpoints, played putt-putt together and went out to fancy restaurants. When it came up to Valentine’s Day, Kevin told me that instead of a simple Valentine’s Day, he wanted to do a whole Valentine’s weekend, with a date on each day. For the Saturday he suggested that we go for a catamaran cruise from the waterfront, which we had previously spoken about. I was having a photoshoot with my family in the morning, so he picked me up after I got back home (with my hair and nails all nicely done, what a coincidence!). He first took me to the Castle in town, which I was very excited about since I’ve never been inside before. But instead of going on a tour inside it turned out that he had booked a horse and carriage ride going all over town! What an incredible experience. The horse was so beautiful and we were shown all the historical features of Cape Town at the pace of a horse walk; who knew that there were so many wonderful things to see?!

For the next leg of our date we headed south, which was strange since we were supposed to be ending up at the waterfront. Kevin said that the cruise was later than usual and we were doing a little detour first. Halfway to our destination he pulled over on the side of the M3 and blindfolded me. Surprisingly, this still didn’t arouse my suspicions, since he had blindfolded me before and I knew that we had been reliving a few of our early dates. We headed to the greenbelt just below Kirstenbosch Gardens and after a little wait in the car (for Kevin to check that our families had finished setting up the area) we set out along the trail with him guiding me. At one point he even carried me over a stream! A few hundred meters before our destination he took the blindfold off. I commented “Wow, I wonder why there are so many petals on the ground here!” (can you get more thick?!). When we reached a beautifully laid out and decorated picnic, I finally clicked. Kevin gave a speech and then got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! Of course I said yes!! We then had a lovely picnic during which he also sang a lovely song to me about walking down the aisle. To finish the day we headed to Groot Constantia to have supper with both of our families and celebrate. The best way to end the best day!

  1. Was the proposal a surprise?

It was! After all the expectation and many weeks of Kevin joking, “it could be today, you never know!” I (Cara) actually had no idea when it actually happened. Luckily I seem to be very trusting and didn’t suspect a thing!

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4. Cara, do you remember what Kevin said to you when he proposed?

He gave a whole rehearsed speech! It was amazing and so heartfelt. I can’t say that I managed to retain every word in such an overwhelming moment, but I do remember him saying that although it may sound cheesy, I make him want to be a better man. How perfect can you get?!

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  1. Kevin, do you remember what Cara said to you when you asked?

Cara had waited so patiently to hear my whole speech. When I finally asked her to marry me, she said “YES!” By this stage I was shaking so much from the nerves, but I managed to put the ring on her finger. After it was on her hand she had a moment to admire it, I was so glad that she loved it! I was so excited that I’d managed to keep it all a surprise.

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  1. Tell us about the theme of your engagement shoot photos. What made you decide to use your home as the backdrop?

We wanted our engagement photos to be personal and reflect who we are as a couple. We decided to choose some of the things we love doing together in our everyday lives and mould the shoot around those. After a year of negotiating a long distance relationship, one of the sweetest parts of being in the same city has been being able to do the simple things together, like cooking a meal. So that is how we started our photoshoot, in Kevin’s family kitchen. We then migrated to Kevin’s music studio to the exact spot where we first spoke about starting a relationship, after a jamming session on our guitars. So we brought out our guitars to recapture our humble beginnings. A top activity on our list is going for walks in nature; forests, beaches and mountains are our favourites. So for the last bit of our shoot we headed to the beach to have a little stroll and explore some caves overlooking the bay. What a fun day! We would not have done it any other way.

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Related: How To Plan Your Engagement Shoot

All engagement shoot photos by Illuminate Photography

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