Nestled in South Africa’s scenic Winelands is Babylonstoren, a setting decorated with Cape Dutch architecture, an abundance of fresh produce, and picturesque views that envelope you into a sense of tranquility. With the groom hailing from South Africa, it was an easy decision for the pair to marry there, treating their guests to such an incredible setting imbued with personal sentiment.
The ceremony took place in an open-aired greenhouse beneath an arrangement of suspended foliage that was gathered from the property that morning. Guests then moved to the barn for the reception and were romanced by the farm-to-fork philosophy of the venue, only eating what was freshly picked, cleaned and served from the grounds.
Jess and Helgard surprised their guests to an all-white dessert room – equally extravagant and beautifully understated. A long table adorned in flickering candlelight, dried blooms, and decadent treats. The dancing continued well into the night as the live band echoed into the South African hillside.
Captured by Shanna Jones Photography
Names / Jess & Helgard
Wedding Date / 30th January 2020
Guest Numbers / 95
Budget / $100,000 USD
How We Met
Helgard and I met on Tinder but it actually took us seven months to have our first date. We matched while he was in Hong Kong for an interview with an airline, but by the time we started chatting, he was already back in South Africa. The conversation was just so easy so we fortunately kept in touch while both dating other people. A few months in, he told me he had been offered a job and was moving to Hong Kong. He then arrived but went straight into training with the airline, so it took another few months to finally go on a first date. Naturally, having had the opportunity to get to know each other so well before meeting, as soon as we did, we immediately hit it off.
Our Engagement Story
Helgard proposed to me at home in Hong Kong. He then asked me to get ready for lunch at The Penninsula. After we were seated at lunch, my brother who also lives in Hong Kong, happened to wander by which for him, was very out of sorts. Then when my two girlfriends arrived and one of Helgard’s friends, I knew something was up. Helgard then directed us all to the lift where we were whisked to the top floor to an awaiting helicopter that took us on the most incredible sightseeing tour of Hong Kong. It was the perfect day; a personal proposal with just the two of us and then a celebration with friends.
Marriage to us means…
Trust and understanding. Both are so important in a relationship and even more so, a marriage.
We got married at Babylonstoren in the wine region just outside of Cape Town. The estate is simply incredible; acres upon acres of olive groves, orchids, vineyards, fruit and vegetable gardens, old Dutch Cape buildings and all set amongst the stunning mountain ranges of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Every detail has been thought of in a stylish yet understated way.
My family and bridesmaids stayed in the Farmhouse at Babylonstoren so after breakfast at Babel, we spent a few hours at the spa and relaxing by the pool. The hair and make-up artists didn’t arrive until 1 pm.
Overall Aesthetic & Style
Natural, understated charm. Babylonstoren is so incredible that we did not want to add anything that would detract from the beauty of the farm and landscape.
Ceremony & Reception Décor
In keeping with the natural surroundings, we stuck with a very basic color palette of green and white and it worked perfectly. Nothing was forced or out of place.
The venue included the services of Babylonstoren’s divine wedding planner, Risa. She made organising a wedding from 11,000km away so effortlessly easy and we were able to use most of the suppliers that she had recommended and worked with for years.
We spent a considerable amount of time finding the perfect wedding photographer and Shanna Jones is just that. She has an effortless, unpretentious style and is far from your typical staged wedding photographer. She also knows Babylonstoren intimately so as quickly as we were whisked off for photos, we were back enjoying time with our guests.
Everyone I spoke to recommended Ian from Vision on Fire and for very good reason. And fortunately, he’s great friends with Shanna, so where a photographer and videographer could potentially compete for your time, they ended up being the dream team.
An incredible crystal and pearl beaded A-line gown custom made by Melbourne designer, amber chloe. We chose the fabric together and Amber guided me through the process of designing the perfect dress. Her incredible seamstress then went to work and the whole process was so fun and easy. I changed into a sequined Rachel Comey party dress after dinner which made dancing the night away a breeze.
Loeffler Randall silver scalloped heels. They were perfect for the day; feminine and fun but most importantly, practical for the setting.
Stunning bias-cut floor-length silk gowns custom made by amber chloe.
The girls wore their own shoes. I really wanted them to be comfortable on the day.
My handsome nephew Miles wore navy pants, a white shirt, loafers and the cutest blue and white check bow-tie, all from J. Crew. He stole the show!
My wedding rings were custom made by Christine at Power Jewellery. She runs a 60-year-old family jeweller which is very much an institution in Hong Kong. I chose a platinum solitaire with accents for my engagement ring and a matching wedding band. Helgard was always opposed to traditional wedding rings, so he was thrilled to find a Tungsten ring with an unusual blue rim from Manly Bands. It’s perfect for his personality and matches his beloved navy blue Breitling watch.
Jewellery / Accessories
I wore simple pearl and crystal earrings from my mum.
The men wore navy blue suits which were tailored made in Hong Kong.
Stationery / Invitations
We opted for a website instead of invitations as we had five days of events and lots of information about the events and South Africa to share with guests. It worked perfectly and meant we could update details and add information as we went. Our stationary for the wedding was designed by Secret Diary in South Africa, and we kept with the green and white theme. Our programs for the ceremony doubled as fans which came in handy with the hot weather.
Flowers & Bouquets
Our flowers were picked fresh from Babylonstoren on the morning of the wedding and were arranged by their in-house florists. They surprised us with gorgeous green figs that had been added to the bouquets.
A layered carrot cake with Eureka lemon frosting.
We served flavored waters and Babylonstoren’s signature Ice Tea at the ceremony while guests were waiting. On arrival for canapes, guests were greeted with Le Lude bubbly and a variety of cocktails including a blueberry, thyme and rosemary cocktail which was a big hit with the hot weather. We continued to serve bubbly throughout the ceremony together with wine from Vrede en Lust, and then we had an open bar after dinner.
We selected four different canapes for cocktail hour; asparagus wrapped in trout, melon wrapped in Palma ham and hang-op cheese, beef and olive tartare crostini, and an aubergine caviar crostini. Dinner was a family-style meal with Babylonstoren’s signature red, green and yellow salads freshly picked from their garden, grilled line fish with Eureka lemon crème Fraiche dressing and a leg of lamb served with rosemary, wholegrain mustard and caper sauce. After dinner, guests were ushered across the gardens to the White Room where we surprised them with a dessert display of cheese and berries, rosewater cupcakes, pistachio meringues and freshly baked brownies. We then served wood-fired pizzas at midnight.
We did a buddymoon with 16 of our family and friends at a game reserve in the Kruger National Park. We booked out one of the lodges and spent four wonderful days on game drives seeing The Big Five and relaxing by the pool. It was the perfect ending to an incredible two weeks in South Africa.
We walked down the aisle to an acoustic cover of ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ by Brooklyn Duo. For our recession, we wanted something by a local artist and ‘Great Heart’ by Jonny Clegg was an easy choice. We had everyone up and dancing to Kygo’s, ‘Sexual Healing’, when we entered the reception. And our first dance was ‘Ho Hey’ by The Lumineers. It somehow seemed appropriate given our first dance was in an old barn.
The incredible Lize Mynhardt entertained guests with acoustic music during cocktail hour. And then the band, Me & Mr Green got the party started after dinner and had guests dancing the night away until the early hours.
A local celebrant recommended by our wedding planner.
Any Other Special Details
We hosted a recovery braai (bbq) on the grounds of the Farmhouse at Babylonstoren the day after the wedding. Guests enjoyed garden salads, roasted nuts, homemade cheeses, freshly baked bread with garden herb oil, tender beef with an olive tapenade, rosemary skewered vegetables and chicken and mushroom kebabs, playing croquet and boule in between lazying on the grass under the trees.
Sources of Inspiration
We took our cues from Babylonstoren.
A Memorable Moment
Our dinner reception was in an old Dutch Cape barn and halfway through dinner, we surprised our guests and opened the side doors so they could feed the donkeys that live on the farm.
Our whole wedding week in beautiful South Africa. It was the perfect setting.
If I could give other Brides-To-Be one Piece of Advice…
Ask your fiancee what type of wedding they want. As females, we get so caught up in planning our dream wedding and often discount their views. But the location, size and tone of the wedding is just as important to them. Helgard always mentions how grateful he is that we got married in South Africa and at a venue that is as relaxed and unpretentious as he is.
Photography / Shanna Jones Photography
Videography / Vision on Fire
Bride’s Shoes / Loeffler Randall
Bridesmaid’s Dresses / amber chloe
Pageboy / J.Crew
Wedding Rings / Power Jewellery
Hair & Makeup / Lisa Brown
Stationery & Invitations / Secret Diary
Florist / Babylonstoren
Cake / Babylonstoren
Catering / Babylonstoren
Wedding Planner / Babylonstoren
Wedding Venue / Babylonstoren
Honeymoon Destination / Thornybush Luxury Game Lodges
Gift Registry / Amazon
Find our handpicked edit of Videographers from around the world on the Directory.