All Shook Up! My Life 16 JUL 2008

ElvisSaturday afternoon saw the wedding event of the year as Chantelle’s former flatmate and work colleague and daughter of Whammy and Louise (the owners of Gordon’s Beach Lodge), Andrea Ellenberger, got ready for the biggest day in her life – on stage!

You see, the husband to be, Albert Snyman happens to be the Theatre Technical Director for the HB Thom theatre in Stellenbosch and has been involved in the drama and theatre world for years now (currently he also works as a successful scriptwriter and is one of the pens behind the hugely popular Binnelanders soapie that airs on MNET), and being the performer that he is, wanted to do something completely different and close to his heart for this big event…

…which explains why at 15:30 on Saturday afternoon Chantelle and I found ourselves propped in some very comfy theatre seats in front of a brightly lit Vegas-themed stage, complete with giant pink heart frame in the middle, Vegas-style chapel cut-outs to the sides and the pink fake frontends of two classic Cadillacs (with working lights) flanking the sides.

Not that getting to the ‘church’ on time had been all that simple a matter for us in the first place you know. Thankfully I had been feeling a little better by Saturday afternoon after being floored with that stomach bug for the whole of Friday (and which essentially lasted the whole weekend in the end), so I was at least able to get dressed and feel psyched for the event, but shame, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Chantelle as rushed as I did before.

The whole week she’s been working 11+ hour shifts in looking after all the friends and family staying over at the guesthouse, and Saturday morning was certainly no different. Like she said, it is all very well and all to help get everyone else ready on time, but she still needed to help get herself ready as well! And of course, to make matters worse, when you’re running against time itself, the universe does its best to stand in your way – like by showing you that your fancy shoes’ soles are completely loose literally minutes before you step through the door or letting the two kittens escape out the front door and decide that today is exploration day, costing you almost ten minutes to corral them up and get them back inside!

And the if fighting the universe wasn’t bad enough, Chantelle still got to deal with me and my terrible sense of direction as well, as I managed to somehow get us a little lost as I shakily directed us towards the theatre, a place that I do actually know where it is. Truly Chantelle gets scary when I get us lost…

Nevertheless, we did miraculously make the theatre on time and it wasn’t more than a minute or two after we had sat down that the ceremony kicked off and the bride came down the aisle.

Now at this point I want to remark on what an amazingly small world this place can sometimes be. I had just earlier received a phone call out of London from Mark Draeger who had phoned to tell me that Ryan had in fact been on the same British inbound flight as his parents, Albert happens to be one of the long ago ex-boyfriends of my friend Lenore, and now the priest that just appeared up on stage happens to be the same pastor that handled my late aunt Sophie’s funeral as well as Gary and Michelle’s wedding earlier this year!

And when I say ‘just appeared’, I actually mean ‘made an entrance’ as the pastor came dancing out on stage, dressed from head to toe in an Elvis costume, complete with wig and pimped out glasses! Albert, his best man and two supporting actors (Andrea had wanted to involve the family children as much as possible) were all looking resplendent in their Mandarin suits, but it was without a doubt Andy who sparkled and looked absolutely amazing in her beautiful white dress that stole the show. And what an entourage down the aisle! Both mom and dad, four bridesmaids and two little flower girls all snaked their way down to the stage, marching to the beat that only Elvis can produce.

Following a precious ‘funniest home videos’ moment where one of the adorable little flower girls tripped and fell over her dress on the stage, it was down to business as ‘Elvis’ conducted a wonderful little ceremony and Albert finally got to officially kiss his new wife. However, a quick little notice to the priest had Albert kissing Andy again, this time accompanied by huge explosion (as was meant to happen the first time around) as the entire theatre was literally bombed with colourful streamers thanks to best man Kobus’ pyrotechnical prowess.

More Elvis to lead everyone out of the theatre and after a short wait to get all the papers signed and pictures taken, it was rose petal scattering time as a triumphant Albert and Andy emerged out the front door! What a wedding I tell you :)

The reception was to be held at the well-known Del Vera farm a little outside of Stellenbosch, and it was at this stage that Chantelle whispered to me that she is extremely hungry, so I suggested we quickly pop in at McDonalds next to BP before hitting the road to the reception. Now of course, if Chantelle is driving then it is the drive-through for us, something that I never do thanks to the time it usually takes to get through the drive-through, and lo and behold, my fears were well founded when we ended up waiting for what felt like an age in the queue before finally collecting our booty and pulling out of the lane – only for Chantelle to pull out her small chips, examine the amount given with disgust, and promptly turn back to McDonalds in order to heartily complain.

So after another looooonng wait (Stellenbosch McDonalds is ALWAYS busy!), she returned a fuming customer thanks to a very sloppy manager, but at least an angry customer with more chips. Feeling already a bit late now thanks to all this waiting, we quickly devoured the chow and hit the road – only to discover that I had once again managed to get us on the wrong road and going in the entirely wrong direction!! :(

Thankfully a very frustrated Chantelle managed to save our bacon and find the farm alright despite my misplaced but incessant grumblings about a map that was printed wrong, and very unsurprisingly we were pretty much the last car to arrive. Again, it wasn’t more than a handful of minutes spent waiting before the bridal party arrived and the party got underway, so at least I can say my bad sense of direction saved us from a lot of hanging around and wasting time then! :)

200 guests, an open bar, a narrow rectangular venue and very wealthy parents make for one hell of a party, and it wasn’t long before everyone was having a good time. The venue, although not my first choice in terms of layout, looked gorgeous with all the flowing drapes, simplistic table decorations detailed little touches and actually ended up comfortably seating all 200 guests, though we were all stretched out in a long column with the bridal table sitting slap band in the middle of the hall while the ‘dance floor’ and music equipment were all the way to the back of the room. Amazingly enough, Chantelle and I actually scored a seat at the best table in the venue, right across the main table, and we were perfectly placed for the tons of speeches that were still to happen.

The Ellenbergers are a popular family and the amount of people there from all walks of life were quite staggering, but Albert managed to hold his own by having a lot of rather famous faces from South African acting and TV circles appear as well, so we were a pretty mixed bunch that eventually sat down and got prepared for the speeches part of the evening. Thankfully, the MC for the night did a wonderful job in telling stories and keeping us entertained, and I must say that this is one of the few weddings where almost each and every speech was well done and fun to listen to. Hell, even Andy stepped up to the plate and said a few things, a miracle for her who surprisingly hates talking to a crowd (let alone appear on a stage!).

However, receptions are about the food, and the staff at Del Vera did not disappoint, producing the best food that I’ve ever tasted at a wedding, with the main buffet featuring fish, chicken, lamb, veggies, the lot! Pudding was a delicious, but at that stage of the evening my rather sick stomach couldn’t really handle it anymore, so I pretty much only got to mournfully nibble at it. (Okay, admittedly I didn’t like the starters, but apparently Albert and I were the only two who didn’t.)

Whammy and his friend provided some entertainment for us in the form of guitar and some singing, and after that, the dance floor was open and everyone was soon jiving to a wonderful music choice straight out of the 70s and 80s. Regretfully, Chantelle and I could only step out on the dance floor for very short bouts at a time, thanks to my ever increasing nausea and stomach complaints and her ever present headache from hell, and it was with a very heavy heart that we two ‘sicklings’ caved in around 23:00 and was forced to bade Andrea and the rest of the gang farewell and head back to Gordon’s Bay to try and get some rest and hopefully recover from our ailments. :(

So we missed the tossing of the garter and bouquet and the cutting of the cake, but it was even more of a pity because we couldn’t enjoy the party as much as we wanted to, especially as we had been eagerly awaiting this big event for so, so long now, but at least Andrea and Albert had a fantastic day of which the both of them can be very proud of and in the typical Ellenberger fashion – Saturday was indeed a party to remember!

P.S. At least I didn’t get us lost on the way home that night – but that could be because Chantelle wasn’t listening to my directions!

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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.