Having a wedding reception on a beautiful wine farm might feel like a modern trend, but actually in Cape history it is where most people would have hosted their reception – at their own homestead. Of all the social and family occasions it was the wedding reception that was the most lavish.
At the Cape in yesteryear, once a couple publically announced they were to marry, the festivities began. Parents of the bride would welcome well wishers at their home with a selection of pastries such as melktert, koeksisters, soetkoekies and preserved figs and jam tarts amongst other delights.
The engagement was short with the wedding most often taking place on the third Sunday afternoon after the wedding announcement. They didn’t have to wait a year like present brides to book a sought after venue!
On the night of the marriage a wedding dinner for invited guests was held at the bride’s parents house. The bridal couple would sit in the voorkamer beneath a large mirror decorated with a heart-shaped garland of flowers and ribbons and received congratulations from guests as they entered. A large glass goblet – the ‘love cup’ – would be filled to the brim with the best wine and passed among all those present for a sip to honour the newlyweds. Not only a great way to spread feelings of goodwill, but probably colds and flu too. Speeches and toasts would follow – some very long and jovial.
Amazing how some traditions stay the same and others change. I read an anecdote from a history of wedding cakes that said the wedding cake was originally broken over the bride’s head. It’s not too difficult to imagine why that might have gone out of fashion.
Next, all the dishes were laid to the table in one go, rather than sitting through courses. You could expect to find roast suckling pigs with orange-stuffed mouths placed at either end of the table. A rather impressive display, although our vegetarian, vegan and pescatarian friends would no doubt perish the thought. A fragrant stuffing mix of minced meat, cloves, coriander and vinegar among other ingredients would have gotten all the guest’s tastebuds working.
At the turn of the 19th century Lady Anne Barnard described some of the other dishes served at a wedding feast: Cape ham, turkeys, ducks, chicken, geese, venison, partridges, mutton, fish (a most veritable carnivorous delight!), as well as vegetables, stewed beans, cabbage and various pastries and fruit. Otto Mentzel describes no less than 52 different kinds of food at a Cape wedding reception he attended in the early 18th century. Guests didn’t sit around the table, but on chairs arranged along the walls. Custom required the men to serve the ladies, and had they wanted second helpings they would fetch it themselves. Slave orchestras were known to play at weddings and slaves would also serve the guests wine and beer, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and almond milk.
However much has changed or doesn’t change at the Cape wedding reception you can rest assured that we will continue to gather around good food and good wine to celebrate the bringing together of two people and their families. Perhaps sharing a meal always has been a metaphor for sharing lives and love, certainly in my household it still is.
If you’d like to carry on the tradition of having your wedding ceremony and reception on the Solms-Delta wine estate but with all the modern conveniences and conventions, contact email@example.com or phone 021 8743937.
Research from Renata Coetzee’s ‘The South African Culinary Tradition’. 1977. A fascinating time travel into our culinary past!Subscribe to RSS Feed