In the airport on the way to S.Africa, my friend who was getting married got a surprising message from his soon-to-be fiancé. She didn’t want to plan a wedding in the 3 weeks he was there - it felt rushed and not enough time to get things in order. Technically they weren’t engaged yet so he had the ring, and wanted a proper proposal. The wedding was to follow accordingly.

She comes from a Muslim family that is heavily involved in a large Muslim community in Cape Town that his dad was also a member of. They both had Islam as a backdrop of their upbringings, although they are more Muslim-light. Each have children and will be blending families in the states in a couple months.

When in London my friend had scoped out a fabric store on Portobello Road in hopes of finding something to make a suit for tailoring in Cape Town. We found a quaint family owned shop, and in no time he found $100 worth of fine grey fabric that would make a slick looking suit.  In the end he ended up with a very well made and fitting suit, all for about $200 – along with a sweet story of how it all came to be.

The days that followed were filled with anticipation about the proposal. When would he do it, and where? Had the ring, check.  Suit fabric ready for the tailor, got it. All the other wedding day elements; venue, guest list, food, officiate, glassware & tables, decorations, etc. were all unknown. Whether the wedding was actually happening was up in the air the first week we were there.

With Valentines Day quickly approaching, my friend had a plan for the proposal. To avoid the crowds and cliché, he booked a lunch date at a nice restaurant and winery on Feb 13th. I was so excited for them, and was fun to have a secret. They came back hour’s later, champagne and wine tipsy, with huge grins and a beautiful moonstone rose-gold ring on her left finger. “She said yes,” he beamed.

The ring put wedding plans into motion. Her sister, brothers, sister-in-law, and a very high-energy mother stepped up and began planning for the festivities. The date was set for 10 days later, on a Sunday. It was a mid-day wedding held at a very large house at someone in the communities who has hosted the likes of 16 weddings over the years. After seeing the house I can see why, there’s so much outdoor space it would be a waste not to utilize it in that way.

The week to come was busy for the bride and her family for the most part; finding a wedding dress (!!) and the shoes. Food - what to cook, who would cook it, and the cost of it all. How many guests? All these decisions were made swiftly, and her sister offered to cook everything for around 70 guests. Fish would be the main course.

All this wedding planning and frenzy left me on my own, which allowed for solo exploration – something I really starting enjoying. Like I said before, days wandering alone – eating out, all didn’t appeal so much. I always believed it was more fun to have a partner in crime than go it solo while traveling. I’ve found both to be true, and a lot of the reasoning behind going on this long trip was to get that ‘time alone’ thing. What people who’d all traveled alone were raving about, I was curious. I wasn’t completely alone of course, we were had a place together, but it was fun to come back after being out and share our days.

Sunday morning came, and the wedding ceremony or “Nikah” was set for noon.  I went early to where the bride was getting ready to snap pictures. She was surprisingly calm, and the energy in the house was fairly laid back. She looked stunning in her 1930’s wedding dress found in a vintage shop that fit both her figure and style.

A traditional Muslim wedding ceremony consists of both parties signing a contract and a meal to follow. The bride sits on one side of the room and the groom faces her, a short sermon and reading from the Koran, an agreement to the “dowry” or dollar amount the groom agrees to pay the bride, signatures from male witnesses, and you’re pronounced husband and wife.

The wedding was lovely. Tables were set on the well-manicured lawn under huge trees and decorated with wildflowers. Men sat at separate tables, woman covered their heads with brightly colored scarfs. Funny how men and woman naturally tend to band together anyway in social situations, and it was nice to have ‘girl talk’ with the elders and other female members of the community.  The food was incredible, definitely up there with some of the best food I’ve had at a wedding. Her sister cooked, her best friend and nephews did the serving, and the dishes, tables, cups, and cutlery were rented. I did my part and cleaned for hours afterwards - quite an undertaking but fun to spend time with the girls.

Maybe planning a wedding in a really short amount of time is the best way. This experience proved this point, and in the end hopefully it turns out better than you could of imagined.