Word travelled fast about the gorgeous glass ‘cathedral’ that was erected on Blaauwklippen last year specifically to host unforgettable fantasy weddings. And in whatever over-the-top language you may have received the news, it would still have failed to describe the magic of being at an event celebrated in this glass edifice.
Situated a little distance from the main buildings of this historical estate on Route 44 outside Stellenbosch, the cathedral’s immediate surroundings may come as a surprise. “It was a conscious decision to position the cathedral in the tall, wild grass away from the main buildings. This way it blends in with the surroundings, rather than stands out,” explains Hannes Maritz of Kraak, who is responsible for creative development on Blaauwklippen.
“The glass cathedral is part of reimagining Blaauwklippen. This is the second oldest wine farm in the country, there’s a lot of heritage here and we want to protect that. But we also want to renew, refresh and modernise, and the glass house demonstrates that very well: it’s earthy, luxurious, elegant, modern, unpretentious and versatile,” he says. But that’s not all there is to this Stellenbosch Winelands institution, not by a long shot.
“We can make anything happen for you. When you get married here, the estate is yours. There are so many amazing and interesting spots and you can use them all or just some of them. Any of these spaces can be transformed into whatever theme or vibe you can imagine,” continues Hannes. “That way, your wedding day can be a journey of separate surprising celebrations in different venues rather than just one function. If one event is your choice, however, we’ll work our magic just as well. You name it, we do it!”
Walking with Hannes around the estate reveals a variety of potential celebratory spots that is almost overwhelming. Huge old trees umbrella over open spaces that beg to be transformed into stunning venues for a special occasion. Different buildings present further options. “We’re currently renovating some of the buildings to improve the flow on the farm,” he explains. “We’ve also unearthed the old swimming pool and are recreating the wisteria arch and garden leading up to it. This venue will be ideal for more informal festivities, high teas or even a braai the evening before a wedding.”
He adds that while the beautiful old manor house was not in use for some time, its doors have been opened again and new life breathed into the thick walls and wide, yellowwood floorboards. Together with the Jonkershuis, it houses the 10 rooms where the bridal couple and 18 guests can stay during a wedding weekend. Renewal is being carried out here not only to restore the buildings to their former stately glory, but to refresh them with some contemporary touches as well. The Bistro will also receive a makeover, with care being taken to protect its history and old-world charm.
Wherever you look at Blaauwklippen, a potential venue for a wedding emerges: a stoep, garden corner, courtyard, hall, lawn or merely a spot in the shade. If you can imagine it, Blaauwklippen can do it.
Hannes points out a few options. One can, for example, have the wedding ceremony in the shade of age-old trees while the final rays of the afternoon sun play through the leaves, directing attention to the joyful exchange of wedding vows below.
After friends and family have blessed the newlyweds with, say, fresh rosemary or lavender ‘confetti’, they make their way to where a spread of drinks and elegant canapés await in any of the areas in the current bistro … or perhaps in the courtyard. Under a huge glass roof – anticipating the cathedral, the final stop of the celebratory journey – a new world with hints of Italy opens up in the piazza. If terracotta, baskets, bricks and rough paving seem a tad too rustic, you obviously haven’t experienced an event where the Kraak team has added its original touch. Think silver platters hanging from the roof; long tables dressed in white; flowers, flowers and more flowers offsetting an earthy space with elegance, even glamour, and without losing the convivial atmosphere but rather adding to it. “Here we like to do something impactful but focused mainly in the middle,” says Hannes. He clearly loves every space at Blaauwklippen and sees the infinite potential in each one.
After a drink and a bite to eat as they wait for the wedding couple to join the party again, the guests may be invited to enter a narrow passage that gives no indication of where it leads. Emerging outside again with great anticipation, they pass a giant cork oak, marvelling at its incredible bark, and gather again for a top-up of bubbly. Under the enormous trees, nothing more is needed to enhance the feeling of a fairy garden, except perhaps some whimsical lighting. Draining their champagne flutes, the guests then embark on the final, and most surprising, leg of the celebration journey.
Following a grass pathway out from under the huge old branches, the company only has to look up and be amazed. The glass cathedral, in all its breathtaking glory, stands shimmering against the backdrop of the majestic Stellenbosch mountains, now deep blue and barely distinguishable from the night sky. Brimming with expectation as they walk along the simple path, the guests may pass a violinist, a pianist perhaps, even a small orchestra or a singer, performing from small platforms scattered in the wild grass. If this sounds too out-of-this-world, the cathedral itself is even more so. Over-the-top opulence, sheer elegance, unbridled fun – separately or in combination they harmonise into unforgettable perfection. Mesmerising … there’s simply no other word.
Inside, tables can be arranged, set and decorated to suit any couple’s wildest imaginings, without compromising on the quality of extras like music, sound and dance space. Bathrooms are old wine tanks reinvented so that nothing interferes with the beauty of the glass cathedral. Any menu the couple desires can be prepared and served by the experienced and competent Blaauwklippen staff.
Yes, those stories about the magnificence of the glass cathedral at Blaauwklippen are all true but not the whole truth. Reality can be far-fetched, even bordering on fantasy; you may even start believing in fairy tales again.
80 to 200 guests can be accommodated for weddings, conferences, picnics, long-table evenings, kitchen teas and other
festivities and events.
20 wedding guests can stay in 10 double rooms, which are not otherwise available for outside guests.
Book at least six to 12 months in advance, as the glass cathedral is extremely popular.
Individuals, event planners or wedding co-ordinators interested in booking celebrations at Blaauwklippen, are welcome to view the venues on request.
Contact Gillian Adams on 021 880 0133 or events@blaauWklippen.com to set the wheels of magic in motion.