• It could have been a clash of cultures, but when a spirited Afrikaans bride wed her Brazilian Catholic husband, the result was a seamless marriage of tastes



    “I’m seeing a new generation of couples who love the institution of marriage, but want something fresh and new. With this wedding I wanted something quite radical and over the top, although we also needed to consider the more conservative Catholic component.” This was the challenge presented to Otto de Jager, wedding and event co-ordinator extraordinaire, when Paula Heyneman and Caio Facci asked him to plan their special day. “A wedding is a very big thing,” says Otto. “You’re responsible for people’s memories, so you need to get everything just right.”

    Otto, who organises up to 60 weddings a year, describes Paula as an adventurous bride, a trait which he adores in a client. She loved his idea of drawing creative inspiration from the dark, brooding romance of the renaissance era. “I thought it could look like something from an Anne Rice novel,” he says. The couple did not have a Catholic service. Instead they married at Parkview Presbyterian Church in a ceremony that was traditional, although not everything conformed to the norm.

    Paula wore a strapless cream dress and carried a sweep of indigenous greenery rather than a classical bouquet, and her bridesmaids were draped in elegant black. After the ceremony, guests made their way to a penthouse apartment in inner-city Johannesburg, which Otto dressed for the theme with baroque silk cushions, antique books, teak, silver and bone. Instead of frilly blossoms, he created pockets of cool colour with magnolia leaves, orchids, crab apples and berries.

    Rooms were scented with fragrant black candles. “I always try to make an event full of surprises in a way that isn’t rehearsed,” says Otto. Two magical touches that got everyone talking were a lone saxophonist on the balcony and a spray of iridescent fireworks lighting up the night sky. Callie Hortnady was responsible for an “opulent yet simple” array of cocktail foods. In the early evening guests were treated to delicate canapés, including springbok carpaccio twirled into phyllo cornets with Elgin apple jelly; artichoke risotto balls with artichoke paste and Thai fish cakes with cucumber relish.

    After the speeches, a velvet-covered table was loaded with cheeses, fruits, preserves and rare sliced peppered fillet with Béarnaise sauce and horseradish. In the study, guests were indulged with cigars and liqueurs. Considering the evening’s dreamy decadence, does Otto de Jager Events cater only to the rich or famous? “We don’t request your latest bank statement before putting together a quotation,” he laughs. “We listen to the client and then present them with a figure that we feel they will be comfortable with, and one with which we feel we can realistically create their fantasy. It has been a slow start to the year with the economic crisis, but people don’t want to stop celebrating. Perhaps they are just more conscious of value and they want to know that their money is well spent by people they trust.”

    Otto adds that his clients are happy to pay for creative flair. “We’re always working to think outside the box. The problem I find with the wedding and events industry is that there are too many people following one recipe. I chat to my clients about references and ideas and then stretch it out as big as possible, exploring new territory every time. That way the client is always delivered more than they expect. I like to think we are creators, not followers.”