Four weddings and a funeral


Four weddings and a funeral

When HERMAN LATEGAN watched the 1994 movie again recently, it reminded him of a quartet of nuptials and a sad farewell he has attended over the years.


THE wedding season is apparently over at the end of this month. So says a friend who started out as a teacher, earned very little, then decided to become a wedding planner.

It was a financial revelation; scores of people spend fortunes on their weddings. She is almost fully booked until 2027. It reminded me of the many weddings I have attended over the decades.

Unfortunately, many of those couples who were so happy on their wedding days later separated amid noisy mutual hostility. Is something small and intimate not more fitting perhaps, especially in these times of paucity? Do more with less.

The classiest weddings I've heard of are those where gay couples go so overboard that the event resembles an international opera on the stage of La Scala: thousands of fresh, hand-picked flowers, lavish costumes (pardon me, clothes), avant-garde music (or sakkie-sakkie), haute cuisine with bubbling foam and steam, all to the superlative degree of comparison.

My wedding planner friend tells me the Boere-queens from the countryside, in particular, like to host huge weddings in the winelands. One couple dramatically arrived in an eggbeater (helicopter) while a large orchestra played the Triumphal March from Aida.

Well, every bird probably sings the tune it is beaked for.

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Weddings in other countries

Across the world there are wedding rituals that are less complicated but still unusual. The website says some newlyweds in Germany have to saw through a large log while their guests look on. The act symbolises the couple's ability to overcome obstacles and work as a team.

At Swedish weddings, if the groom leaves the room, all the male guests are allowed to kiss the bride, and upon the bride leaving her seat, the female guests can line up to kiss the groom. This fun tradition is a lighthearted way for guests to interact with the newlyweds. How true this is and how something like that works out in the end is a mystery;  things can get grossly out of hand.

In Greece it is common for wedding guests to break dishes during the reception to ward off evil spirits and bring happiness to the newlyweds. The couple then clean up the broken pieces together, which serves as a metaphor for pulling the donkey cart over the hill.

Wedding 1

And so I recall one of the strangest and most spectacular weddings I have attended. We could call her Carmen, she was young and blonde, and we worked together at the glossy magazine Cape Style.

Carmen was the chief candidate for conducting interviews with famous men such as Richard Branson. Her long legs, expensive clothes, subtle flirting, alert brain and interesting writing style were a deadly combination. She could draw the biggest secrets from the superstars.

She met a charming blond man, a real rider in the wind, who at the time was a presenter on the TV show Top Billing. They wanted to get on with getting married, since they had plans to emigrate to New Zealand.

It was winter, they were in a hurry, so they were quickly married (outside the wedding season). The event was held in the pastiche Lichtenstein Castle in Hout Bay.

It is high on the mountainside and reminds me of the song Over at the Frankenstein Place from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The night was dark when we got there, and the heavenly waters merciless.

We tried to drive up the road towards the castle's flickering lights but torrents of water flowed down like a river. The car was  left at the bottom of the road and we walked up. Because it hadn't looked like rain earlier, there was no umbrella.

We had to lean into the wind and rain, up the hill, and there was no light to illuminate the path. Finally, wet as if we had just been rescued from the roughest seas, we reached the large front door.

I had to use my shoulder to get it open and it slammed shut behind us. There were numerous stairs down to the great banquet which was already in full swing, with a band.

The gorgeous bride and groom sparkled as if it was a night at the Oscars. Sitting next to me was none other than filmmaker Dirk de Villiers (RIP).

He was a large man with no frills, and I was nervous to be beside him. The lovestruck couple slugged it out on the dance floor while it was all lightning, thunder and rain outside.

The lights flickered, candle flames fluttered, the heavy front door creaked open and a breeze blew down the stairs and lifted the tablecloths. By this time Dirk had filled my glass of red wine so many times that I was walking on my front teeth.

I told my friend I had to get out of there, things were too wild, what with the castle and all the surrealism. We went up the endless stairs and back outside, where it was still raining. When we got into the car in a daze, the last thing we heard, apart from the storm, was Volare by Dean Martin.

“Have I just dreamt this or did I make it all up?" I asked my friend as we drove past the black sea and over the hill. “No," he replied. The wipers moved rhythmically from left to right.

We drove back in silence.

Wedding 2

The next wedding was also that of two journalists, I won't mention names. They held the ceremony in Long Street in a popular restaurant. There were music journalists, old rockers, a few people who seemed to have gone off life's track. Still, it was very jolly until the dancing started.

People ran inside because they thought the balcony was collapsing. It was an old building. That evening's spectacle arose when a man who had been with his life partner for years, passionately and in front of everyone started courting the owner of a well-known bohemian art gallery. The new couple left and disappeared into Long Street.

His (now former) love stood to one side, put down his drink and looked at everybody in embarrassment. The soundtrack for that night was by Wet Wet Wet — Love Is All Around.

Wedding 3

By now I'm used to Table 13, as it is called. This is the table reserved for those rare cowpats, fruitcakes and oddballs who end up at weddings.

The reckless aunt with a temper and a love of stumbling sauces, the grumpy uncle who barks and keeps talking about hanskakies, and the LGBTQ entourage. My table did not disappoint.

There was a woman of a certain age across from me with a haircut dyed in shades of turkey red and sunsets. Her dress was blue-purple like a vervet monkey's nuts.

She was not shy to show some breast. She and her husband were bikers who regularly participated in the Buffalo Rally. He wore two earrings, and even though he was on the wrong side of an advanced age they suited him quite well. He had that Keith Richards feel to him.

We all had a great time cackling and crowing, but I hardly talked to the man sitting next to me, he had his back to me all the time. Later, he turned round and I noticed that the large buckle on the belt around his tight jeans was in the shape of a dragon.

I estimated him to be in his late seventies. He held out his hand and said, “Tommy. Tommy Dell.”

I thought he was joking and said: “Herman. Herman Mashaba.” It turned out he was the real McCoy.

Tommy Dell is one of the country's oldest and most famous country singers. When I couldn't sleep as a child, I listened to Keep it Country, presented by Lance James on Springbok Radio.

How can I forget Tommy Dell's hit Teddy Bear? Or his I Can't Stop Loving You? Even though I am sometimes lukewarm about country, I am quite attracted to the sweet melancholy of the genre.

Table 13 is not so unhappy or boring after all.

Wedding 4

Doria worked with me at a magazine. She was small and Davie was a big slob of a man. They had a snooker table in their living room where he sometimes played stark naked.

They, too, got married in Long Street at a time when techno was in vogue. What I keep in my memory about this wedding is Doria slowly walking down a staircase in her long dress to the beat of loud music from somewhere else. Was it Café del Mar, Moby, Daft Punk? Maybe it was B.B.E.'s Seven Days and One Week.

Aunts and uncles from the countryside (one with a pipe and a hat), relatives of Doria, stared at everything with their mouths open. In the words of the actor Shirley MacLaine: “Of course, we're all a mass of contradictions."


It was late at night and they were driving in their little Renault in Camps Bay. No one really knew what happened.

There was a collision with another car. He died instantly, she died a few days later in hospital. It was a shock as their wedding was just a few months earlier.

Doria and Davie's service was held in the Methodist church on Greenmarket Square. It is walking distance from where they got married.

The church was full and in front were two large screens with pictures of their faces. Friends and family made speeches.

After the service, people walked out in silence, a very different atmosphere from that of their wedding. At the office, I often walked past Doria's empty desk.

One day, someone arrived to collect her belongings. And then she was gone. In the last words of Karel Schoeman: “That's enough now."

When I think of Doria and our times together, the soundtrack in my memory is by Moby: Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?

♦ VWB ♦

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