Equestrian weddings

Equine weddings often lend themselves to rustic charm

Equine weddings often lend themselves to rustic charm

If you’re like many horse lovers, it’s likely that most of your world revolves around these amazing animals. Your social time is dominated by horse talk, your weekends are spent at the stables, your disposable income is dedicated to tack shopping …

No surprise then that if you’re planning a wedding, you’ve considered including horses at some level. Equestrians are a discerning bunch though. HQ went on a mission to track down information on trends, decor and venues that fit the bill.

Sensible precautions

HQ's Bronwen Strydom displays her wedding footwear

HQ’s Bronwen Strydom displays her wedding footwear

Start by looking at the practicalities, says Heleen Le Roux at Lezar Opstal in Heidelberg. The venue offers specialised equine wedding services for horse lovers and Heleen has valuable advice to share to ensure your day is safe as well as joyful. “Our Friesians are accustomed to the show circuit where they have been ridden in full dress,” she explains, “but many horses are not used to riders in ornate dresses. I generally advise my brides to opt for a simple, classical style to avoid mishap.” Closed shoes are also a good idea if you hope to avoid bruised toes.

Heleen suggests that brides settle for in-hand photos, but for those who are determined to have their wedding photos on horseback, she says preparation is key. “If you’re not an experienced rider, it’s probably not a good idea to take mounted photos in your wedding dress.”

She has other common sense tips to benefit guests: “I tell all our brides to stock up on antihistamines in case anyone is allergic.” As an option while the bride and groom are having photos taken, the venue provides entertainment with a Friesian long-lining display while guests enjoy cocktails and snacks – a good idea for couples keen to add a little extra touch to their big day.

Tack can form a lovely backdrop - the tack room at Lezar Opstal is a popular venue

Tack can form a lovely backdrop – the tack room at Lezar Opstal is a popular venue

Enter at A

Couples who plan their wedding at Destalsmit are given a tour of the venue, after which a plan for the day will be communicated in writing. Lizelle says this is useful because it avoids confusion down the line, and also outlines clearly what can and can’t be done. Fortunately equestrians will have a better idea of what can be expected when working with horses.

The venue provides receptions in the stableyard surrounded by horses, with photo opportunities in the neighbouring paddocks for brides who want to take photos with the horses, or even on horseback. Lizelle cautions on the type of dresses that will suit these images – a glimpse of garter may be saucy, but an eyeful of knickers is simply unsophisticated! Dressage lovers will be delighted at the prospect of meeting their groom at X – Destalsmit rolls a red carpet down the dressage arena for the occasion.

Most venue organisers will opt to include notices advising non-horsey guests on how to feed treats to horses – nipped fingers can put a damper on festive occasions.

Smart ideas

Friesians are highly photogenic

Friesians are highly photogenic

The wedding of your dreams doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg – try these tips to keep things on budget so you can use your hard-earned cash for something important in your future life together … like a new saddle!

  • Venue – If you’d love to have your own horse at your wedding, you may struggle to find a venue that will accommodate him. If you’re lucky enough to stable at a beautiful yard, why not negotiate to have your special day there? Exchange vows in a shady spot under the trees and hold your reception in the stableyard or barn.
  • Decor – Straw bales make inexpensive seating for al fresco dining, and rows of tack adorned with flowers provides a beautiful, budget-friendly backdrop.
  • Flowers – Bundles of wheat tied with ribbons are cost-effective flower arrangements, while you can carry the theme through to your own bouquet by adding roses or lilies to the mix.
  • Dress – Obviously you’re not going to cut costs on your wedding dress – it is, after all, your big day! But if you’re planning to run through the fields with your horse, why not don a pair of funky Western boots for the occasion?
  • Flower girl? How about a flower pony … complete with ribbons in his mane and rings attached to his bridle

On wheels

i phone 1001We spoke to Shirley Sadleir at Chartwell Carriages, who says that most of her brides are not actually horse people and many dream of arriving at their wedding in a white pumpkin carriage. Actual equestrians will very likely have different priorities. “When you book a carriage for the wedding, consider the distance that needs to be travelled and the traffic en route,” she says. Ask to see the carriage and horses to ensure that they are in good condition, and also to check that the service provider is experienced in carriage driving. “Find someone who’s been in business for a while and has a reputation for being reliable – you want to be sure they’ll arrive on time for your big day!”

Whether you walk down the aisle on the arm of your father, or arrive leading a plump pair of ponies, marriage is a partnership that goes beyond the wedding day. Fortunately, as a horse rider, you know all about patience, relationship-building … and when to use a whip!

Text: Brigitte Billings

The full article appears in the October issue of HQ.