We started our search for a wedding venue in September 2017. As our families live in Hermanus we were keen to choose a venue in or close to Hermanus which could accommodate +/- 120 people and where we could have both the ceremony and reception. The first time we went to see Moody Lagoon, it was still very much in the process of being built. With that being said, however, it was immediately clear that it was going to be the most beautiful venue and we decided then and there (amongst cement bags and builders) that we were going to book to have our wedding there the following year.
Dealing with the team at Benguela (led by Leila Bardien) was an absolute dream. What was especially great was that they shared our excitement and enthusiasm for the day, which made the stress of organising a wedding so much more manageable. The biggest concern for my husband and I was the fact that we are based in the Cayman Islands and given the time difference and distance, communication can be very tricky. Due to work commitments, we also did not make it back to South Africa until two weeks before the wedding! Leila, however, took this in her stride and from about 6 months out, suggested that we set up monthly meetings to discuss the wedding details. As our parents are based in Hermanus, our mothers attended these on our behalf but Leila always made a point of circling back with us via email or Skype to go over what was discussed and ensure that we were all on board and up to speed. When we finally arrived back in South Africa, Leila and her team met with us straight away (and numerous times afterwards) to iron out all the final details- this was also the first time we had seen the completed restaurant and courtyard area, and we were absolutely blown away!
We worked on a minimum spend with Benguela which covered all the food, and wine for the evening, as well as the use of the venue, cutlery, crockery, glassware, linen etc. I cannot stress enough what excellent value for money we received from Benguela. This arrangement also made our lives so much easier as we did not need to rent a single thing from an external supplier- everything we needed was already there. We had initially planned and budgeted to use a wedding planner but given the fantastic facilities already available at Benguela and the phenomenal organisational skills of Leila and her team, we only ended up needing a single coordinator for the day. The "coordinator" was actually only a family friend (and a guest at the wedding) who offered to be at Benguela early to assist with the final set up. Despite the fact that the wedding started at 4pm in the afternoon, the restaurant did not close and served lunch to the public as normal. While we were initially worried about this and how it would affect the timing of the setup of the restaurant for the reception and the ceremony, this didn't impact us what so ever. Benguela generously allowed my husband's aunt (who has a wedding flower and decor business) to start the floral arrangements the day before in a separate room. Following lunch time service, Leila and her team worked flat out to clean and set up the restaurant and courtyard and the end result was simply stunning!
We were also completely blown away by the food and wine that was served. While we had the option of a formal three course sit down meal, we decided to go with a more informal option of having a large harvest table accompanied with canapes for starters in the courtyard, followed by a sit down main course and dessert. We were also keen to minimise waste as far as possible so we elected to offer one main course to all our guests, with a separate option available for vegetarians and vegans only. I think the food was one of the highlights of the wedding- Chef Annie used local, seasonal produce and our guests have not stopped raving about it. Chef Annie also made our wedding cake which not only looked like it belonged in a wedding magazine, but tasted absolutely incredible. Chef Annie also served "dessert trees" for dessert which were wire baobabs on which delicious bites of millionaires short bread, brownies and fudge (amongst other goodies) had been stuck- these were not only a fresh, novel idea, but delicious and really appropriate for the very laid back, social feeling of our wedding.
There were so many special extra touches that Leila and her team did for us- the harvest table and canapés were served to our guests while we were having photos taken. Leila, therefore, organised for a board of canapés and snacks and a bottle of champagne to be bought to Barend and I to enjoy while we were away. Benguela was also able to arrange for a gin bar to be available for our guests during canapés which was such a hit, as well as for kegs of Old Harbour Beer. Leila and her team were also especially accommodating of our 3rd party vendors (including a DJ, photographer and photobooth), who were all provided with a delicious dinner too. We also cannot rave enough about the wonderful service that the barmen and waiters provided on the night- they were all exceptionally professional, slick and welcoming!
From start to finish, we undoubtedly had one of the most stress free, happy experiences with the Benguela Cove team who were endlessly accommodating and flexible, and who were as excited for the day as we were. We truly had the wedding of our dreams at Benguela and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to other couples. We only wish we could do it all over again!
- Alex and Barend Oberholzer