If you don’t know everyone at your wedding you’re probably George and Amal Clooney, right? Wrong. Here electrical engineer JANE WYNGAARD (27) tells KATY MACDONALD why she and her computer programmer husband Sebastian (26) invited people they had never met to their wedding in Cape Town…

Jane Wyngaard and her husband Sebastian made room at their wedding for some of Cape Town’s less fortunate people.  |  Photo: Johan de Meyer

‘Shortly before my wedding day, I started to think, ‘What on earth have we done?’ The reason was not the obvious one. Rather, it was that my fiancé Sebastian and I had encouraged our friends to invite an extra guest if they wanted to.

The idea was that this guest be someone less fortunate than themselves – maybe the person who cleaned their house, or someone who had been coming to their house for years to ask for clothing, or the guy they took leftovers to under the bridge.

Our hope was that it would be an opportunity for people to just enjoy a party, but more importantly a chance for our friends to hang out with their acquaintances, and grow relationships in a relaxed context they might not often have.

centre of attention

The idea came from a section of scripture where Jesus is at a rich man’s party and, in his usual frank manner, suggests: ‘When you have a party, invite the poor, the disabled, the lame and the blind.’ I started thinking about it in the context of our wedding. Neither of us is that keen on being the centre of attention (though you can’t really get away from that at your wedding!), but with this, maybe we could make the party into something cooler that might have more meaning – and be loads more fun.

Some of our friends declined to invite an extra person because they were worried it would create dependence. Others thought it was very patronising. I really understand that, and worried about it myself. But we felt led to be doing this, and just had to trust our extra guests wouldn’t feel that way. Luckily, some of our friends loved the idea and jumped right in!

The wedding was on Easter Monday at Maynardville, an outdoors theatre in Cape Town where Shakespearean plays are performed every year. It rained solidly the previous two days so we couldn’t finish setting up till the day itself. But the day dawned dry, and we were thrilled and amazed when friends and family pitched in at the crack of dawn to help finish things off.

hanging out

We had a variety of extra guests. There were ex-prisoners from Pollsmoor Prison who had a surprise reunion, a woman involved in prostitution, children from an informal settlement, and a couple of guys who sleep in Wynberg Park who were just walking by! Perhaps 40 of our total of 300 guests were extras invited by our friends. We seated our friends with their own guests. The feedback they have given us since is that they loved the break from tradition, and hanging out with their own individual guests.

We felt so touched that our extra guests took the brave step of attending something so unknown, and came up to hug and congratulate us so enthusiastically and generously. It really made the day for us. So, the introvert couple had a massive party which we thoroughly enjoyed thanks to all our amazing guests. I’m so glad I didn’t get cold feet!’

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