Stanton Ashley De Ruiter and Jaco Botha
An astonishing 15 gay and lesbian couples tied the knot today in Knysna, in the first mass gay wedding to be held in Africa.
The festive event was part of the 16th Pink Loerie Mardi Gras & Arts Festival and aimed to celebrate not only the couples’ nuptials but also marriage equality in South Africa.
The grooms and brides, who were joined by around 200 friends and family, had won a wedding package, which included dresses and suits, rings, photography and a weekend honeymoon.
The ceremony at the Villa Castollini hotel was overseen by the Executive Mayor of Knysna, Georlene Wolmarans, and officiated by Minister Andre Miller of the Reforming Church.
“The couples looked stunning, all of them,” Mayor Wolmarans told Umhlobo Wenene FM. She said she was delighted by the diversity of the participants who represented the rainbow nation.
“You know, there are a lot of religious people in Knysna who are against this, but the Constitution makes provision for everybody and we must accept this,” she added.
The 15 couples, with stylist Bernard Buys
Earlier in the week, we reported that a woman from the neighbouring town of George was being taken to the Equality Court over Facebook comments in which she described the Pink Loerie Festival and the mass wedding as a “curse” on the region.
Despite the wet and cold weather, the event went off without a hitch, said Pink Loerie Co-ordinator John O’Neil. “If it rains on your wedding it’s a blessing,” he laughed.
Jaco Botha and Stanton Ashley De Ruiter, a couple of just over a year, were among those who got married.
“We feel simply feel blessed and grateful,” Botha told Mambaonline. He explained that they got engaged in January and only planned to tie the knot in 2020 but then the opportunity to enter the competition came up.
“We saw it as a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said De Ruiter. “Our amazing wish and luck came true and we made history and shared this amazing important day with our community and the world.”
Botha added: “The ceremony was beautiful, exquisite and special. From the decor to the suits, everything was perfect. We are proud.”
While most of the couples were newlyweds, some used the event to renew their vows. These included Knysna’s Deputy Mayor Esme Edge and her wife, advocate Julie Seton, as well as Vernon and Tony Gibbs-Hall; the first same-sex couple to legally wed in South Africa, back in December 2006.
South Africa remains the only country on the continent to have marriage rights for its gay and lesbian citizens. The Pink Loerie Mardi Gras & Arts Festival runs until Sunday.