Sasha-Lee and Megan Watling have defied the religious bigotry of the Beloftebos wedding venue (photo: Kirsten Goslett Photography)
The same-sex couple who were infamously turned away by the homophobic Beloftebos wedding venue have finally exchanged their marriage vows.
Sasha-Lee and Megan Watling tied the knot on 15 December in an intimate ceremony attended by close family and friends in Natte Valleij, Klapmuts in the Western Cape.
Although they initially planned a bigger wedding, they opted for a smaller event in light of the ongoing pandemic and their eagerness to be married.
The couple of eight years described the day as “nothing short of a magical fairytale” and “a beautiful and authentic celebration” of their love.
Megan told MambaOnline that her favourite part of the wedding was her first look at her bride. “We had spent so much of the morning away from one another that by the time I got to see Sash for the first time, I was just overcome with emotions. It was so special.”
For Sasha-Lee, it “was being able to share our story and exchange our vows to love one another unapologetically for the rest of our lives in front of everyone, without shame or fear,” especially “after spending so many years having to hide our love.”
The couple reflected on the fact that this expression of their love was for a long time forbidden in law and by societal norms. “We commend those who fought for marriage equality, and we acknowledge the pain of those before us who society and law did not afford this opportunity,” they said.
They also thanked the service providers that came forward, stood against the wedding industry’s bigotry, and offered their services in reparation for their experience and to make their day extra special.
In January 2020, the women made headlines after they spoke out when they were humiliatingly rejected by the Beloftebos wedding venue in Stanford. The owners, Coia and Andries de Villiers, said they could not allow same-sex weddings on the premises because of their Christian beliefs.
“Unfortunately, many in our society still wish to perpetuate the barbarism of the past, hiding behind their religion as an excuse for bigotry, as we found out personally when the management of Beloftebos found our love so objectionable that they wouldn’t even supply us with a price list to use their venue,” said Sasha-Lee and Megan.
They confirmed that they will go ahead with their case against Beloftebos in the Equality Court and plan to apply for a court date in January. They also accused the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) of intending to “abandon” its own case against the venue.
In November, Commissioner André Gaum told the Cape Argus that the SAHRC was considering settling the matter rather than going to court.
“This [possible] settlement is sought without consultation with any of the complainants nor notifying any of the applicants in the matter,” said the women. “This would have been shocking, but the truth is that this is in line with [the SAHRC’s] behaviour towards the LGBTQIA+ community.”
The couple have been longstanding critics of the SAHRC’s handling of the case, accusing the commission of failing to take action against the venue for years, despite an initial complaint by another same-sex couple as far back as 2017.
“The SAHRC does not represent or speak for us and does not have the interests of the LGBTQIA+ community at heart,” Sasha-Lee and Megan asserted.
Thankfully, their experience of being discriminated against by Beloftebos did not taint their wedding day. “It didn’t even cross our minds! Their bigotry was totally washed away by the love we have for one another,” said Megan.
Sasha-Lee added: “We hope that no queer couple will need to experience anything but love and acceptance and magic in their journey to marriage. All love is the same, and all love should be celebrated.”