Twelve couples said “I do” at the quaint Garrison Church on Robben Island on Valentine’s Day last week.
This is the 18th year that the Robben Island Museum and the Department of Home Affairs have held weddings on the island.
The blushing brides and their grooms set sail from the museum at the V&A Waterfront, dressed to the nines and looking like they had all been newly struck by Cupid’s arrow.
Zanele Nkalweni and Simphiwe Notyawana, of Gugulethu, wore traditional Xhosa attire.
Simphiwe popped the question to Zanele on her birthday on June 6 last year… just four months after they met.
“We first celebrated my birthday, and at the end, he proposed. He made my birthday very special for me,” she said.
“We had the traditional wedding in the Eastern Cape in September last year, and I heard about the Robben Island weddings from my sister.”
Zanele said Simphiwe was “passionate, handsome and supportive” and she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. “I am very excited to be getting married today, and it’s wonderful to have a partner like him.”
Chanelle Goschen and Sean Dearling, of Durbanville, were giddy with love as they boarded the ferry to Robben Island.
They have been together for 10 years and met in their hometown of Richard’s Bay.
“I’m an attorney, and I have studied Madiba and his work, so getting married here is significant for me,” she said. “This has been an amazing experience, and I cannot wait to get married.”
Sean said he had known the moment he had met Chanelle that the two of them would eventually walk down the aisle.
They will spend their honeymoon in Hermanus.
Kuils River couple Veronica Reay and Liaan Paulsen, who got engaged seven years ago, said their honesty and openness with each other was the secret to the success of their partnership.
Veronica said she had thought “wow!” when she had first set eyes on Liaan, and she loved it when he made her laugh.
“We are both in our forties and getting married when you are older means you are more responsible about your love. I think sometimes, with people who are younger they just think about the ‘here and now’ and not long-term.”
Liaan said it was “very special” for them to get married on Robben Island because his father, Kenny, had once worked there.
Creshenda Liedeman and Samrico van der Merwe, of Mamre, were the 11th couple to tie the knot. Their romance blossomed from childhood friendship to love.
“We were friends, since we were 13 years old. We had a good understanding as friends, and that blossomed into romantic love. I am very excited to get married on Robben Island, and I am looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him,” she gushed.
Lezanne Love and Igsaan Sandan, of Atlantis, were joined by their two-year-old son, Troy Love. They told how they had met at their local library in 2005.
Igsaan said he was excited and nervous “at the same time” about getting married to the woman of his dreams.
Lezanne said love and understanding had kept them together.
Out-of-townersMatshidiso MadikgetlaandItumeleng Ramohale, of Rustenburg, were the seventh couple to get hitched on the island.
Matshidiso said the day was very special for him as both he and his daughter, Rerapetse, 8, celebrated their birthdays on Valentine’s Day.
“We met in 2006, and I paid the lobola in 2009 and waited for the right moment to get married. We were supposed to get married three years ago but postponed it. Getting married on Robben Island is very special to us because this year our late president, Nelson Mandela, would have turned 100 years old,” he said.
Noxolo Madola and Mzuvuyo Bidi, of Macassar, have been together since 2015 when they met at Khayelitsha Primary School, the school Mzuvuyo teaches at.
Noxolo said it was “love at first sight” for her. “He is an honest, kind and supportive man. He also loves singing to me and his pet name for me is ‘lovey’.”
Mzuvuyo was excited to marry his partner and said: “I can’t wait for her to be my wife. I am over the moon. She is amazing and everything I have ever wanted in a partner.”
Robben Island Museum executive manager Gershon Manana told the couples: “You have selected a unique and very special place to get married, a World Heritage Site, a place we all associate with the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, which is something marriage surely needs.”
Home Affairs minister Ayanda Dlodlo, who was also at the event, said: “As a newly married person myself, my wish for you is that your honeymoon never ends until ‘death do you part’.”