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Free State, Weddings

June 6, 2018

Corneel & Claire’s DIY Farm Wedding | Alpha Estate, Ladybrand

Where do I even begin… this isn’t just a story of two amazing people and a beautiful wedding… It’s a story about the full and crazy adventure that life can be when you walk with God and learn to put His plans above yours, and to really get to a place of trusting Him above everything else. There is just so much to tell and so many details of this special day and how it came to be, that I asked the bride herself to share her story with us as a guest blogger 🙂 I hope you enjoy Corneel and Claire’s story and wedding day as much as I did – it was truly a blessing to have me these amazing families and to have had the opportunity to capture such a unique and beautiful wedding day celebration! ♡


Here is their story as told by Claire:


On the morning of our wedding, I woke up early. After a few minutes spent just lying there, absorbing the moment and thanking God for the day to come, I opened my usual daily devotional and promptly burst into tears when I saw the verse of the day.


You have multiplied, O Lord my God

your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;

none can compare with you!

I will proclaim and tell of them,

yet they are more than can be told

PSALM 40:5

This verse not only epitomised the way I felt that morning, but it put into words how I had been feeling for the whole week leading up to the wedding. Even more than that, it describes perfectly my thoughts regarding the whole story of ‘us’. God has been so very faithful in so many more ways than we ever could have imagined – what else can I do but bear witness to His goodness? When Christine asked that I share the story of our wedding for her blog it was the first thing that popped into my head; this verse is where our story both begins and ends.

  It is always hard to know when I am asked to tell the story of how we met, where to start. After all, there really are three huge, complex parts to the whole thing: before, after, and…well, after that. People often say that the best place to start is the beginning, so I shall begin with that: before. Before he liked me, before our relationship, before we got to the point of getting married, which of course is what this whole post is about. Before is important because – you see –  that’s where marriage was first mentioned.

BEFORE or When We Were Friends (sort of)

“I have set my rainbow in the clouds, as a sign of my promise to you

 and all the generations to come.” Genesis 9:13

Some versions of the Bible use the word ‘covenant’ rather than ‘promise’ in this verse. Some say “and it will be a sign of my covenant…between me and the earth.’ The one God directed me to read in 2012, however, was exactly as above.

  I’d been praying for days for a word from Him: a word, or a sign, or anything that would convince me that I wasn’t going crazy. Because surely that is what was happening to me – how else could I explain that every time I saw at the boy I liked, the thought “I’m going to marry you” rang as clear as day through my mind? The daily battle of trying to ignore my feelings had become utterly impossible in the face of this inexplicable new factor. I was genuinely stressed and confused.

  If this seems overly dramatic, it probably is. I was a sixteen-year-old girl, after all. Corneel and I had met a year earlier at the local music academy, and to say that we had become friends would almost be an understatement – sure we may have been perfectly friendly, but outside of choir rehearsals, ensemble practice and theory class, we didn’t talk at all. It had been mere weeks after meeting him that I had begun to have quite the crush. Although now when I talk about it this all seems rather cute and charming, at the time it wasn’t much fun, mainly because (A) I knew he didn’t like me and (B) there was no way I felt ready to have a relationship anyways. This meant that the daily reality of being unable to ignore such strong feelings was quite maddening, especially since they only got worse and worse as time went by.

  Considering the situation, one might expect that I was overjoyed when God spoke to me through Genesis 9:13, and then I began to see rainbows everywhere. Maybe someone less cynical and more trusting would have thought “oh yay! I asked ‘why do I think I’m going to marry Him??’ and the Lord has said it’s His promise to me!” However, despite the months of daily rainbows, I managed to explain them away with all the excuses I could think of. Half of me believed, and the other half was completely in rebellion. I’d argue myself in circles practically daily: “okay, I love him. Okay, God has said this to me. Okay, I know it will happen one day. Okay, I trust this will be. Okay… but are you crazy? How can you know? You’re making it all up. This is wishful thinking. This is ridiculous. This is what every person thinks when they like someone too much and convince themselves that God has given His blessing. Ugh. Stop this. Give up already!” The problem was, as many times as I tried to, it didn’t work.

  In total, this went on for three and a half years. I denied to my friends that I liked him – only admitting it after he left the country to go study. Once we didn’t see each other anymore, we pretty much didn’t talk at all. Suddenly, in 2014, I found myself finished school and in Europe for a few months. Knowing I was going to visit Corneel and his sister on my travels, I had managed to find a level of peace about the whole situation that somehow stuck for once. At the end of two weeks of deep and varied conversations, I was ready to head on to my next stop – super excited and happy to feel like Corneel and I had finally become close friends and would be in contact with each other once I’d left.  I was fully prepared to go, so was not expecting AT ALL that he’d ask me to go for one last walk, and somewhere along the way manage to tell me that actually, he had feelings for me and he “thought that he should say so before I left because otherwise he’d regret it”. It was the strangest and most wonderful afternoon of my life. I left feeling dizzy with the knowledge that this was finally the end of my private battle.

AFTER or Together (but not quite)

Thus began our relationship of goodbyes.  I left. He left. We lived our lives on Skype and Whatsapp, exchanging long emails and counting down the weeks until the next visit. He was in Belgium, and I in South Africa, so those visits only took place every three to six months. One would perhaps expect that goodbyes get easier. They don’t.

  I could say many things about these three years of our lives, but will summarize with this very long sentence:

despite our long (long, long!) distance relationship being the hardest, the worst, the most impossibly awfully difficult thing that I would never wish on anyone because it’s never not there, the absence of the one person you want to be with and who you’d trade everyone else for, and you have to deal with it alone because nobody actually gets it even though they try – I’d also wish it on everyone because there is nothing that has been better for us, has forged and sharpened and drawn us closer together and made us SO grateful for every second of every moment that we get to be together. We coped by God’s grace, and that grace has not stopped giving.

  For the last six and a half months before the wedding, we didn’t see each other at all.

AFTER THAT or Planning the Big Day

  When we got engaged, on 2nd February 2017, we set the wedding date for February 4th, 2018, leaving us with a year to organise everything. Every moment of that year turned out to be needed! The wedding was to happen at my favourite place in the world, the farm where my mom grew up and where my family has lived since I was a teenager. My parents decided to take on two projects that they had been wanting to do for many years: fixing up the old church on the farm for the ceremony, and rebuilding the shed in which they had held their wedding reception 26 years prior into a beautiful hall for our own.

  We had two goals for our wedding day: first, that it would be a reflection of God’s glory and his faithfulness to us; and second that everyone who attended would get a real taste of the farm. To achieve this we kept things as local as possible. We planted our own vegetables and sent our own animals to the butcher for the meat. My wonderful mother made kilogram after kilogram of butter, yoghurt, feta and cottage cheeses. The flowers were grown by dear friends on a neighbouring farm; the benches and woodwork made out of our own wood. Even the sandstone floors were from rock quarried right there on the farm! We got a wonderful local chef – a friend – to do the catering, and designed a menu that reflected our own taste as much as possible. The desserts were a mix of South African and Belgian, and my grandmother offered to make the cake.

  Most people understand how much work goes into a wedding. Now imagine that basically everything – every little thing! – you do yourself. Not only that, but you also need to build the buildings, fix the roads, and last but not least, accommodate most of your wedding guests yourselves for a whole weekend. This is the task that my family took on.

  A wonderful, creatively gifted friend offered to do all the wedding signs with her vinyl cutter, which really served as the cherry on top of all the décor.

  I say my family because I myself was at university for most of the year. Sure, I did most of the admin (So. Many. Spreadsheets.) and dealt with all the guests (So. Many. Emails. And. Annoying. Questions. And. Late. RSVPs. And. So. Much.Travel. Advice.)  – but my family, especially my parents, did so much more. They organised that tables be built, crockery and glasses and candles be bought, second-hand chairs and cutlery be found, tablecloths be sewn…the list goes on forever! My mother worked for hours helping sweep and seal the beautiful stone floors, which is some of the most backbreaking work you can imagine.

  In the last few weeks, the wedding became pretty much the only thing we thought about. There was gardening to be done and chairs to fix and linen to sort and things to be painted and carried and decided and moved and on and on from morning to night. Luckily my bridesmaids arrived early, because they really were the biggest help! Corneel’s sister came six weeks beforehand, and my two best friends came up with three weeks and then ten days to go. My sister, unfortunately, couldn’t escape working for the whole year. A wonderful, creatively gifted friend of ours offered to do all the signs on her vinyl cutter, as well as some of our favourite Bible verses to put up on the walls, which was the cherry on top of all the décor.

  We were so blessed to have many many helping hands in the form of early arrivals. There were friends and family washing plates and glasses, laying tables, folding serviettes, sticking up bible verses, picking sunflowers, altering wedding outfits, hanging fairy lights, making starters, arranging flowers…and all with the biggest smiles on their faces!

  One of the biggest things was that we set up a campsite/dormitory in a big barn on the other side of the farm. My mom had the clever idea of getting a whole load of straw bales and we put mattresses on those so that each stable had a couple of ‘beds.’ Getting that ready was a whole project on its own, as the bathrooms needed painting, the place needed cleaning, a lot of the windows required new glass…and, of course, we had to stock a small kitchen and hang up endless strings of bunting! We worked out that in the end we must have had close to 1, 500 meters of it – and I sewed at least a kilometre of that myself. It was so worth it to see how festive everything looked all strung up with flags though! In the end, about 60 people stayed at the barn, and by all reports had a blast…apparently, there was dancing in the evenings, and board games and music, which I’m sorry to have missed out on, but Corneel and I, of course, were playing hosts and running around with last-minute things, so we weren’t able to be everywhere at once.

  The wedding was to be held on the Sunday, so it ended up that most guests stayed for the whole weekend. Most people arrived on Friday, and we organised a few big potjie pots full of stew for supper, which turned out to be a good idea because the rain that we’d been praying for for months decided to arrive all at once in the three days before the wedding! It was chilly on the Friday evening, but thankfully on Saturday there was no thunderstorm and so the planned sunset braai was able to take place. We spent a few relaxed hours up on the mountain, at a spot known as ‘the viewpoint,’ just chatting to people and greeting those we hadn’t seen yet. It’s one of the things I’m most happy that we did, because it meant that we got to spend time with friends and family without the pressure of it being ‘the day,’ and all together spend some time anticipating the wedding itself.



  Our wedding day was, overall, the most fun, most special, most wonderful day I’ve ever had. The fact that so many of our dearly loved ones were in the same place was really overwhelming to the both of us, since we were so used to having our friends and family scattered far and wide. The fact that they had come together in order to celebrate with us was incredible – and of course, being surrounded by all our favourite people meant that we had so much fun!

  Corneel and I had chosen to see each other before the ceremony, and then pray together with our bridesmaids and groomsmen. Once the guys left, and then the girls, I had five minutes completely alone in the house. I think that’s when it really sank in that this was it, and we were about to be married!

  The ceremony was perfect, even though the church was rather warm inside! Walking in with my dad was really special because he’d not been at the rehearsal the day before and so we hadn’t practised it. He didn’t even know which song we would walk to! The praise and worship was a highlight for me, as we got to sing some of our favourite songs with fantastic music provided by our talented friends.

  Suddenly – just like that – we were married! Everyone headed off to the reception and we had a bit of fun taking photos with the bridal party. Christine was so relaxed and we all enjoyed the process. Plus, the farm is so stunning that we could sense how nicely the photos were going to come out! We arrived back at the reception announced by my sister playing the trumpet. One thing that everybody told me about weddings beforehand certainly came true – my cheeks really hurt by the end of all the family photos! It was worth it though, and my favourite shot is actually the very first one that was taken, with all our brothers and sisters around us. We are both blessed to have amazing siblings and it meant a lot to see them all together having so much fun with us and sharing in our joy. Plus, they all looked so fabulous!

  The reception was amazing, and the speeches incredibly touching. There were also quite a few musical performances! Corneel’s family sang ‘The Irish Blessing’ for us, and my bridesmaids had written a hilarious version of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ that started with once upon a Wednesday, he walked in the classroom… and ended all goodbyes are gone. I laughed and almost cried, but was too happy for that! On the day itself I don’t think I cried at all, although afterwards is another story. When Christine sent through our photos and I saw again the beautiful rainbow which had appeared in the middle of the reception, I did, quite literally, burst into tears.

  After a short but energetic sokkie with my dad (to Superhero, because of course, he was always mine) Corneel and I danced together to Matthew West’s song When I say I Do. The chorus particularly has some of my favourite lyrics


“Cause I have never been so sure of anything before

Like I am in this moment here with you

Now ‘for better or for worse’ are so much more than only words

And I pray every day will be the proof

That I mean what I say when I say ‘I do’

I mean what I say when I say I do.”

While this was the tale of how we met, our story is more than the wedding, of course. It was a wonderful day, but the point is that I got to marry my best friend and favourite person in the whole world: the man who stole my heart, who shares my dreams and holds my hand as we walk together into the future. I am under no illusion that life will always be easy, but with him standing by my side in the knowledge that God brought us together, I can only trust that there is a greater purpose and plan for our lives.

What else can I then do but share what the Lord has done?

  And that is why our story has to both start and finish with Psalm 40:5.

You have multiplied, O Lord my God

your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;

none can compare with you!

I will proclaim and tell of them,

yet they are more than can be told

PSALM 40:5

They really, really are.

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  1. FJ Potgieter says:

    Baie Mooi Chrissie!!

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