Everything is in place for the event of the year – fresh blooms, crisp napkins, crystal wine glasses and gold cherubs on the tables.
Medical professor Tessa van der Merwe (44) is wide-eyed as she admires the setting of her fairytale wedding. Waiting for her in the chapel is the groom, Dr Gary Fetter, flanked by metre-high gold angels and cream and pink roses tumbling out of giant urns.
The bridal table is decorated with antique silver and huge bowls of roses. The couple’s guests will dine at tables under the watchful eyes of dancing angels on the candelabra.
At each place setting is a poem written by entertainer Nataniël, who’s much admired by Tessa and who inspired the flamboyant wedding. It reads, “Romance is like theatre, the stage where you can present yourself with the best lighting, words, posture, clothes, costumes, dedication, planning, anticipation, magic, touch and promise.”
Tessa, an endocrinologist and associate professor at Wits University and various overseas universities, today exchanges the sober arena of medicine for one she’s secretly been in love with all her life: romance, theatre and grandeur.
The average wedding in her Pretoria neighbourhood apparently costs about R250 000 but Tess was happy to fork out R1 million for her special day.
“Romance must be theatrical. It says so much about how you feel about love and life. I don’t understand people who want small, contained weddings. A wedding must be over the top,” she explains to us a day before the event.
The couple fell for each other three and a half years ago, after working together for years. Tessa says their eyes met over their surgical masks in theatre and they suddenly knew. “We have the same romantic sense of humour,” she says simply.
Coming up with something extraordinary for the big day is no longer the preserve of celebs and the wedding industry is eager to roll out just the right function. For Tessa the detail is what makes a wedding and money was no obstacle to perfecting her dream.
“That’s the paradox of my personality, the serious medical professional and the theatrical me – the woman who was a ballerina and a beauty queen. My wedding is a day for my theatrical personality to shine.”
Read more about the glamorous wedding in YOU, 7 April 2011.