Wedding Album: Vows by the waves

25 July 2018 - 10:22
By Somaya Stockenstroom

Different faiths kept the Arends couple from marrying because they avoided getting into the complications of rituals. But after spending 14 years together and bearing a child, Mansoor Arends finally decided to tie the knot with Celeste Baliraj.

Their picturesque beach wedding, fit for a film scene, set the bar for couples who may be facing the same dilemma.

"Because of our different religions we wanted to have a ceremony that was nonreligious but still kept the elements of a white wedding and traditional reception. Also, because we are from different cities - it made sense to have it as a 'destination wedding' so that our families from across the world could easily make it without feeling like the venue was leaned towards one side of the family. We both also just loved the idea of getting married on the beach because it would be a different experience," says Baliraj.

Baliraj, who grew up in Port Elizabeth, says she couldn't wait to finally become the wife to her fiance' from the diamond town of Kimberley.

They met in Joburg in January 2004 through mutual friends. But it would be their son who would eventually pop the question.

"Our son asked me on behalf of his dad. He always wants him to be part of any big decision or event in our lives.

"I had just gotten home from work and my son couldn't contain himself. He came to me with the ring and said "Mummy will you marry daddy?'.

"How could I say no? We had been together for 14 years, but having a child after five years into our relationship, moving in together and building our careers, getting married wasn't really a priority.

"Also, I am Catholic and Mansoor is Muslim, so a traditional wedding was never on the cards," she explains.

To compromise they didn't have the ceremony in a church before a priest nor imam, they settled on a marriage officer.

"This meant that there were no religious scriptures or vows. The marriage officer spoke of marriage in general and the vows were legal vows. The registry was a legal one only, not for any church. Both of us have kept to our religions. The wedding ceremony, therefore, I believe was a reflection of this."

Arends, 39, and Baliraj 33, chose Ballito Bay for their destination wedding.

The nuptials were read next to the crashing waves of the ocean with soft love songs playing in the background.

She also walked down the sandy aisle by herself in an unconventionally breathtaking dress.

"I didn't think that I needed either my dad or one of my brothers to walk me down the aisle. Given that I have been with Mansoor for some time. The symbolism of being walked down the aisle or "given away" just wouldn't have been right," she said.

About her dress, Baliraj says she didn't want a traditional gown that would be cumbersome to walk in at the reception.

"The initial design was my own, but my designer, Gerald C, based in Pretoria, helped me make it look more bridal than I originally had in mind."

She notes that it was an expensive exercise, but not more than any of most traditional weddings today.