Hermanus wedding venue Bona Dea Private Estate in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (Heaven & Earth) lies nestled between beautiful mountains, fragrant fynbos and award-winning vineyards. Whether you’re planning a breathtaking winelands wedding or a spectacular corporate function, the venue is the perfect year round, all-weather venue.
I’ve worked as both wedding photographer and corporate photographer at this spectacular place a couple of times and decided to show you a bit more about this stunning property via a “Best of Bona Dea” post. With an average travel time of a mere 1h 20min from Cape Town International Airport, the Cape Whale Coast has been a popular tourism hotspot for many years. Perhaps best known for it’s whale watching and wine farms, the area has something for everyone with adventure sports, numerous art galleries and markets. Also close by in Gansbaai those who are not faint at heart can enjoy shark cage diving. Hermanus is thus an ideal area to accommodate your guests for extended stays, especially those traveling from international destinations wanting to see more of the area.
Bona Dea Private Estate is a large property that boasts some of the most spectacular views over the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. The main building has a classic and traditional Cape Dutch wine farm feel with a modern twist. The terraces overlook the valley and sets the perfect ceremony and canape backdrop for guests to enjoy. The same area becomes a fairytale at night when thousands of fairylights light up the trees. There are also cottages as well as the Mountain Villa, a modern 5 bedroom architectural masterpiece that can be used for accommodation or pre-wedding events.
Bona Dea has a beautiful modern ballroom with an incredible fairylight ceiling, but can be removed to give couples a blank canvas to work on and can host virtually any colour scheme. The mirrored wall gives an impression of an even larger ballroom, but it seats 180 guests with a dance floor comfortably. Alternatively an outdoor reception and dance floor can be set up depending time of year.
Various options are offered on site for couples to get dressed privately and your choice of venue will depend on the size of your bridal party and if you prefer a more classic or modern look. Options are currently the main house (Dendrobium) that has a cosy all-white & wood bridal room upstairs with adjacent smaller rooms. Alternatively if you prefer more space, using the large lounge area downstairs is another option. Also on the property is the cosy Olive Cottage and the luxury Mountain Villa with a butler, fully equipped kitchen and private pool.
Olive Cottage is a very popular choice for grooms, but Dendrobuim and the Mountain Villa has also been used for the groom on many occasions. Mountain Villa may be a great choice for the men to enjoy the pool and have a braai on hot days while the ladies are getting ready elsewhere.
The large terrace with trees is breathtaking at any time of year and has ample space for your ceremony and canapes. It can be set up in any direction, my favourite being it facing the valley as this creates beautiful backlight on the couple during the nuptials. Brides can enter via the stairs from the bell towers where they are rung to announce her arrival, where a silent blessing is also traditionally done before ascending. Alternatively a beautiful entrance is descending directly out of the main venue. After the formalities, the couple exits to sign the register in the venue and also gets an opportunity to view the ballroom. Guests make their way to the stairs for the confetti as the couple exits. The venue also offers an indoor chapel as plan B for rain.
Since the birth of Bona Dea, the sabrage before champagne and canapés is served has been a favourite tradition at this venue. The bride hands the groom a sabre and with it he opens the first bottle of champagne as the groomsmen and fathers follow by popping the rest of the corks. The sabrage is a classy and fun activity to involve all your guests and sets the tone for the start of a spectacular celebration.
Following the sabrage, group and family photos are generally finished first so guests can relax and couples can enjoy canapés and greet guests who would like to congratulate them. Bands and artists may set up, or ice cream carts, on-tap-beers and gin bars and other forms of entertainment according to the couple’s personal taste can easily be set up in the space
The Couple Shoot
Surrounded by mountains and glorious views, it is hard to take a photo at this venue that is not spectacular. Views however are not all photo backdrop options you will have. Fynbos, rock formations, a piece of dirt road, peaceful zen gardens, a koi pond or glass and steel structures – you can choose to keep it natural or more modern. I love to do a combination of elements to keep the photos fresh and unique. And while you’re in the area, why not opt for a fun day-after session at the beach!
The Bridal Party
Bona Dea’s beautiful lawns with the mountains as backdrop can easily fit even the largest bridal parties with ease. There is even space to drive your wedding car to the perfect spot for photos. This is a perfect time during the day to have fun with your best friends before we take some romantic images with the couple alone.
The candle-lit ballroom comes to life at night, forming the perfect romantic setting for those emotional moments to unfold. Bona Dea has a big bar area and dancefloor, with separate lounge and dessert areas so those who prefer to enjoy after-dinner conversation can relax with a glass of wine at the fireplace, or just relax those tired feet. The 5-star bathrooms are large and spacious for your guests’ comfort, which means there will seldom be a queue.
The Night Session
After all the formalities of the evening are done and the party is well under way , I love to sneak couples away for a few minutes to finish a perfect night in the most glamorous way! The fairy light wonderland on the terrace is the perfect backdrop for the most romantic night photos or just having fun with the groomsmen lighting a celebratory cigar.
It’s late evening and time to kick off your shoes and enjoy the celebration! From capturing the crazy dance moves to hiding behind the bar counter to catch those tequila faces, you are guaranteed some laughs at all the moments you may have missed on the day itself.
The Outdoor Setup
Depending on the time of year and the weather forecast, the terrace is a wonderful option for an outdoor dinner setup. The beautiful fairy light trees makes this feel like a wonderland and apart for some additional lighting for your speeches, not much more is needed. You can have a romantic first dance under the stars and move the after party inside late evening.
The Moments In Between
A few of my favourite in-between moments from past weddings at Bona Dea Private Estate. The laughter and the happy tears – all of these are what makes the story of every fairytale day complete. After all, the day is to enjoy with family and friends and making memories for a lifetime!