Say ‘I do’ with a drive-in wedding

Reminiscent of an era when billowing hemlines fell way past the knee and Little Darlin’ by The Diamonds blared on car radios during the summer of 1957, drive-in cinemas peaked alongside America’s Baby Boom, which resulted in more cars being purchased. 

Even if you never had the opportunity to see one for yourself, pop culture has woven together a rather romantic picture of couples cosying up on car bonnets, families stocking up on popcorn at confectionery stands and children gazing wide-eyed at the black and white film flickering across the big screen. 
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Although the concept of movie-watching from the comfort of your own vehicle has fizzled out in the new millennium, drive-ins have made a comeback in a completely re-imagined way. As countless couples have had to cancel their wedding celebrations to comply with lockdown regulations, people are getting innovative with ways of saying “I do”.

From micro-weddings with crowds as small as 6 people to ceremonies broadcast live into the homes of friends and family via video calling software, the next most interesting trend to emerge during the pandemic is the drive-in wedding.

Nestled among the old trees of a sugar farm in Ballito, a thirty minute drive from Durban, Collisheen Estate is an events venue that’s readying itself to launch a wedding package like no other. 

CEO and owner of Collisheen, Wayne Hulett, said the idea came to him at the start of South Africa’s lockdown, when a close family friend joked about how his venue would need to start doing drive-in weddings. 

“But, the more I thought about it, and researched the concept, the more I realised that it was something we could undertake on our premises. It was not only a way of keeping our business going and adapting to our circumstances but also giving all those very unhappy brides and grooms a way to continue with their wedding plans.”

Having planned a faux wedding photoshoot on location to see their vision for drive-ins come to life, Hulett said he was surprised by how beautifully the whole thing panned out. “Cars were parked 20 metres away from the gazebo where our model bride and groom stood. 

With the scenery, the outfits, a vintage car for the happy couple and lots of hooting and headlight flashing, the celebration was truly something special.”

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An aerial photograph of the staged wedding at Collisheen Estate in Ballito. Picture: The Shank Tank.

The concept for drive-in weddings is extremely simple. With minimal planning, a couple was able to wed on May 23 in a backyard somewhere in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, whilst standing on a donated flatbed truck so that the guests could see them. 

Some attendees remained in their cars, while others sat outside of them a safe distance away. Many other ceremonies of a similar kind have taken place all across the globe with events planners and wedding venues fast catching on and implementing drive-ins as part of their available packages.

From whimsical decor to catering, when couples dream up their special day, they plan every detail right down to the colour of the boutonnière pinned onto the groom’s jacket. Fortunately, drive-ins can be just as personalised. 

“Your event planner will organise the decor, floral arrangements, lighting and music to set the mood. We have a team of dedicated wait staff to deliver food and bubbly right to the car windows of guests. As far as the menu goes, there is a selection of canapés to nibble on ranging from coconut crusted chicken to rolls filled with tender roast lamb and mint sauce dressing.”

However, the occasion is still ceremony-focused with a few traditional elements of weddings receptions finding their way into the mix. “You can still have the bride walk down the aisle, have people witness the nuptials and vows, do the cake cutting and first dance. As lockdown eases, there will be room for more possibilities like guests having picnics outside or on the hood of their cars.” 

One of the best parts post-wedding is when the newlyweds get to relive their big day through videography and a wedding album. However, with physical distancing necessary and the rather unusual set-up capturing those typical wedding day moments seems like a rather difficult task. 

Photographing the wedding scenes at Collisheen was Stephen Railton of Stephen Railton Photography, who said it’s still possible to capture intimate moments from a safe distance. “There are many ways of capturing all the special moments at weddings. 

"From mothers smiling as their daughters walk down the aisle to the teary-eyed groom during vows, at times we are needed to get close to the subject to capture their expressions or manipulate the subject to evoke a look or feel.”
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Collisheen Estate wedding ceremony. Picture: Stephen Railton Photography.

Of course, the job will require photographers to think and approach things far more differently than before. According to Railton, who’s photographed over 500 weddings in his career, “Guests will be inside their cars, but with the use of telephoto lenses, we’ll still be able to snap pictures of their expressions as they react. 

"Second photographers will be dedicated to this task as well as snapping different artistic images while the primary photographer is focused on capturing the formalities of the bride and groom. With photography the drive-in wedding has been rather liberating, and I look forward to capturing more of these types of weddings.”

In a post pandemic world, this option for a more simplified wedding is ideal for the modern couple looking for a fuss free alternative to traditional methods of celebrating nuptials, but who still wish to share the day with their closest friends and family. 

“Being outdoors, surrounded by natural beauty, I think this is a wonderful way to marry even after the lockdown. I have seen a lot of couples express their interest in our packages for weddings to be held next year. And, since people are always searching for concepts that are unique and trendy, I think this innovative idea encompasses all of that,” said Hulett. 

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