For 12 years, since Shawn went down on one knee to propose to Carmelete in the Cape Town Company Gardens in October 2008, they had intended to tie the knot … but life had moved on quicker than they expected and the wedding plans always got pushed aside.
They had even discussed their wedding plans with Carmelete’s best friends Shevon and Jolene and their extended (Cupido) family, who were always asking: ‘So, when are you guys getting married’. But having had a son (Blake) of their own and struggling to make ends meet, it never happened.
Eventually, coming to the conclusion that they simply could not afford it, they started attending pre-nuptial classes at their church, anticipating that perhaps they would just go through the motions and invite just their closest family back home for dinner . That was in November last year … but Shevon was not having any of it.
“I’m very old school” says Shevon. “I’ve known Carmelete since primary school and Shawn since they started dating in 2006. And I know they love each other deeply and that she would have wanted her wedding to be a special occasion; and I wanted that for her. So, when I realised they were going to get married without any ceremony, without a party, flowers, wedding cake and without those who love them, I decided to take things into my own hands. ” So, for the next 3 months, Shevon ‘plotted’ a wedding.
So, when Carmelete and Shawn woke up at last Saturday morning, as they had been doing for the last 11 years, they had no idea that they would return home that night, as a married couple. What they were expecting was that Shevon was taking them out for what she promised would be a very ‘full day out (and leave the kids at home)’; probably in the winelands to celebrate Carmelete’s 40th birthday, 2 days earlier in the week. Well, that was how Shevon made sure they were available for the day.
As he got dressed, Shawn couldn’t understand why his smart blue pants were missing from the cupboard, but he didn’t have time to go looking and pulled on a pair of jeans. Shevon was waiting in her car and so they jumped in, and left.
But Ardien, Shevon’s husband, was not with her …. “So”, Shevon explained, “we have to fetch Ardien from his parents in Kuilsriver” … which was really the venue for the wedding. As they pulled up to the house in Kuilsriver, they got out to greet the family, as they always did. But as they walked up the stairs Shawn saw a photographer and suspected, ‘something’s up’. He thought it had something to do with Carmelete’s birthday.
As they got to the entrance, they met Jolene, another of Carmelete’s best friends; and the two Cupido sisters (Sharne and Lizelle). Then Shevon stopped them and explained: “Vandag is nie ‘n usual dag nie. Julle weet ons dra net julle belang opi hart. Ons is lief vir julle. So daar wag ‘n groot surprise vir julle vandag. Wat ons eintlik wil se is …. julle twee trou vandag.” And with that, Carmelete laughed hysterically and turned crying into Shawn’s arms.
“Julle trou oor ‘n uur, so ons het ‘n uur om reg te maak”, Shevon continued. “Alles is gereel … die kinders is oppad. Hulle kom nou, en die kleure en alles. Cammie, jou kleure is reg.” And so a shocked Carmelete was led away to be made-up and dressed.
An hour later, Dominee Johan Valentyn arrived to preside over the ceremony; prepared with all the necessary paperwork for Home Affairs. Weeks before, after Shevon had convinced him to squeeze the surprise ceremony into his busy schedule, he had called her back to check: “So neither of the couple know they are getting married?”, he asked. In the 30 years in which he had been presiding over marriages, he had never been party to such circumstances. And with that in mind, he diligently confirmed with both Carmelete and Shawn that this was what they wanted and that neither of them had been pressurised into the marriage.
And getting certified copies of the identity documents of Carmelete and Shawn for the Dominee to complete the Home Affairs paperwork, was another of the challenges that Shevon had to contend with. And so Jolene had come to Carmelete and Shawn one day, saying she wanted to make them beneficiaries for an insurance policy, for which she need their identity documents. The certified copies were secretly made and handed over to the Dominee; and the originals returned to the bride and groom to be, without any suspicion.
“I can’t take all the credit, I had a whole team”, says Shevon. “Jolene and I funded the project, which paid for the wedding cake, material for the wedding dress, but the Cupido family gave us a venue and contributed towards the food. Sharne made the wedding dress and we used Delfie’s Mercedes to drive them to the gardens for photographs.”
“I decided on the date, because it was just after Carmelete’s birthday and we have a tradition of doing something on the Saturday after a birthday in the week, so that was a way of making them available, without making it look suspicious.”
“Carmelete loves sunflowers. She is constantly changing her whatsapp profile pic from one sunflower to another; and her favourite colour is blue. Jolene is about the same size, so we had the dress made on Jolene; and as we thought, it fitted Carmelete perfectly.”
“My older son Chadley and Carmelete’s son, Keanu, have been friends for years, so I told Keanu about the plan and he was over the moon, so I enlisted him to ‘steal’ Shawn’s clothes and to buy a yellow bow-tie. Chadley had to fetch Keanu (with the clothes) and Blake from the house, after Carmelete and Shawn had left with me. Lizelle’s husband, Chris, loaned us a smart blue blazer for Shawn to wear. On the day, we found the shoes we had bought were too big, but Ardien, returned them and was back with the right size, in time for the ceremony.”
The rings Shevon bought for the couple were another challenge. One evening Shevon and husband Ardien were sitting with Carmelete and Shawn and Shevon remarked about the ring on Carmelete’s finger, saying: “Chomma, let me see that ring – it’s beautiful”. Shevon tried on the ring and knew then it was the right size for her own finger. Then she went on to complain that Ardien never wore his wedding band; and she got up to fetch it, threatening to pawn it because he never wore it. “Here, try this on”, she said handing the ring to Shawn, who agreed, “yes, it fits”.
“It was a vision that became a reality, but I had a village behind me. The wedding had to be a surprise to add to the excitement and to relieve them of the financial burden”, said Shevon. “If I had told either of them, Carmelita might have refused out of pride and Shawn wouldn’t have kept his mouth shut; but I must admit, I was very nervous and had sleepless nights, worrying they might refuse.”
As Shawn and his best man Keanu and young son Blake waited outside with the Dominee and the gathering crowd of loving friends and family, Carmelete emerged from the house on the arm of her Auntie Denise, to ‘give her away’. Shawn took her arm and led her to the ‘altar’ that had been created for the occasion; with her best friends and bridesmaids, Shevon and Jolene, on either side of her. Carmelete and Shawn exchanged the marriage vows they had waited so long for. They were married at 10h58 and the Dominee had time to rush off to his next appointment, leaving them to lunch, champagne and many speeches of the love and appreciation of their remarkable extended family.
“I am overwhelmed, I am still overwhelmed”, said Carmelete and Shawn at their Dennemere home, in Blackheath on Wednesday. “All our closest friends and family knew and even though we are communicating with them on a daily basis, we suspected nothing. Everytime I think about all the pieces of the puzzle that now fit together, I can’t believe that they pulled it off without us knowing.”
“We are truly blessed to have these people in our lives. Nobody would have expected this – they are phenomenal friends,” said Shawn. “I see them all striving to be better and they are such a positive support in our lives.”