Mass gay wedding reiterates how Knysna people embrace those from other cultures, creeds et al

Report by: Words & photo: Yolandé Stander

WITH glitz and glamour Knysna successfully hosted Africa’s first mass gay wedding recently with 15 couples from across the country making it down the aisle.

The wedding was part of the 16th annual Knysna Pink Loerie Mardi Gras and Arts Festival - one of SA’s biggest gay pride events - and was held at Villa Castollini guesthouse and venue, which is located between Knysna and Brenton-on-Sea.

“As we celebrate 16 years of making a mark on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community and the 10 years since same-sex marriage in our country was legalised, we felt it only appropriate to highlight one of the most appreciated and sought-after rights - the right to marriage equality,” festival organiser John O’Neil said.

Among the couples who said ‘I do’ were gay rights pioneers Vernon and Tony Gibbs-Halls, who became the first same-sex couple in Africa to tie the knot a decade ago.

The two, who reside in Hoekwil near Wilderness, were invited to renew their vows as part of their 10th wedding anniversary celebrations.

The couple legally married on December 1, 2006 when the law allowing same-sex marriages came into effect.

Knysna deputy mayor Esme Edge and local advocate Julie Seton also joined the group to renew their vows after marrying earlier this year.

The couples who participated in the event were chosen by organisers and were showered with prizes including a full wedding package with dresses, suits, rings, photographs, a weekend honeymoon and a variety of spoils.

“One of the greatest things about Knysna is its people and the ease with which they embrace people from different nationalities, cultures, creeds, and race,” said Knysna & Partners chief executive Greg Vogt.

“Having the first African LGBTI mass-wedding taking place in our beautiful area just once again proves how we work together to create shared values in a place that so many have chosen to now call home.”

The Gibbs-Halls agreed and said the country and the area had come a long way in terms of changing their attitude towards the LGBTI community.

“It is much different now than it was for us when we married 10 years ago.

“People are more accepting and realising that love extends beyond boundaries,” Tony said.

The couples were among thousands of visitors from around the country who flocked to Knysna for the festival last year.

The event attracts 25,000-30,000 people annually and raises thousands of Rands for charity.

Garden Route Media