Makeba Garraway tells Louise Schwartzkoff what it was like to get hitched at the Festival of Love
When Makeba and Soliheen Garraway were falling in love, the Southbank Centre was their favourite date night. They’d meet on the footbridge outside, then grab dinner. After six years together, they returned, this time to exchange wedding vows on the stage of the Royal Festival Hall. Waiting backstage were 11 other couples ready to do the same.
That was the Southbank Centre’s first Big Wedding Weekend, which in the two years since has seen more than a hundred couples tie the knot in the company of strangers. ‘Backstage, everybody had the same nervous butterflies,’ says Makeba. ‘When you said your vows, it was your day. When the others were doing it, you were sharing their joy. Everybody had people cheering for them from the audience.’
Getting married at the Big Wedding Weekend can cost as little as £2,450 – a bargain for London – and for the Garraways the added bonus was that there was no agonising over any decisions. Everything from photographs to the disco in the ballroom after the ceremony was organised. ‘I chose my dress, got some shoes and rocked up,’ says Makeba.
At the reception, the newly married couples voted to decide the song for their first dance. It was Stevie Wonder’s ‘For Once in My Life’. The Garraways would have preferred Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell but, Makeba says, ‘We were just happy to be married. We didn’t care about little details.’
The Garraways now have two children. Makeba is taking a break from her work as a doctor, while Soliheen works as a trainer for Apple. Life has got busy, but they still look back on their wedding day with pleasure. ‘It was so cool and crazy,’ says Makeba. ‘Talking about it has made me feel all excited again.’