The Great Venue Hunt

So you may or may not know that I work on Proposals, I help guys wanting to get engaged. And sometimes we get special requests, like recently I have had a gent ask for a sky rise building open top balcony to load with candles and a musician and a photographer.

The proposal we were trying to imitate

So, my first order of business has been to find this venue. Man, finding a venue like that is like hens teeth!

Durban has hundreds of high rise buildings (ok so a Durban standard high rise is 24-35 stories high, nothing like a New York or Dubai high rise), however most of them have corporate companies renting out various floors, sometimes very high security.

We also have a beautiful new stadium that has an incredible viewing deck on the arch that goes over it.

So, I’ve tried. Doing online, emailing, and even phoning to these various buildings and potential venues, has been virtually impossible. So, I took out the time, drove into the city and hit the streets on foot.

It’s felt like I’m doing a different kind of “house to house” work almost. And being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s been difficult for me not to approach the building management and start off saying “hi, we’re sharing a message of hope with our neighbours today…..”

The Stadium

For the 2010 soccer World Cup, Durban built an enormous stadium. It’s a beautiful piece of architecture, and has become the symbol of Durban. It’s a must for tourists and many big events are held there.

Instameet (17)

So I figured that as the Stadium itself says in advertising that it is “built for the people” they would be willing to work with us on this.

Especially seeing as on their website (which I believe seems to be rather outdated) offers hiring various venues for events around the stadium, including a “cocktail venue” on the sky car viewing deck. Update 24 April: They have very recently removed this option off of their website.

Upon arrival I immediately went to the sky car office and explained my whole situation to them. They said that the person with authority to allow that would be at the visitors centre. I walked across to the visitors centre and spoke to a very nice gentleman about the possibility of my special request. He told me that he knows they have done something similar before and he’s sure the events coordinator for the stadium can help me. Unfortunately she was out of the office that day, but should be back the next day. He took my details promising that she would call me the next day. But just in case, he gave me her business card.

I waited the next day, nothing. So the day after, I phoned her, no answer. I tried about 5 times that day, and every day for the next three days . Eventually someone answered the phone, and told me that the person I was looking for is “on leave” but this person could help me, I again explained my whole story, only to be told she knows it’s possible, but that the events management couldn’t help me and they would redirect me to the main visitors office who will then patch me through to the sky car office who will help me. Twenty minutes of call waiting and eventually I got through to the sky car office. Yet again I explained my request, only to be told that “no, they won’t even consider doing that” and when I began to ask why not, I was given no direct answer, but rather told to have a good day and phone put down.

So I turned to social media, I wrote on the Facebook page and the Twitter account of the stadium asking what’s the deal. Shortly they replied on social media asking for my email address and promising to reply. I waited over a week before someone emailed me asking if I have been sorted out yet.

I’ve actually copied and pasted the above information as an email back to them on April 16th, and I’m hoping that before this blog goes live they will have responded positively.

Update 24 April 2015: As yet the folks at MMS have not responded; Very disappointed.


Ok, so in the interim I went for a trip down the Durban beachfront. Blue waters hotel was very very willing to assist us, with a decent priced indoor venue on the 24th floor with stunning views. However the gentleman is not keen on an indoor venue. That said, I will be keeping that as an open option for future events.

Going door to door to the blocks of flats and various hotels on the beachfront, most turned me down almost before I finished explaining this request, some had no rooftop to speak of. The Maharani hotel, which everyone who’s ever lived in Durban knows has that incredible rooftop swimming pool, and is a prime venue, quoted us R40,000 to hire their venue! Despite it only being needed for 2 hours and used by 5 or 6 people. And none of the other beachfront places were willing to assist.

The Esplanade 

So the area between Victoria Embankment and the city hall were next on my list of possible venues. I suppose we could say this was the really interesting adventure. We went and parked at the royal hotel parade, and hit the streets from there. We actually decided to start with the adjacent “Avis building” which we went up in the lift to the 9th floor, thinking their garden balconies would do as a nice venue. It’s interesting to learn that the building (like many others on the esplanade) has hired out each floor to a different company. Amazingly quite a few of the government departments are hidden away, not signposted in these buildings. In the one day we discovered various companies, from big insurers, so mass mart head office, from the SA tourism department to the Education MEC’s offices, it was quite fascinating. But sadly infuriatingly unproductive.

Because although these buildings are supposed to have high security; most of them are fairly easy to get into. You walk up to the lobby, glace at a floor you want to get onto (for me it was the highest floor available) see what companies are on that floor. Approach the desk, name the company you wish to visit, fill in the forms in the lobby (I get bored with filling in forms that no one ever looks at anyway. So I have started filling in pseudo names, like Amelia Earheart, and Cinderella Charming), go up to the top floor, trying not to look suspicious, but attempt to get onto the roof. Access to the roof is normally through the fire escape, but not always.

The reason for the getting onto the roof first is that we want to see if its even worth our time to approach the building manager to ask permission to set up.

It was quite funny when my client said “well if you can get onto the roof, why bother asking permission?” To which I answered simply that getting equipment up 25 floors for the proposal will alert security to something going on, and our gentleman really won’t want to be on his knee in front of his girlfriend as security walks in and arrests us all. He agreed. 

Of the memorable ones, some buildings we were just out of the lifts high up when load shedding started and had to go down the 20 flights of stairs. Well, 20 flights of stairs was preferable to being stuck in a lift during load shedding (we heard the emergency bells being rung – and in South Africa there are no emergency hatches you can climb out of like they show in the movies). We once got locked in a fire stairwell. Some buildings were just plain well closed to all because of load shedding. Some buildings didn’t have rooftops.

Then we found the perfect venue!

The Perfect Venue 

The balcony

We eventually did find the ultimate venue. The 24th floor of the Embassy building in Durban CBD, you know that enormous glass building in town? Yup, that one. The 24th floor has a gorgeous balcony that you can look out over the whole of Durban. It’s spacious, and has a good railing for safety. It was the perfect venue.

We went downstairs and approached the building managers who were very cooperative and sounded very willing to go ahead with the idea. They listened carefully and really seemed happy with it all. But they requested that we send through an email with everything in writing. I totally understand that. So I came back to the office and wrote them a nice email explaining exactly what we needed.

Two days later, still no reply, three days later I decided to phone, to WP_20150407_006which they said that the building had had no power for two days and were only just getting back up and running.

At current, I still have heard nothing back from them either.

The final straw

At this stage we were realizing that finding a high rooftop venue in Durban that is available out of business hours is just not going to happen. But my client was still being insistent. So I went for a final hunt on the 14th of this month. The buildings I tried were all non-productive and I headed home, only to find out that barely an hour after I had left the area the xenophobia attacks of Durban had started right near where I had been hoofing it around the CBD. That thought left me shaken and was pretty much the final straw.

I told my client that we had to shut off this whole idea, we had been searching for a month and a half, only to keep coming up empty handed. And with the current situation of load shedding and xenophobia, none of us (client, or myself and my service providers) wanted to be anywhere near the major danger zones.

So we have now changed his proposal to a Boat proposal.

The truth be told, I highly admire my client for his determination in wanting the rooftop proposal. If the two ultimate venues I was keen on, Moses Mabhida Stadium and the Embassy building were to come back to me and give me an option to hire their venues, I would jump at it. In fact if anyone out there knows of a tall building, with an open top roof that is possible to hire, I would be most willing to set up an arrangement with them.

And boy have I had fun exploring the buildings of Durban’s CBD.



  1. Hi
    I am also planning a proposal
    I love the candle effect
    What are your rates like to set up something like that??
    Regards lloyd


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