So in April this year I just happened to GET MARRIED in a SOUTH AFRICAN game reserve. Truth be told, I have never been someone who gushed over weddings or really looked forward to my own. I didn’t have a scrap book or pinterest board nor did I dream about wedding dresses, table placements or engagement rings. Pretty much, I was (and am) where romance goes to die. I even forbade Van from proposing to me, because honestly what an outdated patriarchal practice that is… I am not an advocate for anything that suggests women should sit idly by waiting for a man to make up their mind. NO THANK YOU. Anyway… this changed (not the sexist proposal thing, but the wedding excited thing) after I met Van and realised that WE COULD GET MARRIED IN SOUTH AFRICA. I basically have two great loves (now three including Van, of course…): 1. Oli (my cat) and 2. AFRICA. So getting married to Van in Africa with my cat present was the perfect wedding for me – take that Pinterest! I didn’t even need your boards to help me figure that out. Of course Australia enforces a 6 month quarantine period for cats entering from South Africa (and it is ridiculous to take a cat to your African bush wedding I guess) so we had to get creative about the cat part. I think you will agree, we nailed it.
We sent out invitations a year ahead to give our family and friends time to save and plan for the trip over, and honestly we were pretty surprised by just how many people ended up RSVPing yes! We ended up with about 50 people at our wedding, of which almost half came from outside South Africa (Australia and the US). Turns out people are totally on board with attending a wedding that also ticks off one of their bucket list items! I was so excited to introduce all of my closest friends and family to the place I loved most in the world, and I knew my wedding would change so many lives – once you get a taste of the safari experience, YOU WILL NEVER BE THE SAME (in a good way…unless you get mauled by a lion).
Planning the wedding itself was a piece of cake. Mostly because I didn’t want any flowers, decorations, arches, bridal parties, seating arrangements etc. All I cared about for my wedding was people, food, alcohol and music. And lions. Oh and our dance, because we choreographed that shit from YouTube videos and it was pretty AWESOME. What was less breezy was arranging the logistics of 25 people travelling from Sydney to Johannesburg… but I kinda screwed myself on that one by offering to plan every little detail from flights to hotels to transfers to everything in between. Side note: NOT recommended.
Anyway the day came along and besides the fact I was convinced I was going to fall on my face during the dance and the fact Van was typing his part of our combined speech and getting it printed AS I WAS GETTING READY on the day – all was good. The weather had turned perfect from the previous rainy day and my puffy allergified eye had calmed a little down (long story). My dress was a little loose because I had actually bothered to lose a few kilos *staring with slitted eyes at Van*, but it was still acceptable. The day had arrived!
Everyone hopped on the safari vehicles for a short trip to our ceremony destination under some beautiful fig trees. Our cat even managed to make it (in cardboard form). We took photos, had some drinks and listened to our beautiful African choir (from Karongwe River Lodge) before lining up our celebrant and getting the ceremony stuff out of the way. Van and I wrote our own vows, and I’m really glad we did as they seemed to be quite a hit with laughter and even some tears. I even teared up a little myself as Van did a great job of his (potentially with some help from the internet). And despite our celebrant George being slightly chauvinistic by telling the women that they would understand a recipe better (1950’s anyone?) and then introducing us as ‘Mr and Mrs van der Walt’ (NO), he kept it pretty short and sweet as we asked.
We were desperately hoping for elephants to join us at the ceremony but it wasn’t to be… however as everyone left to go on their post-wedding safari drive, we walked towards a fallen tree about 30m away to get some more photos… and were quickly recalled as the first game drive vehicle found lions just 100m down the river bed…heading our way! We abandoned the photo shoot (honestly I was still game to do it, but whatever) and found some other places for photos. In typical fashion Van and I were more keen to find animals than take photos and insisted we stop in and get some pics of the lions first. Given my good friends were visiting from the US and doubling as our wedding photographers (which, conveniently they do for a living), we did feel we needed to give them some good portfolio pics so acquiesced to some wedding posing in various fairytale spots (which there is no shortage of at Karongwe Private Game Reserve)! Oh and WE GOT TO TAKE WEDDING PHOTOS WITH A FEMALE CHEETAH because there are a couple of cheetahs at Karongwe that are safe to be near on foot (you cannot touch them of course) – how cool is that? Um yes, pretty f*$*ing cool. We also managed to get some pics with lions, rhinos and giraffes in the background (albeit the giraffe shots didn’t work out too well). How many people do you know that have their wedding photos with cheetahs, lions and rhinos? That’s what I thought.
So would I recommend it? HELL YES. If you are considering having a safari wedding in Africa, get in touch and I will be happy to give you some tips. Here’s also the deets on the suppliers for my day:
Venue: Karongwe Private Game Reserve (reception at Karongwe River Lodge, guests stayed at Karongwe River Lodge and neighbouring Chisomo)
Photographers: Laura Farlee Coffman & Jake Coffman from Phoveo (AWESOME photographers, by the way – based in the USA but will travel anywhere!)
Hair and makeup: Michelle and Ancre from Hair Elements in Hoedspruit
Karongwe set up everything else for the day – including organizing our celebrant, the cake, the ceremony (there are additional things you can have like arches, lanterns etc) and the ceremony tables, decorations etc. They also provided all the food and drinks (drinks at additional cost). We also had a DJ, I can provide those details for anyone interested 🙂
Here are some amazing pics (courtesy of the amazing Phoveo team) from the day…
WEDDING PHOTOS 🙂
Now in case all of that was not convincing enough, I am going to write a whole article about why you should consider a wedding in South Africa…but here’s some reasons in a nutshell:
- It’s way cheaper (well, ours was anyway)
- It’s way BETTER
- YOU GET TO SEE LIONS and other AWESOME ANIMALS, maybe even at your ceremony
- Your family and friends are way more excited about attending your wedding (at least that was the case for me)
Seriously believe me when I say YOU WILL NOT REGRET YOUR DECISION if you end up getting married in South Africa (well, almost definitely not).