COUPLES are heading abroad to tie the knot in one of the world’s leading wedding destinations. Arrive on elephant-back at a dune bank glowing with lanterns at Tswalu Kalahair on the Northern Cape province for a romantic picnic-styled wedding under the stars. The Shamwari Game Reserve on the Eastern Cape offers a bush safari-style wedding where a photographer escorts couples on a private game drive after a ceremony at sunset, before a marquee tent reception in the African wild. Or say ‘I do’ under a romantic canopy of a decadent Amarula tree in Ulusaba, surrounded by flaming bamboo torches; the bride’s arrival announced by the beat of African drums.
Few settings evoke a more amorous atmosphere than listening to the wildlife while sipping Champagne as the sun sets. Some couples even tie the knot on a balloon safari, overlooking herds of elephants and game across a glorious landscape.
Along the Western Cape, a plethora of resorts offer beach weddings with all-inclusive packages where guests can exchange vows on the beach, dine and dance the night away on the sand, and turn in at luxe seaside resorts for a honeymoon.
Shauna Wynne-Cole, director of South African- based wedding specialist, Distinctive Africa, has noted a huge increase in Aussies getting hitched in safari areas such as Kruger National Park, the Sabi Sabi region, and on beaches along the Western Cape. “Australian couples getting married in South Africa have doubled since 2010, simply because you can’t match safari weddings with fantastic wildlife as a backdrop”, she said. Beach weddings along the picturesque, white-sand beaches of Cape Town are also in demand. “Couples are escaping the cold Australian climate during June and July, and getting the most out of their wedding by combining it with a honeymoon.”
While a traditional affair at home can grow to a 200-plus-guest list, a destination wedding narrows it down to those nearest and dearest, making it enticing for budget-savvy brides and grooms. And most resort venues offer a complementary wedding planner to take the angst out of planning from abroad. Experts say the key to staging a successful destination wedding in SA is planning ahead, providing guests with plenty of notice to RSVP, and shopping around to find a reliable and trustworthy wedding planner.
Wynne-Cole says marrying in an exotic location among elephants, lions, and tigers, or lush seaside surrounds, is a stress-free option. “We arrange accommodation, transfers, internal flights, and everything from photography to bonbonniere to take the headache out of planning, and we tailor your wedding to suit your budget”. Legalising a marriage in SA is also straight-forward, she said, unlike places like Mauritius and Zanzibar where many are considered ‘mock weddings’ until couples legalise it in their home country.”
Paola Barmonte, director of Sydney-based wedding and travel company Marry Me Abroad, says Australians are adventurous travellers and love the idea of marrying somewhere remote and full of culture. “Couples can get creative with their wedding choices and source their own decorations to really cut costs,” she said. ”Most couples already live together, and prefer to put their money towards an amazing destination wedding – and the best news is once they tie the knot, their honeymoon has already begun”.
TOP SPOTS TO TIE THE KNOT
Shamwari Game Reserve, Eastern Cape
With the choice of an outdoor wedding in the African bush, or on the lodge deck before a cosy reception by the fireplace with African drum performances, Shamwari’s wedding packages oer an all-inclusive stay at the luxury five-star resort, the ceremony and reception venue. A wedding planner costs an additional 10 per cent. www.shamwari.com
Camp Jabulani, Hoedspruit
At this family-owned, luxury safari lodge, ride in by elephan and dine among wildlife with a small, intimate affair for a maximum of 12 guests. Or elope in a hot-air balloon and exchange vows with a celebrant while riding the skies. www.campjabulani.com
Lagoon Beach Hotel, Cape Town
Catering for both intimate and larger ceremonies, as well as indoor and alfresco receptions, Lagoon Beach Hotel designs unique packages that include gourmet cuisine, spectacular views for a chic beachside celebration, and a complementary stay at the four-star hotel.
For advice on thelegal requirements of marrying in South Africa, contact the South African Embassy in Australia at www.south-africa.visahq.com or the South African High Commission in Canberra www.sahc.org.au
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