African destination weddings are often one-stop shops that include the convenience of wedding planning with all the details. By Michelle Colman.
Tropical appeal on the Indian Ocean coastline
Indigenous forest beside the shimmering Indian Ocean is a tropical African setting with wide appeal, one that makes Fairmont Zimbali Lodge on the KwaZulu Natal north coast suited to both intimate and grand weddings.
The resort has a team of experienced wedding planners, event and culinary specialists who can bring all sorts of wedding visions to reality.
Venues include the Thandi Restaurant, the Ngwenya Terrace, the Palm Court and Zimbali Beach at a hire price tag of R7 500-R25 000. The latter two include a beach application to the local municipality.
For 60 guests and more, the wedding package includes site inspection and meeting with the wedding co-ordinator; food and beverage tasting of selected menu items for the bride and the groom, two-hour rehearsal at the selected venue, use of a room for the bride and her party from 10h00 to 15h00 on the day of the wedding, non-alcoholic welcome cocktails and refreshment towels prior to the ceremony for guests, transfer of bride and groom in luxury vehicles from the hotel to ceremony or reception venue within the resort, and a 50% discount on the honeymoon room on the night of the wedding with romantic turndown and a bottle of sparkling wine.
Thousands of acres for scenic backdrops
When the upmarket Royal Delta Lodge opens in the Okavango, Botswana, in March 2017, it will present couples wanting a small but upmarket bush wedding with a tempting possibility. The fly-in venue will only accommodate 22 guests.
Ruth Bassett, Director of An African Anthology, which is representing the new property, says the lodge’s staff, which include executive chefs, pastry chefs and butlers, will do all the planning and manage every need, making the whole event effortless for the bride and groom.
With 100 000 hectares at its disposal, the lodge has no shortage of scenic ceremonial spots. The lodge overlooks a lagoon, which makes a great setting. There are other options in the main areas that include a spa, cocktail bar, lounge and pool and, of course, locations outdoors and in the bush.
“Our rates include all local alcoholic beverages, selected premium spirits and Méthode Cap Classique, all meals, of course, and activities such as game drives, boat cruises, mokoros and fishing. We also offer horse riding as an optional extra,” says Bassett. Charters can also be arranged by management.
Down the aisle to the beat of an African drum
Another intimate, wedding location – this time in the southern reaches of the Kruger National Park – is Lukimbi Safari Lodge, reached via the Malelane Gate.
Overlooking the Lwakahle River, this lodge accommodates a total of 32 guests. Sally Kernick, Marketing Director, points out that for weddings, the lodge must be booked for a two-day stay, and in terms of its arrangements with SANParks, weddings can only be arranged for guests who are actually staying at Lukimbi.
“We have an in-house wedding organiser who arranges everything from start to finish,” says Kernick. The property has its own baroque-style chapel, as well as a ‘wedding tree’. The bridal couple can walk down the aisle serenaded by an African choir, or to the beat of rhythmic drumming.
Diverse settings, from a fig tree to a cultural village
A wedding at one of the lodges in the Legend Hospitality Group does not end when the celebrations are over. Bride and groom are invited back to spend their one-year anniversary at the same location, on a complimentary B&B basis with champagne and romantic treats
Zebra Country Lodge, Entabeni Safari Conservancy and the Legend Golf & Safari Resort are suitable venues for larger weddings. Zebra Country Lodge, near Pretoria, can cater for 250 guests with accommodation for 128. The Entabeni Safari Conservancy can cater for 300, with overnight space for 168, and Legend Golf and Safari Resort houses 500 guests, sleeping 440. The latter two lodges are in the Waterberg region of Limpopo province, about three hours’ drive from Johannesburg.
At all three properties, a hands-on wedding co-ordinator is assigned to the bridal couple on confirmation of their booking. The co-ordinator assists with all the wedding arrangements on-site and the wedding couple are supplied with a ‘preferred supplier’ list of the very best product and service providers.
The lodges offer a choice of indoor or outdoor locations for the wedding ceremony, reception and photographs. The nuptials can take place under a fig tree or in a cultural village. There is also a choice of accommodation types. Entertainment can be arranged – such as an African drumming or a cultural performance. Zebra Country Lodge has its own chapel and a marimba band.
Weddings infused with ‘oceanic energy’
“The point where the open ocean meets the water of Maputo bay, on the lodge’s main beach, bursts with oceanic energy and provides an incredible atmosphere for getting married,” says Chris Nolte, Co-owner of Machangulo Beach Lodge in Mozambique. It is just one of many unique locations that the property can offer for wedding ceremonies.
The lodge has limited services but can provide décor, flowers, banqueting services and can organise external suppliers for hair and makeup, photography and ceremonial staff. It can accommodate a maximum of 34 guests for a wedding.
Eastern Cape beach idyll
Cape St Francis Resort offers its Gold Wedding Package to wedding parties with a minimum of 80 guests. The package comes with a number of choices.
The ceremony can take place on the resort’s long stretch of beach, on the lawns that overlook the beach (a little more protected on a windy day) or in the quaint on-site chapel with its wooden floors and elegant ambience. At all three, the resort will erect a rustic wedding arch made of driftwood and chairs or benches.
Post-ceremony, drinks and canapés are served until the reception kicks off. This could be in a veranda-fronted venue called The Space, or the Theatre, or back at the Chapel. The meal option is three courses, with plated starters and desserts and a main course buffet.
Accommodation-wise, two nights for up to 10 wedding party guests is offered in a five-bedroom Beach Villa, which includes a honeymoon suite, or up to 12 guests in a Beach Break Villa. The bridal couple can also enjoy a picnic breakfast in bed or at a scenic spot on the beach.
The package, valid until November, is priced at R73 000 for 80 guests.