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Adventurous Safari Wedding in South Africa

The only thing that could possibly top a rehearsal dinner in the middle of the South African wild, is a wedding following suit. This gem is overflowing with the raw beauty of an African safari coupled with impeccably crafted details at the hands of Afresh Event DesignNineteen Eight Five, and Wedding Concepts. Now throw in image after stunning image by Mike Falco For Christian Oth Studio and you have a gallery not to be missed.

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Spring
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LodgeOutdoor

From The Bride…While Jon and I got ready with our family and wedding parties, the guests were treated to an early morning game drive at sunrise. After our preparations, we boarded the safari jeeps once again for the ceremony at Inkwazi Hide, a large, wooden deck under a 200-year-old Acacia tree overlooking the Sabie River. A local African choir sang Zulu praise songs as I walked down the aisle and we were greeted by our officiant who spoke on themes of friendship, adventure and nature (punctuated by hilarious hippo grunts coming from the river). When we were pronounced man and wife, our guests surprised us by loudly trumpeting on Vuvuzelas. Afterwards, Jon and I snuck away for a few photos and our guests were treated to signature cocktails while taking in a glorious African sunset on a deck overlooking the river. When it was time, guests journeyed towards the candlelit reception dinner.

Memorable Moments…True to our adventure theme, some of our most memorable moments from the wedding were the unplanned and unexpected ones. Our 2-year-old ring bearer not only dressed up as a lion cub, but also burst out with spontaneous roars as he walked down the aisle. A curious hippo joined us during our couples shoot on the riverbed. And despite the demanding travel and early morning safaris, guests rallied and still managed to dance the night away. One of my favourite moments was during the last song of the night, Toto’s “Africa.” As the lyrics blared “I bless the rains down in Africa” at 3am, it started to pour and we all rushed outside to dance in the rain.

Local flavor…Since the locale was so rich in raw beauty and splendor, we wanted the African landscape to be the focus and also tried to stay true to local elements and flavors. Waiting for guests in their lodges on arrival was a handmade Guide Box, filled with South African favourites like rooibos tea and Amarula liqueur. Also included were some clues for an adventure-filled weekend: a compass, an Acacia twig, and a Field Guide with information on local customs, wildlife facts and useful Shangaan phrases. To ensure that the florals would hold up under the fierce African sun, we opted for a combination of King Proteas, succulents and feinbos. As guests enjoyed local wines from the famous Stellenbosch region, a group of traditional Zulu dancers set the African rhythms in motion by teaching guests tribal dances.

Personal details…We wanted the wedding to be not just a celebration with family and friends but also a heartfelt thank you and show of appreciation for their constant love and support throughout the years. We tried to achieve this through personalized details. These ranged from surprising guests with their childhood photos on their seating cards (a great conversation starter) to calligraphy on the place cards with goofy nicknames and individual welcome “telegrams” that described our favorite past adventures with the guest.

In gratitude…In the end, it was a true “Wild At Heart” wedding adventure. A bottomless THANK YOU to Kim and Michael for helping to create and document our dream wedding. Jon and I were so grateful to begin our new chapter together with such an incredible adventure with our family and friends.

Photography: Mike Falco For Christian Oth Studio | Event Design: Afresh Event Design | Floral Design: Nineteen Eight Five | Wedding Dress: Reem Acra | Invitations: Lara's Designs | Catering: Lion Sands | DJ: DJ Rene | Beauty: Mist | Planning: Wedding Concepts | Travel Logistics: Travel Concepts | Wedding Venue: Lion Sands

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South African Safari Rehearsal Dinner

This rehearsal dinner goes out to all those wild at heart. Capital A Adventure was an underlying theme that was woven throughout this South African safari wedding starting with a rehearsal dinner amongst the wildlife and the stars. Have a look at the gorgeous imagery captured by Mike Falco For Christian Oth Studio and stay tuned for the stunning wedding coming up next!

From The Bride…Why Africa? Jon and I met in NYC through a mutual friend and over the course of our 8-year relationship, our favorite moments together are ones where we felt like we were on an adventure. So when it came time to plan our wedding, we wanted to cultivate that sense of curiosity and wonder by hosting a safari wedding out in the untamed African bush. We settled on my native South Africa and after five months of intense planning, 75 of our closest family and friends from different corners of the globe set out for our “Wild At Heart” wedding adventure.

Into the wild…After a long day on the road, our guests arrived at the Lion Sands Game Reserve, in the heart of Sabi Sands. All the arduous travel paid off as the remote locale allowed our guests to experience the majestic African landscape in all her unbridled splendor. After a refreshing afternoon tea, the guests hopped into jeeps and set out on their first safari game drive. The guides did not disappoint and fearlessly took everyone off-roading in search of the famed Big Five game. The wild encounters included four lions feasting on a freshly killed buffalo, a baby elephant tripping over its trunk, a pair of rhinoceros brothers napping together in the shade, and a mother leopard teaching her cub to track with a playful game of hide and seek.

Rehearsal Dinner in the Bush…After the eventful game drive, the jeeps brought the guests into an unprotected clearing where a casually elegant bush dinner awaited. The guests shared their experiences from the first day around a campfire and savored local meats such as kudu, ostrich and biltong. Glowing fireflies, oil lanterns hanging from trees and the dramatic Milky Way up above helped to illuminate this surreal evening.

Tea ceremony…After the relaxing dinner, our loved ones gathered around us in a protective circle as Jon and I served tea to our parents and elders to express our gratitude. A particularly poignant blessing from my 87 year-old grandmother resulted in moist eyes all around. I loved that the emotional moment was an unexpected melding of two cultures: a traditional Chinese ceremony taking place in the African bush, illuminated by a campfire and lanterns (with a few hyenas looking on as well).

Photography: Mike Falco For Christian Oth Studio | Event Planning: Wedding Concepts | Wedding Coordinator: Wedding Concepts | Floral Design: Nineteen Eighty Five | Stationery: Lara's Designs | Catering: Lion Sand's | DJ: DJ Rene | Accommodation & Travel Logistics: Travel Concepts | Beauty: Mist | Decor & Lighting: A Fresh Event Design | Rehearsal Dinner Venue: Lion Sand's

Wedding Concepts is a member of our Little Black Book. Find out how members are chosen by visiting our FAQ page.
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KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, South Africa Wedding at Caversham Mill

Intimate and simply gorgeous, this Bride’s vision for a “summer camp for grown-ups” came to life in the prettiest of ways. With a stunning South African setting and love pouring out of every pretty picture by dna Photographers, this gallery is as good as they get. See it all here.

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Summer
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Elegant

From The Bride…I have rented a five-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for the past eight years, and five years ago, when one of our roommates was moving out, I posted an ad on Craigslist. I received the following response: “Hi! My name is Chris Shirley. I am a 23 year old Structural Engineer. I currently live downtown and am moving out of my current apartment on 1 June. I work on 45th Street. Your apartment looks great. I would like to meet up with you and check it out.” He moved in on June 1, and after a summer spent going to the beach, camping out for Shakespeare in the Park tickets, and walking my dog around Central Park, we fell in love.

Christopher proposed in Central Park three years later, and we were married in City Hall with my mother and our best friend as witnesses. We told only our close friends and family, but Christopher wanted to keep our City Hall wedding a secret, because he feared that no one would fly half way around the world for our real wedding if they knew we were legally married. I managed to keep it secret for two months, and then posted this on Facebook: “Christopher Shirley & I got married on November 23, 2011 at NYC City Hall. We weren’t going to announce it until after our actual wedding ceremony, but I’ve waited over 2 months and I have no patience left. We’re married and I love the boy!”

Christopher is from Johannesburg, South Africa and we love the South African countryside. We wanted to hold our wedding ceremony at his family friends’ home and Country Inn, the Caversham Mill in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Luckily, Christophers mother is an event planner, because we both work full-time and are in graduate school part-time. I emailed my mother-in-law a million photos from Style Me Pretty and told her we wanted “summer camp for grown-ups.” We wanted to go river tubing and midnight swimming, and romp around the hills with our best friends. We wanted to sing loudly at night, and take our friends on a game drive to see the Big 5 after the wedding. We also needed a vegan wedding, which was difficult but not impossible to pull off in South Africa. We are both vegans and animal rights activists, and to hear our meat eating friends proclaim that our wedding menu was so delicious they may actually consider going vegan was pretty incredible.

The rest, as they say, is history. My mother got her very first passport and flew 14 hours to South Africa. Our best friend married us under three beautiful old trees, and we had the most amazing time with friends and family who flew in from five different countries and four different continents to celebrate our marriage with us.

Photography: Dna Photographers | Venue: Caversham Mill