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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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OutdoorTent
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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

Namib Desert Wedding at Sossusvlei Lodge

I’ve seen a lot of amazing weddings grace the pages of SMP, but this desert beauty at Sossusvlei Lodge captured by Dror Eyal Photography and planned by Christelle Du Toit  is in a a league all of its own. Incredibly intimate and ridiculously stylish (hello gorgeous Jenny Packham  gown from Little White Dress Bridal Shop, I’m talking to you…), every moment sitting in this gallery is one for the books.

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From Little White Dress Bridal ShopCarl and Megan met while serving as Peace Corps education volunteers. Their paths crossed at a Peace Corps conference just outside of Namibia’s capitol city, Windhoek. However, the schools they taught at were 200km from each other. This meant for the first 8 months of their relationship, seeing each other meant hitchhiking on the desolate Namibian roads from one town to the next. In 2008 Megan’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and although she was only fifteen months into her Peace Corps service, Megan decided that returning to Salt Lake City was the right thing to do. Carl finished his twenty-four months of service and opted to join Megan in Salt Lake instead of returning to his hometown of Great Falls, Montana. Carl and Megan both started graduate school as they supported Megan’s mom through cancer treatment. Fortunately, the cancer treatment was successful.

During their time in Salt Lake City, Megan and Carl took every opportunity to travel. In 2011 they traveled to Gold Coast, Australia for the wedding of a dear friend. After the wedding, Megan took Carl around her old stomping ground in Sydney, where she studied in 2003. On the final day of the trip, Megan and Carl visited Taronga Zoo, which Megan bragged to Carl had the best views of Sydney Harbor. While at the zoo, the two came upon a deserted amphitheater used for bird shows that just happened to have a spectacular view of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Then Megan realized Carl was kneeling down next to her. Carl proposed and pulled off nearly the impossible: he managed to surprise Megan. She had been so busy preparing to be in her friend’s wedding and planning for the trip that an engagement of her own was the last thing on her mind. The next day, they flew home elated and to a very excited family who, of course, had been in on the whole scheme.

Megan and Carl had decided that they would return to country they first met, Namibia, to get married. They knew that marrying in Namibia would pose interesting logistical challenges, but the two agreed it had to be done. Not only were Megan and Carl dying to return to the county they loved, where they fell in love, but Megan’s family had planned to visit during her Peace Corps service, but couldn’t due to her mother’s illness. In the summer of 2011, Megan contacted the Sossusvlei Lodge in the southwestern part of Namibia, located on the border of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, in the Namib Desert. The Namib-Naukluft National Park boasts some of the world’s largest sand dunes that are colored an intense burnt-orange, contrasting markedly to the deep blue African sky. The largest dunes are located around an area of the park called Sossusvlei, which is where the Sossusvlei Lodge takes its name. Such a tourist destination would perhaps help entice friends and relatives to join in on the journey. Christelle du Toit, hotel manager and event coordinator of the Sossusvlei Lodge, responded to Megan’s initial requests, and they exchanged a few emails coordinating logistics, and in one email, Christelle wrote: “It will be our pleasure to make your request come true.” It felt like a fairy godmother granting a wish, but the requestors had not given much detail. Megan and Carl wanted the wedding to be simple, personal and elegant, but neither had given much thought to wedding details. They two just wanted to travel! Christelle mentioned the menu was pre-set due to the logistics of being literally in the middle of nowhere, flowers would be difficult due to the location and heat, there was no electricity at the ceremony site, they could not accommodate more than seventy people because they only had seventy chairs and they had never put together a rehearsal dinner before. “Fine, fine, fine,” Megan and Carl said. The location and being together were all that mattered. In August of 2011, the bride and groom’s parents hosted an engagement party and announced that in two years time, on August 26th, 2013, Megan and Carl would wed at the Sossusvlei Lodge in Namibia and anyone interested in an African adventure should consider joining.

Since there were two years to go until the wedding, things did not feel rushed. Megan looked here and there for a wedding dress, but couldn’t find a dress that felt right, and would fit the occasion. She’d just about settled on a simple, white sundress when she came across Little White Dress Bridal Shop online. The reviews were outstanding and Denver wasn’t too far from Salt Lake City. Megan and her mom flew to Denver for a ladies weekend and were blown away by the experience they had at Little White Dress Bridal. The moment Megan tried on Jenny Packham’s “Eden” she and her mom were both in love. It was just right: unique, non-traditional, easy to travel with and simply stunning for a Namibian desert setting. Megan always says it wasn’t until that moment she realized why women get so excited about a dress. When you find the right one, you just know it.

At the beginning of 2013 family and friends got serious about booking their trip. Megan got a little nervous as the guest numbers grew and she considered how little she knew about what the actual wedding would be like. It was a bit of a leap of faith, except that forty closest friends and family were leaping too and there was no turning back. The anticipations and unknowns were thrilling.

Arriving back in Namibia put all of Megan and Carl’s worries at bay. The country is simply incredible: from the people to the scenery, it felt like returning home. Megan and Carl caravanned with twenty guests, driving four vehicles for five hours, along the lengthy gravel roads from Windhoek to Sossusvlei. At the Sossusvlei Lodge, Christelle was calm and collected as could be, and so happy to meet everyone. She went over the wedding schedule with Megan and Carl, but the details including the actual site would all be kept secret. In the two days before the wedding, guests enjoyed hiking the windswept dunes and photographing wildlife, indulging in delectable food and being consumed by a twinkling, vast, endless night sky.

Christelle’s team planned a rehearsal dinner at Desert Camp, which is the sister campsite to the Sossusvlei Lodge. While music was not allowed because it could have disturbed the other guests staying on the property, it was not necessary. Namibia is known for its incredible night sky, which is what everyone enjoyed while alongside a bonfire, enjoying ceremonial toasts with delicious South African wine. It was intimate and perfect.

Sossusvlei is one of the most famous places in the world to take a hot air balloon ride, and many guests planned to do so the day before the wedding. Unfortunately, a violent windstorm prevented that from happening on August 25th, so the only possible day was the actual wedding day. Megan and Carl along with 20 other guests arose at 4:30am to catch sunrise from a balloon. The rainbow-colored balloons were magnificent as they were slowly heated and filled by huge bursts of fire in the pre-dawn light. Megan and Carl spent their wedding morning silently floating over the Namib Desert, the landscape scarred only by the mysterious fairy-circles below.

Carl and his groomsmen, including his best man and the officiant, Ghidewon Arefe, made due by ironing shirts on footstools. Megan’s flower girls came to get ready with the bridal party. Christelle told everyone except the bridal party to be ready to leave at 4:15 PM sharp to be shuttled via sand buggy to the wedding site (wherever that was). The bridal party was shuttled out at 4:30 in a sand buggy Christelle and her team tied with a simple ribbon and wreathe. Christelle also personally made a bouquet for Megan of grasses from around the lodge so she would have something to hold as she walked down the aisle. The driver set off straight into the desert, and nothing but grass, sand, mountains and a few sparse trees were in view. Finally the group arrived at a nook at the base of a rocky outcrop with a giant camelthorn tree set between two huge boulders. Christelle hung wooden hearts on the tree that swirled in the desert breeze and lined the aisle with native grasses. Carl and Megan chose a rendition of “Fools Rush In” performed by Megan’s aunts for the processional. A lot of time and effort went into the ceremony program, which Megan and Carl were so excited to share with their guests. The first reading was Goodridge vs. the Department of Public Health, the 2003 ruling from the Massachusetts Supreme Court that legalized gay marriage, which is an issue close to the hearts of the couple. The bride and groom’s parent’s helped honor relatives that couldn’t be there, those that had passed and also offered advice for the couple entering into their marriage. Next, Megan’s brother, Zach, debuted a song he wrote called “Your Someone” on his Key-tar, which he’d lugged from Salt Lake along with a battery powered amplifier, since there was no electricity at the site. The “Dude of Honor” read a passage from one of the couple’s favorite books, Travels with Charlie. Carl’s dad performed the Hungarian tradition of placing a gold and silver coin in the shoe of the bride to symbolize never having to go without, which honored Carl’s Hungarian grandmother and the couple concluded the ceremony with the breaking of a wineglass to honor Megan’s Jewish heritage.

Following a celebratory champagne toast, guests were whisked off to the hidden reception site, which was another five minutes into the middle of nowhere. By this time it was pitch black in the Namibian desert. Megan and Carl were driven separately to the reception behind the rest of the guests. Suddenly the driver stopped in front of a large boulder and told Megan and Carl to walk around the corner. Around the corner was a walkway made of dozens and dozens of flickering candles that seemed to lead into darkness. Arm in arm the new couple moved into the night with faint music as the only promise of life at the end of this path. The music grew louder and louder (luckily the reception site, although incredibly remote, did have electricity, thanks to a well-concealed generator). The couple came upon bonfires, a line of waiters standing before many tables of food and grills. The candles continued up the mountainside and seemed to climb into the starlit sky. DJ Stefan Piem who had traveled five hours on dirt roads from the coastal town of Swakopmund played a mix of old and new songs along with Namibian tunes. Friends had traveled from the USA, Europe and Australia to be there. The late-winter Namibian weather was cold, so guests piled pants, jackets and blankets on top of their formalwear and danced in the firelight darkness of the Namibian desert until 2:00 AM. Many of these guests remarked that they never would have considered traveling to Namibia, but it ended up being the best journey they’d ever had. Megan and Carl could not have dreamed up a better way to start their lives as husband and wife.

Photography: Dror Eyal Photography | Event Planning: Christelle Du Toit | Wedding Dress: Jenny Packham | Invitations: Chicks N' Hens | Reception Venue: Sossusvlei Lodge | Bride's Shoes: J.Crew | Bridesmaid's Dresses: David's Bridal | Bridesmaids' Dresses: BHLDN | Groom's Attire: Hugo Boss | Groomsmen's Attire: J.Crew | Bridal Shop: Little White Dress Bridal Shop | Bride's Hairpiece: Love Veils | Flower Girls' Dresses: Zara | Travel Coordinator: Expert Africa

BHLDN, J.Crew and Love Veils & Accessories are members of our Look Book. For more information on how members are chosen, click here. Little White Dress Bridal Shop is a member of our Little Black Book. Find out how members are chosen by visiting our FAQ page.
Little White Dress Bridal Shop

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Seychelles Wedding Film from Reel Love Films

I’ve never been to Seychelles.  It’s never even crossed my mind, if I am being honest.  But after viewing this breathtaking (and I mean breathtaking) film from Reel Love Films, it’s THE place I plan to vacation next. Because this island paradise?  This pretty little gem of perfection?  It’s beyond amazing… and the perfect spot for marrying.  One that these two sweeties embraced whole heartedly with an intimate group of amazing friends and family.  So sit back, relax and press play to dive into all of the pretty.  You’re going to love every last minute… believe you me.

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Estate

From Reel Love Films… Madel and Derick are from South Africa and are incredibly well travelled, but I think it has to be said that Fregate was something special. It’s a tiny private island in the Indian Ocean with almost unbelievable beaches; there are no cars, just golf buggies. Dotted around the island are the beautiful villas where guests stay, complete with their own butler and private pool. But the thing that made this place so special was the unique and incredible wildlife that lives with you during your stay. The place is full of bats, tortoises, centipedes, birds, flowers and the most magical sight of turtles coming to lay their eggs in the sand on the beaches… which happened just before the ceremony took place… pretty mind blowing! A special mention must also go to the staff who work there on the island looking after everyone, they are simply outstanding and made the week so very memorable for everyone.

Derick and Madel were joined by their close family and friends, who made the week so special for them. It was full of laughter, love and happiness, with some great adventures and sunsets. Madel’s good friend Riana helped plan the week and did a fantastic job styling the beach wedding, Derick and Madel welcomed Beccy and I into their lives for a week and we had the most amazing experience with them all, we wish you both all the luck and love for your future together and thank you so much for letting us be a part of your adventure.

From the Bride… We were on our America trip, June last year when I bought my dress at Nordstroms Bridal Boutique in Chicago! I had done quite a bit of research online and loved their dresses. I made the appointment online, knowing the dates we would be in Chicago. They were so helpful and professional; even made a few small adjustments and then sent it along to our next stop on our travels. It was a bit nerve-wrecking, but they did not disappoint!  My beautiful sandals was given to me as a gift by my friend, Estelle who was also at the wedding. They are by Lavorazione Artiziana; Greece.

Riana was my absolute ‘wing-lady’ those five days on Fregate and I could not have coped without her! She also introduced us to Fregate Private Island as our perfect destination and made the reservations for our group. Once we had finalised the booking, I begged her to join us for the duration of the trip, knowing how professional and organised she is. We have known each other since 2006 and had become good friends. She knew how much effort I had put into every detail and I knew she would make sure that it all ran smoothly!

Cinematography: Reel Love Films | Photography: Rebecca Goddard Photography | Event Design: Lederle Safaris + The Bride | Ceremony & Reception Location: Fregate Private Island | Bride’s Shoes: Lavorazione Artiziana, Greece | Bride’s Dress: Nicole Miller via Nordstrom

Nicole Miller is a member of our Look Book. For more information on how members are chosen, click here. Reel Love Films is a member of our Little Black Book. Find out how members are chosen by visiting our FAQ page.
Reel Love Films

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