How to plan an African safari wedding
When it comes to destination weddings, we say the more exotic the better. And nothing could be more exotic than getting married in the middle of the Serengeti in Tanzania or among the grasses of the Okovango Delta in Botswana during a safari wedding! When Sasithon Pooviriyakul from Sasithon Photography married Monty Hermann in Kenya, we couldn’t have enough. So, we turned to the pros for a little insight into how you can make this adventurous destination wedding idea your own. So grab your binoculars, pack your persimmons and get ready to plan a safari wedding your guests will never believe!
The current coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. As the situation continues to flow, we’ll share tips and stories from industry experts to give you the best advice and help you navigate wedding planning today. For the most recent guidelines and the latest travel restrictions and requirements, check the websites of the CDC and the US Department of State.
Choose a private reserve
âWhen looking for a wedding venue, I recommend a property that is in a private game reserve instead of a national park,â says Michelle Rago of Michelle Rago Destinations. âYou will be able to get much closer to the animals in a private reserve, which will allow you to experience exciting safaris!â
Embrace your vision
âSafari lodges come in all shapes and sizes, from traditional elegance to rustic luxury,â says Lindsey Epperly Sulek of Epperly Travel. âYou can really find a lodge that matches your travel style. and the way you want your wedding to look.
Consider the whole property
Weddings, even the smallest, take up space, so be sure to look for a lodge that can accommodate a ceremony and reception. “The tent may not be an option like it is with weddings here in the United States, so it is important to consider whether there is adequate indoor or indoor space for your celebration as well,” explains Rago.
Consult the flight map
Getting to Africa is not easy and requires several connections and at least a full day of travel. “To make it easier for your guests, narrow your location search to camps accessible by a direct flight from New York, followed by a drive (instead of an often expensive second flight in a small plane),” Rago advises. “For example, Shamwari Private Game Reserve is relatively accessible from Port Elizabeth in South Africa.” She also recommends Sabi Sands, Camp Jabulani, and Kapama Game Reserve, all private reserves in Kruger National Park.
Match the guest list to the size of the lodge
âNow is not the time to play the A-List and B-List game,â Rago said. âWhile it can work well when you have access to local hotels and a flexible location, that number of trips and limited space is not that easy!â Sulek adds: “Most safari lodges are on the boutique side, which means adding someone at the last minute isn’t possible just based on the number of rooms available.” Instead, make a list based on how many people your place can accommodate. Remember: you may have a much higher âyesâ response rate from guests who want to join you for the trip of a lifetime than for a home wedding! âI recommend redeeming the hotel – and the lodge may even require it depending on the size of your party,â Sulek concludes.
Consider alternative options
âIf you’re struggling to narrow down your guest list, but the destination wedding you’re considering goes beyond a lodge safari, look for nearby towns,â says Sulek. “Cape Town, in particular, is a wonderful destination for a wedding.” Once you get married in town, you can go on safari for your honeymoon. âAdd a few days on islands like the Seychelles and you will have a complete and unforgettable experience of the best of Africa.â
Know where your budget will go
âDecide in advance what you will pay, versus what customers will pay themselves,â says Rago. âWhether you cover the costs or not, choosing lodges and reservations closer to major airports will make travel much more affordable.â When it comes to accommodation, most are all-inclusive, so you won’t have to worry about unexpected charges that can quickly get expensive. “It will help you estimate your costs in advance and help guests decide more precisely if they can afford to attend.” That being said, a trip to Africa will be expensive no matter what, which could be a strong incentive to keep your guest list – and therefore your costs – low.
Rethink your design
While you can include many western wedding traditions (as well as local cultural aspects!), The design and decor can be more limited. âThe farther away a lodge, the harder it will be to get your decorating essentials there and, therefore, the more expensive it will be,â says Sulek. So keep your design simple, letting the frame speak for itself.
Employ a travel concierge
Before you even have a guest list, a travel professional can help you find the perfect lodge for you. âA great travel team will find the property that matches your vision and understand the advantages and limitations of each location,â says Sulek. And they’ll be invaluable once your guests are ready to book their flights. Rago says, âA travel concierge should be part of your event team whenever distant travel is involved. They will be able to help clients book their trip and also provide a support network before and during the trip. That means you won’t be the one answering those last minute phone calls or trying to arrange group transportation!
Priority to health
Your travel concierge and on-site lodge staff will be able to walk you through the vaccines and medications needed for your trip, and you should repeat this to your guests as much as possible. âMalaria is absolutely something to be aware of, and guests should take antimalarial treatment during their trip if you are visiting an area where the disease is present,â says Rago. Also find out about other vaccinations that might be needed, such as yellow fever or hepatitis A and B.
Integrate local customs
âOne of my favorite African bush traditions is ‘sunset’, which fits perfectly into a wedding celebration,â says Rago. âEach afternoon you stop for a cocktail and a snack as the sun begins to set on your safari. For a wedding, it can be complemented with a full bar and more hearty appetizers, giving your guests the chance to savor the sights and sounds of the setting sun. If your lodge is near a local village, check with the property about dancing and singing groups that might come and perform around a campfire in the evening. And of course, keep the local menu! âRegional dishes will help spice up your menu and give your guests a taste of the region,â says Sulek. âIn South Africa, for example, it could mean a spread of unique game meats! ”
See more : 7 Destination Wedding Budget Tips You Can Actually Use
Bring your own talent
âPlanning a destination wedding is already a challenge, and even more so in a remote area where vendor options are scarce,â says Sulek. “For the most important element, like photography and videography, you might be better off bringing in the professional of your choice to make sure the quality is up to your expectations.”
Make it educational
âConservation is a wonderful aspect that is included in many game reserves and lodges,â Rago notes. âThe protection of wildlife and the preservation of the land are at the heart of the existence of these lodges and reserves. Â»Educate your guests about the work being done in the area and consider asking for donations in lieu of wedding gifts.