There’s nothing quite like the magic of a safari wedding. Exchanging vows against the spectacular beauty of the African landscape, surrounded by family, friends – and sometimes a passing animal friend or two. South Africa offers several incredible venues for safari weddings, but planning a bush wedding has its own set of logistical challenges. Here are our top safari wedding tips to set you on the right path.
We would like to thank Jovan and Ruan for letting us feature their beautiful safari wedding images! Complete supplier list at the bottom of this post.
Choose a private reserve
When you’re looking for a wedding location, look for a property that is in a private game reserve instead of a national park. You’ll be able to get much closer to the animals in a private reserve, making for some thrilling game drives!
Embrace your vision
Safari lodges come in all shapes and sizes, from traditional elegance to rustic luxury. You can find a lodge that fits your travel style and the way you want your wedding to look.
Start with your guest list
The size of your guest list will have a major impact on the venue you choose. For example, if you’re planning on having a large party, you’ll need to ensure you are within reach of enough accommodation for everyone. Different game lodges also have very different options in terms of reception spaces. This will help you narrow down your South African safari wedding venue options much more efficiently.
Don’t wait to start planning
As with any destination wedding, it’s important to give your guests as much advance notice as possible. It’s also a good idea to book your venue well in advance, especially if you want to book a game lodge exclusively for your safari wedding. This is because most game lodges have deals with international tour guide companies which book the lodges months in advance.
Know where your budget will go
Decide in advance what you will be paying for, versus what guests will pay for on their own. Whether you’re covering costs or not, choosing lodges and reserves that are closer to major airports will make travel much more affordable. When it comes to lodging, most of them are all-inclusive, so you won’t have to worry about surprise charges. This will help you estimate your costs up-front, and will help guests more accurately decide if they can afford to attend.
Always have a backup plan for your wedding ceremony
There are two aspects you can’t control: wild animals moving into your chosen setting a day or two before the event, and the weather. If you’re planning an outdoor ceremony in the middle of the bush or in a river bed that’s well-traversed by a lion or elephant, try to include a portion of your budget for a contingency plan and keep a few extra ceremony ideas up your sleeve just in case. It’s also important to manage your expectations, so try to keep this in mind.
Keep the décor simple and elegant
While you’ll be able to include many western wedding traditions, the design and décor may be more limited. The more remote a lodge is, the harder it will be to get your décor must-haves there and therefore, the more expensive it will get. The visual centerpiece of a safari wedding is always nature itself. You don’t want to take away from that by overcomplicating your wedding design. Keep things simple and chic, and let the setting do the talking.
Employ a travel concierge
Before you even have a guest list, a travel professional will be able to help you find the perfect lodge for you. “A great travel team will find the property to match your vision, as well as understand each venue’s benefits and limitations. And they’ll be invaluable once your guests are ready to book their flights.
A travel concierge should be part of your event team any time far-flung travel is involved. They will be able to help guests book travel, and also provide a support network both before and during the trip. That means you won’t be the one fielding those last-minute phone calls or trying to arrange group transportation!
Your travel concierge and the lodge’s on-site staff will be able to guide you through any vaccines and medication needed for your journey, and you should reiterate it to your guests as much as possible. Malaria is something to be aware of, and guests should be on a course of malaria medication during their trip if they are visiting an area where the disease is present.
Incorporate local customs
One of our favourite African bush traditions is the evening ‘sundowner,’ which fits perfectly into a wedding celebration. Every afternoon, you stop for a cocktail and a snack as the sun begins to set over your game drive. For a wedding, it can be dressed up with a full bar and more substantial canapés, giving your guests a chance to savour the sounds and sights of the setting sun. If your lodge is near a local village, ask the property about dance and singing groups who might be able to come to perform around an evening campfire.
Make it a long weekend
One of our biggest safari wedding tips is to make sure you give yourself enough time to really enjoy the experience. This includes sharing morning and afternoon game drives with your loved ones, enjoying the luxury facilities, and just spending quality time together! You don’t want to feel rushed.
Combine your wedding and honeymoon
One of the best parts of having a luxury safari wedding is that the honeymoon can start straight away! You can also split your honeymoon between bush and beach, and enjoy a few lazy days soaking up the sun on our beautiful coast.
We would like to thank Jovan and Ruan for letting us feature their beautiful safari wedding images!
Here is their complete supplier list:
Coordinator – ASAP Events
Venue – Indlovu River Lodge, Karongwe Portfolio
Photographer – Chris Joubert, Suntouched Media
Videographer – Spilt Silk Videography
Floral/Decor Designer – Bee Happy Events
Lighting – SMD Technical
DJ – DJ Kian
Catering – Vita Nova Catering
Shuttles – Osprey Tours
Hiring – Dougs Hiring, SQ Weddings
Stationery – Seventy Seven, Izaan Ohlse