South Africa’s rich cultural heritage (where else do you find 11 official languages?) makes it the ideal destination for couples from all over the world to get married. From a typical Western wedding with the dress, the bridesmaids, the flowers, the formalities; to the paying of lobola (bride price), there is something to appeal to all tastes.
South African Wedding Venues and Honeymoon Destinations
Whether it’s a wine estate in Cape Town, the Knysna Heads, stark Karoo farmhouse, Drakensberg mountaintop or Big 5 game reserve, couples will find the South African wedding venue of their dreams; followed by an awesome honeymoon.
Take, for example a traditional Shangaan wedding, which is celebrated with much ceremony and jubilation. Wives and husbands enjoy separate ceremonies leading up to the actual wedding, and the whole community is involved, thereby ensuring a blessed union.
A Safari Styled Wedding
At Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin, a unique wedding ceremony has been create that combines elements of Shangaan culture (the local communities are all Shangaan) with English and Afrikaans traditions.
One of the most beautiful areas on the Sabi Sabi property is called “Fig Tree Crossing” -a sandy river bank and a huge rock, behind which grows an enormous Sycamore Fig tree, which spreads its dappled shade across the top of the rock. In the shady riverbed, a simple wedding table is prepared, with a white linen cloth, champagne on ice, some driftwood, pods and wild flowers. Next to the table are safari chairs for the guests and priest and a zebra skin sprinkled with rose petals for the couple to stand on.
Vows are exchanged against this magnificent setting, and rings are blessed on a porcupine quill. It is a Shangaan tradition for the couple to exchange gifts; in this case the groom gives his bride an Ndbele blanket, which signifies his willingness to protect and shelter her during their marriage. The bride then is handed a traditional beer pot filled with juice for her to offer to her husband, a symbol of her intention to care for him and provide for his needs during their marriage. Lastly, there is the exchange of bracelets: a beaded one for the bride and a metal one for the groom – gifts that have high value in the local community.
After the ceremony, the couple has photos taken around the rock, the tree and on the sandy river bed before celebrating with champagne. They then travel back to the lodge for the wedding banquet.
Exquisite Wedding Receptions
Back at the safari lodge the wedding table is recreated and the festivities kick off with singing and dancing from the local community. It is customary to make a lot of noise – singing and beating drums – before starting the wedding feast. Singers will sing ancient songs as well as improvising with a new song made up with the wedding couple’s names. All guests are involved in the dancing and celebrating and then sit down around a fire to eat and drink in celebration. While local beer is an integral part of any wedding, fine local wines and champagne are included as well.
When the evening winds down, the wedding couple will retire to a “honeymoon” suite prepared with rose petals, candles and champagne – the perfect ending to a perfect day.