Imagine saying 'I do' in the heart of the bush or by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Amanda Statham reveals where and how to exchange your vows in Africa's most romantic settings.
© Mnemba Island Lodge. Tanzania
Weddings abroad have long been big business, but more couples than ever before are choosing to take the plunge and fly abroad to exchange their vows.
According to a new Mintel survey, one in ten marriages of British couples now takes place outside the UK and increasingly many of them are looking for something different from the usual barefoot beach ceremony. Africa, with its diverse landscape, spectacular wildlife and wealth of top-class accommodation, offers a range of romantic locations for ceremonies and is also a dream place for a Honeymoon.
Many couples opt for the excitement of a safari combined with some time by the coast. Pop star Sharon Corr and husband Gavin Bonnar, for example, recently went on safari in Tanzania and then flew to Zanzibar as part of their five-week Honeymoon.
Sail off in a hot air balloon above the Masai Mara Game Reserve and exchange your vows at sunrise. You'll descend to earth to enjoy a sumptuous champagne and after a game drive celebrate again as newly-weds with a romantic candlelit dinner.
The wedding package includes wedding cake for up to six people, a bottle of sparkling wine, bouquet and buttonhole for the bride and groom, decorated hot air balloon, small wedding gift and candlelit dinner. If you want to keep your feet on the ground, however, a truly unique spot to tie the knot in Kenya is on the edge of Laikipia Plateau overlooking the Ewaso Nyiro River.
The ideal time to exchange vows is at sunset, followed by a romantic meal at Sabuk Lodge. It's served in the luxurious Honeymoon suite, which has its own fireplace. The lodge can accommodate up to 12 people, so you can invite your friends and family! Combine a stay at Sabuk with a few nights at Kiwayu Safari Village, which lies on a remote stretch of beach on Kenya's coast, for the ultimate luxurious Honeymoon.
For a wedding with a back-to-nature vibe, say your vows amongst the trees at the picturesque Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. The bride and groom are escorted to the ceremony by singing and chanting Maasai, and then marry on the Tree Camp deck which is strewn with a carpet of rose petals.
After the marriage certificate is signed, the guests either enjoy snacks and champagne in the Tree Camp lounge or are escorted to Lake Eyasi lookout point to enjoy sunset cocktails. The lodge consists of 30 Maasai-inspired suites perched on stilts on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.
Each stone-and-thatch suite has spectacular views of the crater from large glass windows in the bathroom, lounge and bedroom. The rooms have an en suite bathroom and chandelier-lit bathtub and shower, and are discreetly tended by a personal butler who will bring you tea in bed, stoke your fireplace and draw you a rose petal bath.
If you're searching for the ultimate sun, sand and sea wedding location, then look no further than the beaches of Zanzibar. The pristine white sands lapped by warm waters make a fabulous spot to marry and Honeymoon at pretty much any time of the year.
Breezes Beach Club on the south-east coast is a popular place for weddings, particularly its beach ceremonies at sunset, followed by a candlelit meal for two on the shore. The bedrooms are perfect for Honeymooners: think polished wood floors, white mosquito nets and a wonderful mix of hand-carved furniture and unique Zanzibar antiques.
If you want to go even more remote and upmarket, then Mnemba Island Lodge, which as its name suggests sits on its own exclusive island, is the ultimate private hideaway.
If you're looking for a lavish and exotic setting for your big day, then you're not going to find anywhere more spectacular than La Mamounia, a former Moroccan Palace that's considered one of the most beautiful hotels in the world. It's decorated in stunning Moorish and art deco styles and is set amid 300-year-old gardens surrounded by the city's twelfth- century ramparts.
There are lots of modern facilities to enjoy too, such as the heated swimming pool and even a casino. Weddings can be arranged on an individual basis and can be as luxurious as you desire, from rose petal strewn pathways to giant reception banquets.
For a wildly romantic ceremony, consider exchanging your vows by the banks of the Timbavati River, against a spectacular backdrop of African bush. You'll stay at the Ngala Tented Safari Camp, set in 14,700 hectares of private reserve within South Africa's Kruger National Park and providing you with the excitement of big-five game viewing in a five-star setting.
The package includes ceremony plus post-wedding feast, bedroom decorated with candles and flowers, champagne bush breakfast and an afternoon game drive with a stop for celebratory drinks served by a butler. Alternatively, who could resist a ceremony in the beautiful ivy-clad wedding chapel in the grounds of Blue Mountain Lodge? You reach the chapel along a shaded pathway lined with plumbago and sweet smelling lavender.
Die-hard romantics opt for a candlelit ceremony at dusk followed by a reception on the manicured lawns. Set on 200 hectares of indigenous bush, forest and farmland, this pretty, ochre-washed lodge is a true 'Out of Africa' experience. The accommodation for your first night is also exceptional, whether you have a room overlooking the cobbled courtyard or one of the villas with private pool and panoramic views of the mountains.
Weddings at Hippo Hollow near the Kruger National Park are also pretty special. It is not unusual to see hippos grazing on grass nearby while you're exchanging your vows overlooking the Sabi River! The package includes venue, preparation of documentation, wedding ceremony and legal documentation, bridal bouquet and buttonhole plus a bottle of Champagne.
Fancy saying 'I do' on your own private island in the Zambezi River? If you stay at The River Club during the right season (June to December), weddings can be conducted in the open air on an island in front of the lodge, which sits by the tranquil Zambezi 18km upstream from Victoria Falls.
It consists of ten thatched luxury chalets which have en suite facilities including a bath, shower, toilet and basin. Best of all, the rooms are completely open-fronted, giving guests the best possible views of the river.Copyright © Travel Africa Magazine. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without the permission of the author is prohibited.