By Milena Santoro, CMM, CMP, PIDP, MS Productions, Canada and Europe,
and Christina Holt, Wedding Concepts, Cape Town, South Africa photo by Jean-Pierre Uys

Looking for a wedding or honeymoon setting that combines beautiful scenery, world-class wineries, and opportunities for a bush or safari experience? Consider South Africa. South Africa has emerged as one of the world’s top wedding destinations. Celebrations can be centered in the beautiful countryside, in one of South Africa’s bustling cities, or in a combination of the two locales.

Location! Location!

The Winelands, located just outside of Cape Town, offer the largest choice of historic and modern venues in picturesque settings. The many outstanding South African wine vintages provide a wide variety of choice for the most discerning palate. Game reserves, such as the Kruger National Park or Madikwe Game Reserve, offer stunning settings with backgrounds that include diverse, exotic wildlife. Stylish lodges can provide a luxurious oasis among the plains, which are famous for their wildlife safari excursions.

Cape Town, known for its artsy and buzzing energy, was voted one of CNN’s 2015 “Top 10 World’s Best Cities.” It offers exceptional Five Star hospitality. Just imagine a wedding photo session using the historic buildings of this city, such as the Houses of Parliament, for a gracious formal backdrop, or a bridal couple photographed on one of South Africa’s sandy beaches. Scenic seaside weddings are also possible around Durban and on the shores of the Western Cape.

temperate climATE/floral diversity

South Africa is famous for its sunshine. You might not need to unpack your umbrella. It’s a relatively dry country, with half the world’s average of rainfall. The Western Cape gets most of its rainfall in winter, from June to August, while the rest of the country generally has it’s rainfall during summer. This climate produces rich flora and fauna. Known for its floral offerings and designs, floral designers can choose from among 20,000 different plants for their unique creations.

Barbecue, anyone?

South Africans love a braai, and you probably will, too. A braai is a barbeque celebration featuring a variety of meats, and, near the coast, fish and rock lobster. For traditional fare, try pap, a barbecue food made of corn maize and often served with onions and tomatoes. South Africans so love their braais that Sept. 24 is National Braai Day, a celebration that gives a nod to South African heritage.

Wanna dance?

Vibrant African entertainment is guaranteed to make your celebration memorable. South Africa music is extremely diverse. If your couple wants trendy, they can dance to Kwaito, a music form born in Johannesburg in the ‘90s. Similar to hip hop, it features vocals and catchy melodic and percussive loops that include African sounds. If this isn’t their style, traditional African music or jazz can enliven any celebration.

Cultural traditions abound

African weddings have a variety of traditions couples might choose to enhance their destination wedding experience. In addition to exchanging rings and lighting a candle after their vows, Africans often symbolize the union by having their wrists bound together with grass or other natural materials.

The wedding feast, or Karamu, begins with the oldest male, usually a relative of the couple, giving a blessing. At the Karamu, table decorations are often symbolic. They can include four elements that can be tasted—lemon, vinegar, pepper, and honey. Often, these are put into pots that are incorporated into the floral centerpieces. Guests are given a spoon and a card explaining the tradition. They are invited to taste the four symbolic elements alongside the newlyweds. The ritual dramatizes a traditional promise to love “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, and in sickness and health.”

Another tradition is to include kola nuts, either on a decorative branch or in a vase. The kola nut is a symbol of healing and is used in a variety of medicines. These nuts are exchanged with friends and family to symbolize the healing of differences. African weddings often display 12 items representing different aspects of strength and love that bind together the families. These include: water, wheat, wine, honey, salt and pepper, a pot and spoon, a spear and shield, a broom, and a copy of the Bible or Koran.

Other wedding traditions abound. In a Ndebele wedding, all women wear a goatskin apron adorned with beads. Zulu brides often wear a traditional red headdress made from the bride’s mother’s hair. After the marriage ceremony, the bride is led to the groom’s house where a cow is slaughtered, and as a new family member, the bride puts money in the cow’s stomach.

Whatever the tradition, South African celebrations make a lifetime of wonderful and unique memories for the special couple and their guests. ••