Weddings Under An African Sky

News update: 6th February

With destination weddings becoming more and more desired and ever more popular, the choice of many brides and bridegrooms-to-be across the world is becoming South Africa. And why not? South Africa’s rich cultural heritage (in which other country would you find 11 official languages?) makes it the ideal destination for couples from all over the world to get married. South Africa, with its wonderful social and natural diversity, can offer a whole range of wedding types and venues. There are beach weddings and mountain weddings, vineyard weddings and hotel weddings – but none are more outstanding than the unforgettable, intimate nuptials which take place in the Sabi Sabi bushveld.


At Sabi Sabi, couples can elect to tie the knot combining elements of a typical Western wedding (including the dress, the bridesmaids, the flowers,) with some of the traditions of the local Shangaan tribe whose members count among the majority of our staff. Of course there is no traditional paying of lobola (the bride price) by the bride’s family to that of the groom, nor are there the separate ceremonies which precede the actual Shangaan wedding. But the jubilant party attended by the entire village in order to ensure a blessed union is certainly matched by the unique Sabi Sabi ceremony and joyous celebration which follows.

One of the most popular wedding venues in the Sabi Sabi Reserve is a stunning area called “Fig Tree Crossing”. The name perfectly describes the spot – a sandy riverbed over which looms an imposingly huge rock, atop of which grows an enormous Sycamore Fig tree stretching its wide branches and spreading welcome dappled shade below. A beautiful wedding table is prepared in the riverbed, its crisp linen cloth stylishly decorated with driftwood, pods and wild flowers. For the formalities, the bride and groom stand on a rose petal strewn zebra skin, whilst the wedding guests are comfortably seated on safari chairs.


It is a Shangaan tradition for the wedding couple to exchange gifts. First the groom gives his bride a decorative blanket to bind the marriage and to signify his willingness to protect and shelter her. The bride is then handed a traditional beer pot filled with juice which she offers to her new husband, a symbol of her intention to care for him and provide for his needs during their marriage. Lastly, there is an 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.


Back at the lodge the wedding table has been reset and the festive village party is mimicked as singers and dancers from the local community welcome the newly married couple and their bridal party. The strains of age-old Shangaan songs fill the air, and to everyone’s delight the singers improvise new songs to include the bride and groom’s names. It is customary to make a lot of noise – singing and the beating of drums – before starting the wedding feast, and at Sabi Sabi a veritable feast it will indeed be. All guests are invited to join in the dancing and merriment before the meal, accompanied by fine local wines, beer and champagne, begins.

The celebrations may continue late into the evening and at some stage the newlyweds will finally slip away to their surprise “honeymoon” suite – their luxury accommodation filled with fragrant rose petals, romantic candles and chilled champagne for a private toast – the perfect end to a perfect day.