Known for its stunning landscapes and pleasant climate, it is no surprise that South Africa makes for an excellent destination wedding. More accessible than much of the continent, the country nonetheless possesses a rich and unique culture, echoing from its modern metropolises to its wondrous wilderness.
Distant family and long-forgotten friends are often the most unexpected features on a guest list, but how about a ceremony attended by zebra? Far from being an absurd proposition, a safari wedding – rapidly emerging as one of the most popular destination trends – could offer exactly that.
For those preferring coast to country, Cape Town’s atlantic vistas offer a stunning backdrop for the ultimate luxury celebration. Priding itself on its diversity, you’ll find an array of international cuisine accompanying traditional South African dishes, whilst a similar expansiveness defines the region’s selection of exclusive and elegant venues.
1. Cape Town
Largely considered one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa, it is easy to see how the Mother City gained its reputation. Just a stone’s throw from the natural wonders of Table Mountain and Cape point, Cape Town itself is home to incredible beaches, impressive architecture and a truly international community.
The coast’s famous white sand beaches are a popular choice for destination weddings. Contrasting with the startlingly blue sea and sky, they constitute a stunning backdrop for an unforgettable celebration. With the city itself bordering the Atlantic Ocean, beach weddings here are as accessible as they are awe-inspiring.
Couples planning a beach wedding should, however, be aware that the legal part of the proceedings (i.e. signing of the contract or register) must take place indoors. Furthermore, the majority of the city’s beaches have public access, making it impossible to guarantee exclusivity.
For an inherently exclusive experience, it is hard to beat the One&Only Cape Town. Located on the prestigious Victoria and Albert Waterfront, the hotel also boasts a neighbouring private island – complete with spa and accommodation – for wedding hire.
Alternatively, for those seeking more rural seclusion, The Vineyard is only a short drive from the city. Nestled in a 7 acre estate on the Eastern slopes of Table Mountain, guests can expect exceptional accommodation and service, as well as wine from the establishment’s own vineyard.
2. Safari Weddings
Crossing South Africa’s length and breadth, the north-eastern Kruger Park area is rapidly becoming a favourite of couples pursuing a more adventurous destination wedding. Home to some of the most incredible wildlife and scenery in the world, the South African bush offers an exotic atmosphere beyond rivalry.
Exotic by no means translates as inaccessible; Kruger Mpumalanga hosts international flights, whilst smaller airports and private airstrips can be found across the region, ensuring guest lists need not be cut short by travel. In addition to friends and relatives, a safari wedding will almost undoubtedly also be attended by more unexpected guests; giraffe, impala, monkeys and elephants are all frequent additions to celebrations in the bush. With many camps and lodges remaining unfenced from the park itself, sightings of the Big 5 are not uncommon, making the destination a particular favourite of nature enthusiasts.
As in Cape Town, South African law dictates that the official marriage documents must be signed indoors, but outdoor ceremonies are a speciality of the region. Whether opting for the views from the venue or venturing into the bush itself, an authentic and atmospheric African experience is guaranteed.
A favourite of royalty and VIP’s alike, Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge offers the height of exclusivity, whilst we particularly admire its ethical and environmental ethos. For those with a clear vision for their celebration, the flexibility of the luxurious Zebras Crossing – including the option to self-cater – is unrivaled.
Can I legally get married in South Africa?
Many couples opt to conduct the legal proceedings at home before travelling for the ceremony, allowing for a more relaxed trip, as well as less paperwork. For those who do wish to formally marry in South Africa, there are no residency requirements, yet we recommend getting in contact with your relevant consulate or embassy who can advise you on the steps that must be taken. With same-sex marriage being legally observed, the process is the same for all couples. Visit our Legalities pages for more information.
What is the best time of year for getting married in South Africa?
Between November and February, summer temperatures in Cape Town are pleasant, averaging around 22℃. The area is, however, prone to high winds, which can create added complications for outdoor weddings, especially those on the beach. Although slightly cooler, March and April often see a drop in such winds – as well as the number of venue bookings – making autumn an attractive time for ceremonies.
In the Greater Kruger area, game viewing is often best in the winter, when the vegetation is at its least dense. Wildlife enthusiasts should, however, be prepared for chilly nights, despite daytime temperatures exceeding 20℃. The region’s summer is much hotter, with temperatures reaching 34℃ in December and January, but also much wetter: full waterholes can make for excellent animal sightings, but outdoor ceremonies will be less practical.