Google the flight time from just about any major city in the world to South Africa and your answer will be between 10 and 14 hours. As far as locations go, South Africa is more or less in the centre of everything, so guests flying from Europe will travel approximately the same time as those jetting in from the UK, while American and Australian pals will only be in the air for a couple more hours. To most, this should seem pretty fair.
Although the country boasts a staggering 11 official languages, by and large English is spoken by everyone. Even those that aren’t fluent speak English well enough to be understood, and this can make long-distance planning a whole lot easier. A couple of words or phrases that could trip you up, however, are those such as “pants” and “now now”. For example, if your wedding planner says she wants to match the table decor to the colour of the groom’s pants, she is not referring to his underwear. In South Africa, pants are worn over underwear and are very seldom referred to as trousers.
Similarly, “now now” can be a confusing term, even to South Africans themselves, as some interpret this to mean ‘in a minute’ while others rely on the phrase to refer to something that they have no intention of ever doing. As a rule of thumb, if your wedding planner uses the phrase, as in “I’ll phone the florist now now,” it may be best to look at other options.
To put this into perspective, readers should know that Cape Town has just over twice the number of sunshine hours per year as London, giving you much better odds on balmy skies come the big day. South Africans themselves are rather partial to outdoor weddings, with nuptials on the beach often followed by a reception under a starry African sky. Occasionally the wind can play havoc but generally tends to go to sleep with the sun, providing idyllically still, moonlit nights. There are also so many great outdoor locations to seal the deal in South Africa – but more about that later.
While South Africans bemoan the expense of travelling overseas, those arriving on holiday generally find the country affordable. Starry-eyed lovers may therefore be delighted to discover that a modest wedding in their hometown can be transformed into a fairy-tale event, simply by changing the location to South Africa.
An off-season wedding in the Eastern Cape, for example, can cost as little as R40,000 (US$3,400), including two nights’ accommodation for the bride and groom, venue hire, a three-course meal for 60 guests, and luxurious little extras such as a couple’s massage and welcome drinks. Most wedding packages are extremely versatile and can be tailor-made to include as much or as little as you wish.
Provided you are over the age of 18, not already married, and the nuptials are consensual, anyone can get married in South Africa. The country has one of the most democratic constitutions in the world and views same-sex marriage in the same light as conventional male-female marriage.
Gay couples may have to search a bit if they want a religious ceremony, but there are plenty of wedding officers who will happily tie the knot for same-sex partners. For anyone who is getting married in the country, however, some amount of official paperwork is required, as well as your passport. Some couples choose to deal with the legalities of marriage in their home country, leaving themselves free to simply enjoy their South African ceremony and reception.
Choosing a location, or finding one that is available, for your big day is often one of the most stressful elements to planning a wedding. Here good old South Africa comes to the rescue with literally thousands and thousands of gorgeous options. There are beaches, wine farms, country estates, game reserves, and enchanting little towns that all offer awesomely picturesque settings and don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Think plush couches strewn across rolling gardens with mountains hovering in the background and vineyards all around; or perhaps you prefer an ocean setting with barefoot guests and the sound of lapping waves?
Once the garter has been thrown and the cake cut, there’s no need to rush off to catch a flight for your honeymoon, as South Africa provides a huge choice of excellent and ultra-romantic smooching spots right on your doorstep. Most wedding reception venues in the country also offer accommodation options so you can fly in, celebrate your union, and then send your guests home before settling down to some alone time without going anywhere. Package deals are also widely available including everything from make-up and hair for the big day to romantic dinners and spa treatments to help slip you into the honeymoon mood.
No matter where you choose in the country, it has to be said that South Africa elicits a certain sexiness that other locations just can’t match. The heady combination of vineyards, rose petals, Merlot, and mountains creates a hedonistic sense of freedom and pleasure that is unique to the country, while wild animals, crisp mornings, and savanna plains call for carefree abandon and excitement. It’s a great place to get married and, while you’re at it, get your mojo back.
Just because it’s in Africa, don’t think South Africa doesn’t know how to pull out all the stops when it comes to throwing the wedding bash of the decade. The country is home to renowned clothing designers, culinary wizards, top-class accommodation establishments, and some of the best vineyards in the world. Top that with awesome beaches, romantic wildlife reserves, and friendly service and you’re all set to celebrate an epic wedding, South Africa-style.