I am very excited to share this post from Mwai of ‘Love from Mwai’, a wonderful friend and multi-award winning luxury wedding planner. I have worked on numerous exciting projects with Mwai from a lavish luxury wedding in Vienna to editorial shoots in London, but for me, the most memorable was the ‘Karen Tran Floral Masterclass’ in Zambia. Mwai had a vision of hosting the world-renowned wedding floral masterclass in her home, Zambia, and the 3-day event was truly incredible. Zebras and giraffes were roaming freely around the grounds and the gala event was on the banks of the Zambezi River with Victoria Falls in the background. Mwai’s passion for her roots, her culture, and Africa as a whole has made her a prominent voice of the African wedding community and in this post, she shares her insights about luxury African destination weddings.
International wedding planner
For some time now, Italy has been a hotspot for destination weddings. Couples from the United States, Europe, China, India, and the Middle East flock to Italy because of its air of romance and equally romantic backdrops of colosseums, ancient buildings, countrysides, and charming canals.
Drawn by the food, wine, architecture, and atmosphere, couples partake in a once in a lifetime wedding experience.
We can’t fully anticipate what destination weddings will look like after the COVID-19 pandemic, but I was seeing a shift pre-pandemic and what I called “the new Italy for destination weddings” arising.
For almost two years now, I’ve called Africa the new Italy. As a wedding planner and designer to Africa, I’ve seen a huge increase in interest in destination weddings from couples all around the world. And just as I’ve been planning more weddings to Africa, many others have as well.
So what kind of allure does Africa have for couples and why are we seeing an increased interest?
A New Set of Guiding Desires and Principles for Destination Wedding Couples
When looking at what engaged couples want in a destination wedding, there are a few universal desires across the board. Couples want:
- a beautiful day they remember
- to impress their guests and ensure they have an incredible time
- unique elements or meaningful experiences weaved into their day
- an iconic location
- fun adventure activities and excursions
- excellent food and drink options
Today’s engaged couples are incredibly well-informed and they’re a lot more in tune with the values and principles that guide their life. So what I’m seeing is that while they want all of the things listed above, destination couples today are also interested in things like:
- sustainable environmental tourism
- local food sourcing
- cultural experiences that grow their awareness
- supporting subsistence entrepreneurship and small businesses
I serve the luxury wedding market and you see this even there. As much as it’s about lavish experiences and lush trimmings, my couples really want to incorporate culture and impact into their weddings.
At a multicultural wedding, I planned and designed prior to COVID-19, my couple actually had a local children’s choir from a children’s trust school sing at their wedding ceremony. A number of the furniture and decor elements were also made by or bought from local artisans and entrepreneurs in Zambia.
So I’m seeing destination couples become a lot more intentional about the locations they choose and why. I’m also seeing multicultural and African couples who really want to go back to their roots get married back in Africa or opt to travel not from Africa to Italy but from Rwanda to Zambia, for example.
So there’s more interest in international travel to Africa but also domestic travel between African countries.
I call Africa the new Italy and the up-and-coming hotspot for couples who want luxurious and intentional weddings because it has the following elements:
- Bucket-list locations with beautiful backdrops that range from Victoria Falls to the beach to mountain views to national parks and winelands.
- A well-developed and diverse adventure and excursion selection so that they can turn their destination wedding into a honeymoon and vacation for their bridal party and guests.
- Safe countries with reliable airlines, transport, and good roads. Zambia, Rwanda, and South Africa are three of my favorite locations. I plan and design a number of weddings in Zambia, but the truth is that Africa has a wealth of overlooked boutique venues, lovely lodges, and resorts. There are a number of safe countries and reliable amenities.
- Fresh, local food. More and more couples want to know where their food is sourced and they’re looking for farm-to-table options. Whether it’s fresh seafood or in-season fruit and vegetables, many African caterers and restaurants source fresh, local ingredients.
- Cultural ceremonies and fashion. From cultural attire to food to dancers to tribal practices, if you’re a couple living abroad who wants to go back to your roots, couples often have a lot more access to the fabrics, dancers, and individuals who can help make that happen.
- Sustainable environmental tourism. Many more couples are aware of the sometimes negative impact of mass tourism that disrupts local culture, traditions, and the environment. Many tourism boards and local governments throughout Africa prioritize local culture over mass tourism, source local foods and encourages visitors to take part in the community by supporting local businesses and hiring locals vs large corporations or service providers who’ve come into the area.
Just like other continents and countries, destination couples who get married in Africa have access to well-trained staff; stunning linens, decor, and furniture; and their must-have list of wants and service providers.
They also have access to many more opportunities to align their wedding with their deeper values and desires for their life experience.
Destination weddings account for 25% of marriages and make up a $16 billion per year industry. For years, I’ve said that African locations and African talent have been overlooked and I’ve made it my mission to shine a light on stunning locations in Africa but also incredible talent from photographers to designers to entertainers.
Finally, Africa is getting the attention and spotlight it deserves, and I’m more excited than ever, even though we’re in the midst of a pandemic.
What Africa Offers During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic
What I think Africa offers amidst the pandemic is incredible outdoor locations and warm weather as well as off-the-radar locations. I think of The Royal Livingstone Resort and Tongabezi Lodge in Zambia which is nestled by the Zambezi River and surrounded by nature and a national park.
These outdoor spaces and locations that are somewhat removed from the city while still being in close proximity to airports make them safer for pandemic weddings and less risky once things open back up following the pandemic.
I’ve had a few couples get married at The Royal Livingstone Resort in Zambia and one of their favorite experiences is the traditional boma dinner. This is an outdoor dinner that happens around an open fire pit and beneath the night sky. There are dancing and food and it’s in an unconfined space.
I see Africa as the new Italy for so many reasons. I don’t believe they’re competing against one another, and even though Africa is my homeland, I still adore Italy and have been there many times. I think what’s happening is that people want to be more intentional in aligning their values and roots with their weddings.
They want to be more intentional about supporting subsistence entrepreneurs and black businesses, and they realize that the luxury, charm, and experiences they want are plentiful in Africa.
Finally, people are seeing Africa as more than just a place for volunteer and safari trips, and that’s incredible!
Africa is the new Italy because people are finding the culture, people, atmosphere, food, talent, and principles just as alluring but in its own way. And I think it’s one of the most remarkable things to happen to the African wedding industry, and I can’t wait to watch it fully unfold.
Mwai Yeboah is a multi-award winning, international wedding planner and designer for luxury weddings in Africa and multicultural weddings around the globe. Read more from Mwai or learn about her services by visiting www.lovefrommwai.co.uk