Vows on an African Safari
When Lisa Tytler embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to South America, little did she know that she would find everlasting love with fellow traveller Qamar Zaman. Soon the loved up pair, who live in Essex, made another life-changing trip – this time on safari to Kenya, where they exchanged wedding vows in the enchanting Masai Mara …
Finding ‘the one’
We actually met whilst on tour in South America. I had joined the tour a few weeks earlier and Qamar joined whilst we were in Lima, Peru. The very first time we met I was actually unwell and the rest of my friends were out for the day visiting local markets. Our Tour guide knocked on my door to see if I wanted to meet the newbie joining the group and there was Qamar. I discovered almost straight away that he worked in the same insurance market I did in London and that he was a big Liverpool football fan.
Love at first sight?
I am not sure that we can say it was love at first sight but definitely an attraction that grew and developed. There are a few of us that are so close now from that South American trip. Having spent so much time in each other’s pockets for so long, it is certainly one way of getting to know each other inside and out. We definitely feel our relationship is built on solid foundations as we met just being our natural selves from day one – no makeup, no smart clothes, no date nights – just laughter, good times and a big yellow Tucan Truck.
Qamar propsed at home just before Christmas on Friday 21st December 2012. It was the last day in work for me until after the New Year and we had always said that we would have a nice meal at home together. The last few weeks had been hectic and we had felt like we hadn’t spent any time together. I got in from work, Qamar ran a bath for me so I could relax whilst he was cooking and after getting comfy he served our first course of Scallops and Chorizo. It tasted delicious but then all of a sudden he produced a bunch of roses and got down on one knee. It was totally unexpected and emotional. I think it took me 10 minutes to actually say yes. I was shocked. The ring was perfect and it was the perfect size. We were so excited to tell our families that we didn’t end up eating the rest of the meal until about 10 pm – It all was just wonderful.
We always said that we would get married abroad but I didn’t necessairily want a traditional beach wedding. It is something that we had previously spoken about so once Qamar had proposed we knew that’s what would happen. Since my travelling days Africa has always held a special place in my heart and I wanted to share that feeling with my Husband to be. We decided on the Masai Mara as, due to trouble there when I last wen,t I hadn’t spent any time there, so it would be a new experience for both of us at this special time.
I basically knew exactly what I wanted and made all my own arrangements. Tropical Sky arranged our travel and were very helpful – in fact the whole trip was booked around six weeks after the intial proposal for us and our guests. We planned a lot before we went as well as arranging a UK party at Little Channels in Chelmsford as soon as we returned home for all those friends and family (110 people) who couldn’t share our special day in Kenya. We had outfits arranged, table plans and favours for Kenya, we sent over the flowers that we wanted and everything for our reception was organised before we left. The only thing we had to do on arrival in Nairobi was to obtain our marriage licence and then, once we got to the Masai Mara, choose the time and location of the ceremony.
There were 13 additional guests with us – my dad and stepmum Jane, Qamars Mum, two brothers and sister, Jane’s sister and boyfriend, Jane’s dad, two of Qamar’s best friends, which included the best man and his wife, and my bridesmaid Emily. We all stayed at the Porini Lion Camp for four nights. What made part of our wedding magical was that not only did we fulfill our dreams of getting married out in the wild, we also fulfilled the dreams of others who had always wanted to go on safari. We had a few members of my family who couldn’t make the trip for various reasons but otherwise we had full acceptance from the start.
Getting the look
My wedding dress was amazing and I really did feel extra special wearing it. It was nothing that I thought I would end up with. It was bought at The Wedding Shop in Colchester and the dress was by Stella York. It was made of lace and glitz and fitted me like a glove with a sweetheart neck line and a beautiful lace train. The best thing was that I got to wear it for a second time at the UK party and even for a third time for a photoshoot. I had a tiara and a lovely viel with lace on and my shoes were my naughty buy – a pair of lace peep toe Jimmy Choos. I wore a pair of Swarovski drop earrings my mum had bought me and a beautiful bracelet my husband bought me as a wedding present. I did my own makeup using Benefit – I don’t wear a lot anyway and kept it fairly neutral.
Something old, something new?
This item was given to me by my bridesmaid Emily – a large safety pin that attached to my garter (which had a blue bow) with the four elements attached to it – Something Old – a penny; Something new – a horseshoe; Something Borrowed – a pearl from the ocean; Something Blue – a blue crystal. My dad also put a penny in my shoe for good luck.
Groom & bridesmaids
Qamar looked so handsome in a cream linen and silk suit from Saville Row with a white shirt and a tan Gucci tie and brown shoes. I bought him and my dad a pair of enamal elephant cufflinks to wear on the day. My dad, the best man and his brothers all wore the same linen and silk, the boys all wore red ties to match the bridesmaid, with the exception of dad, who matched my stepmum’s outfit. My bridesmaid Emily was in a Two Birds dress in a cabernet red with gold accessories and sandals. These dresses are amazing as you can wear them in 15 different styles, so she had it one way for the actual wedding in Kenya and another way for the UK party.
Red was our colour theme – probably for several reasons. It was after Christmas and a winter colour, the colour of an African sunset and probably because Qamar supports Liverpool. I ordered red roses and calia lillies for my bouquet and Emily had a smaller bouquet of red and cream roses. Qamar had a white rose button hole and the all the guests had a red rose button hole.
The porini Lion Camp made us a lovely little cake on the day which we cut after the speeches. For the UK party we had the most amazing cake made by Willow Piper – three tiers of chocolate, vanilla and carrot cake, all animal print with African animals perched around it. The cake topper was, of course, a male and female lion.
The ceremony took place a five-minute drive from the Porini Lion Cam. It was the perfect spot on top of a hill with a single tree overlooking the plains. The Masai tribes were there in wonderful colours and they made a decorated archway for me to walk through to meet Qamar at the Pastor’s stand. All our guests were seated at either side. It was peaceful, lush green with a wonderful clear blue sky. The ceremony must have lasted around an hour and my dad, who means the world to me, gave me away. I walked ‘down the aisle’ to meet Qamar to “How long will I love you?” by Ellie Goulding. We first had a Masai blessing by the elders then a naming ceremony for myself followed by our main ceremony conducted by Pastor George who flew in from Nairobi. The Masai then did some dancing before us. The ceremony was one of the most emotional we have all witnessed. Following our vows by Pastor George we decided to say how we felt in our own words to each other.
Local customs and rituals
During our blessing by the Masai Elders they crouched beneath the archway in front of our feet and took a sip of cows milk/blood which was then spat out at our feet. Following this we took a slow walk to be seated just like a King and Queen for the naming ceremony. We were dressed in gorgeous jewelery and Masai capes whilst the tribes sang in front of us.
Following the ceremonies and dancing we were taken on a short private game drive which was the most surreal feeling. We stood out of the top of our jeep in our wedding attire thinking this is just the most amazing feeling. We were then taken to a location down by the river, where Hippos were wallowing I might add, for our Wedding breakfast. It was so private it was wonderful and peaceful. The menu was a buffet of food but the chefs who came along and cooked it for us did a marvelous job. And of course we celebrated with a glass of Champagne. We took out some table decorations for our guests, our way of a small thank you. Each indivdual had a place name holder which was either a Lion, Elephant, Zebra or Monkey we had glass zebra patterened coasters holding a different photo of the two of us. We gave everyone a magnet which had a saying on which we believed represented that person. We didn’t do our first dance until we returned to the UK and it was “See Beneth Your Beautiful” by Labriynth and Emily Sande.
After our bush lunch we headed back to camp to freshen up before heading out for an evening game drive. On this drive we saw a Cheetah just before she sprinted off to make a kill, which was a wonderful wedding present to witness. We then sat and watched her eat it before we headed off for another surprise bush dinner with a bonfire.
All our friends and family took wonderful wedding photos as well as one of the managers from Game Watchers Safaris. He was kind enough to put all 550 of them on disc for us. There was no official video taken on the day but, bless my dad, he spent around 24 hours editing a video to be played at our UK reception. It was very emotional. It was nice to have photographs with a lot of natural poses rather than formal ones. However, our favourites are ones where Qamar and I are with the Masia tribes and the other is when we are kissing in the safari jeep captured by one of our guests!
The whole day was one beautiful, amazing, magical day with lots of special moments. An event/holiday we will all be talking about for a long time. Due to the heat we got married fairly early in the day so we literally had a full day of celebrations. One of my funniest memories of the day is us all posing with the security guards with their AK47 guns – I mean who has a shot like that in their wedding dress?
The wedding package itself was £800 however the flights, safari and 10 day honeymoon came to around £9,500. This did exclude the dress etc. but it was so much cheaper than a UK wedding as we got nearly three weeks abroad from it too, as well as a wedding day which exceeded all expectations. To be honest we didn’t really have a set budget – we just made sure we did what we wanted to do without being ridiculous.
Although it was tough to leave the Porini Lion Camp, for our honeymoon we headed over to Zanizbar for 10 nights. It was so relaxing with white sands and clear blue waters.
Zach Sheppard, Tropical Sky Weddings
Porini Lion Camp, Kenya