Nothing beats a wedding on a tropical beach. A ceremony with XL-romantic factor, sunshine guranteed. Read here, why destination weddings in Zanzibar are especially magic. Discover the secrets of a traditional Muslim wedding, and sensual African beauty secrets for the best day of your life.
Pamela remembers the wedding of Liz and Marc as if it were yesterday. A real cosmopolitan couple, Liz was from the US, Marc from Lebanon, living in Tokyo. Liz climbed Mt Kilimanjaro with her sister before the big date. Instead of a bridal shower she had a joyous ladies gathering at Upendo Beach Club. - Then arrived Khaled and Emily from Dubai, a different couple, a totally different wedding. Just the two of them travelled to Zanzibar to tie the knot. “On the day of the wedding, I met them coming from a swim in the Indian Ocean”, Pam Matthews recalls. “They were totally chilled; the wedding was magic.”
Pamela Matthews, 47, is one of Zanzibar’s best-known wedding planners. “After moving from the UK to Zanzibar ten years ago, and having my own island wedding here, I’m still in love with this beautiful island“, she says. Having organised more than two dozens of international weddings with her company Castaway Weddings, she knows the challenges (“wind after a hairdo of $200!”) and merits (“your family and friends will simply love it here”). She arranged ceremonies with vivacious parties for hundreds of guests, and intimate two-some-events with the couple only. “We also find witnesses for the nuptials, if necessary”, she assures. Registrar Mohammed Kally, 43, one of three marriage government officials in Zanzibar town, promises: “We travel to wherever the couple wants it.” His biggest challenge so far? “Certainly sandbank weddings”, he says, “crossing over by boat can be quite shaky. We have learnt to hold on to the wedding documents no matter what.” The registrar fee of $450 in Zanzibar seems extremely high but is included in most arrangements.
Surprisingly, far-away weddings are less costly than at home. “Guests usually pay partly for themselves, like the ticket and the hotel”, explains planner Pamela. In return couples offer “experiences”: lunch on arrival, a celebrating sailing cruise a day after the event. The honeymoon is practically included when couples continue with a dream vacation right after exchanging vows – the combination is called “weddingmoon”. Zanzibar weddings are popular with 25-55 years old; the “older ones often bring their children”, Pamela says. Cultural specialties such as henna ornaments for the bride (see reports on the next page) or locations like a former Sultan’s palace are highly cherished.
“High expectations can be a challenge”, knows Ash, 29, a local photographer who took the maasai shot on this page. “Every couple wants this moment to be unique, sometimes they even wonder, why there are other people on the beach. But the beach is a public place in Zanzibar!” He’s got a joke prepared to get heart-warming smiles from nervous sweethearts: “Pretend to love each other.” Even corona did not break the wedding mood in Zanzibar. Several Polish couples married at Pili Pili hotels during the pandemic. “Love is not cancelled”, one couple happily commented. Stone Town photographer Robin Batista, 45, who photographed more than 500 weddings in 16 years, says, some of “his” couples return for anniversaries: “We’ve become friends.”
Bahamas, Hawaii, Jamaica, Mexico and …. Zanzibar! In the last couple of years the African island has manoeuvred itself into the ranks of hot wedding destinations. A vibrant culture, friendly people, great beaches and hotels, mystical ancient palaces and an exotic cuisine make the spice island a unique wedding spot. “Feet in the sand and your nearest and dearest casually around you”, says Pamela Matthews who is still passionate about her job, “you feel the love, it’s overwhelming.”
Dating back to the 60s, destination weddings are known (and loved) for their sheer simplicity and natural beauty. Over the years, they have gone from a trend to a staple. Each year there are about half a million destination weddings held over the world, according to the website destinationweddings.com.
Castaway weddings start at about 2500$. „For a destination wedding, you'll want to consult the pros“, advises women magazine Harper’s Bazaar - „if only to avoid the 250 hours that the average couple spends on wedding planning“, says Pamela Matthews. Ideal preparation time is three to six months. A Korean couple exchanged roses for colourful bougainvillea. Short trousers for the groom are “totally acceptable”, says Pamela. As casual - or formal - as you want it, a tropical wedding on the beach is a true fairy tale.
average guest count at home
average guest count at holiday wedding