Wilderness Wedding trends 2021

Abelana’s first wedding – 5 Wilderness wedding trends for nature-loving couples

It sometimes feels that we now live in an entirely new world, with fluctuating COVID-19 regulations dictating wedding size, venue choice and layout, with social distancing practices imposed on wedding guests.

What’s emerged as a result of the pandemic is an exciting new outlook on weddings (and other events), as the human spirit continues to evolve to adapt to the changing climate. Wedding trends that were historically considered reserved for a few select bridal couples are now becoming more ‘the norm’ for couples from all walks of life.

Intimate Elopements

Many couples have traded in their big-wedding dreams for a small, intimate elopement to someplace truly exceptional, with only a handful of guests in attendance. This has proven ideal for harder lockdown conditions, where the risk of having to cancel or downsize suddenly is eradicated. The result? Small, affordable, and incredibly special weddings shared with immediate family and close loved ones. We approve!

Elope with the whole family

Once believed to be an option for only the rich and famous, exclusive lodge weddings are all the rage now, as bridal couples opt to spend their big-wedding budgets more shrewdly. By booking an entire lodge or boutique hotel, the wedding party enjoys dedicated service and a relaxed vibe, and are able to indulge in 1 to 3 nights away with the bridal couple and family. Many will be surprised to discover how affordable these weddings can be, at the right kind of destination, and with many establishments creating all-inclusive packages just for the occasion.

Wedding honeymoon packages

The last 18 months have brought about a slow travel trend that is also apparent in weddings and honeymoons, where couples are opting to tie the knot at their honeymoon destination. By opting to extend their stay for several days, the bride and groom are able to slow down, post-wedding, in order to rest and rejuvenate. This is obviously ideal for couples who are willing to host their wedding in wilderness destinations. (Think bush or beach!)

Sustainable weddings

Many couples have become aware of the impact that their event – combined with all the others – will have on the environment. According to statistics, one wedding day could produce the same CO2 emissions as five people will produce in a year. Some wedding trends now see couples or guests planting trees on their special day, adjusting menu’s to locally grown produce and local breweries, or taking their entire event to a remote, eco-conscious destination that practices all of the above.

Safari weddings

You only need to search this topic on Pinterest to see just how magnificent a bush, safari wedding can be. To wed in the dappled sunshine beneath a soaring jacaranda tree is something that bridal couples, and their guests, will never forget. Because local travel has become more affordable, and remote working is a reality for most, safari wedding packages make this a totally reachable dream for many.


Abelana River Lodge’s first wedding

Abelana River Lodge opened its doors in February 2020, just one month before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the tourism industry to its knees. Against all odds, we’ve hosted our first bush wedding, just over a year later.

The wedding itself was a charming, private mid-afternoon gathering of no more than 40 guests on the scenic Mulati Weir, with panoramic views overlooking the Selati River – a truly magical place for such a special occasion.

Wedding couples can expect nothing less than spectacular service from our team, and the wedding packages include, but are not limited to:

  • A dedicated waitron allocated to attend to the bride and groom on the wedding day
  • An Abelana wedding cake (select from set options)
  • Luxurious king-suite accommodation for overnight guests
  • All standard accommodation inclusions apply to overnight guests, such as meals and game viewing activities

When asked if she has any tips for couples considering a ‘safari wedding’, Natalie Roberts, Lodge Manager, says: “Wedding couples should be passionate about nature, animals and bush life. Don’t be too attached to the timing of your big day – out here, we could run into a number of situations that will delay the whole itinerary. We encounter roadblocks – not the city kind –  and detours created by fallen trees and wildlife. We may put a plan in place, but when you come face-to-face with a breeding herd of elephants, we wait; you wait – everyone waits. It’s part of the magic.


Bush weddings amidst COVID-19

Perhaps one of the most attractive things about an intimate bush wedding at a luxury destination like Abelana River Lodge is the consideration given to COVID-19 precautions and protocols. Apart from the naturally wide-open spaces and fresh air, and the ample room for social distancing, Abelana River Lodge follows stringent protocols to protect tourists, wedding guests and staff, including:

  • Guest temperatures are scanned on arrival at the reserve gate, and each guest completes a contact-tracing and general wellness form.
  • Staff temperatures and wellness are assessed and recorded on a daily basis.
  • All staff are required to wear a mask at all times, and to sanitize their hands frequently.
  • Guests are required to wear their masks in the lodge’s indoor public areas.
  • All suites are rested between guest stays.
  • Hand sanitizing stations are positioned at all entrances to the lodge and hand sanitiser supply is available on each game viewing vehicle.
  • All surfaces are wiped down with sanitiser on a regular basis, and game viewing vehicles are wiped down between each game drive.


We would love to hear from you what your perfect wedding dream is, and what you’d make of a bush or safari wedding!  For more information on the lodge and its wedding packages, please contact Bryan West at 061 952 4302 or info@abelanagamereserve.com.