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A wedding fairytale at Thornybush 

26 Nov 2023 | By Author Thornybush | Experiences & Lodges

Have you ever wanted your dream safari wedding at Thornybush? From planning to execution, and all the way to your “I dos” we’re here to help make your day an experience of a life time.

We sat down with Annabelle Napier, our latest bride who said “I do”, and asked her a few questions about her day. Annabelle has grown up on the reserve, where she currently works for the Thornybush Nature Reserve alongside her husband, Gino who is the Conservation Manager. We hope her story inspires future brides wanting to get married at our world-class safari destination.

Why did you choose a bush wedding?

Thornybush is special to both my husband and I, so naturally it was the perfect place for us to have our wedding. I have been coming to Thornybush since I was three years old and Gino has been living and working here for nearly seven years and so it holds a very special place in both of our hearts. It is also, where we met and where our story began.

What was your most challenging part of planning a wedding in the bush?

There were very few challenges when it came to planning our bush wedding but Melanie Parker, Head of Operations and all of the staff at Thornybush helped us every step of the way. I think the hardest part was that we were limited in terms of the amount of guests that could attend. Organising all the various meeting points as our wedding spanned over two days was also a challenge as logistically we were balancing a few different lodges and so trying to organise everyone and get them where they needed to be on time did pose a challenge, but again with the help of the staff on the ground at Thornybush, we were able to plan and execute everything to perfection.

What did you love most about the Thornybush experience?

I loved every minute of my wedding day. In the lead up to the wedding I had been visiting Thornybush Game Lodge often and all of the staff from Precious, Catherine to Renias and Glory were all as excited as me for the big day which made it feel really special. Mel had made sure that every last detail was perfect, she and Jen totally brought my vision to life. Game Lodge has been my home away from home for so many years and so it was really special to be able to have our wedding in a place that is like home. The décor was outstanding and I had chosen Ardmore fabric that had wildlife scenes on which was then enhanced by the beautiful flowers, lighting and table settings that were arranged. Everything looked so amazing and I loved being able to dance the night away with all of the staff, that was a moment that I will always remember.


What advice can you give brides planning a bush wedding?

My advice for brides planning a wedding at Thornybush is just to relax and enjoy it because Mel and her team are so outstanding, they really will make sure that what you envision comes to life.

I would recommend having your ceremony in the bush rather than at the lodge as it was so beautiful to be married under a Marula tree and see elephants in the distance as we said our vows. And to wear comfy shoes! I had custom Converses made and it made walking through the bush while taking our photos so much easier than if I had been wearing heels.


Planning a wedding when you are far away from the place can add extra stress but even if I hadn’t been living on the reserve I know that everything would have come together perfectly as we didn’t officially meet with Mel that many times so distance is definitely not something to worry about. The food was amazing and we had quite a few specifics when it came to the food and all of them were made possible. I would also say that you may want to stay a few days after the wedding as we left the morning after to go on our honeymoon and I think it would have been nice to spend a day and a night after the wedding at Thornybush just reliving the wedding and also relaxing and enjoying being in such a beautiful place.

Do you have a specific part of your big day that stood out?

It’s so hard to choose a favourite part of such an incredible two days. The night before the wedding was magical as we had an airstrip dinner. All the guests were greeted by the Thornybush choir and there were fairy lights all along the long table down the runway. It felt like a fairy tale. It was so amazing to see all of our most special people in our favourite place.

The ceremony was beautiful and was held under a Marula tree that my husband and I chose together, we chose a Marula tree as in some African cultures it is thought of as the tree of love.

A funny moment was when some hyenas tucked into our wedding cake and only ate the chocolate layer! Luckily Solly had other options for dessert. I think my favourite moment was when my husband and I were taking photos just the two of us when suddenly a pack of wild dogs joined us, everyone had been looking for these wild dogs for the past two days with no luck and yet as we were celebrating our marriage they decided to join us, it was truly magical and just that topped off an already incredible bush wedding. We have some beautiful pictures of us with the wild dogs.

It was such a happy and incredible two days and Gino and I could not have asked for more. The entire Thornybush team outdid themselves and it was the most perfect wedding.

If you’re a bride thinking about planning your safari wedding at Thornybush, get in contact with our team here: or visit our website link below to find out how you can go about making your special day a reality.