The Kenyan Coast has an awe-inspiring collection of romantic venues: weddings can take place in villas, in resorts, on cliffs and at the beach. We spoke to Jilna Collis, of Events and Weddings Ltd, to get the low down on what makes a phenomenal coastal wedding.
‘Weddings at the coast are so beautiful,’ says Jilna. ‘The picture is already painted for you; it’s just a matter of jazzing it up. We use the frangipani and bougainvillea that’s all around, and the fronds of the palms, to create the décor. Then we enhance it with lighting: wash lights up the palms, strings of lights in the leaves, and paper lanterns along the paths.’
Just as minimalist décor brings out the naturally lovely ambiance, using the natural produce of the coast brings out the flavours that are all around. A wonderful welcome drink is a simple coconut drunk fresh from its shell; add a splash of Malibu to transform this into a tasty cocktail. Local ladies can make fresh chapattis and roasted cassava crisps to compliment these. And of course, there’s the seafood! Having a barbecue cooking station, with lobsters, crab, and a variety of fish, conveys just the right balmy atmosphere.
Likewise, when choosing the music, it’s a good idea to stay local. ‘One of the best bands I’ve heard was at a coastal wedding,’ says Jilna. ‘There was an organ, a trumpet, drums, and a male and female singer, and they were incredible.’ Coastal bands tend to play tropical favourites, as well as all the old classics, and give that great coastal vibe. A DJ can always take over when the night draws in.
Clothes can be as formal or informal as the bride and groom want. At Indian weddings, saris are usually preferred, and many ladies choose to wear dresses. But shorts and T-shirts, or kangas and kikois, are a perfectly acceptable option on the beach, and lots of people like dancing barefoot with the sand between their toes.
The coast lends itself to photo shoots, as every spot is picture-perfect. However, the glare of the sun can dull photos, particularly in the middle of the day. ‘I’d recommend early morning shoots,’ says Jilna. ‘We took some wonderful shots of a bride and groom on a dawn dhow cruise, and others at a champagne breakfast.’
Location is everything, as they say, and there are so many choices at the coast. The beach is of course a favourite: beach parties will never lose their allure – the guests can chill out on the beach, enjoy the evening, then dance all night. Pool parties also work, since the pool is lit and the ambience is tropical and lush. Swahili Beach, in Diani, is ideal for this as it has seven interlinking pools cascading through its centre, and Arabic architecture that exudes coastal chic. This beachfront resort has specialty restaurants, bars by the beach and at the pool, and an animation team providing activities on land and in the sea, making it ideal for showing guests from around the world the wonders of the Kenya coast.
‘It’s all about what each individual wants,’ says Jilna. ‘It’s about the guests, and how they feel from the moment they arrive. You’re giving them an experience they’ll never forget. It’s not just about doing the décor, it’s about creating an experience. At each wedding, we create the concept from scratch. That’s what makes each one special.’
Documents required to marry in Kenya
ID card (Kenyan citizens)
Passport (Foreign Nationals)
Passport Photos (in colour)
Birth Certificate (copies and originals)
Affidavit (Kenyan citizens)
Certificate of no impediment to marriage (Foreign Nationals)
Visa and return air ticket (non-residents)
Work permit (Kenyan residents)