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My Kubu Island Wedding

Peter Connan

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At the request of @@graceland and @@Tom Kellie, this is a sort-of an overview of the logistics and arrangements for my self-drive wedding on Kubu Island, Botswana,on the 25th of March 2012.


If I can recover more photos, it may later turn into a fully-fledged TR, but for now I will focus in the first few days only.


Kubu Island (also known as Lukhubu) is not an island in the normally accepted sense, as it is not surrounded by water (unless significant rain has fallen). It is a rock outcropping sprouting from the Sua pan in Botswana, a vast, flat, salt pan. These pans are notorious for having a dry crust with meters and meters of clay underneath, and has over the years swallowed whole vehicles, so reaching it is not without risk and definately required a four-wheel-drive vehicle, but as usual there are better and worse routes. It is not a registered game reserve, but the area is so inhospitable that virtually no human habitation is evident. The island has a number of Baobab (and other) trees growing on and around it,and has religious significance to the local tribes. A quick search on Google will reveal many stunning photographs of the area, far better than my modest skills can produce.


Firstly just an overview of some of the stumbling blocks and challenges we faced:

1) Kubu Island now features a lodge and caming site with much better facilities removed from the island itself, but at the time the campsites were situated at the base of the island itself, and the facilities consisted only of long-drop toilets. No chalets, no water, no showers.

2) Due to vetirinary constraints, it is often impossible to import meat and some vegetables from South Africa into Botswana. This was one of those times.

3) Getting all the guests there required 4x4's.

4) Under South African law, a South African wedding must take place in South Africa, and inside a permanent structure with a roof.

5) The wedding would be followed by a two-week self-drive vacation, thus space was at a premium and damage to the crockery very likely. All the decor and so forth would also be a serious pain for the rest of the trip.

6) In order to have a wedding, obviously it is necessary to have a minister, a photographer, a chef and a DJ.

7) Most people (me included) look askance at loud noises and parties in places like these were people come for peace and solitude.

8) This would be a fairly large group, travelling during South African school holidays, when accomodation is at a premium.

9) Particularly from Lethlakane onwards, the road is dirt and pretty corrugated, so getting some of the more fragile items there was a concern.

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The planning and preperation started about three months before the day. A basic itinerary was cobbled together, basically just an idea of the areas we wanted to visit and the amount of time we wanted to spend at each, and a rough idea of how much it would cost. Invitations were sent out with a rather short RSVP period, and deposits were required with the RSVP (to cover the accomodation costs). A website was created to keep everybody up to date and to let them know in as much detail what they would be letting themselves in for but carrots were also dangled: I would upload photos of the places we would be visiting on a regular basis.


Once the guest list was appriximately finalised, we approached an agency to try and secure bookings in the places we wanted to stay. Despite the cost (something we would usually not be prepared to splurge on) this turned out to be one of our best moves, as they really helped us to get all the bookings done in great camps and never grumbled despite frequent changes to the guest list. We then had a number of confabs about the wedding manu. Three things that helped considerably at this stage was that we discovered that pre-cooked food was not subject to the restrictions, that one of our friends had a friend who managed a guest house in Francistown and that my mom and dad were retirees, and thus not subject to school holiday restrictions. Despite that, it turned out that the school holidays would be too short, and thus school headmasters were approached with urgent please to let kids off from school. Other than most weddings, this was one where each guest had a role to play, each contributed to the success of the day (and the whole trip).


Meanwhile the list-making continued. The number and ages of the people (as rates vary), vehicle specifics like fuel tank sizes, expected fuel consumption and fuel type requirements were logged in order to calculate fuel stops. Lists of equipment were made in order to ensure that packing space was maximised by making sure that we didn't have sixteen kettles and so on and so forth ad infinitum.


Next on the planning itinerary was the decor. Two families had almost identical crockery sets, allowing us to have consistency in that at least. We determined how many tables we would require, and measured each family's camping table. I cut out scale models of each family's table, and we stuck them on a board and moved them around until we were happy with the seating plan. i then turned that into a 3-D computer drawing and circulated it to all the guests. Further I used this information to calculate the number and size of table cloths required, and went off to the material shop. We ended up buying quite a lot of brindle-pattern fake leather from which we cut the table cloths, and some organza for trimmings. Ordinary folding camp chairs were made uniform and pretty by making simple slips which were safety-pinned into place. The table cloths then served a dual purpose: we used it as packing material for the crockery and glasses to protect them during transit.


A trip to the two chinese malls in our area turned up enough chinese lanterns of different sizes and colours to provide light and decor, and I made a simple jig and spent an afternoon in tha garage bending bailing-wire hangers to suspend ordinary white candles (several packets of which were bought) in all the lanterns. A big box of brown paper bags was added to provide floor-level lighting. I then made a frame with some mild-steel pipes, some nylon ski rope and tent pegs and a cargo net to hang some of the chinese lanterns from.


Instead of confetti we settled on freeze-dried rose petals, as they are rapidly bio-degradeable. Little cardboard cups were made to carry these in.


As the appointed date crept closer, so the preperations became more frenetic.


One of our biggest advantages was that most of our friends and family (a great bunch of people in the first place) were already experienced self-drivers with their own 4x4's. This included an ordained minister and an experienced DJ.


To accomodate those that couldn't or didn't want to come along, and to deal with the legalities, we held a simple ceremony at our house the weekend before the trip, similar to what might have been done in a lawyer's office.


Another was that two couples were coming back straight after the wedding. We would have much preferred that they toured with us, but it did give us the opportunity to get a lot of the crockery and other wedding parephenalia sent back home.


The menu consisted of peri-peri and mild chicken liver pate on buns for starters, prime steak, veggies and salad for mains and cake and cup-cakes for desert. The steak (best I ever had) and some of the veggies was sourced by the guest-house owner from Francistown. She also sourced the ingredients for and prepared the chicken livers and the salads. Some of the veggies, as well as the meal for the night before the wedding and the cakes were baked (but not decorated) at home before the time.

Edited by Peter Connan
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About a week before we departed, I placed a thread on the SA 4x4 community forum apologising in advance to anybody who would be sharing Kubu with us on the wedding night.


The reason we took a pre-cooked dinner for the first night was that in that way we could maximize the travelling distance on the first day, getting as close as practical to Kubu to maximize the time available the next day to prepare for the wedding. My mom, dad and brother left a day earlier than the rest of us, heading for Francistown to collect the "groceries" and spending the night there before finding us an informal (and slightly illegal) camping spot in the bush just short of Sua pan.


The rest of the party arrived just before dusk and set up camp. A local on a horse arrived shortly thereafter, but was happy to allow us to camp there when he saw hat we were being careful not to damage the environment.




The rush was now over. The next morning we broke camp in a fairly leisurely fashion as we had only another 22km to go.


But on one's first sight of the pan it is pretty much impossible not to stop a few times for photos.




The group at this stage consisted of, from left to right:

Gerrit (the minister) and his wife Adri


My mom (chief cake decorator), dad (camp Commandant, wedding photographer and general dogsbody) and brother (DJ)


Tinus (braai master), Anandi (Bride's hair-dresser, make-up and coiture) and their kids Joshua and Anais (flower-girl)


Johan (best man) and Helen (Helen was seven months pregnant, so Johan bought a fancy off-road caravan with generator-powered air conditioner which was used as the bride's, bridesmaid's and flower-girl's dressing room) and their daughter Mia (flower-girl).


Myself (chief pain in the backside), Sonja (the bride-to-be), Carla (Bridesmaid) and Megan (flower-girl) (Carla and Megan are Sonja's children from previous marriages, and now the lights in my life)


Gustav (Wildlife Protection Officer) and Liza (videographer)


Marius (sound engineer and transport) and Tanya (bride's assistant and journalist).









Edited by Peter Connan
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Arriving at Kubu, I was very happy to discover that we had beat the holiday rush, and that we would be the only group camping there that night. Therefore we would not be inconveniencing anyone.


Preperations started in all earnest. The wedding was scheduled for the evening, just half an hour before sunset. This would be followed by sunset photos on the pan and then the reception.


As one arrives at Kubu there is a big old Baobab right in front of you. In front of this is a small brick structure with a plaque on top placed at an angle away from the tree and explaining the significance of the sight. This made a very handy lectern, and we packed our chairs under the tree neatly. We un-packed the paper cups, filled them with rose petals and placed them neatly in a bush. With the left-over petals, we prepared a path for the bride's party.




Then the men and boys, under the able guidance of Adri, Tanya and ultimately Sonja set up the venue for the reception: packed out the tables, erected the frame for the lighting, assembled and hung the chinese lanterns, assembled the floor-level lighting (by quarter-filling the paper bags with sand from the area and stuffing a candle into the sand) and placed them in a circle around the reception area as well as demarcating a dance floor, decorating the tables and so forth. The wine and champagne was smuggled in inside my rooftop-tent, and this was rescued and placed on the tables.




Meanwhile my mom was decorating the cakes and the bridal party started preparing.




The caravan has a built-in geyser and shower-tent setup where the ladies prepared. Once the manual labour was complete, the men congrgated at Tinus's shower stall on the other side of the campsite, and we all got ourselves cleaned up and dressed in our finery.


The flower girls arrive:




The bride and Bridesmaid:




The ceremony:




The photo session:




The reception:



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How brilliant

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The next day was reserved for cleaning up our mess. Gustav, Liza, Marius and Tanya would all be coming home on this day, and Marius kindly carted back most of the wedding finery. After they left at around mid-day, the rest of us spent the afternoon resting, exploring and taking photos.


We spent a second night there, before moving on to Kaziikini (one night), Third Bridge (three nights), Savuti (two nights), Linyanti (one night), Senyati (near Kasane, three nights with a day visit to Victoria Falls and a sunset boat cruise) before heading home. At least, that was the plan, but you will have to wait for the photos to find out what really happened...

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What an epic adventure @@Peter Connan; one to never be forgotten.



Thank you so very much for sharing this with us; it is so special and such a group effort was put into place.


We eloped; not wanting all the fancy trappings that go on with many weddings; our best man flew us in his plane to a destination where we enticed a local judge from a a cocktail party; opened a bottle of bubby, and said our vows in front of four. Opened more bubbly. Unrmarkable but unforgettable.


Looks like yours was well planned, full of friends, family and good vibes. :) As Twaffle stated, Brilliant!



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thank you for sharing this special day with us!

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Thank you @@twaffle, @@graceland and @@marg. I appreciate the comments.


One word of warning for anybody considering the "buddymoon" approach: think about it long and hard, and then don't.


As a holiday, this was a fantastic trip, and the wedding itself was was worth every effort and discomfort. But as a honeymoon it was a rather dismal failure. The amount of input and time required to keep a group happy (and remember that they paid their own bills and thus were entitled to a great holiday themselves) meant that I did not get nearly enough time to spend alone with my new wife. The fact that she had her mother in law in close proximity the whole time didn't help at all, however much they may or may not like and respect each other.


As a compromise, my wife and I make a point of going away for a long weekend on our anniversary every year, just the two of us, which helps a lot, but it remains one of my regrets that I did not do the first one a bit differently.

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Wow, fabulous!!

Thank you so much for sharing your special day with us. Looking forward to the rest of the trip.

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  • 2 weeks later...

For those who would like to see what Kubu can look like through a real photographer's lens, please have a look at Mark Dumbleton's work here:



And Hougaard Malan's work here:



Hopefully one day I can also take photos that approach this level of quality.

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  • 4 months later...

The next day was reserved for cleaning up our mess. Gustav, Liza, Marius and Tanya would all be coming home on this day, and Marius kindly carted back most of the wedding finery. After they left at around mid-day, the rest of us spent the afternoon resting, exploring and taking photos.


We spent a second night there, before moving on to Kaziikini (one night), Third Bridge (three nights), Savuti (two nights), Linyanti (one night), Senyati (near Kasane, three nights with a day visit to Victoria Falls and a sunset boat cruise) before heading home. At least, that was the plan, but you will have to wait for the photos to find out what really happened...


~ @@Peter Connan


The photos telling the rest of the story...are they posted elsewhere or will eventually appear here?

Looking back at this thread, it's remarkable that your wife and her daughters so easily adjusted to a major undertaking like this.

They look so glamorous in the setting. Who would suppose that they were far from any sophisticated settlement?

I was especially impressed by the use of freeze-dried rose petals as confetti. Who knew that such an alternative existed?

This was one of the most enjoyably upbeat threads that I read in 2015. Looking back at it tonight brought a big smile to my face.

Tom K.

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I somehow missed this when you originally posted it @@Peter Connan

what a lovely way to get married - thanks for sharing

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@@Tom Kellie, and @@Soukous, thanks for the kind words.


Tom, the hard drive those photos are on has "crashed", and I have been unable to access them for some time. A knowledgeable friend of mine is trying to retrieve them, but this process has been going on for a few months now and have not borne any fruit yet. If they ever are retrieved, I will complete this as a trip report.


In the mean time, if you feel like it, there is a trip report here: http://4x4community.co.za/forum/showthread.php?t=109749


Be warned though, my photography then was not what it is now.

Edited by Peter Connan
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This is better than George Clooney's wedding! The photos did were saved are beautiful. "Instead of confetti we settled on freeze-dried rose petals, as they are rapidly bio-degradeable." That even bests Martha Stewart. I'm sure all of the guests have equally fond memories. Your caution on entertaining guests whilst enjoying your honeymoon is a wise one. A very belated congrats on your marriage.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Thank you @@Atravelynn


It's about time to go back though!

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