Experience has taught me when you are not sure where to start ‘the’ story, you start from ‘the’ beginning!
By Lilian Gaitho
Thus, it all began with a call by Samantha’s Bridal, KTN and Standard Newspaper for soon-to-be-brides to fill in coupons in the Standard Newspaper and Samantha’s Bridal Wedding Magazine and win a leisure trip to South Africa. The winning coupons were revealed during the Samantha’s Wedding Expo July 2013 and courtesy of South Africa Tourism, five lucky brides; each with two of her best girlfriends would have an all costs covered five nights stay in Johannesburg and Cape Town plus a VIP ticket to the South Africa Wedding Expo.
Fast-forward to our landing at Oliver Thambo Airport, and nothing beats the respite care offered to the group at the Hennops River Valley Mangwanani Africa Day Spa in the tranquil outskirts of Pretoria. This was just the perfect ‘welcome to Mzansi’, marked by the customary drumming and singing in Xhosa just an hour fter checking in at the equally gorgeous Maslow hotel. Both brides and friends were treated to a wholesome healing, nurturing and pampering session; kicking off with Neo Maoto, the royal African foot massage to wash away the four-hour jetlag from the Nairobi-Johannesburg flight, this was followed by a much needed Molala, which is a head, neck and shoulder massage and finally a relaxing hot stone treatment to ward tension off our backs. In true African spirit, the brides and and would be bridesmaids would not be allowed to leave the valleys without a taste of light African meals savoured to the musical beats and thumping of the antelopes gracefully dancing under star stained Southern skies; the spa set pace to what would unfold over a blissful five-day tour. And to bid fairy-thee-tour to the brides, the cheerful ladies presented gift bags of DIY massage oils, scrubs and robes. Just the stuff to say, ‘I know Mangwanani’
The music is real, live and instrumental, there’s no window for lip-synching. The Con Grazia girls waltz away in a trance to Dean Martins That’s Amore, and Elegant entertainment picks up the melodies in their balanced threesome baritone. The runway brides are not just ambassadors of brands and trends; they leave in their trail hints of opulence and grandeur that can only go with crystals and pearls; It’s the South Africa Wedding Expo, the annual event brings together globally acclaimed wedding designers and top shop stockists. Our brides did not miss out, Tess was lost for choice; stuck in a Princess Diana length-alike cathedral veil, while her favorite piece was a layered, lighter – than – air floral dress. The designer advised on a high tapering birdcage to complete the effect. Her two friends looked on speechless, unable to help the dear bride make a choice! Elsewhere, Susan, a maid of honor makes an urgent call to the florist back in Kenya, the three friends have mentally disbanded their initial set up plan for Molly’s wedding!
Still lost in the charm of six-meter tall, 2.5 ton, Mandiba statue after last night’s decadent dinner at Mandela Square- Sandton City Complex, we decide to complete the voyage with a visit to Mandela house before taking a dive of faith at the Soweto’s Orlando Towers. This could be the twin tower with the most gut-wrenching story in colonial Africa and today, Brides and Co. are bungee jumping down the hundred meters as if to swear their allegiance! Now, this is exactly one of those moments when a girlfriend’s touch of assurance comes in handy! And so bound by nuts, bolts and friendship, all girls scale up and fly down the precarious heights of Soweto. In reward of their valor, the Orlando Towers bungee team awards them with certificates of…well, hazardous adventure?
A little more shopping in the departmental malls, a few stop overs in bridal outlets. More soup and calamari (I’m beginning to miss our Tilapia!), ostrich meat for the adventurous, some wild game for the explorers, smoked salmon for the brides keeping watch over their waistline, a little wine for the stomach’s sake and dinner is done; we depart for Cape town early next morning