What exactly is the “Out of Africa” theme? It’s similar to Safari, but more reserved — and definitely has its own twist.

Specifically, “Out of Africa” is nineteenth century colonial — the southern Africa of Karen Blixen (a.k.a. Isak Dinesen). Sure, the lions might be prowling outside, but inside where Brits and Danes lived, you’d see an equally ferocious idea of “keeping up civilization” complete with wrought iron beds, wicker chairs, and the whitest of white linen.

More on Decor
So in addition to decorating your hall with sweeping tropical ferns and palms, you’ll want to tuck in “Out of Africa” accents like giant old binoculars, straw or seaweed pith helmets, canvas chairs (for surveying one’s grassy domain) and gramophones, for keeping up with the musical times back home — or simply keeping one’s favorites close at hand. For wall decor, mix up a few grimacing African masks with colonial posters of gentle naturalist watercolors and oils.

Other authentic touches might include heavy, brassy furniture such as blanket chests (fill with refreshments) and gun cabinets. Drape mosquito netting around the tables, on a hoop to cascade down over the cake table, and over decorative pith helmets. Display jodhpurs and safari boots. And don’t forget to add busts of admired statesmen, scientists and artists — very nineteenth century colonial. Ideally, your venue has chunky, dark wood trim and boasts a massive fireplace.

If possible, scatter animal print or sisal rugs around the room. You’ll also want plenty of candles — mixed among them, consider this tiger print candle lamp project made of wine glasses, not to mention the gorgeously exotic peacock and ostrich feather centerpiece idea.

Ask willing guests to arrive in colonial costume or African bush attire. More cautious guests can combine a conservative gown with a bold African necklace. Hand out inexpensive pith helmets to anyone who wants to play along.

As for table names, choose African animals (Cheetah, Elephant, Leopard, Lion, Zebra, Rhinocerous, Addax, Mountain Gorilla, Gazelle, Lemur, Chimpanzee, Monk Seal) or African destinations (Swaziland, Mozambique, Comoros, Seychelles, Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Angola, Malawi).

Feasting, Sub-Saharan Style

For a spectacular Out of Africa spread, consider some of these masculine grilled meats and Dutch-influenced sweets:

Marinated ostrich carpaccio
French onion and ostrich steak soup
Braised Oxtails with mushrooms
Steak Tartar on ficelle
Grilled duck paillards
South African kebabs
Mini braised beef short ribs
Lamb Tagine with artichokes
Salmon pate
Crocodile sirloin
(tomato and mutton stew)

Deep-fried coconut bananas in berry sauce
South African melktert (milk tart)
Fried Koeksisters
Paul Kruger cake
(sweet raisin buns leavened with grapes)
(aged apricots in brandy)
pudding with Greek yogurt

And don’t forget to serve those truly excellent South African wines.

For Your Favor-ite Guests

For wedding favors, hand out something edible that’s bound to be appreciated: safari animal cookies in cellophane, or safari animal chocolates.

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17 Responses

  1. Hayley Bennitt

    Dear fellow brides,

    Greetings from South Africa! Lovely to see your inspiring themes. I too am going for a zebra theme. Overlays, invites etc. I am also introducing torquoise to break the black and white tone. Am using lots of silverware, candles and white roses… an out of Africa feel without the kitsch.
    I am considering using beadwork (ie beading cork stoppers) as a party favour (will get my zimbabwe friend to do for me)

  2. Chelsa

    Here is another touch. How about your garter be in the zebra print or another african inspired fabric. I am not having an african themed wedding, but still want to incorporate my heritage. Good Luck!!!!

  3. Gayle Hacking

    Heya, I’m from Africa too and having an african inspired wedding (not too much print though…) in Australia where I now live.
    For favours, I thought of Amarula (south african liquer) decantered into little bottles for the men (I’m on the lookout for nips, but haven’t found any yet) – you should be able to get this at most boutique liquor stores – there is also a liquer called ‘wild’, and for the ladies, you can get bottle stoppers with little african animals on them (www.africantrails.co.za) or wooden bangles or beaded salad spoons. we are asking our guests for cash (as we pretty much have everything anyway) and donating 10% of it to the SAVE foundation in Zimbabwe – for rhinos and elephants etc.
    For decorations, you can incorporate the safari feel with a tented marquee, I’m incorporating a lot of wood and stuff like coffee bean candles (my mum’s kenyan). I’m having twigs/branches as centrepieces and hanging little tealight lanterns off them. I know not typically african, but I didn’t want it to be too kitch. There will be african accents though. I have found some cheetah patterned ribbon and I’m having cupcakes for desert with various animal patterns to differentiate them. A couple of ottomans with animal print scatter cushions. I keep thinking cane furniture – maybe a cane lounge/sette for a ‘chill out’ zone might look good. I’ve had to do a lot of scrounging around on the net, so majority will be imported for me, but depending on where you are getting married in Africa, african goodies will be at your fingertips!!
    Good luck and all the best x

    • Caroline

      Have you had your wedding yet Gayle? I need help, I am getting married in Victoria falls, Zimbabwe. We are having an african theme, it is an outside wedding on the banks of the zambezi river. My fiance is Zimbabwean therefore we want an african theme, so far I have only bought zebraprint shoes to wear and we are having zebra print tie backs on the chairs, with mainly black and white theme, however we are looking for ideas to brighten it up, maybe blue as victoria falls waterfall is near by. Any ideas? it’s so hard to find anything! Attached are my shoes!

      • stacey

        caroline, tint your centerpiece water a shade of blue to match the victoria fall waterfall, would look great against black and white theme, consider zebra print place cards, progams.

      • Chaela

        Caroline – I too am getting married in Vic Falls next September, as I am from Zimbabwe! Would love to be able to share ideas with someone and understand the difficulties of organising it from afar. Thanks to others for the links too, some great ideas there!

      • Izzy

        Hey, i’m the bridesmaid, my south african best friend is getting married next year. I know she would absolutely love your shoes! where abouts did u get them? x

      • Neicy

        Your zebra print shoes are just lovely. Who’s the designer? i’m looking for something similar but i haven’t found anything i like yet.

      • Maria Hunt

        Hello to gayle and & caroline, My name is Maria, I am 56 years old and my husband and I are renewing our vows, 30 years for us, and I never had a real wedding, it’s both our 2nd marriage and he had a real one with his 1st wife, so now it’s my turn eventhough it’s our anniversary and we are re afferming our vows, it’s going to be a full blown, as close as you can come to a wedding. My theme is also African, and would love any ideas you both may come up with. As for me I’m doing centerpieces with real cotton, however I’m probably going to have to make my own branches, to attach them to, but they’ll be coming out of a square vase, with a a2” strip of African fabric wrapped around it and rafia,cinnimonstick/twigs etc… I’m also going to incorporate some coffee beans, as well as cowrey shells, I’m also having a cake made to look like a drum, with fondent overlay on the top to replacate the drum skin, the caterers will be serving only soul/african foods and dishes buffet style, I’m asking my guess to dress in african attire, although not required, My colors are chocolate and lavender, I am haveing professional drummers, that will be doing also african dances, and they, I am also having praise dancers, and we will be using a minister from the Wo’se church, which is African as well, I am still working out a lot of details but I have 6 months and have waited a v.long time to embrase my ethnic culture, and very excited to finally put all my thoughts to fruition. I wish you both the very best, and look forward to hearing from you both soon.

      • Rosheil Dennie

        How can I find the website to purchase these shoes there perfect for my wedding

  4. Jacque Scott

    Anyone got any idea for African themes, ideas for favors or decorations? Im going back to Africa where i grew up to get married and need some ideas…..my colours are green and gold

    • Soon to be Sarah H

      Hi Jacque,

      I’m doing an African theme for my wedding because I just got back from Malawi. If I can get back before I get married (which I’m desperate to do!) what I was thinking of doing for favors are tiny little elephant carvings. I like this idea because elephants really never forget. So you could talk about how they represent your relationship, and how you will never forget all the people who came to support you. At the market in Lilongwe, you can get them for about 25 cents each depending on how small you want them!

      Hope this helps!


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