In terms of destination wedding choices, I doubt many of you are considering Sierra Leone… but I guess that is what makes today’s wedding so different and so very interesting…
Birmingham based photographer Lee Allen spoke to me about his trip out to Africa a few weeks before he went in December 2011.
Since hearing of his impending adventure I had been itching to get a look at the results and when I saw them I knew we had to feature it.
Before I pass you over to the bride I think it’s worth hearing a bit from Lee himself…
Lee Allen: When Khadijat and Hammed asked me to document their wedding there was no way on this earth I was going to say no – wedding in Africa the first week of 2012? Yes please!
Having never travelled to an African country I had no idea what to expect and when I told people I was going to Freetown in Sierra Leone most reactions were one of shock as its safe to say it has a fairly (unfairly) negative reputation in the western world. What I found though was an amazing country full of friendly inquisitive people and breathtaking scenery.
I was lucky enough to experience a full on African engagement ceremony as well as full on western style wedding complete with 1100 guests for dinner. Khadijat and Hammad treated me like family and particularly Khadijats bridesmaids looked after me better than I could have ever expected.
Shooting both ceremonies was hot and confusing but so loud and colourful with so much dancing and singing every second was full of experiences hard to take in. I may sound a bit like a student who has been backpacking but I found the whole experience life changing and made me appreciate everything I have back home a lot more. If you are offered the chance to go Sierra Leone GO GO GO!
Thanks Lee, and now let’s hand over to Khadijat for her account of the day, and of course more fantastic images from Lee Allen photography.
All of these images are from Khadijat and Hammed’s western style wedding, we have put together a gallery from the African engagement ceremony at the end of the feature for anyone who is interested in seeing them… And they really are worth a gander.
I had a Pronovias dress called Alcanar, which I bought from Mirror Mirror Bridal Boutique in Islington. It was the last dress I tried on after 10 dresses and I just knew it was the one when I put it on. It was off white, very simple, but impactful, for me anyway! It had a sweetheart neckline with a structured bodice, flowing into full skirt, lots of tulle and lace layers and a long train… A proper princess dress.
No Silver Bling
I also had a lace edged veil which absolutely beautiful and very long. Just short of cathedral length. I had decided I didn’t want any silver bling looking wedding jewellery. We had gold threaded into a lot of our décor and Hammed was wearing a sand coloured suit, so I knew silver was a no no straight away.
I wore a gold and citrine necklace and earring set from Tiffany’s that Hammed bought me a few years back and on my wrist I wore my mum’s aquamarine gold cuff, to match my shoes. I had a hair brooch made for me to match my jewellery from Crystal Bridal Accessories.
It was very important to me to keep thing understated, but elegant. I can’t do drama dresses.
Mui Mui Shoes
Apart from engagement rings, my shoes were the first wedding related item we bought. It was very important for me to have shoes that I would be able to wear again, not just for the wedding. They were turquoise suede peep toe pumps from Mui Mui. Very high!
Polished And Radiant
Seeing as I’m a beauty therapist, I did my own nails. Nude on fingers and red on toes. My hair was done by a local hairdresser and I had a classic side bun. I drew the line at doing my own make up and that was done by MAC make up artist Stacy Okafor who flew in for the occasion. Her brief was to make me look polished and radiant – keeping in line with the understated elegance theme.
Because of the heat, we choose artificial flowers which we picked out from Atelier Abigail Ahern in Islington. She is known as the ‘Chanel of faux flowers’.
I had a dusty pink/champagne rose and peony bouquet. The bridesmaids had white/green hydrangeas and Hammed and the guys had stems of gelda which were specially made into button holes by Ying from The Willow Florists in Shoreditch. He attached them to leaves and twigs which he had sprayed in gold.
Navy Blue And Gold
The bridesmaids dresses were made in Lagos by a designer called Miriam Ilaka. As the ceremony was in a mosque they needed long dresses and we wanted it quite relaxed so we went for flowy chiffon in deep navy blue. They had gold cuffs from Oliver Bonas and gold/citrine coloured earrings from Top Shop.
In the mosque, they had to wear long white scarves over their head and shoulders. To tie the theme in, they all wore bronze/gold shoes. The grooms men wore navy suits from Moss Bros which they bought. This was complimented with gold ties, cufflinks and pocket squares.
A Change For Tradition
Hammed suit was made for him by Marc Wallace in Chelsea. It was a sand colour 3 piece suit which made him look very dapper. Tie from Marc Wallace too. Classic brown brogues from Fratteli Rosetti, cufflinks from Lanvin and pocket square from a selection at Selfridges.
In the evening we both changed into a green and cream outfits, made specially for us. Hammed wore his as a tradition ‘agbada’ and I had mine designed into a one shoulder mermaid dress. Its tradition for the couple to get changed into traditional outfits before the dancing really starts. I was supposed to wear some nude Louboutins with it, but my feet were so sore and knowing the amount of dancing I was going to do, I wore my trusted purple platforms from Office instead. Bit of a colour clash, but at the stage, I didn’t really care!
Cool, Calm And Collected
When we met Lee, we knew he was the right person straight person away. He was cool, calm and collected. He was also up for the challenge of going to Sierra Leone which was a very good thing!
How Many Cakes?
I wanted the cake to be a feature, but at the same time I didn’t want it to be fussy. So I designed it myself. I had 14 cakes in total, all arranged into a few sets of tiers. It was ivory icing with a cascade of roses spilling down the sides. It was a mixture of sponge and fruit.
We had some local artists to entertain our guests. A dancer, comedian and an acrobat. My family chose the entertainment and we were happy to go along with it.
Our first dance was to Etta James – At Last – we wanted something classic and seeing as we’ve been together 9 years, at last we were getting married 🙂
An Assortment Of Favours
Favours are very important in an African weddings and they are presented by both families. We had special carrier bags made with one of pictures from our pre wedding shoot. They were filled with personalised notebooks, pens, hankies, hand fans and bottle openers. We had no choice in the favours, but we were happy with them as they were done to a good standard.
Twinkles And Lanterns
We had lots of fairy lights, as we wanted lots of twinkles. We did try having candles, but it was way too windy and they kept blowing out! My sister hung lots of white Chinese lanterns over the high table, which looked lovely.
A World Wide Celebration
Our wedding was unique because of the love we felt all around us. Loads of people took time out of their busy schedules to fly in from all over the world and celebrate with us.
We had so much support, it was over whelming. My advice to other brides would be – stress does nothing for you! Go with the flow and concentrate on the important bits that matter. Its having all your family and friends share the day with you that’s important.
Photography – Lee Allen photography
Brides dress – Pronovias
Boutique – Mirror Mirror
Brides earrings and necklace – Tiffany’s
Brides brooch – Crystal Bridal Accessories
Brides shoes – Miu Miu
Make-up – Stacy Okafor
Grooms suit – Marc Wallace
Flowers – Atelier Abigail Ahern
Wow, well you don’t see a wedding like this one every day. 14 cakes! It may be worth mentioning again at this point that there were 1100 guests for dinner, so that only works out as 1 cake for every 78 and a half people, so it’s not so crazy!
It sounds like a logistic nightmare from start to finish but what an amazing event to have pulled off. I am so jealous that Lee Allen managed to get out there… I think maybe next time you go half way around the world Lee, you should take a wedding blogger or two with you…
P.S below as promised is a gallery of images from the African engagement ceremony. Enjoy!