Out Of Africa.

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.

Mirror Mirror

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.

Faux Flowers

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.

Local Entertainment

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.

At Last

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!

Author: Adam Crohill
Adam likes Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain.

41 thoughts on “Out Of Africa.

  1. Utterly stunning. Lee you are a bloody talented genius of a photographer. So much light, life and colour in every shot. One of the greatest wedding stories I have ever seen! Thank you for sharing. Xx

  2. Amazing pics! Love this wedding. Looks like a great party. Congrats, Khadijat & Hammed. This is one of my absolute favourite posts. Thank you.xx

  3. Fantastic photos. I once went to a wedding in Kenya and it was so colourful and joyful.

    PS I though we had a lot of dinner guests at 120!

  4. This looks like just the short version of what must be an incredible document – I’m blown away by this. Lee – you’ve done an amazing job here. It’s easy to see how much effort has gone into this and how much work there must have been to do. Editing this; a joy, a nightmare, a learning curve. The experience comes across as a real connection to human celebration and universal intimacy, coupled with the ultimate fish-out-of-water chaos in colour.
    Logistically baffling, I’m sure there would have been the occasional panic attack along the way, but the results are impressive and a genuinely fascinating look outside of the standard bubble.
    It’s a real shot in the arm for photographers who know why they’re doing what they’re doing. Life affirming. Grounding. Thx

  5. This is fantastic work Lee. You have captured the essence of a wedding unlike anything most of us will ever get to photograph. There is so much to see and so many emotions and details to take in. Amazing!

  6. Amazing what beautiful pictures the colour, the details and the scenery it all flows amazingly to tell a gorgeous story. Love it, and those faux flowers are incredible I wouldn’t know the difference. x

  7. Wow what an amazing vibrant wedding! So lovely to have a positive of view of Africa for a change!!! The photos are just phenomenal!!!

  8. 14 cakes! 1100 guests! Half a world away! And STILL she looks calm, serene and demure – I am in AWE. On a more shallow note, I love a mismatched finger/toe polish.

    Also I NEED one of those bridesmaids’ dresses – just to have. Seriously beautiful.

  9. What a joy to see an uplifting ceremony full of colour, noise (I can really imagine the noise!!!) and joy at every turn! I am from West Africa too – Ghana – and while our forthcoming wedding won’t have the full pomp and ceremony of K & H’s, it will definitely have that crazy, full-of-life approach to it! I hope to post it on here…if I am lucky enough to!! What a gifted photographer….I felt like I was there! Thank you for showing a wonderful African wedding in all its glory!

    A xx

  10. Its amazing to see such lovely thoughts and comments. Hammed and I really can’t thank Lee enough for all his hard work. I’m not really sure he really knew what he was letting himself in for….13 hour days with only one day rest in between. And the day of rest was spent in a hair salon! But he did a fantastic job, even when being pulled in different directions in a very chaotic environment. He really fulfilled the very tall brief we set for him. Well done xx

  11. Holy cow, this is completely immense! Lee, your photos capture the colour and vibrancy of the whole day beautifully!

    My favourite picture is the one of Hammed and Khadijat in the car, with Hammed doing a massive grin! Sooooo happy!

    This is why I love RMW so, so much – for a amazing array of weddings you feature – great stuff lovelies!


  12. Firstly massive congratulations to Khadijat & Hammed! This is the most beautiful wedding I have ever seen! The photography is amazing! I hope my wedding is as full of love as this one clearly was.

  13. Today RMW meets travel Photography! It’s great to see some shots that really capture Sierra Leone (not that I’ve been lucky enough to go!) but also we have some classic wedding pretty to boot!

    What an amazing wedding and what an amazing place.

    I knew the RMW community would love this one.


  14. 1. HONESTLY would never have guessed those flowers were not real, incredible!

    2. Loving the matching parents outfits .. don’t think I’ll be able to persuade my dad into purple though

    3. I WANT a fire eater at our wedding!

    4. How many guests?! not sure I even know that many people!!

    Amazing extravaganza, I wish I had been there. A true celebration of two families coming together xx

  15. I never comment on blogs, but this wedding is stunning. Drop dead gorgeous bride and fully of happiness and love. Lots of nice details and logistically impressive! Also, thank you for featuring this. It’s so nice to see something different and culturally rich. Wedding blog posts tend to be very same-y after awhile, so it’s lovely to see something unique, interesting, and most of all, real.
    Best wishes to the bride and groom and their families! x

  16. Absolutely stunning this is my favourite post ever congratulations to Khadijat & Hammed. Lee Allen’s photography is beautiful. You have brightened up my day.

  17. Wow, a destination wedding like no other. Fantastic to see images from a wedding like this, beautiful. A riot of colour and cultures. Congratulations Khadijat & Hammed and Lee, I salute you!

  18. Simply stunning… Lee had told me that he’d been to Sierra Leone for a wedding, so he didn’t think that Northern Ireland would be too much of a mission..! I can’t express how impressed I am with the results.. to capture the essence of such a mammoth event and to be in the right place every time is just incredible, are you sure there weren’t a team of photographers out there..?!!

    Fantastic wedding, with many congratulations to Khadijat & Hammed.. and what great memories to cherish…

  19. Wow – this is totally amazing! I’ve set up lots of filming in Sierra Leone and people really should understand that its getting itself back on track. Its great to see such a positive image of the country.

    Beautiful bride too! Looks like an awesome wedding 🙂

  20. This is great. My family are from Sierra Leone and its amazing to see such rich and beautiful portrayal! The photos are lovely, the bride looks stunning and it seems that you all had a wonderful day! A wedding well done!!

  21. Wowzer! What a celebration! Lee, you did an amazing job. Captured the spirit of the occasion and the love of all the family and friends involved. Beautiful! x

  22. The moments captured are absolutely stunning! Please is it possible to get the brides details in order to contact the person that made her cake ?

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