Amanda and Elvis: An autumnal, African wedding in Belgium

Amanda and Elvis enjoyed a cross-cultural African wedding complete with multiple outfit changes, plentiful food and crazy dancing

This Congolese beauty and her Ghanaian prince had not one, not two, but three amazing weddings in the UK and Belgium, including a full-blown African wedding with a 27-dish buffet and Senegalese dancing. She tells her story to Bouquet Catch.

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Elvis and I met in the UK in April 2011. We were on the same coach going to London: I was coming from Belgium for an interview and he was coming back to the UK after a placement year in Germany. When we arrived at Victoria coach station I was looking for some help as it was my first time in the UK, so I asked him for directions assuming that he could speak French, but he couldn’t. Luckily, I could speak English so we managed to communicate! He was going in the same direction, so we decided to walk together. He was gentleman enough to help carry my bags. We added each other on Facebook and decided to keep in touch. My interview was successful and I moved to Los Angeles. He came to visit me twice before my departure to the USA, which is how our two-year long-distance relationship began.

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In March 2016, We went on a cruise over the Adriatic Sea, stopping in Dubrovnik, Croatia. We went to visit the famous Buddha bar: a bar on a cliff with a stunning ocean view. There weren’t many people, the sun was shining and the moment felt just magical. He held my hand and said “I had another plan but this place, this moment is very special…do you want to marry me?” I said of course, and we stopped at the next jewellery shop where he picked the engagement ring for me. Seven months later we were married.

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We were ‘lucky’ to have three weddings: the civil ceremony in the UK, and the religious ceremony and African wedding in Belgium according to my Congolese culture (I am Belgian Congolese and Elvis is German Ghanaian ).

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Our main wedding took place Belgium because my family is bigger than his family! We needed to have a big venue for all our guests; a venue that was not far from the airport and motorway as we had over 300 guests coming to Belgium from Germany, the UK, Canada, France and Switzerland. The religious ceremony took place in the Kasteel Van Huizingen and the party was at the Parker Airport Hotel in Zaventem.

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I didn’t sleep much the night before as I was too excited. I was awoke around 6am and went to get my wedding dress that I left with my mother’s friend to be ironed before returning to the hotel. We had a special room which I believe is normally a meeting room, adjusted just for us to get ready. I had six bridesmaids and one Maid of Honour, and we needed three hair stylists and four make-up artist to help us get ready.

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Aside from the fact that my girls arrived two hours late because of a misunderstanding, we had a fun time. The media team – Dadou Lebelge from Switzerland – was there to record and take pictures of everything. Our main photographer was Mike Image.

There was a 2-hour delay before the start of the ceremony, so we were all a little stressed, but when I entered the church and saw all my friends and family, I melted. One of my childhood friends, Tracy Tilah, was singing in the background. It was so emotional, magical and just perfect. We made our church service booklet ourselves to save some money and they looked amazing. I remember seeing my mother happy, too.

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The theme was autumn, and the main colours were orange, brown, red and yellow. The decorations were by Décor’moi. We changed a few times into different clothes from our cultures (as well as traditional bridal wear), which really complemented the autumnal theme.

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I found my white short vintage-style wedding dress online from a French store called Naf Naf. I wore this for the civil wedding in the UK.

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The white dress I wore for the religious ceremony was from Brides of Southampton.

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I had the other three dresses made in London by a designer called Shuga.

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We didn’t have the opportunity to eat much as we would have liked as we needed to change for the different entrances, but the plates looked amazing and the food was delicious. It was a hot and cold African and European buffet with 27 dishes. We chose Papa Antoine for the catering. He’s well known in the African community, as well as in European – he caters for the European Commission and Belgian parliament. For the cake we worked with Sominouchgourmandise. We found all of our suppliers mainly via social media, and also word-of-mouth recommendations.

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We had a singer for our first dance called Wills Tengaishy and he sang Code Secret. The party was just mental; we had an amazing DJ called DJ Thierry Alain Mandefu, who is well known in Belgium for his entertainment skills, plus the best master of ceremonies called Julian, who is normally a stand-up comedian.

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My family is loud and love to party. My Great Auntie had a whistle and was just using it all the time. We also had a Senegalese group from Fallou Crew that performed in a dance show. Even though we’re Congolese and Ghanaian, we picked a Senegalese crew as their dancing is very expressive. We partied until 5am when we cut the music, even though people wanted to party longer! It was really fun. We also had a photo booth supplied by photo-booths.be.

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Our honeymoon is planned for end of January 2017, three months after the wedding. We are going on a cruise around the Caribbean islands. We love cruises!

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Overall, I’d say it was very stressful day but people had a lot of fun. Everything was like we excepted: full of love, joy and amazing food. I would have love to have been less stressed – I felt that I couldn’t let myself relax as I wanted to make sure that people were enjoying themselves. My advice to other brides would be to please enjoy yourselves on the big day! After all, the planning and money spent, you deserve to release the stress. Have some time just with your husband to talk and cuddle and eat.

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