When they were young Kitty and I, their mothers, plotted and planned how they would marry each other and then we could all live happily ever after on some far away island with a whole herd of our children’s children and perfect harmony.

You know… this is what friend-mothers with kids do!

More often than not, it doesn’t work like that, because small children grow into big children and get minds of their own, and then big children grow into young adults and quite simply arranged marriages aren’t so cool.  And that’s become ok, because so far we’ve done pretty well on our collective offspring’s life-partners.

We rejoice in that.

Just as much as we rejoiced when Josh (not from our tribe, not even the same country or continent, but from down under – gasp!) and Gina recently got married on the beautiful banks of the Zambezi between Zimbabwe and Zambia – inclusive of an elephant in the distance and a troop of baboons that casually dropped by to witness the wonder-filled occasion.

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Mother Africa gifted her finest of days – perfect in every way. It turned up beautifully bold, blue, clear and thank you, thank you so much…nicely warm for the middle of winter.

Chairs marked the ceremony spot in the shade of generous trees while baby-breath blooms lined the grass-carpeted aisle. Guests chatted expectantly as we waited for the bridal party to arrive. Late. Always the bride’s prerogative to keep the groom guessing and hoping it all works out just fine.   Which of course it did.

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“Don’t stop believing” played as flowing khaki, cream, chiffon and lace clad girls, one little boy and a teeny girl, led the all-eyes-on-her bride and her father down the garden path to the sacred place in front of the river.

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Here, a simple altar with a bowl of pink and white roses, one candle and a heart shape that gently blew in the breeze waited with the men. So handsome in their finest khaki pants and white shirts, Kenyan beaded belts and indigenous veldskoene – a must have in the shoe wardrobe of the brides father. And now too, it seems, the brides groom and all his mates.

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The simple and sincere ceremony proceeded with deep love and lots of josh-and-gina-giggles, held in forever promises with tearjerker pieces read by the mothers. Rings changed hands and the new Mr. and Mrs. beamed deep-dimpled, back down the aisle to the tune of “My Girl”. How apt.

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Cousin Ken corralled the guests onto a houseboat by the river with his bagpipes and here, between champagne, delicious canapés and skies on fire with hope and wonder, we began to celebrate the union of the two-now-one gorgeous couple.

Cheers Josh and Geenie.

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As the boat chugged through hippos and crocs, the sun slowly fell into the water providing a magnificent backdrop to many a picture – both for the taking and for the memory.

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All too soon it was over and while the boat docked, the stars with fairy lights adorning a giant tent in the middle of nowhere started to twinkle into the night sky. A huge pit fire and thoughtful gas warmers watched the backs of the guests as discreet waiters – waited and served.

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Decked in welcoming and fabulous African finery the attention to detail in the tent was mind-boggling.   On the tables, Chitenge print napkins in zebra stripes and hessian holders sat on copper coloured plates. Favours were exquisitely carved cedar wood boxes and rhino key rings. Rolled and ribboned thank you notes with fire burned edges; guinea fowl feathers and quills which were home grown and put together with so much love. Long glass vases filled with red beans and fat candles sat softened by roses and on-the-table fairy lights.

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All of which set the romantic tone for a delicious dinner punctuated by hysterical speeches and the shedding of a few tears – both happy and sad. Josh paraded his teaching skills up and down, back and forth. His three brothers added their bits. Chris stretched his extensive patriarchal arms, collectively claiming us all as family. Dylan paused to remember Pete – too soon and recently taken away. Dear Pete who would have chirped and quipped though any and everything and been so proud of his another-daughter. We remembered him, his spirit ever alive on this loveliest of days.

And then came the dancing – way into the shattered silence of a crisp and clear African night. First the chosen few, followed by one and all and too much fun.

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The elders eventually left the young ‘uns to boogie on down long after midnight while we climbed onto the shuttle buses waiting to carry us safely out the bush and back into town with a warning to watch for elephants.

Thus ending a truly magnificent day – in every way.

The festivities didn’t end there, just as they didn’t begin. Almost all the friends and family came a few days before and stayed a few days after. Most in the same spot giving everyone time to meet and greet, loll and laugh and still do trips to the Victoria Falls, bungee jump, zip line and other fun stuff.

One giant happy group of people wrapped in the always-welcoming arms and never exhausted love of the Payne and Gibbons family.

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What a week, what a wedding.

Thank you. We will remember it well and wait in eager anticipation for the marriages of the other four daughters.

The bar is set oh-so high!

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