Alice Usanase-Lalui and Armin Lalui said "I do" not once but twice. The couple first wed surrounded by 350 guests in Kigali, Rwanda, on February 8, 2020, and did it again six days later, on February 14, 2020, with 160 guests in Livingstone, Zambia.
"Because of our love for the outdoors, we both wanted to feel one with nature and have an outdoor vibrant wedding that was a mix of luxury and African culture," describes the bride of their vision. "We wanted a place that our guests could experience Africa."
With that in mind, Armin found The Royal Livingstone, a boutique hotel near Victoria Falls—a location that had been on their bucket list. The selling factor? A direct flight from Alice's home in Rwanda to Livingstone, Zambia, which made marrying in the two countries possible. "The more we researched it, the more we considered it, and when we visited, we were convinced," she says. "We loved how at one with nature we felt."
Planning two weddings in two different countries, Alice and Armin leaned on Mwai Yeboah, a London-based planner who was born in Zambia, from Love from Mwai to coordinate every detail, which they admit was "no easy feat." Keep reading for all the details on the two celebrations—a Rwandan ceremony in the bride's mother's backyard and a three-day event overlooking Victoria Falls—as planned by Love from Mwai and photographed by Stepan Vrzala.
The couple, who lives and works in Belgium, asked London-based stationer Rosey and Co. to design distinct invitations for the wedding in Rwanda as well as the multiple events, each with a different style and theme, in Zambia.
The bride's sister Nshutiyase Lina of Maison de la Beauté did her makeup for the Rwandan ceremony.
Alice wore an emerald green gown, which she paired with bright blue heels from her favorite shoe designer, Christian Louboutin.
Alice was born in Rwanda, so the couple had a traditional Rwandan ceremony. It took place in the bride's mother's garden and, per tradition, began with two Ankole, long-horned cattle welcoming guests.
The garden was decorated with pampas grass, palm fronds, and an abundance of white and orange flowers. Below a woven canopy, blooming plants, natural baskets, and printed textiles created a warm, welcoming atmosphere that was meant to be "styled yet slightly untamed."
Embodying the culture of his bride, the groom, who is from Ireland, was adorned in white traditional attire. Alice, who wore a sparkly headpiece in lieu of a veil, was escorted by her brothers and male cousins to meet Armin at the altar.
The ceremony was followed by a reception, also in the picturesque garden. Dancers and drummers led everyone to their seats, which we set at long wooden tables below a canopy of fresh flowers.
While the wooden tables were left neutral, the couple did not shy away from vibrant hues, adding mustard-colored seat cushions and statement flower arrangements of small bright flowers.
"Luxury in black African culture means not that we tone down our vibrant colors and practices, but that our colorful cultures, traditions, and bright colors are weaved into every aspect of design and production in a way that highlights its extravagance," explains planner Mwai Yeboah, who was born in Zambia.
Notably, each arrangement was also designed to incorporate a traditional straw stool as its base.
Five days later, the couple met their guests—this time, a smaller group of 160—in Zambia for their "I dos," part two. Rosey and Co. again created the event's invitations, which celebrated the location's natural beauty as well as the iconic Victoria Falls nearby.
To kick off the three days of events, Alice and Armin hosted a traditional dinner at The Royal Livingstone's boma. "Boma is an African word that means enclosure," explains Yeboah of Love from Mwai. "It's a round space traditionally made of branches or stones where tribesmen would protect their community and livestock beneath an open sky and vast land."
Alice wore a long, beaded gown paired with a crown of roses, while her loved ones also dressed in cheerful colors.
Quite literally living guests a "warm welcome," dinner tables were set around an open flame. "Long wooden benches and tables allowed guests to eat in a familial, picnic-style sort of way," explains their planner. "They carried a worn-in, familiar warmth that we wanted to be dispersed throughout the space."
"Throughout the design, we weaved rich browns, bronze, greens, and earthy tones to play off of the wild, rustic elements of the outdoor space in a luxuriously styled manner," says their planner. Additionally, in an effort to marry the soft and scratchy textures of the grasslands, mustard-brown napkins and tall centerpieces—featuring cream, peach, blush, and maroon florals tumbling out of straw vases—were added to make the natural elements more distinguishable.
As the guests proceeded to the second part of the welcome party, a giant screen draped with greenery displayed meaningful photographs of the couple with friends and family. "Guests were honored for the part they played in the couple’s lives and the making of their love story," recalls their planner.
The wedding itself also took place at The Royal Livingstone, which is located on the Zambian side of the Zambezi River in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. The hotel overlooks the river and features direct access to Victoria Falls. Wildlife, such as zebras and giraffes, are also known to roam the grounds.
On the big day, Alice got ready with her bridesmaids, who, like her, dressed in custom embroidered robes. In addition to adding burgundy blooms to her hair, she opted to wear stunning statement earrings. "For my jewelry, I wanted to have something blue but infused with Africa so I went with earrings that popped," she says. "The earrings had blue, gold, and white and were made in Nigeria."
Alice knew she wanted a wedding dress that could work for the ceremony, the reception, and the after-party. "I knew it was the one because I just felt at home in it," she says. "The detail of the leafy ruffles reminded me of the outdoors and it was just perfect for an outdoor wedding. I can't describe the feeling but when you know, you know."
Love From Mwai's floral team created the bridal bouquet, which featured an assortment of orchids, rose, astilbe, and foliage.
The groom had two requirements for his suit: a lightweight fabric to combat the South African heat and a bow tie that he could fasten himself. "I wanted an absolutely classic tuxedo, and I identified someone in South Africa who could tailor it for me," he says.
They couple wed in a manicured garden that their planner describes as "a window into the wild." "Hidden in plain sight, this secret garden backs up to a pond and features a bridge that leads to a tiny island at the pond’s center," she adds.
There, they added florals only to enhance the natural beauty. "We wanted to have a classic and timeless atmosphere full of elegance," says the bride. "This theme stood out in all our designs."
The bridge, which doubled as an aisle, was covered with white and green florals to "appear as if nature was taking over this man-made structure and making it a part of the natural habitat." "We know the adage, 'everything he touched turned to gold' yet here, everything we touched returned to its natural state of beauty and wonder," says Yeboah.
Meanwhile, guests were seated just before the bridge, so they looked at the ceremony from afar as the couple would exchange vows on the island on the other side.
A violinist serenaded the crowd as the mother-of-the-bride walked her daughter down the aisle.
"This wedding was particularly important to me as not only was I the wedding planner and designer, but also the wedding officiant," Yeboah says. "I had the honor of officiating this beautiful ceremony, honoring the bride’s and groom’s wishes, I kept the ceremony short, sweet, and meaningful."
The Tongabezi Trust School Choir provided musical accompaniment during the ceremony—an element that the bride counts as one of her most favorite memories from the wedding. "They have such angelic voices. That was special to me," she says.
"We wrote our own vows! Everything about them we considered special, and we both brought in some humor to them as well," Alice says.
"I wanted the atmosphere to feel cozy and warm," says the bride. "I wanted my guests to feel included and part of the wedding, not just guests."
Alice's bridal party wore their own style burgundy dresses and carried petite bouquets. The groomsmen wore black suits, which they accessorized with burgundy pocket squares to match the ladies.
Alice encourages to-be-weds to be transparent about the wedding budget and says it's OK to have disagreements when planning a wedding together. "Be prepared for some tension between you and your spouse during the planning of the wedding, it's very normal!' she adds.
Armin agrees about the potential for a difference of opinions, saying, "Be fully engaged in the wedding planning process but also expected to not have a say in some of the decisions. Also, remember that the wedding day is not the marriage."
Once the ceremony was complete, guests were directed to a wooden deck with a majestic view of the Zambezi river for the cocktail hour. "The cocktail hour gave guests a chance to take in the views, unwind against the sounds of the river, and transition from the ceremony to the dinner and reception," adds their planner.
Dinner was served beneath an open-sided clear marquee, where tables were draped with pale pink linens and floral arrangements of white and burgundy hues. "The reception had a very romantic elegant and classy look that still continued with the timeless theme," describes the bride. "We went with deep and rich colors, maroons, plums, and burgundies that were mixed beautifully with deep pinks. The lighting was soft and romantic—it was beautiful!"
Tables were set with mauve linens, glass plate chargers, and gilded accents such as gold-rimmed glassware, flatware, and menu tassels.
Desserts were done in the same hues and displayed on a table that acted as a focal point at the reception. After dinner, everyone enjoyed an evening beneath the stars whether they were dancing under the clear marquee or mingling on the grounds outside.
Wanting to gather their family and friends together one last time, the couple hosted a "super fun" brunch the day after. "We made our wedding inclusive," Alice says. "We wanted everyone to feel at home and to become one because this is who we are. I believe this was the atmosphere that we created."
Creative Direction & Planning Mwai Yeboah of Love From Mwai
Head of Décor Amida Sama
Invitations and Graphics Rosey and Co.
Menus Occasional Heaven
Production Bora Bora Sounds
Entertainment Inganzo Ngari
Master of Ceremonies Lionel Imanzi
Catering Cafe Camellia
Hair Blue Tooth Mafuta
Makeup Nshutiyase Lina of Maison de la Beauté
Photography Stepan Vrzala
Videography Made to Reminisce
Creative Direction & Planning Mwai Yeboah of Love From Mwai
Flowers G Fresh Flowers
Stationery Rosey and Co.
Place Cards & Prints Occasional Heaven
Décor Styling Pride Ngwerume; Amida Sama
Rentals Urbane Designs
Production & Sound Ideas Go Africa
Welcome Ceremony Entertainment Mosi-O-Tunya Culture Traditional Dancers; Nchimunia Brian Mainza
Gutwikurura Ceremony Entertainment Zambelly-Belly Dancers
Music Direction DWP Live Factory
Hair Amida Sama
Photography Stepan Vrzala
Videography Made to Reminisce