Finding the perfect spot for their big day was a breeze for Sasithon Pooviriyakul (a.k.a. Sas) and C. Montague Hermann (he's Monty to pals). “We wanted to share the beauty of Kenya with our family and friends,” says Monty, whose work in global market development introduced him to Nairobi. So for their four-day celebration, they chose andBeyond Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, “the place of our first trip together and where we started to fall in love,” he says.
The pair met in 2007 at a New York ad agency and became workplace buddies, bonding over a mutual desire to strike out on their own—Sas as a photographer traveling the world, Monty to the Peace Corps. Fast-forward to 2014, when they reconnected on New Year's Eve in Manhattan for a “quick coffee” that turned into hours of talk, a turning point in their relationship. “It felt like everything had led us to that moment,” Monty says. The couple met up again in Kenya, and Monty proposed nearly two years later on a birthday weekend Sas had organized for him in Nairobi National Park.
Keep reading to see how Sas and Monty said "I do" in style, with the help of fellow photographer Heather Waraksa of the Wedding Artists Co., below.
“Sophisticated safari” was the guiding principle behind their wedding weekend, which began at Hemingways Nairobi hotel in Karen. Guests piled onto matatus—decked-out buses pumping African beats—en route to the Giraffe Centre to visit the graceful long-necked creatures, and later taste a traditional meal of nyama choma barbecue.
The next morning, the group took a chartered plane to the camp, where they spent the next day touring the Maasai Mara.
Since guests would be traveling from so far, the couple worked with Patricia Kim of Fourteen Forty to design a bespoke invitation suite. "The design and text was inspired by the Lewis and Clark journals, as well as a vintage copy of Karen Blixen’s 'Out of Africa' that I found in Liberia," Monty says. The resulting design featured a map drawn in gold leaf foil, along with a formal invitation. "I wrote the copy in quirky old English, as a nod to vintage travelogues," Monty adds.
But that wasn't the only special inscription—and the second came full circle later in the night. "Our first dance song was Lord Huron’s 'Ends of the Earth,' which felt like the perfect mantra for what we wanted to commit to: a life of travel and adventure," Sas explains. "The lyrics 'To the ends of the earth, would you follow me. There's a world that was meant for our eyes to see...' were also incorporated on our invitation map and inscribed on Monty’s watch."
On the wedding day itself, Sas, a wedding photographer, wore a comfortably “unfussy” silk bias-cut Selia Yang vintage gown for the ceremony. She later changed into her mother's qípáo at the reception that followed. “It’s a sentimental dress because both my aunt and mother had worn it to their weddings.”
Sas went dress shopping at several bridal salons in New York City, but didn't find the one until she spotted it on a rack at a vintage store. "One day I walked into a vintage store, thinking that I might get lucky finding a special accessory at the very least," she recalls. "And low and behold, the dress of my dreams was on a rack. It was clean, sophisticated, understated—everything that I was hoping for to feel like the 'bride version of me.'" Plus, it felt perfect for a wedding in the Mara. "I needed a dress that was just as carefree as the experience," she says. "After all, I knew I’d be hopping into a safari truck!”
Sas accessorized with brown leather Christian Louboutin sandals and carried a gift from Monty: “He gave me a vintage compass with the Maasai Mara coordinates engraved on it,” she says.
The couple did a first look before heading to the ceremony site together in a safari truck, which Sas admits was one of her favorite details from the day.
Naturally, the couple had to take more portraits once at the ceremony location, which featured sweeping views of the plains in the distance beyond the Mara River.
Sas and Monty exchanged vows in the late afternoon on the banks of the Mara River. “One of the most alluring parts of being on safari is how time slows down,” says Monty of the idyllic setting. “It's a return to a simpler time, where you can focus on your natural surroundings.” Their friend—and "fellow wanderluster"—Justin Trificana performed the ceremony, which the couple says brought everyone to tears. Another friend Rob McCulloch read a beautiful piece from “Dr. Zhivago” by Boris Pasternak before the couple exchanged their vows. ”We both wrote our own vows, but frankly, Sas’s killed at the ceremony,” Monty admits. “I think she had a leg up after hearing hundreds of vows as a wedding photographer.”
The newlyweds enjoyed a "mini cocktail hour" with their guests right after the ceremony. "The worst is waiting for a drink at a wedding, so immediately following the ceremony, we had a mini cocktail hour with hors d'oeuvres," says the bride. "That way, everyone had some drinks in hand on their way back to the real cocktail hour at the campsite."
As everyone headed back to the camp sipping the couple's signature cocktail—a honey, ginger, and vodka dawa—another magical moment occurred. “We saw a pride of lions,” says Sas. “It made for a mini safari, with everyone enjoying an amazing game drive on their way to dinner.”
Back at the safari camp, gas lanterns created a romantic ambience heightened with arrangements of greenery and white O’Hara roses at the reception.
Nights can get chilly in Kenya, so the couple gifted a kikoy shawl in their wedding colors for each guest. They draped the custom-made cover-ups over chair backs at dinner.
A camp fire was also placed just outside the open-air dinner pavilion so guests gathered round after a meal of tiger prawns flown in from the Mombasa coast, free-range filet from the nearby Maasai herders, and homemade gnocchi made with beetroot from the camp’s garden.
The couple cut into a Funfetti cake (her favorite) before Sas surprised Monty with a second chocolate cake for his birthday.
Lord Echo's "Thinking of You" kicked off the dance party, which also included a mix of Western, indie, and modern Nigerian pop songs. "Our first dance was so magical—it was outside under a big tree full of glowing lanterns," Sas says. "We asked everyone to join us halfway in and sharing that with all our loved ones was such a special moment that we’ll never forget..."
Just as they had promised in their vows, Sas and Monty began married life with a travel adventure. The first stop on their honeymoon? Virunga National Park to climb Mount Nyiragongo and spend a day trekking with the gorillas!
This story originally appeared in the June/July 2019 issue of Brides, on sale beginning April 30.
Pre-Wedding Venue & Catering: Karen Gables
Buses: Mack Bully + Giovanni
Pre-Wedding Field Trip: Giraffe Centre
Charter Flight: Air Kenya
Wedding Venue, Catering, & Cake: andBeyond Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp
Bride's Dress: Selia Yang
Bride's Cape: Champagne and Grit
Bride's Shoes: Christian Louboutin
Hair & Makeup: Joey Richard
Groom's Attire: E. Thomas Suit Supply
Groom's Shoes: Church's
Groom's Watch: Sheartime
Officiant: Justin Trificana
Floral Design: Anna Langmead
Vintage Rugs: Bagface
Photographer: Heather Waraksa of the Wedding Artists Co.