Nestled in the rolling hills surrounding Westmead, thatch roofs burst from the lush landscape, while sandy trails and rippling streams meander through the hectares of land that is Giba Gorge Park.
Known for bike trails spanning over 30km, a camp site, restaurant and a gallery displaying a variety of arts and crafts, Giba Gorge is not a typical wedding venue.
But newlyweds Nathan and Bonnie McMiles decided it was the perfect spot for their culturally-infused outdoor wedding.
As lovers of the outdoors, Bonnie and Nathan, owner of the Giba Café – one of Giba Gorge’s recreational offerings – knew the venue would be ideal.
“(Giba Gorge) has become a lifestyle venue, where families can enjoy a day out but it’s very versatile and the venue can be utilised in different ways which we’ve found with other weddings we’ve had here,” Nathan said.
The pair met at a restaurant in 2006 while working together and, over the years, their friendship developed into a relationship, said Bonnie.
Nathan, an Australian who has lived in South Africa for 15 years, and Bonnie, a traditional Zulu woman, said they chose to have a white wedding and a Zulu ceremony to accommodate their cultures.
“Going into it, Bonnie asked me if I knew that I had to pay (lobola) for her and buy presents for her family and I said ‘oh yeah’, not realising how steeped in tradition the Zulu culture is,” Nathan said.
Bonnie said the Zulu rituals began on the Monday before the wedding with the izibizo, when Nathan’s family brought gifts to her family.
Nathan’s family, who still live in Australia, made the trip to Durban for the wedding and immersed themselves in the cultural experience.
The two-day event began with the white wedding on a Saturday.
White material draped the makeshift gazebo under which the couple exchanged their vows before 110 guests, who filled chairs that were arranged next to the river for the afternoon ceremony.
On Sunday, a burst of colour engulfed Giba Gorge as the bridal couple and guests traded their suits and gowns for animal skins and beads for the Zulu ceremony.
The rhythmic sounds of ululation, accompanied by traditional dancing, echoed through Giba Gorge.
Bonnie said the Zulu ceremony involved several exchanges of gifts, skits, traditional dancing and singing which Nathan’s family embraced. Nathan’s family donned traditional outfits and happily participated in the singing and dancing, Bonnie said.
Nathan added: “Having my sisters dancing and supporting me in that way was incredible.
“By the time we went through the traditional ceremony, we all had a better understanding of why it is done.”
His family’s truly African experience has prompted the couple to visit Nathan’s home town allowing Bonnie, who has never visited Australia, an opportunity to experience the Australian lifestyle.
Giba Gorge offers: