Real-Life: Picture Perfect Wedding
Who: Karl Jeffs, 36, photographer and Salha Al-Busaidy, 32, singer
When: 11 January 2011
Where: Oman and Zanzibar
“Karl took pictures of me for an article in Gulf News,” newlywed singer Salha explains. “We kept bumping into each other after that and eventually became good friends.” Friendship blossomed into romance and when the couple went to Fujairah to celebrate Salha’s birthday, she was met with an unorthodox proposal. “After making me giggle with a dance routine that involved a cowboy hat and two bananas, I opened my crying eyes to a flash of a princess cut diamond. We knew we wanted to get married from the moment we were together, but it was a wonderful surprise!”
Salha’s Omani roots meant that the wedding had to take two parts, a simple, traditional ceremony at home with her family, followed by a symphony of sounds and colours in a unique celebration in her family’s ancestral homeland in the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar. We follow the couple through their amazing journey.
Was Zanzibar always an option?
Coming from a huge extended family, I wanted a small wedding, as far away from a hotel ballroom as possible! My folks were born in Zanzibar and Karl loved the island so it was a simple decision.
Having your wedding so far away on the African island must have thrown up a few challenges?
No, actually we found a great solution. We took a trip to Zanzibar together, hired a jeep and did our research! We found Sjani of Weddings on Zanzibar, and fell in love with her. It’s difficult to organise a wedding from a different country, so we entrusted her with everything. We’re also not the kind of people to sweat the small stuff, so as long as we had some flowers, we weren’t too concerned with big bouquets and centrepieces. We chose this package because of the beautiful setting in the ruins, the rickety old bus to take the guests there, the dhows at sunset to take us back, and the music along the way.
How involved did Karl get?
Karl was incredible. I know some grooms don’t get involved at all and some brides don’t want them to. I was blessed.
Did you have a religious ceremony and, if so, where was that?
We had a religious ceremony in Oman six months before the main wedding. Karl converted to Islam and we had a quiet ceremony to make us legal in God’s eyes. Thankfully, my mum took charge of that side of things.
You looked spectacular in your dress – how did you find it?
Being curvy, I always wanted a glamorous, fitted style. Plus Karl has had a thing for mermaids since the movie, Splash! I discovered Maggie Sottero’s beautiful satin, mermaid-shaped gowns while shopping in Dubai, but found the perfect one on her website. When I tried it on, my mother-in-law cried!
How did your personalities come through in the details of your wedding?
Karl is a music nut, and I’m a singer, so we collected our favourite songs and created personalised CDs that were place settings and favours. We also had a fan made for each guest with the names, date and place of the wedding, with the money we paid going to a local women’s charity.
You had a romantic, candlelit reception dinner on the beach, what was on the menu?
While the Coconut band played, we had a barefoot barbecue buffet, mixed with Zanzibari curries. The wedding cake was actually a chocolate brownie with whipped cream!
As a singer, was it natural that music played a major part in your day?
Lots of music came in the package we chose. I can’t imagine the day without the choir, they brought so much joy to the ceremony! We had the jazz duo entertaining the guests in the botanical gardens and I even sang with them on the dhow trip back. The Coconut band were tight, but we let them leave early, as most people retired to the shisha lounge after dinner, where we played iPod playlists that we’d prepared earlier.
What track did you choose for your first dance?
We entered the dinner to Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together and danced barefoot in the sand to Nights in White Satin by The Moody Blues.
When you look back at your day, what do you remember the most?
It was bright and sunny all day – and not just the weather. People giggled and clapped throughout the ceremony – everyone was in great spirits, despite a long and hot day. People stayed up late, even going for a 4am swim! I heard a report that the choir said it was the best wedding they’d been to!
You look so confident in all your pictures, did you get any wedding day jitters?
I got butterflies twice when I was getting ready with the girls. Apart from that, we were so happy and blessed to have everyone with us and to have such a perfect setting for such a beautiful occasion. One of the buses and one of the dhows broke down, but I don’t think either of us cared at all. Everyone just squeezed on together and had a laugh.
So what’s your best bride’s advice?
I can’t impress enough upon future brides that you don’t want to remember the things that went wrong, and things will go wrong, so don’t sweat them! Weddings can be expensive, so try and look ahead. Will you remember the flowers? Will any of your guests remember them? Just choose what’s important to you and spend money on that.
Is there anything you would have done differently – or anything you feel worked well?
I like the fact that we didn’t tell anyone what was going to happen next, so each thing (the dhows, the bonfires and African dancers) was another surprise. We had one long table, rather than individual ones, and I don’t know if that was the best idea, as one friend felt put out by being at the end. I’m also pleased with my bouquet of fake flowers – I know it may not sound nice, but they’re now in a vase by my bed and I’ll always have them.