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A Wedding in Zambia Celebrating Rwandese Traditions and African Culture with Middle Eastern Touches

By Shayna Seid | Photography by 

Stepan Vrzala

|Planning by 

Love from Mwai

Alice Usanase-Lalui and Armin Lalui met at a conference, where he was a speaker, and after four years of dating, he proposed in front of the ocean while on a road trip in France. As the engaged couple love the outdoors, they wanted to feel at-one with nature and have a vibrant wedding that was a mix of elegance and African culture. 

They first considered Rwanda and Kenya, but after Armin found The Royal Livingstone in Zambia by the amazing Victoria Falls, they were ecstatic and booked it for their celebrations. On February 8th, they hosted a traditional Rwandese Gusaba wedding, and on February 14th, the couple said, “I do,” at their more Western, white wedding. To help plan the two ceremonies, welcome party, and day-after brunch, they hired Mwai Yeboah of Love from Mwai

For the Rwandese Gusaba wedding in the mother-of-the-bride’s beautiful garden, Alice wanted to wear something that represented her Rwandese culture and Muslim religion that also went with the forest aesthetic of the event, beautifully decorated by Karolina GarwackaFiona Quiambao, Fairy Weddings, and Eyforiya Events. She went the traditional route with an emerald look, to complement the greenery of the setting, and a headpiece made in Nigeria. The groom worked with a designer for his traditional outfit, and all of his jewelry was also made in Nigeria.

Nearly a week later, the bride wore a dress that she’d found in Paris on a girls’ trip. “It was the first dress I tried, and I knew after I wore it that it was the one,” Alice says. Her “something blue” was a pair of earrings that were made in Nigeria, and she completed the look with classic Christian Louboutin shoes. Armin looked handsome in a classic tuxedo from South Africa with personalized cufflinks. 

On the day-of, Alice got ready with her younger sister, Nshutiyase Lina, who did her makeup for all the events. “She is like my first daughter—the child I had not given birth to,” the bride says. “It was very important for me that she was a part of the wedding and involved intimately.” And then it was time to walk down the aisle.

“Initially, I had planned to walk down the aisle myself, but my mum said she couldn’t allow that,” Alice remarks. “She raised me, and I am the woman I am because of her, and she wanted Armin to understand that.” On the walk to Armin, who was waiting on the mini island across the river, the bride started crying, fully realizing that her mother was giving her away to the man she loves and handing over the responsibility of taking care of her to him. 

Once announced as a married couple, the guests made their way to the romantic setting, under a clear-top tent filled with candles and warm florals by Michelle Jones, Anna Zubova, and G-fresh. The newlyweds shared their first dance to “All of Me” by John Legend, and mix of Rwandan music, Afro-beats, and pop music, played by their DJ, Ariel Zambia, kept things lively on the dance floor. “Even our guests, who were not from Rwanda, danced to the traditional songs and learned some of our traditional dance moves,” Alice says. In a touching moment, the couple decided to do “mothers dances,” where Alice danced with Armin’s mother, and Armin danced with Alice’s mother to their favorite songs. “They were so happy about it—I loved seeing that.”

The day after the white wedding was the Rwandan Gutwikurura Ceremony, where the bride’s family brought the newly married couple home essentials, so they did not rely on the groom’s parents, and the couple received blessings to have children. They also hosted an Arabian-Middle Eastern, post-wedding brunch to acknowledge Alice’s Arabic roots and Armin’s Persian heritage—it was the perfect opportunity to let each guest know how grateful the new Mr. and Mrs. were for celebrating with them and to close out the amazing week.