Livingstone, Zambia Steals the Spotlight at The Karen Tran Floral Masterclass and Ambassadors for the Arts Gala Dinner
Many people know that while my wedding and design boutique is based in London, I was born in Zambia. What they often don’t know, however, is just how passionate I am not only about my country, culture and the lovely people who call it home but about Africa as a whole.
It was this passion that compelled me to pitch to world-renowned wedding designer and dear friend of mine, Karen Tran, the idea of hosting her Karen Tran Floral Masterclass – Zambia—more specifically in Livingstone, Zambia which sits on the banks of the Zambezi River with stunning views of Victoria Falls. If you’re not familiar with the masterclass, it’s a 3-day hands-on floral design masterclass hosted in countries around the world where Karen teaches florists, wedding designers, and wedding planners how to design high-end events and floral architecture in her signature feminine style.
I wanted this to be a masterclass unlike any other masterclass so when I planned a birthday trip for Karen to experience Livingstone, I made sure it was chock-full of the hospitality, adventures and views I wanted the masterclass attendees to experience, too. Following Karen’s birthday trip to Zambia, she was just as excited as I was about hosting the masterclass there and, as the now-designated host of The Floral Experience Zambia, we got to planning right away.
More than a Masterclass
Because the Floral Experience Zambia was going to be more than a masterclass, I reached out to all of my local contacts and got in touch with government officials, mega brands, small companies, solopreneurs, adventure and transfer companies and airlines to ask for discounts, swag and support for attendees and guests. Yes, I’m mentioning attendees and guests here, because not only did we invite masterclass attendees but we also invited wedding magazines, local and international media outlets, bloggers and Instagram influencers to take part in this experience.
Not only did I want the Floral Experience Zambia to get valuable PR and exposure on social media, but I also wanted Africa, Zambia, Livingstone and the two amazing resorts who sponsored us—The Royal Livingstone Resort by Anantara and Tongabezi Lodge—to get some time in the spotlight, too. And get some time in the spotlight, they did. In fact, with their majestic views, luxury hospitality and heart-centered business practices they stole the spotlight. Before we dive into the masterclass experience, adventures and the grand finale gala dinner, let’s look at the venues.
The Floral Experience Zambia was hosted at The Royal Livingstone Hotel by Anantara. In terms of the backdrop, it doesn’t get any better than The Royal Livingstone. The hotel sits right on the banks of the Zambezi River with Victoria Falls in the background. It’s absolutely stunning. Not only that, but Zebra roam freely around the grounds. Can you imagine hosting an event or getting married and giving your guests the opportunity to see safari wildlife right then and there?
Besides the backdrop and the location, The Royal Livingstone staff truly beams with excellence. Everyone from the waiters to the management is warm and caring and they truly go out of their way to make every guest feel special and well taken care of. They also source their food locally which has a two-fold bonus: 1) It means that guests have access to fresh, healthy food and 2) they support local farmers and give local people jobs. I’d send everyone here if I could. It’s a bucket-list place I believe every travel-lover needs to see.
Tongabezi Lodge also helped sponsor the experience and generously supported our efforts. One afternoon, while design students were in the masterclass, they hosted a cocktail hour by the pool of their resort for our bloggers and media partners and gave them an amazing tour not only of their lodge, but of their trust school, the Tujatane School, to bring awareness to the impact a private business can have on the local community.
Now, before I unveil the final design of The Ambassador for the Arts Gala dinner which the masterclass students designed, let’s walk through days 1-3 of the masterclass so you can get a glimpse of all of the fun we had.
Day 1 of The Floral Experience Zambia
One Day 1 of the masterclass, the General Manager of The Royal Livingstone opened the day with a warm welcome and we heard from a Special Guest of Honour, Tanya, the editor for Inspire Zambia magazine. Attendees were also inspired by Karen as she shared her story. Then we got an inside glimpse at our main flower sponsor, Tambuzi Flowers, as we heard The Tambuzi Story.
We also had a business breakout session where attendees learned about the importance of branding and got a copywriting crash course courtesy of my personal copywriter to highlight the importance of copy. They learned how to turn their websites into client magnets and how good copy can lead to more sales, collaborations and hearing yes more often.
Attendees enjoyed a hands-on demonstration of Karen Tran’s centerpieces, laughter, dancing, yummy food, and then finally an evening of fun! Attendees mingled on the deck of The Royal Livingstone and delighted in a traditional African “Boma” welcome dinner and dessert party.
The ultimate African dining experience, a “boma” is a meal beneath open skies. It originated when tribesmen would cook over a fire while protecting their communities. Attendees ate spiced dishes, barbecued meat and had so much fun watching (and joining in on) traditional dancing around a roaring fire beneath the stars. It was the perfect kickoff to the experience.
During Day 1 and over the course of the three days, while the masterclass attendees learned, our bloggers, influencers and media partners enjoyed additional excursions and highlighted the resort and partner venues. On Day 1, our media partners went on a helicopter ride over the falls and canoed on the Zambezi River.
Day 2 of The Floral Experience Zambia
Day 2 of The Floral Experience Zambia, we got down to business designing. Attendees learned some theory around how to design a high-end wedding and put together a gala dinner and then they had hands-on design sessions as they began designing the gala dinner. They also heard from our second flower sponsor, Farm Girl Flowers, and how this lovely South African grower runs their flower farm.
While the attendees learned, The Royal Livingstone hosted a special VIP lunch for our influencers and media partners.
On the evening of Day 2, we all enjoyed a sunset riverboat safari cruise and fine dining experience on the Zambezi River from Livingstone Adventures courtesy of Tongabezi Lodge. We saw hippo and crocodile and had the best time laughing and mingling.
Day 3 of The Floral Experience Zambia
Day 3 of The Floral Experience Zambia was all about the gala dinner. Attendees set up the design, laid the table settings and put all of the finishing touches on before taking a break to get dressed and ready for the gala dinner which was held at sunset on the wooden deck of The Royal Livingstone.
I also surprised attendees with a motivational keynote address by none other than the crowd-favorite Funke Bucknor-Obruthet who was so engaging and inspirational.
On Day 3, our influencers and media partners went on a safari and enjoyed a lunch and tour hosted by Tongabezi.
The Grand Unveiling of The Ambassadors for the Arts Gala Dinner
We named the gala dinner The Ambassadors for the Arts gala dinner because 2019 was deemed “The Year of the Arts” in Zambia and The National Arts Council of Zambia partnered with us on the event. We wanted to highlight the creative artistry involved in elaborate floral design and applaud floral artists.
At the gala dinner, guests had a breathtaking view of the majestic Zambezi River from their seats at the long banquet tables and Zebra freely roamed the landscape in the background, giving guests a close encounter with wildlife.
For the florals for the design, we chose hydrangeas, roses, and tulips in shades of fuschia and purple to create a really luxurious look. The color purple is symbolic of luxury and ambition and it perfectly embodied everything we were going for. It was “wild luxury” at its finest.
White cushioned, wood chairs added that somewhat undone and rustic, African aesthetic we wanted to incorporate throughout the design and bare tree branches created a naturally rustic canopy. Glass, gold-rimmed china and gold cutlery added vintage interest to the tablescapes. Varying heights of glass candle holders added dimension and partnered with the stars in the night sky to create a very romantic glow.
Printed menus that featured a beautiful image of Victoria Falls and printed wildlife, hashtag cards furthered the African vibe. Surrounding the gala tables were ground-level floral displays and glass lanterns that drew the eye from the ground all the way up to the towering floral vases that adorned the tables. The dessert table displayed delicious, handmade desserts and featured a playful centerpiece with jutting stems and non-traditional foliage to add a touch of wild to the ambiance. The designs still featured Karen Tran’s signature feminine style that clients have come to know her for, but there were some wild and rustic additions that really gave tribute to Zambia and Africa.
Entertainment at The Gala Dinner (and at the Boma Night)
When it came to the entertainment for the gala dinner and the boma night we hosted, I thought “go big or go home,” so I reached out to and booked an incredible lineup. At the Boma welcome dinner, Afrobeats sensations James SAKALA and Mampi—one of the most popular recording artists in Zambia—wowed the crowd with their performances. At the gala dinner, world-renowned electric violinist Caitlin Devile, up-and-coming local artist Ariel and the Band and professional wedding singer and bandleader Danis Weston left the guests in awe.
At the gala, media partners and influencers re-joined the design students and A-list guests to capture the buzz and document the event’s artistic beauty.
When it came to flowers for the masterclass and gala dinner, it was important to me that Africa was represented. I wanted to showcase the amazing growers in Africa and also show Zambia what an incredible opportunity they have for introducing more flower farms to the country and keeping fresh flowers local.
Tambuzi Roses and Farm Girl Flowers were the two primary sponsors for the Floral Experience Masterclass in Zambia. Tambuzi Roses is based in Kenya and Farm Girl Flowers is based in South Africa.
Tambuzi Roses is run by the most exceptional, generous, and knowledgeable executives. They are such a pleasure to work with and they provide top-notch, superior florals. Not only do they produce some of the finest, garden-scented roses, but they’re also ethically run! They’ve specialized in growing flowers for more than 20 years so they truly are specialists who you can truly count on. It was such a pleasure to work with them and to have their florals at the center of our designs and displays.
Farm Girl Flowers specialises in garden-scented roses and seasonal blooms grown in open fields. This flower farm is run by a husband and wife team and has the sweetest origin story, which I encourage you all to read. They’re small-scale producers and they take pride in the fact that they hand-pick every flower to ensure floral perfection. I loved getting to know the owner and the opportunity to incorporate their beautiful blooms in the designs.
DGI Flowers and G-Fresh Piet also came on board and sponsored flowers. They generously contributed some beautiful blooms to help fill out our designs and centerpieces and we were so grateful for their generosity and support as well.
The Bits, Pieces and Details
The beautiful backdrop of The Royal Livingstone Hotel by Anantara set the stage for an awe-inspiring gala dinner…
…the linens, decor and furniture from Urbane Design and crockery were luxurious…
….the beautiful stationery by Rosey & Co paired beautifully with the design and was thick and lush to the touch…
….the cakes from House of Cakes Zambia were stunning, the drinks and food catered by The Royal Livingstone was delicious…
…the performances by every single performer and speaker (all listed below!) were incredibly moving and fun and so enjoyable…
…our guest liaison, Lonah, poured her heart and sweat into tying up loose ends, chasing people down, and making sure everyone felt welcome and taken care of…
…Karen believed with her whole heart in us, Zambia and the experience…
…our wardrobe stylists Eden B Studio, Dune London, Chizos Dezigns and Dodo Wear provided the most gorgeous dresses and our hair and makeup artists, Megan Edwards and The Red Carpet Salon and Spa made us feel like real African queens…
…our media partners, influencers and bloggers (all listed below!) really got the buzz going and gave us so much incredible exposure online…
…our production company, Ideas Go Africa, literally set the stage of incredible performances…
…our videographer, Fortress Film, caught the perfect moments and scenes and put together the most exciting video clips of the event…
I cried when I received the videos from the videographer and I cried when I received the photos. They perfectly capture the essence of this experience.
The Local and International Impact of The Zambia Masterclass
The Floral Experience Masterclass Zambia was the ultimate business intensive and luxury retreat, but it was so much more. The National Arts Council of Zambia and the Zambia Tourism Agency came on board as our partners, which I was so incredibly grateful for.
We made it into so many local and country-wide newspapers and got invaluable PR that not only shined a light on Livingstone itself (and Zambia as a whole) but also highlighted the amazing travel destination that it is to help boost local tourism and the economy. Many people don’t know that Zambia is home to one of the seven wonders of the world ( Victoria Falls) or that it’s the safest African country in the world.
This experience was a bucket-list dream for me and it filled my heart to the brim because I was able to uplift people in my country and get the wedding industry talking about all of the amazing things that Zambia has to offer for destination weddings and honeymoons. It was a dream come true and I am so grateful to everyone who took part and attended.
Thank you to every sponsor and every single attendee. Design students became friends. Collaborations were dreamed up. New business skills were learned. And people left with hearts happy and full. It was simply the best.
Check out the suppliers from The Floral Experience Masterclass in Zambia:
Events and guest liaison manager: @lonahshawa
Floral support: @creationspinnacle
Cakes and Confectionary: @houseofcakeszambia2018
Keynote Speaker: @funmibucknor
Beverage partners: @bottleupwine
Furniture and Glassware: @urbanediisign
Until next time…