After Tristan Burns and Luke Karshagen said their vows on Saturday, their photographer suggested they take their wedding party to a nearby picturesque park for great lighting and a beautiful backdrop. That much is typical for any wedding photo scenario. But this couple got an extra scenic addition to their shoot at Areena Riverside Resort near East London, South Africa: a curious giraffe named Abby.
“Areena always has wildlife roaming around, but I really wasn’t expecting Abby to pop his head among the trees,” Burns tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Honestly, I was a little worried at first. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt, nor did I know the nature of Abby. He just popped his head out of the trees. He must have heard us and just came waltzing into our party.”
Photographer Stephanie Norman has shot at Areena before, but this was the first time her subjects had ever been photobombed by a giraffe. While the wedding party was all rather startled by the enormous creature — even in South Africa, this is rather unusual — he soon put them at ease.
“We could then see he was very relaxed and just nosy, so we all relaxed a bit and started taking some selfies, but we were still mindful of his space and not wanting to get in his way,” Norman tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “When I saw how relaxed and friendly he was, I knew I had to take the chance to get them an amazing photo, so I quickly asked them to stand in the path and was just hoping to get a pic with him in the background. That was when he came closer, bent his head, and gave them a little nuzzle! It was amazing and more than we could have ever hoped for.”
According to Areena’s website, Abby (which originally stood for “abnormally big baby”) arrived at the reserve when he was just a few months old, so he was hand-reared and grew up with the goats in the petting zoo. Even though as an adult he’s free to roam the grounds, he always returns to the entrance and main road, where he can get extra attention from the humans there. Apparently, his kisses are famous.
When Norman initially shared her photos on Love What Matters, she described how Abby walked away after posing for the perfect photo with the newlyweds, but then he popped up again moments later.
Burns thinks the bouquets she and her bridesmaids were holding were what attracted Abby to their shoot, but he stuck around for almost half an hour.
“I think the squealing and laughing kept him entertained,” says Burns, who was friends with Karshagen before they started dating three years ago.
Sure, most brides and grooms want their wedding to be like a fairy tale, but how many actually get that ultimate Disney touch, a kiss from a friendly wild beast?
“[Abby] showed us how gentle nature can be,” Burns says. “Luke and I feel so blessed with the whole situation.”
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