Balloons, stuffed animals and a 'zoo wedding' themed cake were part of this happy couple’s dream day…

Chantal and Leon met in 2004 when they were 14 and 15-year-olds and both had seasonal work on a campsite. “We were holiday sweethearts,” says Chantal. “We dated for about 15 months and remained best friends afterwards. In July 2021 I had a difficult time and Leon was there for me throughout. It was after this we got together again.”

Leon proposed on 9th March 2022. “It wasn’t very exciting!” laughs Chantal. “I was sitting on the sofa and out of the blue he suddenly asked.”

Chantal on the morning of her zoo wedding having her lace up back wedding dress fastened.

Shopping for the dress

Chantal found her dream dress at wed2b’s Arnhem store. “I found wed2b online,” she says. “My shopping experience was great. We received great service and it was soon clear which dress I wanted. I only went to one shop and tried on four dresses, but I immediately knew the first one was mine. I still wanted to see the other three but secretly I already knew that number one was 'The One’!”

Chantal’s dress was Vanessa, a strapless A-line with sparkling tulle and lace by Viva Bride. ”The shape fell very nicely,” says Chantal. “I wanted strapless and this one fitted beautifully and I felt like a real bride right away. It was also the only dress that brought tears to the eyes of all three family members who came with me! I didn't have to have anything altered on it, just a shortening at the bottom. As well as the dress, I also bought a glittering belt, a veil with diamantés and a hair comb.”

“I felt beautiful the whole day,” says Chantal. “It was over 30℃ on the day of the wedding, but I still felt good and beautiful in my dress!”

A fun zoo wedding venue

The couple chose Wildlands Zoo in Emmen for their big day in June 2022. “I worked in hospitality at Wildlands for three and a half years, and got to work on a number of weddings back then. So, I already knew, if I ever got married then it would be there.”

“In the last year and a half I’ve also worked with the elephants, in addition to hospitality,” says Chantal. “So, the question of where to marry in the park was very simple. We got married on Elephant Rise and our BBQ and party were in the restaurant of the big greenhouse at Wildlands. For our photos we were guided through the park to the most beautiful spots but I already knew which spots I wanted! It was a super location with great staff and a fantastic atmosphere and service.”

The big day

“I got ready with my two witnesses, two girlfriends, our neighbour, my mother-in-law and my bonus mother (my own mother unfortunately passed away in Feb 2022),” says Chantal. “Also, my six-month-old daughter was with us, too. My parents-in-law had two rooms in the hotel opposite the zoo, so we both got ready there. Leon walked to the ceremony location with his witnesses and I followed with my group. Then they sat down and my bonus mum escorted me to the altar. As we had such a beautiful unique location, we decided not to have any music.”

“The weather couldn't have been nicer,” says Chantal. “Although, it was over 30℃, so with photo opportunities and a party in a tropical greenhouse wearing a dress and a suit, it was pretty hot!”

An animal-themed party

After the ceremony everyone went to the restaurant for coffee, tea and cake. “Our song for the opening dance was ‘Proud of You’,” says Chantal. “The colour scheme for the wedding was pink. “We didn't have to do much decorating,” says Chantal. “The park arranged some nice flowers for the chairs at the ceremony, a welcome sign and two lovely bouquets.”

“In the evening, the guests who had dinner with us decorated the dance floor with garlands and balloons. We also brought out the big stuffed jungle animals from the children's room to bring the zoo theme inside.”

Chantal and Leon holding hands in front of an elephant enclosure at their zoo wedding.

“I actually arranged and thought of everything myself,” says Chantal. “On the day there were also others to help with the set up. I put together and made the thank you cards myself, the name cards for witnesses and family for the ceremony, plus our beautiful guest book. A former colleague made our delicious vanilla chocolate cake, decorated with animals too, of course!” says Chantal. “ It was beautiful and above all tasty. In the evening we had a DJ and a singer.”

The best bits

“Actually, the whole day was amazing,” says Chantal. “Everything was beautiful and well organised. It was just a super day.”

My top tips…

“Don’t worry and enjoy every moment,” says Chantal. “Let it come as it comes and everything will work out. Also, everything in just one place is really nice. Finally, Wildlands is a top location!”

Chantal and Leon’s Dream Team 

Photographer: Zora Solange

Wedding dresses Arnhem: wed2b

Zoo wedding venue: Wildlands

Cake: Miranda Prins

Hair and makeup: Beautysalon Sandur

If you would like us to feature your big day, like fun zoo wedding, then please click here to share your story and photos with us and we’ll be in touch. Your nearest WED2B is closer than you think, click here for your nearest store and here for what to expect when you visit.