This Couple Had 34 Weddings (All Around The World!)
Meet Lisa and Alex, the globe-trotting couple staging their own wedding over and over from South Africa to Singapore — and blogging about it all. We chatted with the couple for our fall issue of The Knot Weddings Magazine and here’s what they had to say.
The obvious question: Why get married in so many places?
Alex Pelling: We decided we were going to emigrate to Australia from England, and before we settled there we’d do some traveling. We decided to write a blog (2people1life.com) about unique places to get married around the world. In England it’s quite restrictive; you have to get married inside a registered building. Then we came up with the idea: How could we really write about this without experiencing these ceremonies firsthand? There was no great master plan.
You were newly engaged. So you just quit your jobs and set out on the road?
Alex: I had a small car-body-repair shop, and I sold that company. Lisa left her job; she’s in retail management. We flew to Canada, because it was one of the cheapest flights, and we had no idea what we were doing. We had just backpacks and ended up buying our camper van. We got to Vancouver and went south and drove all the way to Brazil. We’ve driven the entire length of the Americas over about 15 months and had 34 ceremonies — a wedding in almost every country. We had a wedding in Colorado and New York, and we did a voodoo wedding in Louisiana. Then, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, we did five weddings in five days, which was wild.
Lisa Gant: We did a James Bond wedding in Myrtle Beach, and I ended up doing most of the Bond things. All of a sudden, I was expected to jump off a high-speed boat into freezing water. I was so high on adrenaline.
Alex: Now we’re on the second leg. We shipped the van to England—she’s called Peggy, named after Lisa’s 93-year-old grandma. We plan to drive to Singapore, then ship the van to Australia, where we’ll end the trip and decide where our favorite place is and go back and finally get legally married for real.
You’re driving to Singapore?
Alex: We’ll go across Europe, then through Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, up to China and down to eastern Asia, then to Singapore. It should be interesting in a 25-year-old camper van, getting married all along the way.
Alex: We broke down a lot between Colombia and Peru. We got a faulty fuel pump, and the van would stop running at random. The scariest point was when we were driving on a road that had official signs warning of bandits. It’s a really cheap way to travel; our only real cost is fuel because we camp where we can and we cook in the van. We’re self-funded on this adventure; we didn’t win the lottery or anything.
What did your friends and family say about this grand plan?
Lisa: That we’d lost our minds. We had the idea only three weeks before we set off.
How much planning goes into each unofficial wedding?
Alex: It’s grown and developed. When we first set out, it was a new concept. Moving forward, I’ve got about 55 countries I’m in email contact with. In effect, I’m planning 55 weddings. We’re trying to dig up fun, forgotten cultural things. In Russia, the man has to complete a set of challenges to marry his bride. So we’re setting up all these physical and mental challenges—including [drinking] vodka — for the wedding day that I have to complete before marrying Lisa.
Lisa: He works forward, and I work backward. Once we’ve had the wedding, I stay in contact with everybody and handle the social media and blog. It’s such a joyful time, and everyone is so happy in the wedding industry. It’s a real bond.
Who’s footing the bill for your journey?
Alex: The only thing we pay for is the traveling. For the weddings, we have to rely on vendors and photographers to offer services in exchange for the publicity. We get a great experience, and we hope they have a great time too. It’s been a win-win experience. We’re not the normal bride and groom.
Lisa: We basically borrow everything. I’ve got one dress that I was given at the first wedding that lives rolled up in a bag under the bed. We call it the Marine of wedding dresses — it’s been underwater, on the beach, everything.
Alex: We had people asking if they could gift us money, but that’s not what this is about. We’re raising money for UNICEF, because it’s an international charity and its core mission is trying to give children a start in life. Anyone who donates through our registry is given the chance to be flown out to our final wedding, all expenses paid. That’s our personal commitment.
What have been some of the most memorable weddings so far?
Alex: We were affected most by the Peruvian Andean ceremony. You enter a garden
from different sides, and you come to a central point where there’s a shaman chanting and
a band playing string instruments. You hold the ceremony just as the sun is setting in
front of your eyes, so you can’t see anything. It’s an absolute wash of emotion. One of
our favorite venues was Colorado — outdoors, surrounded by nature, you just felt completely humbled. Also, Scotland. My father’s side is from Scotland, and we had the ceremony very close to the town where they’re from.
Lisa: I’m so excited about India, because I have a vague idea about how they
celebrate marriage. All the countries have completely surpassed anything that we could have imagined.
What’s been the hardest part?
Alex: Physically driving around the world in a camper van — it’s 16 feet by 6 feet — finding somewhere to park that’s safe enough and dealing with breakdowns are all challenging. We’ve got to hijack Wi-Fi all the time.
Lisa: We’re in the van and off the beaten path. We expected people to speak a bit of English, and we got to Mexico and not a word of English and we didn’t have a word of Spanish. You just have to muddle through, and it’s exhausting to ask for directions. We’re very good at sign language.
Do you ever get tired of being a bride and groom over and over?
Lisa: It’s different every time. In Chile, I got my hair cut and came out looking like a choirboy, and I cried. A lot of times we’re getting ready in the van, and we’ve just got a tiny mirror. There are times when I’m lucky and have a full team, attaching eyelashes and doing my hair.
Alex: We never once for a moment thought, I’ve had enough. We’re not having a white wedding in each country. We’re discovering and experiencing and learning new things
all the time, so it doesn’t get boring.
What kind of following have you attracted?
Lisa: In Brazil, we were filmed by a TV show called Fantástico that’s watched by 50 million to 60 million people on Sundays. While driving in Brazil—a lot of filming was in the van—someone was always beeping, waving their arms and shouting, “Fantástico!” Every fourth car was beeping at us. It was out-of-this-world weird.
Alex: It’s been an unexpected reward, meeting friends from all over the world. We’ll end this trip financially with nothing, but we’ll have a friend in every country.
Has traveling the world together changed your relationship?
Alex: I’m getting more emotional with each wedding—it’s like another benchmark. It’s making us very strong. We’re quite personable, so we can adapt to different environments and cultures quickly. After we left America and got back to England, everyone was saying we had an American accent. We seem to be able to zone into the local cultures. We’re both very adventurous. It won’t be until the end that we look back and say, “We’ve just been around the world.”
Any advice for a couple planning to get married abroad?
Lisa: Be prepared to go with the flow. Don’t expect anything to happen on time. If you don’t have any expectations, you’re always pleasantly surprised.
When does it all end?
Alex: Fall 2014. We’ll have the final wedding to plan and choose our favorite place. We don’t want to jump the gun and officially get married until we finish the adventure. We
just want the last ceremony to be a really high-energy, happy, intense experience for us.
And then what?
Alex: We’ll sit down in a dark room and relax. Then we’ll set up a new life together: That’s when the real adventure starts.
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