Alex Pelling and Lisa Gant, originally from the U.K., are traveling the world in an old van, getting married everywhere they go. I spoke with them after their 26th wedding this week, which was officiated by Martha Stewart at her wedding magazine's annual bridal party in New York.
How did you come up with the idea?
Lisa: We'd had too many glasses of wine. We had been saving up for three years to travel, to do a big trip. A few months before we set off, we decided we'd write a blog, because if you're traveling, you have to write a blog. And then we thought about how we could make it different. We started looking at places that were unusual to get married, because we were looking to get married on our trip. We thought our blog would tell people about the crazy and unique places they could get married. But three weeks before we left, we were planning the trip and the blog, and we'd had a few glasses of wine, and we thought, how can we write about these unique and unusual places to get married, without actually having a ceremony? And the idea stuck!
What number wedding are you on? How many are left?
Lisa: We just did number 26 with Martha Stewart, and we have no idea how many are left. Maybe another 40 countries.
How much longer is this trip going to go on for?
Lisa: The trip is three years long, we're 15 months in. So we have over a year and a half to go.
Some Internet commenters have criticized your trip, calling it obnoxious and self-indulgent.
Alex: The top comment on any Internet article about us is, "I bet they're looking forward to getting divorced 25 times."
Lisa: We get that everywhere in the world.
Alex: None of the comments are personal. People say we're narcissistic, but we know personally that we're not. There's always negativity in everything you do. People could call you a dick just for walking down the street. We know why we're doing it and that's all that matters to us personally.
Which ceremony has been your favorite?
Lisa: Our favorite ceremony was definitely in Peru. It was a traditional Andean ceremony. But our favorite place so far has been Denver, Colorado. The scenery was amazing. You instantly relax when you get there. We went ziplining, and walked in the mist in the morning.
What do you think about the public reaction to your trip?
Lisa: We had no idea there would be this kind of response. It's been brilliant. It's made it easier because people have been coming to us and asking if we need their help, whereas when we started the trip we were kind of begging and getting a lot of no's. We've been meeting a lot of people. We had no idea we'd be getting married by Martha Stewart.
How did the Martha Stewart wedding come about?
Alex: She saw us on the Today show, and reached out, telling us she was throwing her annual bridal party and asking us if we'd like to be a part of it. We flew over, and well, it was a big day.
Lisa: With the Martha Stewart wedding, we wanted to make sure it was was very New York. We're trying to represent the cultures and traditions of each place.
Any parts of the trip that haven't worked out so well?
Alex: The 25-year-old camper van. In the north of South America — Colombia, Peru, Ecuador — we had two months of constant engine trouble. That was really hard. What most people seem to overlook is that we're physically driving around the world. At times, the weddings are secondary, because we have to get there. The physical trouble, language barriers, and logistics have been tricky. The weddings themselves have been relatively straightforward, because people are willing to help us.
Lisa: Most of the weddings are planned by hijacking wi-fi outside a coffee shop. The logistics get crazy. We drove from Toronto to the West Coast of Canada, then we took a flight to Hawaii — you obviously can't take a van there. Then we drove all the way down along the coast through Central America, to Chile and Brazil. Then we put the van on a ship to get it back to Texas. So we're without our van right now while it gets shipped. We just flew to New York to do the wedding with Martha Stewart and we're hitting a few spots that would have been hard to get to with the van.
How do you pay for it all?
Alex: I had a small company that I sold. We sold everything and saved up. It's completely self-funded.
What happens when you get back home?
Alex: We're not actually going home! We're emigrating to Australia. We're hoping to start a family when we get there. But we're winging it. We know we'll have no money and friends in every country, but that's all we know.
Your trip has become very public. Everyone on the Internet can see what you're doing. What do you think of the increasingly popular trend of public proposals that go viral online?
Alex: Why not? It's a romantic gesture. But we don't really want to do the publicity thing. The thing is that the photographers and vendors are helping us out, and in return their products and photos are getting out there and featured. But personally, as people, we don't want to do the publicity.
Lisa: The last thing we want to do is go on TV all the time.
Alex: We're not doing this so that we go viral. That's at the bottom of the list for us. We're not looking to make money, we're looking to meet people and find more opportunities for the trip.