This wasn’t the first time that Alex had surprised me with a huge romantic gesture. He once filled a hotel suite from floor to ceiling with balloons in my favourite colour

Lisa Gant and her fiancé Alex have spent four years travelling the world in search of the perfect wedding

Being rushed at high speed by armed guard to a secure compound on the border of Afghanistan was not what I envisaged when I decided to travel the world looking for the perfect wedding ceremony. But after three years of driving around the globe, that day in Pakistan was proving to be one of the hardest and one of the most memorable days of our journey.

My fiancé Alex and I had set out from our home in Didsbury, Manchester in June 2011. We sold everything and decided to tour the world. But to make our journey interesting – and being unapologetic romantics – we decided to search for the perfect place to get married while we were on our trip. This would mean holding a wedding ceremony in every country we visited. Each ceremony, though not legally binding, would encompass everything a ‘real’ wedding would, simply without signing a registry.

However, the first wedding was a total surprise to me. Alex had planned the whole thing, without telling me. It was 6th June 2011, and as it was the day before we were about to leave England for a journey of a lifetime, I had woken up with a list of jobs as long as my arm. But Alex had a different idea. He sat me down, made me breakfast and while I munched on a slice of toast he went on to tell me that I was due at the hairdressers in half an hour, I needed to be at the wedding dress boutique in two hours… and that we were getting married at lunch time.

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This wasn’t the first time that Alex had surprised me with a huge romantic gesture. He once filled a hotel suite from floor to ceiling with balloons in my favourite colour; had written a poem on our bedroom wall that could only be read with the help of a black lightbulb; and had proposed to me in front of both of our families.

When he told me that we were about to get married, I laughed, cried, shouted a bit and then laughed, cried and shouted a little bit more. The wedding was held in our local village and all of our family and friends were there. They had all managed to keep the secret. Our 60 strong wedding party joined us in visiting several of the fabulous local bistros, restaurants and wine bars all around the village. Alex had worked with 25 local businesses who had offered their services to make our day especially special, and one we would never forget.

The next day, with a slightly foggy head, we boarded a plane to Canada to buy a campervan and continue on our global search for the perfect place to get married. Over the next year and a half, we had arranged 20 weddings in multiple languages and had driven 40,000 miles overland. During this time we had driven from Canada to the USA, through Central and South America and into Chile. South America gave us two of our most memorable wedding. At Horcon in Chile, we held our 22nd wedding ceremony on the beach of a small fishing village. We wore traditional Huasa and Huaso and were blessed to be staying with a wonderful local family who helped us arrange a small ceremony and hold a very Chilean celebration. Then we drove to Ouro Preto in Brazil, where we had a big, bold, 100 per cent Brazilian celebration. The media had been following our story, our Brazilian wedding was broadcasted to over 90 million people. The ceremony really reflected the warmth and hospitality of the Brazilians, the dress was stylish and oozed sex appeal, and the venue was just heavenly. The pastor that held our wedding had us in tears of happiness through the blessing and the party was definitely one to remember.

We then shipped our campervan to England and embarked on a long, arduous journey through Europe, into Africa and then on to the Middle East. We drove through Iraq, Iran and Pakistan, and then on the border with Afghanistan, a known Taliban hunting area. It was here that our campervan axle snapped and the entire wheel came off and rolled into the desert. We would have been completely stranded had it not been for the Government-provided armed guards that had been escorting us across the country, who rushed us to safety, Unfortunately our campervan wasn’t as lucky as it was broken beyond repair. We had to abandon our home of three years in Pakistan and fly home to England.

We remained undefeated and decided that we couldn’t possibly give up now. We had come so close to driving all the way around the world, and had so many weddings in the pipeline. We recouped and after spending some time with family for the first time in years, then set off again to Australia…determined to complete our circumnavigation, this time from east to west.

After 56 countries and 66 weddings you would think that nothing could shake us, but then we arrived in New Zealand. The Maori welcome that we received overwhelmed us. The hairs on our necks stood to attention, our eyes prickled with tears and even the wind bowed down and took a back seat for a while.

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We felt that us being welcomed with the ‘Mihi Whakatu’ was the most natural and beautiful blend of two cultures we have ever experienced. It was an awakening and at the same time a perfect encapsulation of what we are doing. During our six-month sabbatical, we had had time to reflect on our trip and remind ourselves what we are doing and why. We were trying to experience wedding cultures and traditions so as to further understand the meaning of two people committing to spending the rest of their lives together.

The New Zealand wedding wasn’t the last ceremony, we went on to be married in Australia, Jordan, Malaysia and Vietnam and still have more weddings planned, but, we feel that the New Zealand wedding perfectly encapsulated what we had hoped to find on our journey. An incredible blend of cultures, willing to welcome outsiders and to show them the ways of old, and of new, and to build a future from both.

The driving part of our journey has now ended after four-and-a-half years on the road. We are looking forward to planning our legal ceremony in 2017. We are currently deciding which placed to return to. But to finally say ‘I do’ will celebrate everything we have done and honour everyone that has been a part of our journey over the past five years. We have worked through everything together. The hardships, the awesome, the sadness and the happiness. Our journey has been a lifetime of marriage in itself.

Images courtesy of www.conchcreative.com (Belize); www.deansandersonweddings.com (Mexico); www.emilyadamson.com (New Zealand); www.facebook.com/oshootphotography (Pakistan);www.jonnydraper.co.uk (UK); www.vietnambeachweddings.com (Vietnam).

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