With a helicopter flying overhead, Alex Pelling and Lisa Gant stood on a stage hand in hand in front of a huge Christmas tree Wednesday during their fifth wedding ceremony in five days, surrounded by Legends in Concert performers Rod Stewart, the Blues Brothers and Elvis.
About 100 strangers, including cheerleaders from Coastal Carolina University and mascot Chauncey Chanticleer, watched as they danced while Stewart sang “People Get Ready.”
Even with the spectacle surrounding them, the English couple lovingly gazed into each others eyes, snuck kisses and whispered secrets in each others ears. Regardless of the wedding’s legality, this was their moment – even if it was the fifth one they’d shared in as many days.
Since Saturday, the couple was the guest of local photographer August Michel who organized the Myrtle Beach Wedding Extravaganza. They rode in a horse-drawn carriage at Litchfield Plantation, Gant dove off a moving boat into the cold Atlantic Ocean and exchanged vows in front of Elvis.
The Grand Strand was the latest stop on Pelling and Gant’s worldwide wedding tour as they search for their favorite place to get married.
“It’s been fantastic. It’s not like any of the other weddings we’ve experienced,” Pelling said. “I know we’ve had five here, but the underlying thing throughout was really kind, friendly people opening up their arms and making us feel welcome.”
Gant also said she was struck by how welcome everyone has made her and her fiance feel.
“I loved it all. I can’t believe how wonderful it’s been. We’ve met people here that we’ll be friends with for the rest of our lives,” she said.
The couple, who is engaged, plans to choose their favorite location of all of the weddings and head back there for the real thing in about a year and half. Wednesday marked their 33rd wedding in the past year and a half – and their last of 14 weddings in the United States.
They will head to Baltimore to ship their van “Peggy” back to Liverpool before heading to Exuma, Bahamas, to take part in a ceremony there.
They’ll have their 34th wedding on 12/12/12 and then head home for about a month to spend time with their families, Pelling said.
“We haven’t been back for a year and a half,” he said. “In mid-January we’ll head back out through Europe and northern Africa.”
All of their ceremonies have been at no charge to them. They travel on a budget of $60 per day and everyone donates their time and products for free.
All of the venues, DJs, florists, dress makers, bakeries and even a local winery are donating their time and products for free. The hope is the exposure the couple – who will be profiled by ABC’s “20/20” while in the Myrtle Beach area – bring locally will have a positive impact on both the Grand Strand’s wedding and overall tourism industry.
They also ask that in lieu of wedding gifts, people instead donate to UNICEF. On Wednesday, Michel collected donations to UNICEF and also held a raffle of products and services including photo packages from his company August T. Photography and tickets to Legends in Concert. Michel said they raised about $100 from the raffle.
Michel, who organized the marathon of weddings with events planners from Gigi Noelle Events, said he was happy that the five ceremonies went off with out any major issues.
“I feel phenomenal. I can’t believe everything went off with almost no problems – other than the rain yesterday,” he said.
After Pelling and Gant finished their “first dance,” about half of the people in attendance broke out in a flash mob choreographed by CCU cheerleaders. Myrtle Beach resident Charlene Damous said the flash mob was the main reason she stopped by the wedding.
“I live in the area and I heard about what’s going on,” she said. “I loved the idea and wanted to dance in a flash mob.”
Damous said she wished more people attended but she had fun regardless.
Even though Pelling and Gant learned the choreography, they opted not to dance.
“Lisa had on four-inch heels and was in a Marilyn Monroe dress,” he said. “So we just let the professionals [on stage] do it and enjoyed the show.”