Local vendors donate efforts to help couple wed 5 times in 5 days

When Myrtle Beach photographer August Michel heard about an English couple traveling the world and having weddings in each country they visit in search of the best place to get married, he knew he wanted to get them to the Grand Strand.

Two months later Michel has gotten the couple, Alex Pelling and Lisa Gant of Yorkshire, England, to agree to participate in a whirlwind five wedding ceremonies in five days at various locations throughout the area. The couple has been chronicling their experience on their blog and Michel said ABC’s “20/20” will be in Myrtle Beach to produce a news story on Pelling and Gant.

“I thought about all of the beautiful places to get married between Wilmington and Charleston,” said Michel, owner of August T. Photography. “I told them I wanted to do something extravagant and they responded and absolutely loved the idea.”

And so the Myrtle Beach Wedding Extravaganza was born. Between Nov. 24 and 28, Michel and an army of about 50 local vendors will host five wedding ceremonies for Pelling and Gant at locations such as Litchfield Plantation and the TIGERS Preservation Station.

How much is this once in a lifetime trip and the many extravagant weddings costing the couple? Not a dime.

All of the venues, DJs, florists, dress makers, bakeries and even a local winery are donating their time and products for free.

“Everyone’s doing this on a purely volunteer basis. No one’s getting paid to do this,” Michel said.

When asked how much producing the five wedding ceremonies would cost, Michel couldn’t put a figure on it but he said he knew it was a pretty expensive endeavor.

“We have been constantly working on this for two months,” said Debbie Benson, who co-owns Gigi Noelle Event Planner with her daughter. “It’s been worth it just to see how people come together and donate their time and services. Of course it’s going to be great to get [the vendors’] names out there, too.”

“We’re working with as many local vendors as possible because the idea is to bring business to Myrtle Beach and to bring awareness to Myrtle Beach,” said Benson.

Michel admitted that when he first thought about bringing Pelling and Gant to Myrtle Beach he thought it might help him book a few extra weddings.

“But then as it grew I thought about what it could be to the area with all of these vendors working together to pull this off,” he said. “The biggest spark came when everybody started to realize what it could mean for everyone else.”

Benson said she and her daughter, who worked with Michel on weddings in the past, jumped at the idea of helping coordinate the wedding extravaganza when he presented it to her.

“When August brought the idea to us, as event planners we just ran with it,” she said.

None of the couple’s weddings are legal, and the five Grand Strand ceremonies will be only a short stop for the couple, who plan to keep touring and getting married all over the world until July 2014. After completing their three years of globe trotting, they hope to announce the best location in the world for a wedding and then officially tie the knot there.

The local marathon of theme weddings includes a Southern charm ceremony at Litchfield Plantation; skydiving and jet skiing in a James Bond ceremony on the beach; a Candy Land ceremony at the Pavilion Nostalgia Park at Broadway at the Beach; elephant riding at TIGERS Preservation Station; and a celebrity ceremony with Legends in Concert performers and a “world-record setting wedding reception flash mob” back at Broadway. The first four weddings are going to be more private, but everyone is welcome to attend the fifth ceremony at Broadway at the Beach on Nov. 28.

Michel is most excited about the flash mob at that fifth ceremony, with choreography coordinated by Coastal Carolina University cheerleaders. They plan to put a video on YouTube so that anyone can learn the dance and join them at 5 p.m. Nov. 28.

The choreography “is not going to be complicated. If everybody knows the date, time and location, they’ll be able to participate,” Michel said.

The cheerleaders also will hold two practice sessions in the week leading up the wedding. Information about the practices will be shared on the event’s Facebook page.

Those interested should meet plan to arrive around 4 p.m. and meet by the Christmas tree to the right of WonderWorks next to the visitor’s center.

“It’s going to be so much fun,” Benson said.