Extreme Weddings: Planning from 3 Countries
Written by Callie
Alright, we’re coming at ya with the second installment in our Extreme Weddings blog series! Thanks to everyone that read the first one about Lindsey’s wedding, if you haven’t checked it out yet go ahead and do that, she planned her Houston wedding in only 3 weeks!
Today we’re talking with Rachael, the girl that got married in Peru! I wrote a short post about her incredibly unique wedding months ago and told you I’d go more in depth later. Well it’s later, let’s jump in!
I’ve known Rachael for 15 years now, we met in 5th grade and have been best friends since.
After graduating from college she decided to teach abroad, in Suriname to be exact. (In case you didn’t know where that was because you’ve never heard of it before, it’s in South America). This was pretty out of the blue and I, along with her family, were pretty shocked. But she followed God’s calling and started what has become an incredibly interesting and fulfilling life with no plans of stopping. Now let’s talk about her wedding and how she pulled it all off!
Tell us a bit about yourself! How did you end up living outside of the US?
Hi! I’m Rachael McMillen. I’ve been friends with the R&R Girls since childhood. I’m a fourth year upper elementary teacher living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I got my first taste of overseas living when I studied abroad in college, teaching English at a local Italian school in Tuscany. I wanted to use my education and skills to serve God. Upon graduation from A&M, I took a job teaching at a Christian international school in Suriname, South America. I was there for two years before making the jump to Asia.
Who is your fiance (now husband)? How did y'all meet?
My husband, Kyle, is the best person I know. My second year teaching in Suriname was his first year there. I was on the committee that picked up new teachers from the airport, made sure they were adjusting well and had what they needed upon getting in to the country. After the hour of driving back from the airport with him and others, I was smitten. He was instantly the coolest person I knew.
We ended up becoming really good friends, but didn’t start dating until after Christmas break. When we were both back in the States away from each other, he realized he missed me more than he should miss a friend. Some friends had asked about him that Christmas, knowing I had a crush. I remember telling them “We’re just friends, and I’m happy with that. But if he randomly decided we should get married, I would think that’s a great idea.”
So what’s the engagement story??
We were long distance at the time: me in Cambodia, Kyle still in Suriname. At Christmas we got to see each other for the first time in six months. I knew that he was going to propose, and that it would happen before we went to visit my grandparents. That gave a two day window, but it somehow still was a total surprise. I thought we were meeting Callie for lunch and then another friend later for dinner. I was worried that my making plans with friends was going to interfere with his plans. Turns out all of the plans I was making, he had already orchestrated.
While in South America, he found a nice restaurant in Texas, shipped them a picnic basket, and had them pack it up for us. We took it and went to a park where a secret photographer was there to capture it all and take engagement photos. He had my mother’s ring, which I have always wanted, inside a ring box he handmade out of wood from the jungle in Suriname. It was eleven months exactly from when we started dating. It was all so perfect.
How long were you engaged? (from engagement day to wedding day)
We were engaged for six months and three days.
What made your wedding different than the "traditional" wedding and the "normal" wedding process?
We got married in the mountains of Peru. Before we were even dating, Kyle and I started planning a South American Road Trip. We didn’t want to give that up to go to the States to get married, so we chose to get married along the way. We drove on a single motorcycle for two weeks, from one side of South America to the other, through the Amazon jungle, to arrive at our wedding.
We didn’t plan the wedding, or have a professional wedding planner. Kyle found the place we wanted to get married: a beautiful field in the mountains next to a 500 year old Spanish church. Then, he found someone who had an Airbnb house within the churches courtyard walls. He asked her if we could get married there and if she wanted to plan it. She had never planned a wedding before, but she agreed!
Lily was perfect. I don’t like planning, and I didn’t have a lot of opinions on the wedding. Kyle, mountains, a few friends and family: that’s all I cared about. We emailed a couple times with Lily (mostly sending pictures of pretty flowers), but she totally had free reign to do as she pleased. And it was amazing! I could have not imagined a more perfect day.
It was an all day event that was somewhat different than a traditional wedding. We had a ton of amazing Peruvian food, there were traditional dances, Lily’s family invited us into their home, Lily herself did a traditional dance where she danced with a man on a horse. It was all so amazing and unique to us. One of Kyle’s best friends, roommate from when he lived in the Dominican Republic, officiated for us.
My stress levels of planning were nonexistent. I was able to disappear for two weeks before the big day on a motorcycle trip, with no wifi or cell service, and it was fine. I didn’t have to worry about any of the details, and I hate details so this worked out great for me!
How long did you spend wedding planning?
Myself, probably less than a dozen hours. Kyle, many more of searching for the perfect mountain in Peru. After that was picked, Lily took over and we didn't have much we needed to do.
How much would you guess you (or anyone involved in the process) ended up spending for your wedding?
WAY less than the average wedding in the States! It was around five thousand. That included all the stuff wedding day, and the big house all the guest stayed at the night before, but not the airfare for them to get there. Kyle and I were already in South America, so we didn’t have to buy tickets to get ourselves there. I didn’t buy a dress, since I was wearing my mom’s, and Callie, Natalie, and my mom did all my hair and make up the day of.
How many people did you invite to your wedding? How many do you think actually came day of?
We had an open invitation of “If you can get to Peru, we’d love for you to be there!” and definitely meant it. There was probably about 10-12 people we actually, personally invited. Seven people from the States joined us, plus Lily and her family. Part way through the reception, some Peruvians that had rescued Kyle and I from hypothermia a few days prior during our motorcycle trip showed up. We had told them about the wedding, but weren’t sure if they’d actually make it. Not only did the people that saved us come, but their entire family decked out in their traditional Peruvian clothes to join us!
Overall, were you happy with the way your wedding turned out?
Was there anything you regret about your non-traditional wedding? Is there anything about your day that you wish would have happened differently?
I feel like we missed some opportunities with our photos. There are some that are fantastic, but most are at weird angles, or people are looking away or have closed eyes. That’s slightly disappointing, especially since where we were was so beautiful. I wish there were more photos of just Kyle and I. I didn’t think about how that’s a cultural difference in what’s expected in photography. I wish I would have mentioned what I wanted before hand.
What was your favorite part of your wedding day?
It’s hard to pick a favorite! Walking across the field, Weezer's cover of “Annie’s Song” playing, seeing Kyle waiting for me beneath an archway of flowers with snow covered mountains behind him, and realizing that he was going to be my husband was definitely the highlight.
Was it really your #bestdayever?
Absolutely. The entire day I just had fun. It was the simple, beautiful day I wanted, surrounded by my favorite people.
Any advice for someone who might be thinking about having a wedding similar to yours?
Go for it! Weddings are supposed to be about you and your spouse, but so often get turned into accommodating other people and what they want. Plan your day for what will make you happy. And if you want the best wedding ever in Peru, Lily is now officially in the wedding business! She’s amazing, the place is amazing. Get married there!
You guys, if you’ve thought about doing an out of country wedding, I would recommend it. Though it definitely was not a wedding I would have ever even thought to plan and it would have given me incredible amounts of stress and anxiety but it fit Rachael perfectly! Planning a wedding when you’re in one country, your fiance is in another, and your wedding planner/wedding location is in a third is perhaps maybe not the best idea for some people. But when you’ve got a free spirit, a hatred of details, and are an adventurer at heart maybe check into it.
Rachael’s wedding was amazing. I still might write another post to go more into some details and to tell a more story-like version of the event (because I haven’t written a story in a while and there’s definitely stories from that trip to tell!). If you’d want to read a more in depth story of her wedding and my trip to Peru let me know in the comments!
Open Casting Call!
Was your wedding on a yacht? Did you plan a wedding for 300 people with less than $7,000? Did you elope? Want to be featured next on Extreme Weddings?
Send us a message and let’s get your interview started!