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A Farmers Wedding complete with donkey & sheep in Colombia

The day started with…you guessed it…bright sunshine!

We high fived each other and hoped and hoped it would stick around for the whole day.

We still didn’t know what time the wedding was going to go ahead and we eagerly checked our emails for any news. The owners of the Renacer Guesthouse had kindly offered us a free breakfast for our wedding day so we tucked into eggs, warm bread, hot fresh coffee and liquados to start our day. Everyone came and asked us when the wedding would be happening and we had to promise them we wouldn’t go without them.

Before long it was lunch time and we still had no news on the time for the ceremony. The black clouds were gathering over head and threatening a rain storm of epic proportions. The lightening shocked the sky in the distance and we sat and waited nervously for word from our wonderful photographer Juan Felipe or our wedding planner Laura.  At 1pm we got the call. Juan Felipe had arrived in town, he had driven all the way from Bogota, a good 3-4 hour drive away. He invited us to meet him for some lunch and said he hoped the wedding would be under way by 3. We quickly spread the news at the guesthouse and arranged to see everyone in the square at 3.

We jumped into Peggy and met Juan within minutes. As we arrived and said our hello’s he told us he had a surprise for us as we walked into the restaurant. We walked over to two lovely ladiess eating their lunch and Juan introduced them to us as Julie and Christina who would also be taking pictures at our wedding! We were gobsmacked! We had 3 amazing photographers for the day, we couldn’t believe it. As always I started to babble about how amazing it all was and thanking them for coming all the way from Bogota and apologising in advance for being rubbish at having our pictures taken…it wasn’t until I had run out of breath that I even considered that they might not all speak English. Alex sat me down and ordered me a beer to calm my nerves. We ate lunch and talked about all sorts and made a plan for the day…ish. As we finished lunch Laura arrived and told us everything was going to be ready by 3 and that we could use her mothers shop as a place to get changed. We made our way over with Tabitha and our wedding bag and got ready in the shop while the lady working there crochetted a gorgeous blue skirt! Julie luckily came to the rescue and styled my messy hair for me and we added a few finishing Colombian touches before heading out for a few pictures. Alex wore a beautiful poncho slung over a shoulder and a hat and I had a lovely dainty shrug over my shoulders and high on my neck .I was thankful for it as the clouds were blocking any sign of the sunshine! Julie pinned the cutest crocheted hair pin in my curls and we were ready to go.
We posed for a few pictures until Laura came to collect us. She had everything ready in the square for the wedding but had run into a problem with the local pastor. He had originally agreed to hold us a ceremony but had not realised it would be outside of the church walls and in the public square. He had told Laura he would hold us a ceremony in the church but we must go to meet him. By now it was 3pm and all of our friends had gathered below the bruised swollen clouds in the square and were waiting for us to make an appearance. We walked to the church and met the pastor. We were formally seated and Juan and Julie accompanied us to translate. After a 20 minute meeting the pastor said that unfortunately as we are not catholic or a member of the church and had not had our banns read we could not have a ceremony in his church and he could not hold us one outside of the church walls. He did however say he would dedicate the evening mass to us at 6pm if we would like to attend.

We agreed and Julie had an idea for a ‘self ceremony’ outside where Laura had set up our ‘altar‘ for the celebration. We shook hands with the pastor and thanked him and left the church. You wouldn’t believe it if you couldn’t see the pctures but the clouds had parted and the sun was slanting through the gaps and shone brightly on the square! The Pelling luck was with us for the day..well, for the weather anyway.
Julie had suggested we perfom a traditional commitment ritual which represented two people becoming one. Could there be a more perfect idea?
We still hadn’t seen much of what was going on in the centre of the square but I could make out hay bails, our friends, a table…and a sheep!!!!!!! Alex was led away from me and I was left standing with Julie and Juan who were talking in Spanish and all I could understand was ‘yes, it will be good’. I looked around to see a donkey being led towards me, I knew what was coming and said to Juan, ‘you’re going to make me get on that aren’t you?’ Juan said ‘of course’ and that was the end of that. I mentioned the horse allergy and asked that should I start to swell unattractively if we could take a break with the camera. We had a good laugh about it and the donkey was pushed towards the steps to the church so that I had a little more height to get onto it. It was most definitely a stubborn mule and had to be coaxed to lean closer to me, I don’t blame him to be fair. I had to pretty much throw myself at him in a body slam fashion to get seated in any kind of acceptable way to be led to the middle of the square, to Alex’s side. I was perched on and really holding on as much as I could with my bottom and tried so very hard to A) not fall off, B) look as elegant as possible and C) not look at Alex’s face so that I didn’t laugh. Somehow after what seemed like a mile hike across the bumpiest terrain I arrived at Alex’s side. He was laughing his head off but I could see it in his eyes that he was proud of me for just going with it and not making a fuss. He helped me down and kissed me on the cheek. He introduced me to the sheep that was there ‘just because it was tradition‘ and we said hi to everyone who was enjoying the fact that the sun was now shining and I had arrived to my wedding on an ass. Laura had done a wonderful job of dressing the centre of the square. There was a table decorated with all of the things we would need for the ritual, hay bails adorned the floor and terracotta piggies were scattered about the place. They are traditionally given as gifts at Colombian weddings. Baskets were filled with balls of sheeps wool for crochetting and trinkets and beautiful things, I loved it, it looked perfect. We all laughed as the sheep spoke…I kid you not, it SAID the word Baaa, it didn’t just make the noise, it sounded like he was talking. We started the ceremony by explaining to everyone what we were going to do. It was weird doing it all ourselves but a really nice idea and of course totally different to any of the other ceremonies we have had. The ritual involved earth, fire and water and represented us becoming one. We poured water from two separate cups into one bowl where we then washed our hands to represent a clean start together as one. We each took a hand full of rice to represent the earth and poured it from our hands into one (lovely handmade) terracotta bowl and then we took a lighted candle each and used our joint flame to light a new candle, again representing us becoming one. Someone shouted ‘Kiss the bride‘ and never a couple to disappoint we kissed to seal the ritual.

Everyone clapped and whooped and we were handed a Colombian beer each
and everyone hugged us and congratulated us. We had several more pictures with our wedding animals and had to coax Ben (our name for the donkey) with my bouquet…he tried a gerbera (another tradition at Colombian weddings) but wasn’t overly keen. As we stood talking a man behind us started to light rockets and send them to the skies with really, REALLY loud bangs which made me jump every time. We turned back to the table to find it full of traditional Colombian wedding fare. We tried local blood sausage, pork and beef all with lovely gravy and mashed Yuca. It was so nice and everyone got to try some before we had to wave our goodbyes to our guests and run off for mre pictures around beautiful Villa De Leyva before we lost the light that we had been blessed with. We arranged to meet everyone back at camp after mass unless they fancied joining us.

We had a great time with Juan, Julie and Christina taking the pictures, we tried to shoot hoops with my bouquet, we all piled into an official looking building to take some shots in a patch of sunlight and we followed the sun around to make the most of it.
6 ‘o’ clock flew around and we made our way into mass where we were directed to sit in the important chairs at the front of the congregation. We had no idea we would actually be sat at the front and we nervously walked down the churches beautiful red carpeted aisle!
Of course the whole mass was in super fast Spanish so we had no idea what was being said but followed suite by keeping an eye on when Jose and Tineke (bless them, they came to take some pictures) stood or sat and when we were being blessed by the pastor Jose instructed us on what to do via hand signals! The mass lasted an hour and sadly our troop of amazing photographers had had to hit the road back to Bogota so we didn’t get chance to say proper goodbyes. We, as always cannot find a word great enough to thank you as much as we would like to. We had an amazing day, it was such a pleasure to spend it with you all, Laura, Juan Felipe, Julie and Christina, we just couldn’t do it without your help and wonderful generosity and general open mindedness! After mass we were so wiped out we got back to the guesthouse and celebrated with a glass of wine with everyone, we watched the video Jose and Tineke had filmed for us and cried at every ones messages! All of our new friends had left us a message in their own language! Once again, we packed Peggy up to hit the road the following morning!

The hardest part of making friends is having to leave them behind each time we hit the road!

All of these images are Juan Felipe’s, They were all so good I can’t fit all 3 photographers images in the one blog. See the next post for the video (with a speech from sheep) and for the wonderful images of Julie and Christina.

Planner – Bodas en Villa De Leyva | Photography – Efeunodos | White Photography and films | Cristina Restrepo



  1. Mother of the groom says:

    Wonderful pictures and how we laugh at your words Lisa!
    A stubborn ass called Ben ?who could he be named after I wonder!!!!

    1. Lisa & Alex says:

      Haha, it was unintentional… but now you mention it… those eyebrows as well! Haha.

  2. Jacquie says:

    What fabulous photos 🙂 I loved the two shawls that you wore and the peach coloured one reminded me of my wedding day as my weddding dress was just a slighter darker peach shade.

    The photo of you and Alex relaxing on the bench has got to me one of my favourite photos of all time. It is a beautiful location with the sparkly white buildings and just small bits of colour from windows and doors….something very magical about these surrounds.

    Alex, always the helpmate, even gets in on the act applying your hairspray! Your ring bearer seemed to take it all in her stride…what a cutie-pie.

    So pleased the rain held off and you got another wedding ceremony that was unique, dry and sunny. Off to watch the second installment now with your video.

    Happy trails. xx

    1. Lisa & Alex says:

      We would love to see a picture of your wedding day?? The picture on the bench is just how Villa de Leyva made us feel… At home, relaxed and happy. 🙂

      Hope you enjoyed the video. xx

      1. Jacquie says:

        Lisa & Alex….my wedding photos aren’t a patch on yours but I’m happy to have you take a look. They are on my FB page under photos. Here is a link but I don’t know for certain if you’ll be able to access it that way.


        Jacquie xx

  3. Mark Wolfson says:

    Such a beautiful life. An outrageous experience for the memories and such love is rare. All the best, —– and I mean that!.

    1. Lisa & Alex says:

      Thanks Mark! That is very kind of you to say! Been in the business you are in if you have any ideas for our adventure let us know. 🙂

  4. william says:

    Que Hermosa es Villa de leyva. Saludos desde Bogota que bueno fue que vinieran a este pais

    1. Lisa & Alex says:

      Colombia es un país increíble!

  5. Alejandra says:

    Hi, i just watched your story on 20/20 and was so surpised to see that you guys had a wedding in Villa de Leyva!!! I was born in Bogota, but most of my time i used to travel with my family to our small country house in Villa de Leyva, i was even bbaptised there 😉
    Now I live in Montreal,Canada and I miss that wonderful little town in the mountains sooo much! Ur story brought beautiful memories to me and I cant wait to go back there some time soon!
    I feel in love with ur story and hope you keep discovering beautiful places around the world in love ;);)

    1. Lisa & Alex says:

      We agree Villa de Leyva is a beautiful place. That is fantastic that you have such roots there. We are looking forward to visiting again in the future. But we love Montreal as well!! 🙂 xx

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