Alyssa + DJ's Wedding Story (From Guatemala to Korea)

Written by: Alyssa, Hiptipico Founder 
On July 18th 2016, I walked across a small, New Jersey courtroom to meet my other half. If you follow me on social media you know that I love all things colorful, loud and exotic. So, maybe the assumption would be that my wedding day would emulate the same. However, if you truly follow my journey and understand my mission behind Hiptipico, you are not surprised that my wedding was not like that, not at all.
hiptipico ethical wedding travel blog
Even before our engagement, I had always been extremely vocal about my position on conforming to wedding norms. (Please, if you are someone who had or wants to have a big huge wedding - the more the merrier! This is just my personal opinion and perspective on what brings me true happiness.) My main issues with the U.S. wedding culture comes from deep-rooted gender stereotypes and large corporate marketing ploys.
I don't want to make our love story only about my ridiculous conspiracy theories; my uncontrollable need to play the devil’s advocate or my insatiable appetite for being different. I just want to share with you all a little background on my beliefs, and my own personal love story. I am not a writer; I am an economist by profession, ethical fashion business owner and human rights activist - so bear with me.  
Ask yourself this: Where does the concept of the man proposing to the woman originate? And why does he have to present a diamond worth two-month salary? And why does he kneel? 
You must be curious about all that.
Some origins have beautiful deep-rooted cultural meanings (kneeling to show respect and be face to face with the womb). But the exaggerated consumerism that began this and perpetuates this norm deserves some attention.  
Diamond rings were not the norm in the early 20th century. It wasn't until a large marketing campaign by De Beers launched to increase demand for their diamond mining company out of South Africa. Yes, a company decided to brainwash you into believing that your adequacy only comes from the size diamond you offered your soon-to-be wife. Not a culture (well, perhaps the out of control consumerism that now defines the State's culture) nor a deep-rooted historical moment our ancestors practiced. Nope.
A diamond ring for a marriage proposal is just like a heart shape box of chocolates for Valentine's Day. An invented tradition to make you buy stuff. And truthfully, many shoppers do not know the true cost diamond mining has across Africa - from child soldiers to civil conflict and corrupt political control. 
Because of all these fallacies, it was always important to me that I would one day enter a partnership that fully embraced equality, and was stripped of all the excess fuss. 
And so my own wedding journey began. August 6, 2015. 

hiptipico ethical wedding travel blog
DJ proposed. He was not down on a knee. He was not holding a ring.
Just lights, flowers, music and friends. And a promise to love one another. 
I have always appreciated tattoos, and have gotten mine in every country that I lived in across the world. Each one symbolizes an important time in my life. Each one a milestone in my journey. So, DJ and I decided to get matching tattoos on our ring fingers. We love the concept of sharing something permanent to display our love and also a way for us to show our commitment to others. Everyone who hears you are recently engaged – grab your hand to see the ring. So they can see the Buddhist symbol for harmony (sun and moon) in tattoo form.
hiptipico ethical wedding travel blog
We decided to get married for one reason. We loved each other. A diamond, big house, huge wedding, lots of flowers didn't matter to us. As long as we were together and had each other, that's all we wanted. 
I am sure your next question must be, but why get married at all? Why not simply leave it at a ring tattoo and a promise?
Our whole story is anything but ordinary. Maybe it’s because neither of us thought we'd ever settle down. Or because we've traveled so much, our perspective has been altered. DJ and I both know what it is like to live and work in communities where the indigenous people come from nothing, to experience with others the great sacrifice to ensure your family has enough food and pray your child makes it passed the age of 5. We already held the same beliefs and ideals in our hearts, it just took traveling across the world to finally find one another.
That brings me back even further; DJ and I met in Guatemala on separate journeys. We both moved to Guatemala within one day of each other in 2011 (August 7th and August 8th) and our paths finally crossed in the small village of Panajachel Guatemala in late 2013.
hiptipico ethical wedding travel blog
DJ is a coffee connoisseur from Busan, Republic of Korea who opened a creative coffee lab in Panajachel. I frequented the coffee shop with friends and colleagues, quickly becoming a regular customer. As the perfect break from my hectic Hiptipico schedule, I found peace and comfort at the local coffee house. 
On the stoop of the coffee shop in the height of the coffee harvest, we exchanged our first words. Although, DJ had to travel to the farms in Huehuetenango, but he could not resist traveling back 6 hours from the mountains each evening to spend time with me. Staying up late to greet him from the long drive, we drastically changed our schedules to be with one another. Not letting the language and cultural barriers stop us, we navigated this new terrain with little to no caution. Since then, we began to realize how our two businesses were very intertwined. We bonded over the struggles of being young entrepreneurs who were living far from home and working to better the lives of Maya communities in Guatemala. We ended up combining efforts, sharing insights and growing together. 
We both knew all we wanted was a happy life together, a healthy family and a well-balanced view of the world. We share a joint dream of helping the average consumer (both of coffee and fashion) easily purchase ethically produced goods. Our goal is to change the way you shop and make the things you want most - readily available and coming from a sustainable fair source. All of this will provide steady jobs for those living in poverty.
Being that DJ is from South Korea, in order for us to travel together (stand in the same long line at customs) and for him to open a coffee shop in the states, we needed a legal marriage license. And so our marriage process began. 
Though obviously, we couldn’t stay within the traditional lines for pretty much anything.
hiptipico ethical wedding travel blog
Instead of collecting excessing material items we do not have a place to store or direct use for - we set up three funds for our wedding registry. One for our future, where funds will be allocated to DJs visa, our future ethical fashion boutique, specialty coffee shop and future stateside home. Another for our honeymoon fund, which when we have time will go exploring another country and we are currently deciding between Tibet, Greece and Ethiopia as our honeymoon destination. Lastly, a donation fund, in which all contributions will be directly donated to our efforts in Guatemala, both with Maya artisans and rural farmers.
We decided to combine elements from both of our cultures in order to celebrate with our families on opposite sides of the globe. We had a Jack-and-Jill wedding shower with my extended family in NY and a small civil ceremony in NJ at my town hall. I felt this was best for me, as I could not fathom spending excess money on a large venue, killer band, wedding gown, floral arrangements and then pop back to Guatemala and be comfortable in my daily work.
hiptipico ethical wedding travel blog
Don't get me wrong; I grew up outside of NYC - lived in DC, San Francisco and Dubai before moving to Guatemala. I love nice things, shopping, dressing up and buying pretty things. But let me make sure you don't miss my point. I do not need a diamond ring (average $4,000) to represent our commitment. Or a celebration that adds to the $50+ billion wedding industry. Personally, I cannot perpetuate this hyper consumerism; it directly combats all of Hiptipico’s hard work on sustainable, ethical and conscious consumerism.
BUT, yes I got dressed up for my shower (with a dress I had in my closet) and bought new Free People shoes (ones that I will be able to wear again and from a company who has been a big supporter of Hiptipico) and carried a Hiptipico handmade purse. We had picture frames and chalk easels and cute champagne giveaways, alongside sustainably grown coffee and vintage huipil centerpieces. Read about all those shower details and see the full images here
hiptipico ethical wedding travel blog
Within 24 hours of our shower, the local town hall called saying the Mayor was available to do our civil ceremony. So, yes you are hearing correctly, I planned my wedding in 24 hours. Thankfully, I had a new Free People lace dress ready for this occasion, ran to the mall to get a crystal flower crown and threw on my favorite tan booties. My dress was mint colored, me and my best friends all wore handmade bags and the reception was at my parent’s house with a whopping 12 people. 12 of the most important people, and we celebrated by ordering in sandwiches, drinking leftover champagne, and reusing the décor from the shower. Read about all the details of our civil ceremony and see the full images here
hiptipico ethical wedding travel blog
Next up, will be our traditional Wedding in Korea and (hopefully) a destination wedding in Guatemala. You might be thinking - gosh that probably costs more than a diamond ring and wedding in the states. I mean, possibly it’s getting pretty close, but the meaning behind each of our decisions came from us and our unique situation. We purchased a round-trip flight to Korea instead of a diamond. That will result in a lifetime of memories and possibly the last memory we will ever have with his grandmother (96 years old). And that's ok in my book!
I posted our civil ceremony LIVE on snapchat from NJ. If you missed it, be sure to follow username: Hiptipico both on snapchat and instagram because in September I will be LIVE again from our traditional wedding in Korea. And after that, maybe even some more wedding planning in Guatemala. 
hiptipico ethical wedding travel blog
Today, young women are naturally becoming more comfortable rejecting stereotypical gender roles, especially in marriage. Women are the providers, at least share the responsibility of providing. Men are stay at home dads and as a society we have rejected the mentality that “a hand in marriage” means the woman is being passed to the next patriarchy in her life from father to husband. I too hope, that the excessive consumerism and out of control spending that is associated with diamonds, gowns and flowers finds its time to fade out. This marketing ploy has clouded the true meaning of matrimony.
If you want to read more in depth on this topic, do so here and here and please learn more about conflict free diamonds here. But please remember, even purchasing a vintage or conflict free diamond still increases the overall demand for diamonds worldwide. I hope I was able to shed some light on the faults within the U.S. wedding industry and you enjoyed reading the details of my own personal love story. I am so grateful for all my followers and supporters, Hiptipico would not be what it is today without you all. I am looking forward to showing you all the behind the scenes for my Korean travels and wedding, and for everything else that is still to come…I promise, it never gets boring over here!
hiptipico ethical wedding travel blog
*My Vows: 'Many people say that everyone has a soul mate, their other half, but most of the time that person is on the other side of the world and you never get to meet them. Well, I am certain that I have met mine and not only are you my other half. But you are my better half. DJ - thank you for making me a better person.'

You can find Alyssa's handmade Fringe Cross Body in our online store

≫ Follow along LIVE from Guatemala and browse more of our fair trade products on Instagram (@hiptipico).

♡ See our female founder's daily posts featuring other ethical fashion brands and collaborations (@alyssaya).

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