Is a surprise wedding a good idea?
Surprise wedding!

Is a surprise wedding a good idea?

Late last year on a dark evening, I drove down a winding lane to a windmill in rural Cambridgeshire. It was a pretty cool destination for a double 50th birthday, only, that’s not all it was…

Little did the party-goers know that the booze-fuelled night they had been promised, was also going to include a surprise wedding!

Before I go any further, let me reassure any sceptical readers right now. THIS WAS THE MOST FUN WEDDING EVER! Unusual, yes. A surprise, well obviously! But the sheer joy and delight was so intense, it was unlike any other wedding I’ve been to. So if you’re wondering if a surprise wedding is for you, I can’t tell you that. But I can tell you, it is still an absolutely magical experience, and just as special as any other wedding.

Does it take away from the meaning of marriage?

You absolutely do not need to have a traditional wedding to show you’re serious about your marriage. Whatever ‘format’ your wedding takes, you are making the ultimate commitment to each other to be together forever. It may be a surprise wedding, but it’s not a joke wedding. Your Celebrant should write a script that captures the ambience, excites and settles your guests, and creates a moment where everyone comes together to celebrate your love and commitment to each other.

What will my friends and family think?

Firstly, why are you getting married?! Surely it’s because you love your partner and you want to commit to each other? And secondly, why are you having a wedding? Surely it’s because you want some kind of party?!

Your wedding is about YOU, and although guests will probably initially be surprised and shocked, they will still love you, and be overjoyed for you. Your Celebrant can also skilfully compose a script to pre-emptively smooth any ruffled feathers. How would they do that!? you may be thinking. Well, it may be a simple invitation to VIPs to come to the front of the crowd, or it may be popping open a bottle of bubbly for the parents of the marrying couple to toast their children before the ceremony continues. Another favourite is taking a moment to celebrate the role-model marriages the partners aspire to. You see, how can your mum’s nose still be out of joint if she knows that she has personally inspired you to take this step?

Mum, you’ve always taught me to follow my dreams, and this is my dream coming true tonight. Marrying the person I love, promising to be together forever, with all the other people I love all around us!

You see? Tears? Maybe. But a long-lasting grudge? Unlikely.

And so with a beautifully crafted script, at the end of the ceremony, you may get a few teary ‘I wish you had told me!’ as they hug you tightly, but that’s ok!

What will we ‘miss out’ on if we do a surprise wedding?

The stress of pressure and expectation? The agony over who to invite to what sections of the day? The enormous price tag of a traditional, ‘all-in’ wedding (although, to be fair, depends how you do it, it may still be expensive!)?

No, I’m making light of it. It is a big decision, and it should be one that you and your partner are totally happy with. In reading this blog, you will get an idea of the advantages and disadvantages. But know this: By opting for a surprise wedding, you’re not ‘missing out’ on anything. Rather you’re choosing to have a different experience, which is still just as special, and just as magical.

So what are the advantages of a surprise wedding?

Some couples *shudder* at the thought of a traditional wedding. Maybe you’ve done it before, maybe you hate all the attention, maybe you despise wedding chit chat.

So firstly, a surprise wedding relieves a lot of pressure. No one will incessantly ask you about what cake you’ve opted for, demand you provide pointless favours that everyone forgets to take home with them, or snidely make comments about the other bridesmaids and hen-do planning. You and your partner, as a team, do it all. You get excited and nervous, as a team, and it’s no one else’s business. What freedom!

Secondly, surprise weddings will often not follow the format of ceremony, canapés, wedding breakfast, evening snack, and therefore the price is significantly less.

Thirdly, everyone is coming in the mood for a PARTY! The ceremony will likely feel much more relaxed (and be prepared for it to take a while to get underway whilst everyone is going WILD when the penny drops!)

And lastly, no guest there will be thinking ‘same old, same old’. They will be having a great time, and then BAM! You’ll get married, and your ‘event’ goes from a good party to an EPIC party!

Logistically, how can it work?

You need an event to invite people to – a house warming, a birthday bash, an engagement party (!), a summer BBQ, a home-screening of a sporting final, a NYE party, a baby shower.

Send out the invites and start planning! On your to do list should be:

  • Book your Celebrant (it’s worth doing some research to find a Celebrant you click with)
  • Plan when to do the legals (realistically registrar weddings are so constrained by legalities – only in licensed venues, only during registrar working hours, no alcohol before the ceremony etc. – it would be difficult to have one and truly still surprise your guests)
  • Consider whether you want a professional photographer
  • Figure out food and drink supply

Come on, really be honest, what are the disadvantages?

I’ll tell you again, if you choose a surprise wedding, there will be things that you won’t do, but it will just be a different experience. If you’re still wondering whether it’s for you, consider the following points:

The lead up to your wedding will be very different. The anticipation for your wedding will only be shared with the people in the know. Some people LOVE talking about weddings (I was always surprised when my colleagues who barely knew me asked about my plans!) but for others, this constant questioning really adds to the stress and pressure. A surprise wedding is your little (well, massive!) secret, which you can still get super excited about, just in a different way!

Linked to the above, if want a hen do with a ‘bride tribe’, that won’t happen.

You’re unlikely to go wedding dress/suit shopping with your bestie. HOWEVER, if you don’t want traditional wedding clothing, simply put it to your bestie that you want an outfit for your party, then they can still be involved!

Your photos will likely be non-traditional as a) not everyone will be wearing wedding finery and b) if you have a photographer, they’ll be working on the DL until the surprise is outed! But, if you’re going to have a surprise wedding, I reckon traditional photos aren’t at the top of your priority list.

Your guest list might look different. On the one hand, if people don’t know it’s a wedding, they might prioritise something else and give your party a miss. On the other hand, as it is a party, guest lists tend to be less exclusive, so you might end up with more colleagues, more neighbours, more plus ones… basically, the recipe for a massive party!

Ok, I think I’m in! What’s my first step?

I would suggest thinking of which event you’re going to use for your ruse and then find a Celebrant (hey, why not me?!) to book a chat with. Get your partner in on the Celebrant meeting and as you discuss plans and ideas, your Celebrant will listen, get excited with you, and suggest ideas if you want. If you leave that discovery chat with a buzz, then you know that a surprise wedding is just the right thing for you!

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