So you’re thinking to do something different, risque and fun-for-the-whole-family by throwing yourselves a surprise wedding!
Now just to clarify, this isn’t going to be a surprise for either of the people getting married; that aint legal. But a surprise for your guests who are under the impression it’s a birthday, or engagement or just a bloody big party until…..
Having conducted many a surprise wedding in my time as a celebrant, I consider myself somewhat of an expert*
But instead of sharing my tips of the do’s and don’ts, I’ve decided to interview some of my past clients that actually did it.
After all, who would know better than the people that have gone down that road and come out smiling on the other side!
So we’ve got four very different couples and four very different scenarios…. happy reading!
Emily & Josh
Emily & Josh were my first paid clients and what a debut it turned out to be!
These two brave sausages decided that rather than just get married, they’d combine their 40ths and 10-year anniversary with a huge picnic party on Herring Island getting me to come as a clown, do a bit of a kids show then Boom! We’re having a wedding!
Klara and I met working on art projects. Years later I was on Facebook and she posted about becoming a celebrant. Knowing her as a clown and cabaret artist, we thought ‘how fun if we used both of her talents and got married by a clown!’ We had two young children and my 40th was coming up so thought it'd be hilarious! We laughed so hard and amused ourselves for a few weeks and then decided we'd actually do it.
Klara thought I was joking, she took some convincing we weren't.
We invited everyone as it was my 40th and also wrote on the invite we were celebrating a decade of love together. Some people were suspicious as to a possible commitment ceremony but no one guessed we'd be married by a clown. One of my sisters classicly asked "will there be paperwork at this party?" She's too smart but I swore her to secrecy.
Some of our friends, despite repeatedly asking them to rsvp and saying that we'd really love them there, still missed it. Then they were upset. Another friend was there but had to take her daughter to the toilet during the clown show and missed the transition from ring trick to wedding. She was a little confused when she got back.
Oh the biggest thing was not having to take on everyone else's expectations. It truly was low-key and just how we wanted it.
Well we did get changed into our wedding clobber from a vintage suitcase inside a hula-hoop surrounded by a striped curtain hung from a tree. Not completely easy or glamorous but we pulled it off.
Glad you did it?
Yes, as well as being a magical day we're still dining out on the story years later, it's a great tale. It makes us much more interesting people! Oh and I did marry a lovely bloke.
Samantha & Vincent
Sam & Vince procured my services to join them at Sam’s gangster-themed 40th.
I showed up (suitably dressed) well into the night’s proceedings, in order to turn the party (that was already going off) into an even bigger celebration…….
1. We have both been married before and did the whole big wedding the first time, so decided to kill two birds with one stone and turn my 40th into our wedding.
Only me, my husband, our two kids, the celebrant, the venue, the DJ and the photographer knew it was going to be a surprise wedding, as they were part of making it a surprise.
We really didn’t have any hurdles. Everything went very smoothly with all involved. The celebrant and DJ even gave us ideas that we used.
I got all the presents! Lol
It was very hard not to blurt it out when talking to family about my 40th.
We had to be very careful about what we said.
Glad you did it?
I am so glad we did it the way we did. I still think back to that day and it brings tears to my eyes. Everyone was surprised and all told me what a fantastic night it was. It couldn’t have gone any better and I wouldn’t change any part of that night.
Stephanie & Sean
Steph & Sean invited everyone to their back-yard ‘engagement party’ and about an hour into proceedings, a relative got up in the guise of starting speeches and announced a wedding was to take place in 30 mins time. You should have seen the working party transform that back yard into a beautiful space with pews, flowers, an aisle and a full bridal party all spiffed up and ready to go! I was impressed!
We decided to have a surprise wedding to do it our way. Having being together for over 9 years we wanted to do our own thing that fitted our relationship and us. It was all about keeping it low stress and easy for us.
We told only our immediate family and the bridal party.
Keeping it a secret was incredibly difficult, especially from family and friends who had clued on (so make sure you have a great cover story and poker face as people can and will clue on).
The day was exactly what we wanted, it brought our families together and was just absolutely perfect.
We had to do a lot of the work ourselves and you could only talk about it to people who knew... there were a few close calls.
Glad you did it?
Absolutely, we would do it the same way every time. It was amazing!
Beth & Daniel
Beth and Daniel were living in Perth when they decided to hold what looked to guests to be a surprise 30th for Beth, but ended up being a surprise wedding instead, in Melbourne!
There was many giggles and scratching of heads figuring out complications with firstly the inter-state factor then the whole surprise upon a surprise factor.. but these two legends pulled it off and EVERYBODY LOVED THE SHIT OUT OF IT!!!!
The main reason was that we wanted complete control over the wedding and how the day planned out. By no one knowing about it, we were able to invite only who we wanted, and didn’t get caught up in the 101 opinions everyone has during the organizing.
The second reason was that a surprise wedding took the pressure off everyone.
People weren’t worried about what to wear and were able to just be themselves on the day. We also thought it was in line with who we are as a couple; that we are not traditional.
Finally, the focus on the “all you need is love and fun” concept appealed.
Given that we started the idea of the surprise wedding when we were living in Perth at the time, Beth had one friend who was super helpful and organised and was our “person on the ground” in Melbourne.
Something that became important to us was to have a list of people who we would tell if we absolutely had to and only if it made up the difference between them coming or not, for example, Beth’s grandmother was unsure if she would make it due to the expected heat on the day but we knew she would make the extra effort if she knew it was a wedding but draw the line somewhere as the fewer people know and the closer to the day the less likely the surprise will be ruined
Starting the process in a different state was very difficult. The stress in the build-up and having no one to debrief with. Keeping the story striahgt.
We found the fewer lies you told the easier it was to keep track so avoid questions where possible, share information and all discussions with your partner no matter how small to avoid mixed information. Despite the excitement, resist the urge to talk about it prior to the day with others as even if your story is straight your excitement level can be mismatched with what people are expecting and this leads to questions.
The lack of help you will have in the final few days before.
Plan and plan again. Rehearse everything, have back up plans and coordinate.
Have a Celebrant nearby but not noticeable (Klara is amazing at this.)
Have videographers and photographers handy to capture everything as it happens but not be noticed beforehand (we practiced our entry many times to be able to enter the room and allow the photographers and videographers to follow through whilst not getting lost in the crowd and missing all those surprised faces).
Keep your plans flexible enough to adjust on the run, remember your guests have no idea what is happening so if something doesn’t go according to plan, embrace it, your guests won’t know any different.
You get to invite who you want, have complete control and free choice over what food and drinks you want there. Tell your Vendors it’s a party not a wedding (unless you have to) as the cost of everything decreases.
People are relaxed.
You can dictate the tone and theme, no expectation for it to be formal.
Relatively low cost. Those that “Want” to be there will be, which will make it more intimate.
It can be personalized in any way you want.
A lot of people may not show as they might think “it’s just a birthday/random party”. Be prepared to be ok with this as those that care enough will be there.
The setting up all on your own (and is some cases the cleaning up afterwards/day after), we were lucky and friends and family helped.
If you are the kind that likes presents, you may not get many, as no one is prepared for a wedding.
The cost is all on you.
If you want family or friends involved in your day this may be hard to organise but it can be done (we got my mum to get my “birthday” cakes,” both of our sisters signed the registry- which they only found out right when it happened). Other than that we kept it pretty low key as we wanted everyone to enjoy themselves.
Glad you did it?
Very much so and would do it again. It was perfect. It was uniquely us, memorable, and built on a foundation of love and fun. Encourage guest to have fun and relax. We still watch our video and look at our photos and reminisce what a perfect day it was as it really showed us as a couple.
So there you have it. 4/4 couples were wrapped with the results and apart from the few peeps that missed it due to their fears of commitment, it sounds like everyone present thought it worth the effort too.
So if you’re thinking to avoid all the pre-wedding hysterics and have yourselves a surprise, let me know; I know what I’m doing!!!
*in my own lunchbox!