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Tips to create a "surprise" wedding

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

Surprise weddings are on the rise, well they were before CoVid19 hit our shores; .... now it's couples themselves who are the ones being surprised with sudden lockdowns! They'll be back in vogue again though, and after planning and conducting quite a few over the last ten years as a celebrant, here are my four tips on making sure your "surprise" is the kind of surprise you imagine it to be, avoiding any pitfalls and unwanted reactions:

  1. Enlighten all your service providers. Obviously your celebrant will be in on everything, but also tell your wedding planner and decorator, florist, wedding cake maker, DJ, limo driver, caterers, essentially everyone involved in putting your big day together. Anyone could potentially spill the beans before you're ready to make the big announcement. There's nothing that spreads faster (expect CoVid19), than word that the engagement party guests are attending is actually a disguise for a wedding ceremony!!

  2. Give some thought as to how you think your close family and friends will react upon learning that you're getting married. It may come as quite a shock to some and/or great disappointment that they weren't involved in the planning, or didn't have the opportunity to dress up as much as they would have liked, had they known. A surprise wedding will always be a surprise, but you want it to be a welcome surprise, so be sensitive to how your family might react. If there's a possibility things may not be received well, I'd strongly recommend telling parents and grandparents and any other significant others, but swearing them to secrecy, or else! The likelihood of your surprise leaking is higher, but that's probably better that than the potential fallout of keeping it a surprise until your actual wedding day.

  3. You want to make sure everyone has arrived when your wedding ceremony starts, so prefabricate a starting time, and start later. If people know that they'll miss out on the main course if not there on time, then chances are they'll arrive on time and not miss your ceremony.

  4. When it's announced that a wedding is taking place, make sure everyone finds out at the same time. Launching straight into your ceremony isn't ideal either. What works best is announcing the wedding, then giving everyone 10 minutes to process this news, whilst in the meantime you're off "getting ready" to make your grand entrance.

Important: The surprise element of a wedding ceremony can only be for the official witnesses and guests. The wedding ceremony cannot come as a surprise to one or both of the parties to the marriage. It is a legal requirement that the Notice of Intention to Marry (NOIM), must be signed by both parties to the marriage and lodged with the celebrant at least one clear month prior to the ceremony. By signing the NOIM, the couple are saying that they intend entering into a legal marriage with each another.


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