A Surprise Backyard Wedding, image by Aaron Shum Photography
One of my favourite things of all time is a good surprise. I LOVE finding out when a friend or family member is expecting, or engaged, or moving states, got a new job, had a grant application accepted, comes out of the closet – if there’s a surprise to be had, let me at it!
Pulling off a surprise wedding is no easy feat. Particularly if you want to ensure a full-blown, “HOLY SH&T – WHAT IS HAPPENING!?” scenario, the devil is in the all in the planning and the stage-managing of the event.
Don’t Tell Anyone – SRSLY!
This is probably the most important. The more people you tell, the less of a surprise it is. Makes sense right? If you are after that memorable moment when ALL of your guests are united in surprise and delight – you can’t have half of them looking around knowingly at one another, and then the rest finding out after the fact that they hadn’t been let into the “inner sanctum”. Sometimes, a good surprise can go bad if people feel they were left out. So, make the decision early on to not tell ANYONE. Except the celebrant (for obvious reasons), and any vendors you may engage. They also really need to know that it’s a surprise too, and if they have a cover story (waiters for a birthday party etc etc).
Get Your Story Straight
The moment you decide to plan a surprise wedding, you and your intended need to ensure your back story is solid. Much like you’ve joined witness protection, and need to know each others’ new identities to fool the bad guys (in this instance – the guessers). It’s totally that important. Decide very quickly the how, when and why of the cover event. Think about what questions you may be asked, the big one being “Why is it so important that I’m there?”. And when you do get asked difficult ones, deflect until you can confirm your answer with your partner!
Make the Cover Event Believable
Ensure that the event you use as the cover for your surprise ‘do’ is one that the people you want to turn up, will turn up to! I know that a common cover event is an engagement party, but to be honest, I think a lot of people are half expecting a surprise wedding at most engagement parties nowadays. Scott & Kasie’s wedding, featured on Polka Dot Bride, dropped in at their son’s naming ceremony. Fantastic! Everyone is there for the all-important bestowal of the name, then Wham! – wedding!
Scott & Kasie’s wedding as featured on Polkadot Bride, image by Ryan David Ahern
Plan Plan Plan
The beauty of a surprise wedding is in the planning. The building of the cover story, the coordinating of the reveal and the orchestration of the whole day. What I love seeing as a planner is the little items that ensure the surprise rolls on, and doesn’t just stop with “hey, we’re actually getting married”. This means thinking about the whole event and its schedule, ensuring that you aren’t sprung if people are early, or if someone goes into a room they shouldn’t. Think about all of the elements of the day, and make allowances for how you want people to be surprised, and when!
Whitney & Rick’s Australian Kentucky Wedding from Polkadot Bride, images by Jessica Fey Photography
Orchestrate the Reveal
If not telling anyone is the most important element, the reveal itself and how it is orchestrated comes in at a close second. One of my favourite weddings to be involved in has been a surprise wedding, and the reveal was seriously unique. Have a look at Amy & John’s surprise wedding and see how they went about pulling off a happy hijack of their daughter’s 2nd birthday, but also make note of how Amy designed her invitations specifically to evoke this response. Sure, she’s a professional letterpress designer – but she thought outside of the box!
Joy, shock, love, laughter all in the one go.
Get Some Help
If you’re having some trouble planning/thinking/brainstorming the vent, which is not unusual in surprise wedding territory, get help from an expert – like moi. Honestly, if you want maximum surprise – you need a ringleader who knows how to bring the fireworks! We can take the coordination off your hands, so you don’t have to make excuses for time spent researching or meeting vendors. Even a small, intimate gathering can benefit from a professional giving it the once-over.
So there you have it. My guide to creating and pulling-off a surprise wedding. There aren’t enough wonderful real surprises in this contemporary world, so give your friends and family the honour of a good one!
All images, unless noted, by Luke Lornie Photography