You invite your closest friends and family to your engagement party and, surprise, they find themselves at your wedding! More and more couples who want to avoid a grand affair but still want something special are now forgoing traditional nuptials for a bash they spring on their guests instead. While a surprise wedding offers the feel of a spontaneous elopement, it still involves lots of planning and organization. Here, we've rounded up some expert tips to help you pull off the big reveal.
Be sure a surprise wedding is right for you.
Before you start devising your secret celebration, be sure you both are OK with giving up the prewedding festivities and gifts. Sidestepping a conventional wedding can also mean missing out on all the fun that goes with it, like a bridal shower and bachelorette party. However, if you're the type of couple that doesn't want all the attention or pressures of planning a big wedding, then this will be a well-suited fГЄte. вЂњThere are many reasons why a couple will choose a surprise wedding, from preferring to keep things low-key or cut costs to wanting a totally unique event,вЂќ says Kate Ryan, co-owner of Gold Leaf Event Design & Production.
Who do you tell?
Keep things under wraps by telling only the people you absolutely need to, such as your vendors and their staff. вЂњHiring a great team of professionals will be key since you won't be able to ask bridesmaids or family to assist,вЂќ says Valorie Darling of Valorie Darling Photography. вЂњAnd sharing the secret with your parents is a good idea if you're worried about how they may react on the big day. Plus, they might be happy to be part of the planning.вЂќ
Photo by Valorie Darling Photography
Get everyone there.
You'll need a party-worthy diversion, such as a milestone birthday or your engagement, to stress the importance of your guests' attendance without giving away the real reason. Your cover should match the style of your actual event; for example, don't use a casual backyard barbecue as your ruse if you're hosting a formal cocktail party. Word the invitation so that your guests understand the formality and dress code for the occasion, but don't send them out too early. вЂњYou don't want to make anyone suspicious,вЂќ says Amber Moon of Amber Moon Design. вЂњGo all out with the stationery, so that the fake event looks legit.вЂќ Etiquette calls for wedding invitations to be sent six to eight weeks in advance, and two to four weeks prior for a social gathering. вЂњHowever, in this case, invites can be sent out four to six weeks before the event,вЂќ says Moon.
How can you surprise your guests?
вЂњWe've planned a surprise wedding where guests were invited under the pretense of an engagement party and were requested to wear all white, so that the bride and groom could mingle inconspicuously among their family and friends,вЂќ says Ryan. вЂњAs guests arrived, they were served specialty cocktails and passed hors d'oeuvres; then later everyone was asked to be seated for dinner in a beautifully lit courtyard while the couple remained standing with their officiant, a friend in on the secret who announced that he was marrying them right then and there.вЂќ Unveiling the real reason why your guests have been invited will be the momentous part of your party, and here's where your creativity and personalities can shine. When and how you'll disclose the soon-to-happen ceremony will dictate the entire event.
Photo by Valorie Darling Photography
Don't skimp on the photography.
Your photos and video will be the most precious keepsakes of your surprise wedding. Book your photographer and videographer as soon as you've set a date and be flexible with your day if you can. вЂњTypically, wedding photographers book up 9 to 14 months in advance, but choosing an off-season date and avoiding Saturdays can help you secure your vendors if the event is more last minute,вЂќ says Darling. On the day of, have portrait photos taken before guests arrive; then after the ceremony, have some family photos taken to go with all the great candid shots of your guests.
Don't forget the logistics.
Secure the traditional wedding basics, such as getting your marriage license and an officiant and hiring your caterer and entertainment. Think about the style of ceremony and reception you want, both of which will require a few tweaks to keep the wedding concealed. вЂњHave an approximate guest count when you meet with your caterer, so that they can work with you to create a menu that will complement your party size and vibe,вЂќ says Sarah Flynn, owner of Eathereal Kitchen. вЂњAnd secure a hidden spot for your food and beverage vendors to prep the meals and cocktails.вЂќ
Photo by Darling Photography
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The options for creating a surprise wedding are endless; it can be as casual or as formal as you like. Go beyond the typical wedding elements and incorporate what defines you as a couple to make the day more intimate and unforgettable. вЂњDetails like having a great band perform at this type of event is the perfect complement,вЂќ says Darren Olarsch, president of On the Move Events & Entertainment. вЂњConsider having a cover band playing one particular artist's songs all night for a fun celebrity-like musical talent. Or incorporate a 30-minute playlist based on the word 'surprise' like 'Beautiful Surprise' by India.Aire.вЂќ Build in details that will keep your guests guessing and wanting more.