Planning to spring a sneak attack on your nearest and dearest with a surprise wedding? I. AM. HERE for it. But while the idea of a surprise wedding might appeal cause it’s all a bit less, y’know…wedding-y, there are a few details you should consider to help you nail it so you can kick back, relax, and enjoy the party.

The Cover Story

Let’s face it, JOMO is fast replacing FOMO and there are very few events that draw a crowd/create a sense of obligatory attendance/can actually get you off the couch, put down the uber eats, and put on real pants, like a WEDDING can.  

That’s why your cover story has to be a cracker. An engagement party? Story checks out (though for the love of canapes don’t give the impression the wedding is happening any time in the near future – many have been known to forego an engagement party in favour of holding out for the ‘real deal’). A birthday can work, but I’m talking BIG birthdays. 21, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 etc all acceptable. A 32nd? That shit will not fly. A farewell. Good one. They’ll definitely come if you create a real sense of risk they will literally never see you again (obvs best if you’re actually going somewhere…otherwise the tangled web of lies might get a bit much. Remember that time in Friends where Chandler said he was moving to Yemen? Could be you.)

Even if you go a bit simpler – a backyard bbq, a housewarming, a new puppy party – the real trick is to accept that you may just have to blow your own cover.  Figure out who you absolutely can’t do without and carefully convince those people that you would, like, reaaaaaaally appreciate it if they could make it. By the same token, know who you’re willing to let slide and don’t giveaway the surprise just to get them there. Side note: think hard about letting super important people in on the surprise – parents/grandparents/siblings may feel hurt if they don’t get the heads up beforehand.

The Details

Cover story is a go-go. Now you gotta get into the nitty gritty.

Dress code: Literally the single biggest complaint I hear at surprise weddings (I’m looking at you, Mums) is that if people had known this was a wedding, they would’ve frocked up a bit. If your crew are the kind that WISH they could wear thongs and a Bintang singlet to weddings then you’re all good; but if not, throw your guests a dress code bone.

Invites: Keep invites like…normal…and aligned with the style of cover-event you’ve chosen to seriously reduce the chances of people getting very suss on you. Reign it in on the lace and die-cuts. Ditch the long-lead RSVP requests and info on gifts. Leave out details of transport or accom options (when was the last time your mates organised a bus for a night out?). For interstate guests, send them a text or hand written note to let them know how much you want them there.

Venue & timing is key: Keep it local to you/local to wherever the majority of your attendees live, and avoid ‘wedding venues’. Bars, restaurants, your backyard/someone else’s backyard…all great options. If you’re the type to say, ‘See ya at 7’ and rock up at 9, you might have to LURE people to be there so they don’t miss go time. Happy hour with cocktails at a certain time? Sitting down for a special long table dinner?  Wine-tasting or activities/games? Some kind of entertainment kicking off? Let your guests know so they don’t miss out.

Vendors/suppliers: Triple remind everyone you’re working with that it is, indeed, a surprise wedding. Ain’t nothing worse than a bar-tender accidentally dropping a “we’ll be serving sparkling after the wedding ceremony” to your guests as they arrive. 

The Announcement

Alrighty…you’ve got everyone to the same place, they’ve arrived on time, and they’re not looking completely shite – by George you’ve just about done it.  With all this expert level crafty manoeuvring you’ve been doing, you probably wanna make the announcement of what this shin-dig is actually for COOL AS SHIT.

Wanna go big? Is there potential for some sort of reveal? Could a curtain come down to reveal a disco ball/arbour/aisle etc?! Could you suddenly rip off that weird cloak you’ve been wearing all night to reveal some seriously epic wedding garb? Could confetti cannons go off larger than a Tay Swift/Coldplay concert?!

Suggestions above a bit much?  I get you…I may have gone too far. For something more low key consider ducking off for a little costume change and walking down an impromptu aisle to your favourite song. Or consider if you want to make the announcement yourself or if you want someone else/your celebrant to go for it. For example: a classic celebrant favourite, “I’m the MC for tonight…but you should know that for today only, MC actually stands for MARRIAGE CELEBRANT”. Or you can announce it yourself “Hi guys, thanks so much for coming. You know we hate speeches but today we’re sucking it up…thinking we’ll do the kind that start with ‘Do you?’ and end with ‘I DO’. Whaddaya reckon?” WOOOOOO.

The ceremony

Surprising precisely no-one I’m gonna say that vows are particularly amazing at surprise weddings. Emotions are already at an all-time high, people are super engaged because they didn’t know this was going to be happening, everyone is really present, and some heartfelt, personal promises will tip it right over the edge (in a good way). But the epic feels don’t have to stop there. Fingers crossed the assembled tribe are gonna be off their absolute nut with excitement so now is the time to get them super involved in the ceremony. Elect some of the excitable crew to sprinkle flowers down an impromptu aisle or around the couple up front. Involve all the guests in a bit of a sing-a-long or a flash mob reading. Put names in a hat for a witness lottery (just avoid the already-drunk ones). Get your celebrant to throw some questions out to the guests during the ceremony for max-good-time-banter.

And just to really bring the vibe down to finish…don’t forget the legals

Surprise wedding for your guests? Cool. Surprise for either one or both of YOU? Not cool.

Remember that even for a SURPRISE wedding you need an authorised celebrant there to make it legal and you need to lodge your NOIM with them at least 1 month before the BIG/SNEAKY day.

So go on and get in touch (in a secret squirrel kind way) right HERE.