Image by Simon L King via Anthea and Kes’ Surprise Polka Dot Wedding

I love a surprise wedding! As a celebrant, I love being privy to the top-secret planning process and of course, I love witnessing the surprise and utter joy on the faces of loved ones as they realise what’s about to happen. While they’re loads of fun, a successful surprise wedding can be tricky to pull off. Here are some tips if you’re considering getting hitched surprise style.

Ssshhh! Keep it a secret
I think the trickiest thing is actually keeping the secret! Decide early on who you will tell but keep your list short and selective. Generally, it’s a good idea to tell your parents because 1) they’ll give you some much-needed support and 2) they may feel hurt if they don’t know it’s your wedding day until minutes before you seal the deal. Consider including a best friend in your secret group too – you will both need reliable people to lean on.


Image by Georgia Wiggs via Ashleigh & Jarrad’s Elegant Surprise Wedding

Create a decoy event
It may be a milestone birthday or your engagement party – create an event to invite people to but make it enticing enough that they won’t want to miss it. And if you’re wanting your guests to dress to impress, make sure you include that on invitations.


Image by Georgie James Photography via Emily & Dan’s Engagement Party Surprise Wedding

Surprise strategy
Half the fun of having a surprise wedding surely must be deciding how you’ll surprise your guests. Brides – will you duck out for a quick costume change and re-enter in your wedding gown? Grooms – perhaps you’d like to spill the beans as you welcome your guests with an opening speech? Or would you like your celebrant to make the announcement? You can get creative here! One of my favourite surprise weddings saw Amy and John’s guests informed about the surprise via a 3D message decoded by wearing 3D glasses. You can read all about it here.


Image by Luke Lornie Photography via Amy and John’s Backyard Surprise Wedding

A word of warning
It helps to give all your vendors one final reminder to keep their lips sealed. A few years ago, I was at my friend’s ‘engagement’ party, where beer and wine were being served. I innocently asked for a champagne and was told by the waitress that champagne would be served after the marriage ceremony!

And finally, while a surprise wedding can be a lot of fun and an exciting way to marry, there can be a downside. Some family members or friends may feel hurt that they weren’t included in the surprise. The flip side of that is a surprise wedding also means you avoid feeling the pressure of what other people want for your wedding – it’s your secret, you can make decisions that feel right for the both of you, without the (sometimes unwanted) influence of well-meaning friends and relatives.


Image by Christine Lim via Caitlin & Michael’s Surprise Backyard Wedding

Swirl divider

Ms Chinoiserie Says: Shh…can you keep a secret? I’ve attended a couple of  surprise weddings – and they really are amazing! The trick (or the strategy!!) is to keep them secret and your advice is fabulous – particularly about letting your vendors not to let the ‘cat out of the bag.’

About Melissa Cornwall Marriage Celebrant: I love weddings and I love what I do. As a celebrant, my job is getting to know couples and crafting memorable marriage ceremonies – and that’s always such a pleasure and privilege.