Surprise Weddings

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Photo Credits:
Ceremony Decor: Laurie Bailey Photography
Budget-friendly Ideas: Lisa Lefkowitz Photography
Programs: Elizabeth Lloyd Photography
Ceremony Songs: Deborah Coleman Photography
Recessional Songs: Lauren Kinsey Photography
Processional Songs: Magnifique Photography
Chairs: Meghan Aileen Photography
Arches: She-N-He Photography
Aisles: KCK Photography

Surprise Weddings

The bride and groom both had young children from previous marriages. This was a second wedding for both of them, and they planned to keep it simple, forgoing any big productions. While discussing the upcoming nuptials with their children, they became resolute about one thing: the couple would do absolutely everything possible to shield their kids from any and all pre-wedding anxiety. They came up with a plan and carried it out perfectly. One day, while the couple and their four kids enjoyed an outdoorsy vacation in the Sierra Nevadas, a sleek, silver limo pulled in to their campsite. In a cloud of dust and delight, everyone, including the beloved chocolate lab Sadie, piled in the car. All donned wedding clothes, cleverly and clandestinely sent ahead of time, and surprise! Two families found themselves happily united. 

Sometimes surprise weddings are held in homage to spontaneity. Sometimes, as in the example above, they are a way to protect children from anxiety and stress. Sometimes, they just seem right.

Money-wise: Surprise weddings are certainly delightful, and often very economical. Perhaps more appropriate for second weddings and weddings where the bride and groom have been together for many years, surprise weddings can be a way to make a wedding day unique and special without shelling out a fortune to do so. Though first-time brides may opt for the lavish church wedding, those looking for something less conventional and more unexpected might consider springing a surprise nuptial on family and friends. If you want the best of both worlds, plan a formal reception for a later date. 

A Surprise Party In Reverse: Of course, the trick is making such a wedding a true surprise! How do you keep one of the biggest events of your lives a secret? It's not as daunting a task as it might first appear. Think of a surprise wedding as a surprise party in reverse. Nearly everyone's been involved in a surprise party at one time or another, it's just a matter of surprising the partygoers instead of the guests of honor. The first thing to consider is where to hold the wedding. Inviting friends to church on a Saturday afternoon might be something of a tip-off, so choose a location that won't automatically give your plans away. Backyards work exceptionally well, as do hotels and restaurants, so long as your cover story is believable enough. If a significant birthday (30th, 40th, or 50th) is on the horizon, invite everyone to the chosen location for a "big" party, and spring the wedding on your guests when they least expect it!

The Cover
Naturally, any surprise wedding will need a cover story. You might consider tying it to a holiday. Invite friends and family over for a big Fourth of July barbecue, Thanksgiving Day get-together or Christmas Day feast. If you prefer getting married with just a few close friends present, plan a vacation together and, on the sly, locate an officiant at the hotel where you're staying. Since you'll already be at the hotel, the surprise should be easy to pull off. Plus, the honeymoon will be just outside the hotel's doors -- something to consider when choosing your dream "vacation" destination.

Tie It Together
If you plan to decorate for the occasion (and who wouldn't?), be sure to tie the décor's color scheme to the "phony" event you're planning. Should your guests arrive at your St. Patrick's Day party and find gold and white streamers instead of green, they might guess that something's afoot. If, instead of a "Happy 40th Birthday, Freddy" sign hanging from the wall, they see a big "Congratulations Fred and Tina" banner, they just might figure it out. 

The Reaction
One thing you'll want to be sure to consider is whether family and friends will be pleased to see the both of you married. In a more traditional wedding, the complex feelings that weddings can sometime inspire are more easily gauged, or at least, prepared for. But a surprise wedding is different; your guests are already there, and don't have the opportunity to adjust to the news. Take care not to invite anyone who may feel conflicted about your marriage, such as an old flame, or a family member who has been disapproving about your relationship in the past. Keep in mind the feelings of your guests. A surprise wedding is just that; it's always best to expect the unexpected.

Party Planning
The rest of the planning is up to you. A band or DJ is appropriate for any party, so if friends arrive early and see a band unloading drums or a horn section, there's nothing to worry about. You can make the party as big or elaborate as you wish -- your friends will only be impressed. Caviar and salmon hors d'oeuvres for your "Memorial Day" backyard barbecue? Sure! Why not? Bouquets of flowers for your "Halloween party?" Well, OK. Just be sure to keep the three-layer wedding cake in the garage refrigerator. Remember, no tip-offs -- this is supposed to be a surprise!