I dig surprise ceremonies. Big time. And if there’s one trend in weddings it’s the rise of the ‘surprise’.
I love seeing the reaction. I still remember one I did for Heleena and Philip and their epic Greek entourage in Collingwood. It was as if Greece won the World Cup and solved their economic woes all at once.
Like normal weddings, there’s prep work required. You’ll need some creative thinking and a few curve balls to throw any pesky relatives off the scent (I’m looking at you, Aunty Lorraine).
But don’t panic; with my handy guide you’ll have grandma falling out of her chair – in the best possible way.
As much as you want it to be a surprise to everyone, telling someone close to you will ease the load.
The reason for this is two-fold; a) it’s great to have someone to bounce ideas off; b) they can help secretly coordinate timings on the actual day.
Make sure they can keep a secret, though. One time I told my friend Nathan Peiper I was taking ballroom dancing lessons. By lunchtime half of the south east suburbs knew I was rocking the foxtrot.
HAVE A GOOD COVER STORY
This is where you’ll need to get the creative juices flowing. People are getting more and more attuned to picking when a surprise ceremony is going down.
If you can, go for something left of centre. My friend Kate created a mini music festival in Icy Creek for her surprise wedding. We had NO idea it was coming.
Now, I’m not saying you have to hire Mumford & Sons, but some lateral thinking helps.
WHAT IF SOME PEOPLE PICK IT, THOUGH?
Chances are some folks are gonna pick what’s happening. And, you know what, there’s not much you can do about that. I wouldn’t worry about it.
You can only do your best.
I know right - that’s a pretty short tip! But it’s the one that will take the most pressure of yourself.
In the end it’s a wedding - everyone is still gonna have a great time.
PICK A GOOD BACK STORY FOR YOUR CELEBRANT
Oh man, I’ve learned this one the hard way. One time I had to pretend to be the head waiter at a restaurant.
I’ve never worked in hospitality in my life. I thought the specials on a menu were the cheaper offerings of the day.
Keep it very simple for the celebrant cover story. They could be an old friend you met hiking through Nepal. Or your tennis teacher you hit with on Saturday mornings. Just make sure they have no connection to anyone else in the room.
THE CEREMONY START TIME
I’m gonna put it out there – this could be the most overlooked tip of the whole guide. I know right. Big call.
Wedding ceremonies usually happen at that 4PM / 5PM time slot. You want to plan yours so that it begins (preferably) a lot later than that. Like 8PM. No-one gets married that late at night, right?
Conversely you can go the early afternoon time slot. That works well, too.
THE CEREMONY LOCATION
Seems pretty obvious BUT try to avoid places that seem like a good spot for a wedding. Like wineries and, you know, wedding receptions.
I’ve done lots of surprise ceremonies at restaurants, pubs and backyards.
Keeping it simple is the best way to go.
THE CHANGE-OVER PART ONE: THE DRESS
Ok, the first part of this is sneaking out of your current clothes into you wedding dress (should you decide to roll with a wedding dress).
I’d do this 15-minutes before – just as the Celebrant is getting to the venue. It’s the perfect amount of time and people won’t clue onto your absence.
At this point, some couples also like to tell their parents that it’s a surprise wedding. That’s totally up to you. You’ll be best to know whether Mum will be able to handle the shock.
THE CHANGE-OVER PART TWO: THE ANNOUNCEMENT
This is the actual time when you announce that it isn’t a birthday, engagement, Bar Mitzvah etc - it’s actually a wedding.
From past experience, the speeches are the perfect time to do it. You can have a best man start telling tales about the time he and your partner got caught in the Tasmanian wilderness for five days, and then WHAM… you hit them with the big news.
Conversely, many other times I have grabbed the mic and explained the situation with all the relevant gusto.
Man, I love that part of the ceremony.
Hopefully that’s give you some food for thought! If you’d like to get in touch about your surprise ceremony get in touch below :)