Surprise Weddings

Image of a couple making a love heart with their hands and the title "Surprise Weddings"

A surprise wedding can be a great alternative for couples seeking something personal and fun. And better still, it helps to keep the family in check!

You can tell your guests it’s an engagement party, which is quite a common approach. Maybe hold a farewell party and get married at it. You can tell them you have a very important announcement in the most sombre of tones and that you don’t want to explain it more than once, so everyone has to come. My favourite idea for a surprise wedding would be to plan a party for April Fools’ Day and have the celebrant call all your guests fools before marrying you!

Marriage law

Under Australian law, you cannot plan a wedding and keep it a secret from your fiancé. Surprise weddings can be a surprise for the guests, but not for either party to the marriage. You may plan most of the wedding and present the plans to a partner with some notice, but they need to be a part of planning at least in the last month before the wedding.

Guests, on the other hand: surprise them all you want!

Managing expectations

If you plan a surprise wedding but you tell guests it’s something else, there is the risk that they will decide another event is more important.

To mitigate this risk, one approach is to say you’re thinking of eloping so they had better come to the engagement party. You can also let a few strategic friends and relatives know so they can help. And if all else fails and you have a very important person say they’re going to wait for the wedding, just tell them.

To further mitigate this risk, pick your date very, very carefully. I have a guide to choosing your date here.

You do need to have two adults to be witnesses. And to be your witnesses, they must be both alert and sober! You don’t need to tell your witnesses beforehand (as long as you’re confident they will be both present and capable of fulfilling the role) but having a couple of people in on the plan can be very helpful.

Advantages of Surprise Weddings

You’re in control! No one can tell you how to plan a wedding if they don’t know you’re planning a wedding!

A soft alternative to elopement: people who are considering eloping to minimise expectations and expenses but still want their family and friends around should seriously consider a surprise wedding.

Its a diversion! Many couples find that family members can get a little interfere-y when there’s a wedding being planned. A surprise wedding is the perfect foil to keep unwelcome noses out of your planning.

Remove unnecessary tradition by cutting your ceremony down to the bit that matter most.

Reduce your costs: getting married at your engagement party halves the number of parties you are paying for! And many other costs become unnecessary when your wedding is a surprise.

Disadvantages of Surprise Weddings

Excluding family and friends from planning: when you plan a surprise wedding, many of the traditional roles like the mother of the bride, wedding attendants and so on are foregone.

Keeping things a secret can be hard, as can hiding your excitement!

Did you notice that I don’t have many disadvantages listed? Well, there aren’t many! But the ones that exist are pretty significant. So consider your options carefully, but be encouraged! Surprise weddings are a great idea if they meet your needs!

For more on planning weddings, check out my wedding planning posts!

Published by Trevar Alan Skillicorn-Chilver

Trevar Alan Skillicorn-Chilver is an authorised celebrant, a playwright, a teacher and quite a few other things!

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