Throw a Surprise Wedding and Totally Nail It


November 20, 2018

The Benefits Of A Surprise Wedding

Does the idea of having a showy wedding interest you, but the idea of planning it sound yuk?

In our experience, a sure way to keep things calm and straightforward is to plan your big day in secret. The best part is blowing your guests away. When they arrive, They’ll have zero wedding expectations!

After reading this article, I’m pretty sure you’ll erase any doubts.

I’ve put together the best surprise wedding tips (from our own experience). In no time, you’ll be throwing an incredible and memorable wedding, ‘Completely hassle-free!’ -Said no bride ever, right? Until now!

Our Background

We said we’d never get married!

My husband and I were together for 17 years before we got married. We reached that point in our lives where you re-assess what’s important. We decided to trade in job security and belongings for travel adventures. And we wanted to travel as a married couple.

So how do you get married after dating for so long?
Everyone made peace with the fact that we were NEVER going to tie the knot. Changing our minds would mean that our family and friends would be all over this wedding like white on rice.

A Surprise Wedding Eliminates Outside Pressure

The thought of planning a wedding is so overwhelming!
Everyone’s getting involved and giving their tips and suggestions. The next thing you know, you have a wedding three times the planned size with its budget being a distant memory.

We weren’t looking forward to moments of panic, frustration, and arguments that ensue.

No, Thank You!

We needed to come up with a better plan. 

We didn’t want to elope because we had visions of a beautiful wedding day, shared with all our loved ones. We enjoy big parties and regularly plan them ourselves. But a wedding is a far bigger deal with much more to consider, or is it?

For us, it was a question of how do you get to have your ‘perfect day’ without all the pressure and planning? The answer is this:


Don’t tell anyone it’s happening and keep the planning very simple. It’s often all the outside pressure that makes it bigger than it has to be.

Bridget and Shaughan on their surprise wedding day
Bridget and Shaughan on their surprise wedding day

Is Outside Help Really Helpful?

Deep down you already know how you want your day to be. You have a pretty good idea of what you deem important and what you’d like to spend a bit more time and money on. If not- flock to Pinterest like most of us do!

The problem comes in when others share their ideas and opinions. Even though some are helpful, it’s all so very confusing!
You try and take on all these ideas even though you may not want to.

What’s that saying again?- “Always the bridesmaid never the bride”.

That was me for years! I was the bridesmaid with the shoulder to cry on. I know how complicated and stressful wedding planning is. I’ve been there for others and learned from their experiences.

One of the most valuable lessons is to cut out all the small stuff. Concentrate on what really matters.

Scrap the Small Stuff,

It’s All About the Atmosphere

I wouldn’t bother with colossal flower arrangements or expensive DJ’s; in fact, I didn’t!

No one truly appreciates little gifts made for the tables. Nevermind how expensive and time consuming that exercise is.

Who cares about well-thought-out color schemes. Or flowers decorated everywhere that cost a fortune and die straight afterward?

Let’s not even get into the matching bridesmaid’s outfits. They’re always a bit of a compromise and are hardly ever worn again.

These are not the things that people will remember your wedding day.
Unfortunately, no one’s even going to remember what designer dress you had on or how you did your hair.

The thing that matters is the actual atmosphere, the being there in the moment and taking it all in. It’s all about laughter with loved ones. You want people to remember how great that day was for them, and you, the best day of your life.

Think back to a wedding you thoroughly enjoyed. Do you remember the high table settings and wedding decor?

If you get your head around all that, you could have an amazing but cost-effective wedding.

Some people love spending time on intricate details, but if it’s going to stress you out or cost too much, cut it out!

Bridget and Shaughan on their surprise wedding day

How to Plan a Surprise Wedding, the Steps

Step 1: Keep It On The Low Down

Not telling is the first and most crucial step of surprise wedding planning. Do not talk about throwing a surprise wedding TO ANYONE! It’s the hardest and most important tip. If you don’t do this, it won’t work!

Step 2: Rope In A Trusted Team Of Vendors

There’s an incredibly small list of people that need to know about the surprise wedding day. This list includes the priest, photographer, venue staff, overseas guests. Only tell one trusted friend/family member if you need help housing foreign guests. This Allie could also come in handy if you need to be in two places at the same time.

Step 3: Come Up With A Cover Event

You’ll need a reasonably important ‘fake’ event that people will feel obliged to attend. You can’t tell people you’re having drinks at the house and hope that everyone will pitch. It needs to be a reasonably significant soiree for full attendance.
For our wedding, we were going with a farewell cover story- our ‘last big bash’ before traveling. In the end, we settled on something even better. We decided on an engagement party cover. My partner told everyone he’s proposing to me in front of them all. This story guaranteed our guests would attend on time and not miss out on the big reveal.

Step 4: Send Out Invites-Sticking To Your Cover Story & Request RSVP’s

It’s essential to have an idea of how big your wedding will be. 

Keep in mind the people contributing positively to your day are the ones you want around, and that want to be there. A massive plus for Surprise wedding planning is having full control over your guest list.

Step 5: Have Pure Intentions

Make sure you’re planning a surprise wedding for the right reasons.

Don’t surprise your loved ones because you’re avoiding valid concerns about your marriage.

The idea of a surprise wedding is to keep costs and stress levels down. Surprising your guests should have a positive outcome. If you’re doing it because people might talk you out of it, it won’t have the best result.

photographer at surprise wedding
guests at surprise wedding
Bridget and Shaughan on their surprise wedding day

Budget Friendly Tips:

Important Things To Focus On

1. Drinks and Food

You’ve managed to save almost everywhere else, so don’t skimp in this department. People will enjoy the wedding more if the food is worth talking about and the drinks are always flowing. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune but do your homework. If you’re not having a traditional wedding, at a traditional wedding venue, why should your catering be specially for weddings? That’s when the prices go right up. For our wedding, we let people order from the venues menu, picking up the tab at the end of the day. We also had a cheese and meat mezze as pre-snacks, which we organised ourselves. Wine and beer we bought beforehand at wholesale prices and hard tack was paid for at the bar.

2. Photographer or Videographer

This is a definite. You don’t want to regret not having this. The exact moments the photographer will capture will be the number one reason why you had a surprise wedding. Just make sure they completely understand what’s going on and know the order of events. You don’t want him/her or them to miss the crucial moments.

3. Location or Venue

You need to consider a venue that won’t draw too much attention to the idea that this could, in fact, be a wedding. If possible, stay away from official wedding venues. Not only is it too obvious but it’ll cost more. We used a friends pub in the city where we could fit 100 guests, he was more than happy to accommodate us for the exposure of his new spot. A garden party is another great idea.

4. Music

Ditch the DJ. Even though some good ones exist, how often is it the biggest complaint at a wedding? With iTunes or other great music apps, you can create awesome playlists beforehand. Make sure the venue has a sound system and you’ve downloaded all the music already. The groom will need to liaise with someone on the timing of specific songs.

5. Wedding Attire

Beg, borrow and buy for cheap. I borrowed my cousins wedding dress and it was so beautiful. Most wedding dresses cost a fortune and are worn once, after which, they simply take up hanging space and collect dust. For my husband we purchased a suit at a mens retail clothing store, so you really don’t need to spend a fortune.

6. Make up and hair

We all have that friend/sister with mad make-up skills. Rope her in on the morning of the wedding by throwing a pre-surprise surprise with her and tell her what’s going. It’ll be nice to chat to someone just before the ceremony begins and guaranteed she’ll be more than willing to help out. I did just that with both my sisters and it was great walking in with them for the reveal.

7. Flowers and decor

Get creative by using old mason jars or greenery from your garden. Cheap hanging fairy lights are a great way to add some sparkle, or balloons for a smash of colour but whatever you do, don’t get carried away!

food at surprise wedding
Bridget and Shaughan on their surprise wedding day
Bridget and Shaughan on their surprise wedding day
Bridget wedding dress for the surprise wedding day
getting ready for the surprise wedding
decor at the surprise wedding

Why You’ll Love Your Surprise Wedding:

During the planning stages you don’t have to talk about wedding everything, non-stop. You even get to forget about it from time to time!

The first time we spoke about planning this wedding was a whole year before we actually had it. We wanted to give our oversees friends and family sufficient time for planning a trip out, had they accepted. I know that seems like a long time to keep the secret going for, but with so few people knowing about it, we just stored the whole event in the back of our minds for a while.

There’s that amazing moment when the bride is trying on wedding dresses and comes out wearing “the dress” and all her bridesmaids rejoice. Okay, so you may not experience that by having a surprise wedding and therefore absenteeism of wedding dress shopping but what’s coming is an even better version of that. When you reveal the surprise and you’re wearing your wedding dress for all to see, truly for the first time, the look on your closest friends faces will be a replica of that moment, as it was for me.

To Conclude

The moments you’ll capture on the day are truly unforgettable with unexpected joy and pure happiness being the order of the day. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for this is attributed to the fact that there are no big expectations for the day. No one arrived expecting a wedding so they will almost definitely leave being blown away by the surprise.

I’m sure you’ll agree when looking through our pictures that we captured the very essence of a wedding. Wether it be a surprise one or not. Our friends and family talk about this great day with such admiration. Does it really matter if some of the guests were wearing jeans and t-shirts? You decide.

I’d love to help or hear from you if this is the route you want to go for your big day, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.


  1. Vikki Baker-Grunnill

    I love this. It is absolutely the reason we are planning ours as a surprise. Noone stressing (and spending) on outfits, gifts etc.

    Logistically I am having a slight mare as ours is actually at a Registry Office followed by a low key buffet meal at a local pub. I am planning on inviting everyone to a ‘Thank you luncheon’… I then want to sent a 2nd invite nearer the time for those invited to the wedding, but trying to hatch a plan to get them to a nearby alternative venue first is tricky!

    The ceremony is early in the day (we couldn’t get later) so that is tricky too!

    Wish me luck!

    • Bridget Beguin

      Congrats Vikki. Oooooh I love your idea! Maybe a bus could arrive and pick up everyone? Gosh good luck, half the fun is hatching the plan though! Enjoy it and be sure to take lots of pics or video. Thanks for reading.

  2. Karin

    Hey! I made your blog 🙂 some of the happiest tears I’ve ever shared. Love you xxx

    • Bridget Beguin

      All the better with you there, thanks for being you!


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