IS IT LEGAL?
O.M.G. have I had some fun times when participating in a surprise wedding. And, yes, someone always asks, how can you have a surprise wedding? What if he/she says no! So straight up, let's get this out of the way, a celebrant cannot conduct a ceremony in Australia unless both parties voluntarily and knowingly come to the party, well the marriage anyway!
WHY ARE THEY BECOMING POPULAR?
Surprise weddings are becoming increasingly popular for various reasons. Obviously there is a financial saving in not having two events, like an engagement and a wedding or a surprise birthday and a wedding. Then there is the fact that you don't have such a huge build up to the day from those near and dear to you. You still have to bear the brunt of organising and stressing about stuff but it seems a tad-more manageable without getting way out of control. And, of course, you may be able to avoid the dreaded 'wedding tax' if you're not having all the bells and whistles. Having said that, I always advise my couples to be honest with their suppliers to avoid embarrassing and difficult situations later.
At Rochelle and Justin's they were having a surprise '30th birthday' for Rochelle. So everyone was in on doing the surprise party bit, and then the surprise was actually on the guests when that chick behind the bar turned out to be a celebrant, moi! It was such a blast! I've decided after doing a few now that I have quite a sneaky side that I hadn't been aware of!
WHAT SCENARIO WILL YOU HAVE?
Consider what sort of party you'll pretend to be having. Normally you can get most of your closest family and friends to come to an engagement party but, if they live a fair distance away, will they make the same effort to attend a birthday party or other similar event as they would if it was your wedding?
Most of my surprise weddings have been at engagement parties where I've been known to rock up with a 'gift' for the couple (legal gear wrapped beautifully ha ha) and then slip in amongst the guests pretending to be a work colleague, an aunt from interstate, a bar worker or a friend of the parents. My next one is a surprise birthday where I will be hiding outside until just the right moment - we've actually rehearsed it to make sure we all know who's doing and saying what!
WHO ELSE NEEDS TO KNOW?
In the majority that I've been involved with the parents or siblings have been in on the secret but on two occasions not a single person has known apart from the couple and moi! That, of course, needs to be handled very carefully and sensitively and sometimes a surprise wedding might not be the best option. You really need to look at you and your partner's circumstances to evaluate whether it's going to be a great success or, at worst, an emotional disaster and no-one wants that for such an important celebration. Once you've looked at some of the negatives it doesn't mean you can't go ahead with it. You actually have a much better chance then of finding a way to make it work. I have examples of exactly this scenario and am happy to discuss with you.
You will need two witnesses who must be over the age of 18 so you may want to word them up. Or, as Jayde and Nick recently did, they completely surprised their mothers by asking them. Neither Mum knew about the wedding and when it came to signing the paperwork, they turned and asked them. There were happy tears and lots of emotion: pride, happiness, excitement. It was awesome!
Fortunately, I've only had good experiences where everyone has been so happy for the couple but I have heard of some really awkward, uncomfortable and totally-uncool scenarios so I recommend thinking it through thoroughly and talking to your celebrant!
IS IT RIGHT FOR YOU?
So, my advice is to ask yourselves the following questions:
Do we need to let anyone else know that we're getting married?
How can we ensure our most valued family and friends will come given they don't know it's our wedding?
If there are children from a previous relationship involved, how might they react if we don't tell them beforehand?
Who will be offended if they don't know?
Then, talk it through, weigh it up and, if it's worth considering, contact me, we'll make an awesome team!