A couple years ago, I was invited to a co-workers birthday party in the park. I was really bummed I had other plans I couldn’t rearrange — and even more bummed to learn I’d actually missed her wedding! That’s right, her birthday invitation was a ploy to get people to her surprise wedding!
Throwing a surprise wedding is an amazing idea and filled with so much creativity and enjoyment. It takes quite a bit of savvy planning to not let the cat out of the bag before the big day. Even though you may be cutting out some of the bells and whistles for your low-cost, surprise wedding, still give yourself time to plan it. Aim for six months, if possible, but no less than three to give you breathing room to get the invites out, select all the details or DIY some of them and hire any vendors you might want, such as a caterer, officiant or photographer. Most important tip of all: Have fun. Now here’s what you need to know to get this shindig going.
In the Know
First things first! Let’s get real for a moment — it might be too much of a shock for your parents and grandparents if they have no clue, so consider filling them in on your secret. They’ll love being a part of planning your surprise-wedding event.
The wording on your wedding invitations has to make the event important enough for any significant family members or friends living far away to decide to make the trip to attend it. Some couple who throw surprise weddings say that it is an “engagement party” to ensure people will come. This is definitely something to consider. Additionally, talk with each other about what happens should a really important-to-you guest decline — there’s a chance they aren’t coming because they didn’t know the significance of the event. You could reveal the secret to these select few if it’s very important to you for them to be in attendance. Speaking of invitations, your design will obviously not scream “wedding,” but there are still tons of festive and fun budget-friendly options that will speak to you as a couple.
On the List
Throwing a low-cost wedding usually means you’ll need to keep the number of guests down as much as possible. This is the most challenging part of any wedding, regardless if it’s a surprise or not. It’s hard to not offend someone who would have wanted to attend.
It’s easier to pull off a surprise if you make it a more casual affair. This fits with the low-cost element of the wedding as well. Consider telling guests that the dress is “smart casual,” and they’ll never guess that it’s actually a wedding! This goes for your outfits on the day-of as well. You have a few options:
1) Start the event in the outfit (not a typical wedding dress) that you’d like to get hitched in.
2) Make a wardrobe change 30 minutes or so into the event and then make your announcement (“tada!”).
3) Announce your plans and then change just before the ceremony, which is what my friend did.
Keep costs down and the surprise factor in effect by hosting the bash in a place where you really would have an engagement party — your backyard or your parents’ backyard, for example. If you are a natural DIYer, this is a great opportunity to put those skills to work! Think mismatched vases or jars for the flower arrangements (which can be kept simple and sweet with wildflowers or simple, budget-friendly flowers like daisies). Repurpose items from your mom’s house, i.e. her basket collection to hold silverware or kitchen chalkboard for friendly decorative signs with messages for guests. Choose affordable paper items like wedding menus or wedding programs. Shop for foodie favors at your local farmer’s market — ask for a discount since you’re buying in bulk. Keep things simple, tasteful and personal, and you’ll end up with a beautiful surprise event that still fits into your financial plan.
It’s your wedding so even a budget bride and groom get to splurge on something! That may be an amazing photographer to capture all your handpicked details — and the look on everyone’s faces when you tell them that they are currently attending your wedding. Or perhaps really amazing catered food and/or top-shelf liquor is what’s most important to you for your party. Whatever it is, go for it. You can scrimp elsewhere!