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surprise wedding ideas

Quotation MarkSURPRISE !!


Kate rang me late one afternoon full of enthusiasm and asked if I would perform a ‘surprise wedding.’  Her partner, Dale, was about to turn 50 and she was organising a large family gathering of over 100 guests. When it came time to cut the cake she wanted to propose to him as a ‘surprise.’  She was very excited and she assured me that yes, he really did want to get married!  

the legals

In Australia, however, legal requirements mean that only the guests can be surprised at the wedding. Both the bride and groom must sign a Notice of Intended Marriage form and have that lodged with a celebrant at least a month and a day before the wedding date.  

will you marry me?


Knowing this, Kate changed her approach, proposing to Dale over lunch on Valentine’s Day.  “We then both got excited about surprising our guests with the wedding. I also realised that it was important for Dale to choose his own vows, and we had a lot of fun sharing that beforehand.”

a big surprise

People want surprise weddings for many different reasons. It can be a way of holding the reins over what happens, it may be a way to keep the costs down, for others they just don’t want any fuss; and well, some people just like to stage a big surprise.

However, for a surprise wedding to work there are certain things that can help to make your celebration a huge success. Aside from conforming to the legal requirements, there are a few important factors to take into consideration.

tips for surprise weddings


The law in Australia states that both parties to the marriage must complete the Notice of Intended Marriage at least a month and a day before the wedding date.
  • Consider whether the surprise is actually going to be a pleasant surprise and not a disappointment to your family and friends as some guests may feel left out, confused or overwhelmed. Sometimes guests feel they would have liked to dress up a little more or close friends and family may feel like they had missed out on sharing the planning with you.  
  • It is well worth telling immediate family – children, parents, elderly grandparents… or anyone who might be emotionally upset and even physically challenged if not told (ie have a heart attack at hearing the news!).
  • At the first surprise wedding I conducted, they hadn’t told their grown daughter, who just went into shock. She was very distressed and it dampened the whole celebration. I learnt the hard way the importance of this issue.
  • One way to ensure the guests arrive on time is to say that some other special event is about to happen at that time. For example if it is a ‘birthday’ party people may be very casual about arriving on time. Let guests know that you have special entertainment booked that is going to commence right on the dot and you wouldn’t want them to miss it.
  • The best way to announce that a surprise wedding is about to take place is to have the MC or celebrant state what is about to happen and then give time for the guests to digest the news, chat and laugh.
John and Samantha had been together for eight years and they invited everyone to attend their engagement party.  John arrived early to meet and greet the guests.  And then at the appointed time I made the announcement that the celebration was going to be a wedding – our bride would be here in fifteen minutes! Aside from the cheers and laughter there was a mad scramble for mobiles as friends called those people who had been a bit more casual about the arrival time.

Two friends, Jeremy and Sally said, ‘it was about time they got married. We had a feeling something was going to happen, but not this! It was wonderful.”

Surprise, surprise!

Graeme and Kate’s adult children organised a ‘surprise farewell’ for them as they were moving away from the area where they had lived for over twenty years.  Graeme and Kate were told they were coming to a family dinner party and at the appointed time they arrived at their home. All the guests were in their hiding places and Graeme and Kate were greeted with - SURPRISE!  

However, it was a case of surprise, surprise, as Graeme and Kate had planned this ‘surprise event’ with their kids and were in actual fact there to get married!

‘We had difficulty keeping it a surprise from everyone but it was worth it.  There were some close friends from interstate, who said they weren’t able to make it for just the farewell party. We decided to tell them as we really wanted them to be there, and because of the importance of the occasion they changed everything to be there.'

Discuss with your celebrant the best way to introduce the ‘surprise’ to your guests and make sure you rehearse the manner in which the ceremony will unfold.

Enjoy your celebration, laugh and smile and have fun!
Wendy Haynes Signature

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what people say

Heidi, Cairns
Hi Wendy, I have been reading through your site and from feeling overwhelmed at the whole wedding planning now feel more relaxed!

Candy & Lincoln, Sydney, NSW
Your book gave us an insight as to what the important aspects of a perfect ceremony are. Had I not read your book I don’t know whether I would have put so much thought into the most memorable part of our wedding.
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