Hear me out: Your family doesn't give you their guest lists. Friends don't ask to bring their new flings. No one gives you unsolicited advice. Not one single guest asks a stupid wedding question.
This could be your reality if you plan a surprise wedding.
Originally a joke, Fashion Editor, Christina, and I long for a world where surprise weddings are mainstream. If no one knows you're planning a wedding, no one can give you their two cents! No peanut gallery, no judgment, no endless mundane questions that your guests could absolutely find answers to on your perfectly laid out wedding website. With the surprise wedding, we marry the “do exactly what you want” attitude of an elopement with the pomp and circumstance of a big fat real wedding.
Why You Should Plan a Surprise Wedding
If you're the type of person who has zero interest in culling aid and advice from your friends and family (aka, you got this!) then the surprise wedding is for you. This isn't to say you can't call in the big guns. Hire all the professional help you need with wedding planners, florists, coordinators, rentals, etc.
Another reason – beyond the “Please, leave me alone!” pleas that the regular wedding planning process can induce – is that surprise weddings are great for those who hate being the center of attention. Upon getting engaged, a bride or groom may be shocked how suddenly in the spotlight they are in everyday life. From the engagement parties, bridal showers, wedding dress shopping and daily wedding conversation, the attention can be overwhelming. With a surprise wedding, you limit the attention to that one day. And, you can still make your wedding as low-key attention garnering as you like!
How to Plan a Surprise Wedding
1. Come up with your story, and stick to it.
If your friends and family do, in fact, know you're engaged you better get your story straight from the start. Put off the endless, “When's the date!” questions with some sort of, “We're planning two years from now…” or the like. Just make sure you and your future spouse are on the same page and deflecting questions harmoniously.
2. Book a wedding planner.
When planning something so secret, we implore you to hire help. A wedding planner will take care of the logistics. And frankly, having professional coordination will stop you from giving up and involving those you don't want to know about the event. Beyond the general venue booking, planning and pre-wedding logistics, your planner will be the one ensuring your secret stays secret until the very wedding day.
3. Book your wedding venue and vendors.
This part is no different from regular wedding planning. You're going to need a wedding date, a place to say, “I do” and all the vendors you plan to include on your special day. Again, this is where your wedding planner comes in handy where your friends and family may normally assist.
4. Shop online for your wedding wardrobe.
The beauty of not involving a big group in your wedding dress shopping experience is that it opens up your fashion choices to the worldwide web. Yes, you can still shop in a salon. Just make sure no one sees you walk in the door! In addition, we recommend also checking out all the amazing bridal designers that sell online. You can buy custom gowns from designers on Etsy. Or, find an amazing deal (compared to made-to-order) on RTW designer fashion on sites like Net-a-Porter and Moda Operandi. Here are all of our favorite online wedding dress shops to bookmark.
5. Choose a fake event you know your friends and family wouldn't miss.
Engagement party? Huge work accomplishment? Someone beloved from out of town is coming to visit? Decide what event your family and friends would not miss and send out the invitations. Yes, there will be some people that miss out. However, that is the same story for regular weddings, I promise. And plus, when the auxiliary family and friends (you know, the ones you hope RSVP “No”) receive their invitation, they're less likely to come if they don't know it's a real wedding.
We advise against using any “Surprise Announcement” language in your invitations. Guests are better at guessing than you think. Also, don't send out your invites too early. One to four weeks in advance will allow time for guests to plan but not too much time to get suspicious. Finally, it's probably best to go a bit more casual on your wedding stationery. We recommend digital invitations that track who received your invite in case you need to follow up in a short amount of time.
6. Alternatively, announce your surprise wedding one week prior via formal invitations.
Want to make sure you're favorite friends and family attend? You can announce your surprise wedding a week prior as part of your invitations. This gives your guests a chance not to accidentally miss out on attendance. Yet, not enough time to influence any of your wedding planning decisions. You'll already have chosen the guestlist, venue, vendors and your wardrobe so what damage is left to be done?
Support for Couples Going Crazy While Wedding Planning
Is it too late to plan a surprise wedding? Are the Save The Dates already mailed? Constant questions, judgment and suggestions driving you insane? First of all, we're sorry. Second of all, here's all of our best real talk support to not going crazy…
- How To Tell Your Unsupportive Family About Your Fabulous Wedding Plans – Real talk: wedding planning isn't easy, especially when family is less than supportive. But, this phrase might just help your case.
- Stop Telling Brides They’ll Regret Things About Their Wedding – Real talk: Stop telling brides they'll regret things. It's rude, negative, manipulative and guess what, their wedding is not about you.
- Real Talk: Are Constant Questions About Your Wedding Driving You Mad? – Are constant wedding questions driving you insane? Here are some strategies to get the peanut gallery off your back.
- Real Talk: How To Tell Your Mom Or Future-Mother-In-Law You Don’t Want A Bridal Shower – Hoping to get out of your dreaded bridal shower and live to tell the tale? We have tips and advice on how to tell your future mother-in-law.
- Newly Engaged? Here’s How To Survive The Holidays… – Planning the holidays with family can be stressful. Organizing the holidays between two families? You're going to need our help.
For more sage advice from our editors and wedding professionals, visit our Planning section.