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Everything You Need To Know About Throwing A Surprise Wedding

  |  By Kimberly Aglipay

Surprise birthday parties are one thing—but what if you could keep the fact that you're tying the knot a secret until the moment you walk down the aisle? Imagine the excitement!

Surprise weddings are currently trending, but this idea isn't completely new—in fact, actress Busy Philipps's 2007 nuptials to husband Marc Silverman were a total shock to their guests. And one of our latest real wedding couples had a surprise wedding that ended with yet another surprise: the revelation that the couple was expecting! The delight that comes with being caught off guard by an incredible occasion is a feeling like no other. But how exactly does one pull off the perfect surprise wedding? And is it something you should do?

We spoke to wedding planner and founder of Confetti & Co., Kendra Coons, and Sarah Walker of boosh cosmetics, who both had surprise weddings of their own. Both Coons and Walker agree that after being in their relationships for several years, a surprise wedding seemed like a natural idea. "We’d been living together for eight years, and with that comes a lot of stuff: cookware, appliances, bedding, dinnerware, furniture and home décor," Walker explains. "We had almost everything we needed when we decided to get married, so we chose to opt out of all the pre-parties except the bachelor and bachelorette."

Coons agrees. Initially, she and her then-fiancé started planning a traditional wedding after getting engaged. As the guest list reached 300 and the expenses started adding up, the couple realized they didn't want to have an over-the-top celebration. Coons revisited the idea of having a surprise wedding, an idea that she said she was enchanted with even before she got engaged. "We didn't want our guests to feel like they needed to give us gifts," she says. "We wanted to throw a fun party that was really about friends and family."

The surprise wedding trend doesn't show and signs of slowing down. "So many people are not traditional," Coons says. "It's kind of like the trend of having a small backyard wedding." For Walker, surprising her guests reaffirmed that the day was in fact about celebrating with friends and family. "Seeing how excited people were for us, even friends we see on the daily, is indescribable," she shares. "There was no muss or fuss for our guests, just lots of good food, drinks and company."

Two years after Coons's own surprise wedding, she was brought on as the wedding coordinator for Walker's surprise wedding. Walker says Coons was an important part of making sure her day ran smoothly, as she wasn't able to get much help from friends and family. "There were lots of questions I had and tasks that I wanted to delegate out to our friends and family, but I obviously couldn’t since our wedding was to be a surprise," Walker explains. "So, it was very comforting to know that she would handle the things that I could not."

Tips for throwing a surprise wedding of your own:

  1. Be comfortable with lying, and practice your spiel. Despite being awful with secrets, Coons says she was able to keep the wedding a secret by deflecting the questions and referring to a bigger project, which was renovating her house. "It is hard to contain your excitement for such a special day, and when people ask about your plans, it is easy to get caught off guard," Walker says. "So, Jordan and I were both tight-lipped and practiced our spiel, but I would highly recommend doing this with everyone you tell."
  2. Tell some people who you trust. When it comes to telling people, Coons advises you only tell your closest friends and family, and people you absolutely trust with not spilling the beans. Walker chose to tell only the people who were involved in the planning and execution of the ceremony, including parents, the bridal party and vendors.
  3. Plan your wedding on a short timeline. It's best to have as little time as possible between when you decide on a surprise wedding to the day-of. That way you won't have to keep it a secret for very long!
  4. When picking the "decoy" event, make sure it has a hard start time. Guests arrived at Coons's house thinking it was a birthday party, while Walker's family and friends thought they were attending an engagement party. Either way, Coons advises to pick a start time, or else people might not show up on time. "One of my good friends was actually at a birthday party in another town, so when she heard that it was a wedding, she hopped in an Uber right away," she says with a laugh. With that said, you also need to accept not all loved ones will be able to change their existing plans at the drop of a hat. With her surprise wedding, Coons understood that some people just wouldn't be able to show up without proper notice. "I didn't want people to give up plans such as going to Europe," she says.
  5. You won't get the traditional experiences that lead up to your wedding, so you need to be okay with that. "With a surprise wedding, you can expect that there won’t be as many conversations about your plans and there will be fewer gifts and pre-wedding parties, and even guests that won’t show up. But, when you expect nothing, you can appreciate everything," Walker says. "We planned our wedding to surprise our guests, but in the end, I think we were the ones that were surprised the most."

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