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Surprise-style Weddings

If you value being surrounded by your family and friends on your wedding day but want to avoid wedding planning stress a surprise wedding could be a no-hassle, family-oriented option.

 In Australia the legal requirements of informed consent and a clear month's notice mean that both the bride and the groom have to be in on the secret, together with the marriage celebrant. This means that a groom cannot arrange the wedding as a surprise to the bride, or vice versa. For a wedding to take place under such circumstances is an offence that carries a term of six months in prison and loss of registration for the celebrant and no celebrant in Australia will agree to be party to such an arrangement.

There is a very good reason for it not being legal for the bride or groom to make the arrangements and spring the surprise on the other one  - there has to be real consent at every stage of the process including both leading up to the wedding and during the ceremony. And you cannot get round this by both signing the Notice but the date and place of the wedding being kept secret from either the bride or the groom.

Being put in a situation where it is possible that the person being surprised feels under duress to proceed immediately, casts doubt on the validity of the marriage. The celebrant has to be sure at every stage that the consent of both parties is real and freely given, and that there is no duress, and that includes during the ceremony.

However, it is perfectly legal to keep the fact that you are getting married from everyone else, including your two official witnesses, until the ceremony starts.

You may want to have a surprise wedding if
  • you like the idea of having a wedding incorporating some of the traditional customs without pre-wedding pressures and irritations
  • you want to have your family and friends share the day with you
  • you want everyone, including yourselves, to be relaxed
  • you want to be totally in control of your wedding
  • you want to save money
While the level of planning and the cost can vary depending on the style of your wedding, a surprise wedding can be very simple to plan, and extraordinarily versatile.

The biggest issue is likely to be how to ensure significant people will attend, and how to keep your plans a secret.

As surprise-style weddings become more common inviting everyone to an engagement party can raise suspicions. I've noticed an increasing number of guests are turning up with both an engagement card and a wedding card with their gift.

Parties on special days (Halloween, Christmas, New Year's Eve), family get-togethers, significant birthdays, house warmings, even a "TV-warming" party for a new plasma TV and an invite to watch State of Origin (with your wedding planned for half-time) are possibilities.

You can tell people that it is a wedding when they arrive. One couple I married presented their guests with a souvenir stubby holder announcing their New Year's Eve wedding as they came through the front door. Or you can spring the surprise when you are ready to start the ceremony. You don't even need to use words. The first bars of the Wedding March can say it all.

Because, by definition, a surprise-style wedding won't include a rehearsal your  ceremony choices are a Simpler Couture or a Intimate Couture Ceremony.

Thanks Jenny, the ceremony was better than we could have imagined. It was a perfect day - Damien. Thanks Jenny. It was awesome. We loved that the ceremony was down to earth and personal. If we could do it all again, we wouldn't change a thing!!! - Emily

Thank you for making our ceremony both magical and memorable. It was wonderful to have you as our guide as we took this step together and your touches make the whole day run more smoothly. Our friends and family commented on how special the ceremony was - especially the references to the 'boys' and Mick's cleaning abilities! We couldn't have imagined a more perfect day. Thank you again for being part of it! Love, Mick and Bec