How to Organize A Surprise Wedding: Things You Need to Know

Wondering how to organize a surprise wedding? Not even sure what that entails? We’ve got you covered on both counts! Just keep reading to learn what it is (it’s probably not what you’re thinking) and how to pull it off!

What is a Surprise Wedding?

When I first heard my friends talking about a surprise wedding, I was super confused. “Wait,” I asked, “How on earth do you surprise someone with a wedding??? Isn’t that the ONE party that the couple should definitely be involved in???”

“No, silly,” my friend said, “The couple is the one throwing it!” Still confused? Me too. Basically, a surprise wedding is when couples decide to invite their family to a gathering, like an engagement party or a bridal shower, but they’re actually attending their wedding.

Interesting, isn’t it? If you’re fascinated by this idea, read on to find out some great perks of a surprise wedding, if it’s right for you, and how to pull this hush-hush wedding off like a pro.

Why Should You Opt for a Surprise Wedding?

bride and groom celebrating after a surprise wedding

The excitement and thrill of doing something unconventional at your wedding are unmatchable. Here are 5 great pros of a surprise wedding:

  • It’s a great way to have the presence of your family and friends without them interfering. For couples who want a low-key, serene element on their big day, there’s nothing better than having a surprise wedding.
  • A surprise wedding shortens the engagement time period, and hence the time you’ll go all bridezilla and stressed over wedding planning (and sometimes for no reason at all). 
  • You’ll enjoy not having to talk about the wedding all the time. Eventually, this leads to fewer expectations from the big day. So, the wedding will be less consuming and more impromptu and go-with-the-flow, leaving lots of room to savor the special moments well.
  • There’s less pressure to be formal and keep up with the traditions. Since it’s spontaneous, there are no expectations aligned with the perfection of wedding details.
  • It’s unique and will leave you with tons of memorable moments. Not a lot of people have attended surprise weddings, so the nuptials will be something that will be remembered forever. 

There are two sides to every coin. Surprise weddings have some sensible benefits, but going unconventional means you’ll have to forego a few traditional elements, like matching bridesmaid dresses, a bridal shower, registering for wedding gifts, and a bachelorette party.

Planning A Surprise Wedding

While the surprise wedding kicks off a lot of stressful decisions, there’s still a lot of planning that still needs to be done. Here are our recommendations on how to plan and pull off this secret event.


wedding invitation for a surprise wedding

Surprise wedding invitations can feel tricky because you want your guests to think it’s an important event without giving away any details. The invitation can go something like ‘so and so are thrilled to announce their upcoming wedding, please grace us for a pre-wedding celebration on this date.

So, just emphasize a bit on the event, but not too much. Stick to the original wording, as that would lend exactly the kind of ‘bait-and-switch’ you’re looking to create for your guests. You can include words like ‘prompt’ and ‘sharp’ to keep any guests from missing the surprise twist.

Also, include a clear dress code in the invitations, because as soon as they know they are at a wedding, they’d wish to go that extra mile. Etiquette dictates sending out wedding invitations six to eight weeks before the wedding, and a normal party invitation three to four weeks before the event. Strike a balance and send out invites four to six weeks before the event. 


wedding aisle full of yellow flowers

The best part about picking a surprise wedding venue is you don’t have to cater to the whims of the people. You can pick a venue you, and only you, are in love with and feel happy to the core about your choice. However, this will be a tough part. You want a place that won’t bust your surprise, like a church, and somewhere that can hold 20-200 people, depending on the people you want to invite. 

Narrow down on venues that can serve as an apt wedding setting, but also caters to normal parties. Think of a local function center, a beach, a cafe, or a garden.  

Clothing/ Apparel

groom and bride's wedding apparel

Once you’ve set your mind on a surprise wedding, it’s time to get your wedding dress. Wedding dresses, especially if you have your eyes on a custom-one, can take weeks to come in. So start as soon as you have a date and vision in mind.

Sure, you’ll miss your army of friends and family to accompany you to the shopping sprees, admiring as you step out of the changing room and pitching in their valuable advice. But, there’s something liberalizing to go, pick and get a feel of your dream dress all by yourself.

And the ensemble can serve as the disclosure for a soon-to-happen ceremony. You can greet your guests in a customary party dress, and then, sneak out for a while to change. This will amaze everyone at once and make for amazing surprise photos and memories. 


groom signing his marriage contract after a surprise wedding

Don’t forget the wedding basics, like getting your marriage license and hiring an officiant. Invest in the logistics and planning well. Get on board the decorator, caterer, and entertainment and stick to the aesthetic of the wedding you wanted.

Inform the caterer of an approximate headcount and give them a secret spot to prepare your desired wedding menu. The best part of a surprise wedding is you can do everything your way, without any outside interferences. Pick a photographer/wedding videographer well in advance. They get booked 8-12 months before the wedding, so act as soon as you can.

For a surprise wedding, videography surely takes the priority over photography. Of course, you would want pictures of guests gasping and hooting on the announcement, but the sounds will bring life to them. Install video cameras to document the memories of this particular moment well. Your photos and videos will serve as keepsake memories, so don’t skimp on them.


wedding reception beside a beach with minimal guests

You need a clever idea to ensure all your guests come on time and are surprised at the time of the big reveal. Put a reference on the invite saying you’d have to be there on so and so time to meet our special guest. It will be really fun and leave the guests wondering too. 

Unveiling the reason where your guests will know what they’re attending will be a momentous moment, so let your creativity shine. Instead of letting them in the guessing game, plan the big reveal. It could be you coming out in your wedding dresses or revealing the aisle camouflaged by a curtain or perhaps, letting a friend or family in on the secret to announce the surprise wedding to everyone.


bride and groom dancing on a grass field with face masks due to covid

Covid-19 has certainly changed the wedding landscape. Surprise wedding or a normal one, you need to keep to your state’s limit on the number of guests and follow all other safety & precaution tips.

Work closely with your wedding planner on this point. They have a fair idea of the pandemic’s effects in the industry and how you can navigate the situation well. Get your guests’ perspective on attending a gathering in the pandemic and invite them accordingly. With proper planning and considerations, you can plan a surprise wedding that feels good for everyone involved so everyone can safely celebrate. 


Getting married in an unconventional way will surely leave an impression on everyone’s mind and guarantee an experience they’ll never forget. If you’re all about being a trendsetter and standing out from the pack, this one is a remarkably special way to do it.

Back view of a bride in white with bridesmaids in pink

Do you have other tips on how to plan a surprise wedding? Share with us below!

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