Imagine turning up to an engagement party only to discover that it wasn’t a party at all, but the actual wedding?
That’s exactly what happened to unsuspecting guests last year when one couple decided to surprise their family and friends by tying the knot at the do to celebrate their engagement.
Zoe Lavery, 31, and Andy Lynch, 32, wed in front of 200 shocked guests, who believed they were there to toast the couple’s engagement.
Having struggled to set a date and grown tired of relatives asking when they were going to get around to it, the duo decided to spring a surprise wedding in September last year under the ruse of an engagement party.
Worried some guests may not show up, they came up with a way to lure them to their secret ceremony by telling them there would be a special guest.
But when Andy introduced their surprise guest, Joolz Stuart, 54, they were a little confused until Joolz explained she was a marriage celebrant.
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For months, the couple had been planning a surprise wedding using the engagement celebration as their cover story.
While their mums were in on the secret, the remainder of their 200 guests only discovered the truth on the actual night.
Mum-of-two Zoe, a salon owner, from St Helens, Merseyside said: “I never wanted to get married until I met Andy.
“Andy and I were sitting on the sofa one night talking about our wedding, and I suggested going on holiday somewhere and doing it in secret.
“Both of our mum's would have been livid if we did that, so Andy came up with this idea instead.”
“He's such a character and when he came up with this idea I just shouted: ‘Let's do it!’”
Andy, a tiler, said: “I wouldn't have done it any other way. It solved all our problems and meant that we could enjoy our day without stressing about saving up for it, seating plans and who was or wasn't coming.”
They visited a registry office on the 5th September - two days before the party - and tied the knot officially in an intimate ceremony attended by just Zoe's mum Viv Lavery and Andy's mum Anne Rose.
Then unsuspecting guests arrived at The Function Room in St. Helens, Merseyside, expecting nothing but a buffet and a disco, but were stunned when Zoe and Andy got hitched.
After guests arrived, groom Andy introduced their surprise guest, Joolz Stuart, 54.
Confused guests listened whilst Joolz explained she was a mental health social worker, before adding: “I'm not just a social worker - I'm also a marriage celebrant.”
The penny finally dropped when guests spotted Zoe was nowhere to be seen as she changed into her wedding dress.
Mother-of-the bride, Viv said on the moment her daughter appeared: “Everyone went mad.
“It was an amazing day. We managed to get everybody that Zoe and Andy love together in one room to celebrate the most important day of their lives.”
Even the bridesmaids, Zoe's daughter, Brooke, 10, son, Jordy, six, who ‘gave her away’, and Andy's son Ryan Lynch, 12, had no idea about the ceremony.
But thankfully the couple had organised their wedding outfits for them and rushed off to get changed.
As well as cutting down on wedding organisation stress, the surprise nuptials had another advantage in that it helped lower costs too.
In total the happy couple spent just £3,800 for 200 guests, the rings, the honeymoon and the ceremony.