Most brides would agree that one of the biggest stresses in planning a wedding is trying to meet the demands of the people around them, be it interfering family or meddlesome friends. The circus that comes with organising one’s nuptials is not without its pressures, particularly when there’s a lot of people involved – regardless of how much they just want to help.
With the pandemic reaping havoc on wedding plans (current government guidance stipulates that no more than 30 guests should be in attendance), many are choosing to get married in secret, including Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, as well as Cressida Bonas and Harry Wentworth-Stanley. So how does it work in reality?
IT account director Tiffany Jane Harrison and her husband decided to scrap the bridal rigmarole for a secret ceremony. After getting engaged in New York's Central Park, they chose to keep proceedings quiet. Over the course of four months, she and her then fiancé surreptitiously planned their big day without most of their family and friends knowing. Their 80 guests arrived on the day to find out that the garden party they’d been invited to was, in fact, a wedding.
Here, Harrison tells us how she planned it and why it worked for her.
Secret weddings are a good way of way of having your family there – but without them interfering
“We were initially talking about how we wanted something low-key and even toyed with the idea of going away to get married, but quickly realised that we wanted our loved ones there when making our special commitment to one another. We really wanted our loved ones to arrive and have an element of surprise and excitement and so came up with the idea of having a surprise wedding. It really was magical and the atmosphere on the day was so exhilarating; we would do it all again tomorrow if we could.”
You will relish not having to talk about the wedding constantly
“It was nice not having to talk about the wedding endlessly, I absolutely loved the planning and arranging of the day but it was nice once we had finished any admin or organising that we could carry on as normal and not allow the day to become all consuming. We enjoyed being able to plan the wedding and then being able to leave it until the big day.”
Actually, you don’t need an army of friends to help choose your dress
“I loved my bridesmaids seeing the dress on the day; I don’t feel I missed out on them not being there during the process of finding 'the dress'. For me, being able to go, look and get a feel for what I wanted on my own allowed me to get the exact look I wanted. I value my friends' and mother’s advice very much, but I knew exactly what I wanted in my head and also wanted it to be a surprise on the day.”
You’ll need to find an unlikely wedding venue
“We actually had the wedding in our back garden in Caversham, Berkshire. The invites were for a garden party and we had a dress code so that friends and family would attend in their best attire.”
Hen dos can happen after the wedding
“There were a very small handful of people who knew and two of them were my best friends who arranged a beautiful day for me the day before the wedding, then a couple of months after the wedding all of my friends arranged a day out to celebrate!”
Be prepared to fend off wedding speculation
“Yes there was lots of speculation, it was difficult keeping it a surprise as it was very exciting but the energy on the day was so amazing that I would one hundred percent recommend a surprise wedding to anyone.”
You don’t need to compromise on all wedding traditions
“A dear friend helped us with the flowers and she blessed us with the assistance of Lavender Green Flowers. We discussed a romantic Italian courtyard theme and we had always loved the idea of being able to keep as many of the flowers as possible after the big day, so we had trees and roses along with fresh herbs which we kept. The main spectacles were the stunning floral arch and urn, which looked divine on the day. I particularly loved the floral arrangement for my hair, I wanted an ethereal and romantic look to complement my dress and the natural flowers gave me the exact look I was after.”
Devise a clever idea to ensure your guests do actually come
“Ensuring that everyone was there was quite difficult. On the invites, we referenced that everyone had to be there on time for the ’special guest’. It was really funny as there was a lot of speculation as to who the special guest was - guesses included George Clooney, Stevie Wonder, Marti Pellow and Hillary Douvall. It transpired the special guest was actually minister Rebecca Vincent who conducted our ceremony.”
Consider installing a video camera to document the faces of your surprised guests
“Upon arriving to the venue, we had a sign announcing our wedding and a video camera recording everyone’s expressions as they entered the marquee, it was hilarious watching this back. Shock mixed with thrill from what we saw on the camera! A number of my bridesmaids found out on the day and were just incredible and so happy for us.”
Expect people to be late (they don’t know it’s a wedding)
“A couple of people arrived late, but still made the ceremony as we did our utmost to make it clear something special was going to happen on the day. If you are thinking of doing a surprise wedding, then you need to come to terms with the fact that some people may be late, but there’s nothing to say they wouldn’t have been late even if they had known. Out of all the people we invited and who confirmed they were coming, only four people didn’t make it and that was due to illness, so we were over the moon on the day.”
The surprise element made it all the more special
“Because people were a little shocked and surprised, it just added something special to the day. It felt really magical and I think that’s because, to be honest, we had no idea what to expect. It was a gamble, people could have got frustrated at not knowing but actually, on the day it was what a wedding should be about and that’s celebrating love and commitment and being there for one another, friends or family.”
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