Surprise Wedding

So what is a surprise wedding?

It’s a wedding that is promoted to your family and friends under the disguised of a different event. 

The idea is that you don’t share with your guests that they are invited to what is going to be your wedding. Instead, you tell them they are invited to an event like a birthday, engagement, housewarming, or naming ceremony. When your guests arrive ready to celebrate the event they have been invited to you surprise them with your wedding.

The only guests I suggest not including in the surprise would be your parents, grandparents and your children. I feel that these family members could feel hurt for not being included in the pre-wedding preparations. Also, it’s so much more fun and special having parents’ help and support when planning a wedding.

Why have a surprise wedding?

Surprise weddings are becoming more popular for many reasons but mainly because couples find them more fun, less stressful, and less expensive than a traditional wedding.

Since COVID couples are looking at having a surprise wedding over a traditional wedding. The main reason is if COVID or restrictions affect their wedding date it is a lot less stress and financial loss to cancel.

How to have a legal surprise wedding in Australia?

Surprise weddings are great for your family and friends but can not be a surprise for either of the couple getting married.

As per the Marriage Act 1961 section 11.1, Suprise Weddings, to have a marriage be deemed legally valid in Australia the surprise element for the marriage can only extend to official witnesses and guests. This means that the marriage cannot be a surprise to either of the marrying couple. 

Before a marriage can legally be solemnised both parties to the marriage have to sign the Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) and lodge this document with a celebrant at least one calendar month prior to the “surprise” marriage ceremony (unless a shortening of time is approved by the relevant authority). The celebrant must also be satisfied that both parties to the marriage understand the nature of the relationship they are entering into and consent to the marriage voluntarily and without coercion.  The celebrant must also be supplied with documentation that establishes the identity of each party to the marriage.

Under the Marriage Act 1961 it is not, however, considered a surprise wedding where both of the parties have signed the NOIM and only the date of the wedding or event is the surprise component (provided that the minimum one month notice has been given to the celebrant).

So if you want to surprise your fiance with the date, time, or location of your ceremony, you can do this. You must however both sign and lodge the NOIM with your celebrant within the required one calendar month.

There are many for’s and against for having a surprise wedding. So before you decide if a surprise wedding is right for you, learn what the pros and cons are for having this type of celebration.

of planning a surprise wedding

You won’t have to please anyone else.

A traditional wedding usually comes with loving family and friends offering advice and suggestions. Having a surprise wedding means most of your guests won’t know it’s your wedding so you can control and organise your special day just the way you want. And it’s less likely feelings will be hurt.

There’s less pressure to make it formal.

Weddings can come with an expectation for finery and formality. With a surprise wedding, people are not expecting your event to be a wedding so there won’t be any pre-conceived ideas of what it should look like.

You’ll save some money.

Weddings can be very expensive. Not having all the bells and whistles of a traditional wedding included in your surprise wedding can be a huge money saver.

It’s a unique way of having a wedding. 

Surprise weddings are not a new trend, but they’re still uncommon enough to be a novelty. So having a surprise wedding is guaranteed to give you a wedding nobody will forget. It’s a great way to stand out from the traditional wedding and make your wedding day special for even more reasons.

The atmosphere is fantastic

When you reveal to your guests that they have been invited to your wedding it will bring a whole new level of excitement amongst your family and friends.

You can keep your number lower

If you are wanting to have a smaller number of guests at your wedding then a surprise wedding is great. People’s feelings are less likely to be hurt if they didn’t know it’s a wedding they haven’t been invited to.

of planning a surprise wedding

You might not get gifts.

If you are disguising your wedding as a party or event then you are more likely to get personal gifts rather than traditional wedding gifts or no gifts at all.

It’s hard to have any prewedding parties.

A wedding is not just one day it is also the excitement and events that lead up to your special day. If you are having a surprise wedding then some of these pre-wedding events won’t be able to happen without the surprise being let out of the bag.

Some of your friends and relatives might not get it.

With work and daily life responsibilities sometimes it’s hard for family and friends to arrange to get to a party. So if you are having a surprise wedding disguised as a party the special people you want to attend may not be able to arrange things to make your celebration. When the people who can’t attend find out it is your wedding then there may be some hurt feelings.

You cant discuss your plans with your loved ones

One of the wonderful things about planning a wedding is sharing it with the people who are special in your life. If you have a surprise wedding you will be compromising the surprise by the more people you share your plans with.

Guest may not turn up on time 

If your guests think they are only coming to an event they may not be concerned about running late. However, if they miss the big reveal of it being your wedding they may be extremely disappointed and bring a negative vibe to your special day.

It's time
Start Planning Your Surprise Wedding

Like the idea of a Surprise Wedding for your Guests? Here are some top tips to make it everything you are imagining.

First and most importantly you will need to contact your celebrant to complete the NOIM. (Please see NOIM Blog for more details on completing the NOIM).

Then it’s time to start planning.


1. Decide on what event you will use as a cover for your surprise wedding.

2. Send out the invitations to this event, making sure you include a “must be at the event by” time. This will help to get your guests to your event on time to see the surprise.

3. Make sure you discuss your surprise wedding ideas with all your wedding suppliers. Having everyone on the same page will help make for a successful surprise.

4. You will require two witnesses to sign the legal documents. It’s always a good idea to give these people a heads up before the event.

5. Arrange how you would like to have your Big Wedding Reveal. This can be great fun so talk to your celebrant about different ideas.

6. Design your surprise wedding experience. Remember, just because it is a surprise doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate traditional elements. Discuss what you want to include with your celebrant and venue.

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AboutTanya McDonald
It goes without saying that being a marriage celebrant is an honour and a privilege. I have loved weddings and what they represent for as long as I can remember. Since becoming a celebrant I am able to fulfill my passion and at the same time treasure each opportunity I have to work with couples to help them bring their dreams and ideas into life through their ceremonies. I have been a fully authorised marriage celebrant since 2014 and I have helped couples enjoy thier journey to the altar since then. If you need a celebrant, I would love to discuss your ceremony with you.

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