Maybe you and your fiance’ are notorious for doing the unexpected. Maybe the thought of throwing an elaborate wedding makes you both a little queasy. Maybe money is tight or you simply want to do something that you’re sure your family members and friends will never forget.

For all of these scenarios, when it comes to wedding planning, guess what you should consider doing? THROWING A SURPRISE WEDDING! Just think of the pure shock that will be on everyone’s faces when they show up, thinking they are attending one event only to find out that it’s something totally different. Something that exceeds anything that their imagination could conjure up!

If this sounds more and more like something that’s right up your alley, just to be fair, we do want to give two heads up. One, since no one is going to know that they are invited to a wedding, there is a chance that some people may not show. Secondly, since there is no gift registry (at least on the front end), you significantly cut down the chances of getting a wedding present.

But if you just read all of that and thought “We can handle that”, then we’ve got some tips on how you can pull off a surprise wedding that no one will ever forget!

Hire a Wedding Planner

It might seem like this is something that you could pull off on your own. But trust us. If anyone needs the expertise of a wedding planner, it’s the couples who decide to pull off this kind of wedding. Reputable planners will know just the right vendors to get the job done and even the venues that can pull this kind of surprise off. Plus, they are trained to consider details that you would never think of on your own.

“Hide” It Behind Another Festive Event

How do you get your guests to show up? Hide it behind some other grand occasion like a family reunion, milestone birthday (or milestone anniversary of a family member; that would be pretty romantic) or even a family reunion. Something that you know will get a lot of your loved ones together, whether there is a wedding happening or not.

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Image via Glamshelf

Avoid Doing It at a Church

As far as venues go, it’s going to be hard to keep the secret from your guests if you invite them to a church. That’s kind of a dead ringer that’s something is up, especially if you’re already officially engaged. The venue you select will have to be based on how large your guest list is and how creative you and yours are (not necessarily in that order). But anything from a park to a museum or art gallery to your favorite restaurant—these are all cool out-of-the-box options to consider.

Only Tell a Few People

Sure, it would be fun if NO ONE knew beforehand, but that’s close to impossible. You will need a few undercover point people, mostly to insure that folks like your parents attend; people who can come up with great decoy excuses. Just make sure that they know how to keep a secret at all costs and they won’t fold under pressure.

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Image via Bridal Guide Magazine

Put Vendors on A Strict Contract

Just like a surprise birthday party, surprise weddings have to go off without a hitch. In order for that to happen, vendors need to be on time. It’s typical for contracts to be drawn up between them and the clients who hire them. But you might want to consider requesting that they show up 30-60 minutes earlier than they’re needed. Just so you can have peace of mind.

Have Fun with Your Guests’ Attire

It’s your day, so feel free to do it however you’d like. But it’s going to be challenging for an entire wedding party to know about the day and not leak the secret out. So, rather than having bridesmaids in matching dresses and groomsmen in matching tuxes, take a different approach. For instance, if guests think they are coming to a formal 35th birthday party, ask them to dress up. You could even turn it into something like a masquerade ball and have masks waiting at the door of the venue (how cool would that be?!). Or you can simply ask everyone to wear the same color. If you play up the event and include the attire in your invites, there’s a huge chance that your guests still won’t expect a thing.

Sparkler First Dance at Casual Backyard Wedding

Image via The Knot

Go More Casual (or Over the Top)

As far as your reception goes, we recommend one extreme or the other: casual with lots of mini-appetizers or a formal sit-down dinner. Once everyone catches on at the wedding, it’s perfectly fine to go traditional with the actual reception (even if that means asking your guests to drive to another venue).

Have a Money Tree or Request They Make a Donation

We already mentioned that since no one knew a wedding was going down, they weren’t prepared to give you a gift. That doesn’t mean that some of your guests won’t want to give something to you, though. Maybe create a money tree that can go on one of your reception tables or put a small card on your wedding favors with a site to donate to your favorite charity or honeymoon fund.

A "money tree" for cash wedding gifts instead of a card box {Maite Photography}

Image via Wedding Wire

If you plan it right and decide ahead of time that the joy of the surprise is the best part, you can pull of a surprise wedding that will make you and your guests positively ecstatic that you decided to do it! (And, if you do, please send us some pictures, will you? We’d LOVE to see what you came up with too!)