In Love with the SURPRISE wedding

With Celebrant Cara Hodge of Brisbane City Celebrants

This surprise wedding was such a success and full of so much happiness, excitement and emotion I felt so  inspired to jump on the blog and tell you about the exciting and fun surprise wedding I performed. I have intentionally included lots of little details to take in to consideration for anyone planning a surprise wedding.

Before I go on to tell you about the engagement party come surprise wedding that I performed, I have summarised what I believe are some of the key points that enabled this couples surprise wedding to be a success:

  • The couple sent engagement party invitations to all their guests which stated the time as ‘4pm sharp’ unbeknown to the guests the secret ceremony was scheduled to commence at 6pm, this gave a generous 2hr time slot to allow for any guests that may have been running late, and prevented any guests from missing the ceremony.
  • The couple kept the surprise very close. Only a very small select few people were ‘let in’ on the secret, it was even a surprise to the brides father who was told by the bride just minutes before the wedding took place. The less people you tell about a ‘surprise’ wedding, the more impact the surprise will have.
  • The outfit change. The couples engagement party theme was ‘Black and White with a splash of colour’ so the room was filled with a sea of black and white with some cheerful bright colours thrown in to the mix, the fiancé (or secretly the groom) wore black with a little electric blue on the pocket and the fiancée (or secretly the bride) wore a black cocktail dress teamed with a fabulous pair of electric blue pumps, which would have thrown any suspecting guests off the scent. Just before the ceremony was scheduled to start she slipped out the back to staff quarters and changed in to a gorgeous white number, but more on that later…..
  • Having the brides sister Emma, who happens to be the amazingly organised Wedding and Events Manager at the Port Office/ Fix Restaurant & Wine Bar on hand was also a huge asset and enabled the couple to pull off the surprise with military precision. While not everyone has their very own ‘Emma’ or Wedding Coordinator on hand, perhaps you know of someone that works in the wedding industry or is simply super organised and attentive to detail that you could enlist to help coordinate the surprise ceremony.
  • Having the vendors on board: As the Celebrant I slotted in well as a guest, the photographers were coworkers from the real estate agents where the groom works so as friends of the couple no one thought twice about them being there capturing images of their ‘engagement party’, and the band ‘Benjam’ executed their role to a T, they delivered the arrival of the bride song ‘Pachelbel’s Canon’ immaculately and right on cue. After the signing took place and the photographers and guests had their photos of the happy couple with their marriage certificate, just one glance and a little nod from me to Benjam at the other side of the room and they instantly faded out their song ready for me to declare the happy couple husband and wife for the very first time.
  • Last but certainly not least the wonderful connection and amount of love between the bride and groom was so incredible that their happiness and the happiness of everyone present for them, lit up the room creating an incredible atmosphere that I wish I could have bottled a little and taken it with me, not that I would know what to do with it!

Justine and Andrews Surprise Wedding at Fix Restaurant & Wine Bar, Brisbane City

Justine is super lucky to have Brisbane’s amazing award winning Wedding and Functions Manager, Emma as her sister. Emma was the Wedding Coordinator at Mt Ommaney Hotel for many years and to say she was loved by all her brides was an understatement, she won many bridal industry awards and not surprisingly when the Wedding and Functions Coordinator role arose at the Port Office Hotel, they snapped Emma up and in my opinion they scored well!

A couple of months ago Emma got in touch with me to see if I was available to perform her sisters wedding, I was extremely flattered that of the hundreds of Celebrants Emma has seen in action she thought of me for her sisters surprise wedding, I was thrilled that I was available and excited about being ‘in’ on the surprise.

Shortly after I met with Justine and Andrew, we completed the legal paperwork, I cited the necessary ID and we proceeded to discuss the kind of ceremony they would like which was simple and meaningful, not too long and light hearted with a little humour. They shared their amazing ‘chance meeting’ story with me and it felt so significant to their relationship I encouraged them to include this in their ceremony (which to the enjoyment of their guests I’m glad to report they did!).

We also talked about how we would pull off the surprise, as a Celebrant at a surprise wedding you need to have an alias, so we agreed I would pose as a co-worker of Emma’s if anyone asked (which thankfully for me they didn’t).

Shortly after we met I emailed the first draft of their customised ceremony to them, they decided to review this over a glass or 2 of wine during a weekend away in Melbourne, clearly the fresh Melbourne air and Sauvignon worked a treat as the ceremony that came back to me included such a brilliantly written story of how they met, their story is both funny and sweet. They also decided to write their own vows and did an equally fantastic job with this, they wrote 3 vows each to say to each other in turn. In line with their ceremony, their vows were also sweet, meaningful and funny!

Before we knew it their wedding day was here! Or their engagement party day as their guests believed. for a Celebrant a surprise wedding is super exciting, being one of the select few in on the surprise means keeping the secret close and also being really careful to keep the wedding documents (which would normally be neatly placed on a signing table), hidden well away. Luckily for me I didn’t have the task of sneaking my PA system in as the seriously awesome band ‘BenJam’ kindly let me use their cordless mic and I was super spoilt to have them on hand to adjust my volume and sound if necessary.

I arrived at the Port Office and got a great car park just outside, I didn’t want to arrive too early so I read through the ceremony a couple of times in the car before heading in. As soon as I walked through the door the wonderful atmosphere that I can only describe as ‘happiness’ hit me. Justine and Andrew are 2 really lovely people (with a cheeky sense of humour) that have chosen to have a surprise wedding as they simply want to be married. It is no surprise to me that 2 lovely people would be surrounded by such a vibrant, high spirited group of family and friends. Andrew spotted me as soon as I walked through the door, he was cheerful and surprisingly very relaxed for a groom to be (yes grooms get nervous too!)

He called Justine over and we greeted each other as if I was a guest, I was conscious not to say too much and we briefly spoke almost in code as very few people knew what was about to happen, and I had no idea who did or didn’t know. Emma popped up and being the super organised person she is (she uses differently terminology but I won’t go there!) she kept me posted on how the surprise was going to be executed and I joined her husband and the very few friends that were ‘in the know’ at a cocktail table.

Fix Restaurant and Wine Bar looked breath taking, with an amazing LED tree provided by Creative Loop which provided a unique glowing back drop for the ceremony. I introduced myself to the band ‘Benjam’ I had spoken to Benjam a couple of days prior to confirm microphone arrangements and they were very accommodating. I could instantly see he was equally as excited about the upcoming surprise as I was and he had every little detail covered.

A minute before the ceremony was set to start, Emma got on the microphone and introduced herself. She stated that speeches were about to commence.

Andrew casually wondered up and said “Do you need me up here?”

Emma replied “Yeah, I guess it’s your engagement party, so I guess you’ll be doing a speech too”

Then came the cue a select few of us were waiting for from Emma “Where’s Justine? Has anyone seen Justine?”

Right on cue the band played Pachelbel’s Canon, the doors at the back of room flew open and Justine who had changed from a black cocktail dress in to a cute white knee length sleeveless white dress, walked through the door on her Dads arm. The most amazing simultaneous gasp of over 100 guests filled the room. I got goose bumps and I’m pretty sure Andrew did too, perhaps along with a little nerves finally kicking in.

As Justine walked down the aisle towards her groom their eyes locked and smiles spread across their faces. In keeping with the surprise Justine only told her father what was about to happen, a few minutes before the ceremony took place, beaming with happiness when they reached where Andrew was stood, he gave his daughter and her groom to be a group hug. Justine handed the single long stem red rose she was holding to her father then he stepped to the side.

The music faded out and I introduced myself as a Registered Civil Marriage Celebrant, I then caught Justines fathers eye and asked “who gives this woman to be married to this man” proudly smiling (and still taking in what was actually happening), he replied “from a very surprised father, I do”.

The ceremony proceeded and the guests roared with laughter at the funny story of how Justine and Andrew met. They exchanged the sweet and funny vows they had written for each other and following the mandatory legal wording, I announced them as husband and wife to which the applause and cheers of their 100 guests filled the room!

I stepped to the side out of shot and they shared their first kiss as husband and wife while what looked like a sea of paparazzi of guests on the front row captured the moment.

I called the witnesses over to sign the marriage certificates, once these had all been signed I leaned over to the newlyweds and excitedly said “You’re Married!” to which Andrew fist pumped the air their witnesses cheered and they shared a celebratory kiss. After introducing them as Mr & Mrs to their guests, the room filled with cheering and applause once again (giving me goose bumps again!) and their ecstatically happy and super surprised guests proceeded to congratulate them.

The night was a huge success, they went from being engaged to being married and they succeeded to keep the surprise wedding a surprise and the atmosphere was that of a true celebration. I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to be a part of this special day and with the amount of love between Justine and Andrew I know they have such a wonderful future ahead of them.

If you enjoyed hearing about this exciting surprise wedding ceremony and are looking for a Celebrant for your Brisbane wedding, Cara would love to hear from you. Contact Brisbane City Celebrants for more information and to confirm availability for your special day.