Surprise Weddings Are Trending — Here’s Why and How to Get Them Right


By Julia Malacoff



Times are changing, and along with them, wedding trends are too. From more women proposing to their male partners to choosing to forgo a white dress in favor of something a little more vibrant, today’s brides are often anything but traditional. And if the bride herself isn’t conventional, it makes sense that her wedding might not be either. That’s possibly why surprise weddings—as in nuptials that don’t follow the typical save the date followed by formal invitation formula—are becoming increasingly popular.



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It’s actually likely that surprise weddings are gaining traction for a few different reasons, experts say. One of them is celebrity influence. “Between Maria Menounos having a surprise wedding live on television on New Year’s Eve and Emily Ratajkowski, who had a quick courthouse affair, getting married impromptu is having a moment,” says Amy Shey Jacobs, wedding planner and founder of Chandelier Events.



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But that’s not the only reason more couples are choosing to capitalize on the element of surprise. “Couples are busier than ever with jobs and jetsetting lives, so it’s often hard to pin down a date for a big wedding,” Jacobs points out. While celebrities sometimes go this route to protect their privacy, à la Amy Schumer, who married her fiancé in a surprise ceremony in February, many pairs choose this option because of family dynamics. “Couples often struggle with new complicated familial relationships or the fact that if they were to host a wedding that their families want them to have, it would be 500 people too large.”  



There’s also the appeal of bucking tradition for a pressure-free event that can be planned without too much stress. Finally, there’s what Jacobs calls “the Instagram effect:” “Surprising loved ones with a pop-up wedding makes for great photos, videos, and celebrations with floods of emotion, laughter, and joy!”


#nye will always be a celebration for us! What a magical night. Thank you to everyone who helped make it possible…to everyone who helped in Big and small ways. From you Maura and your genius idea, to my best friend @alyssawallerce who was the best maid of honor ever, to @giannetos who not only handled my glam but filled every gap in between, @christinajpacelli and nick for helping me get my nye looks down to new friends like maria who helped me pull off wardrobe change miracles, to our driver michael who was just an angel, to fox for allowing us to get married on this special night, to @iamsteveharveytv For getting ordained & performing our marriage, to @garymantoosh For helping me get all the details in place and his asst sarah, to @pronovias For my gorgeous winter wonderland gown, to @elizberkley & hubby greg for helping kev get his @ralphlauren tux, @jeandousset & Angela for rushing our beautiful rings, @dimitrioskphoto for these beautiful pics and to all the people who shared in our moment and loved on us. It took a village. If I’m forgetting anyone forgive me-i will rectify in another post! Hahah Honestly I don’t know how to properly thank This next person, what a dream come true for @jonbonjovi to perform our first dance song. I bawled watching it all over again last night. For him to take the time, for his musicians & roadies to take the time to do this for me-I’m just beyond thankful. Beyond moved. God bless you jon. I’m here for you always, forever and a day😉 tune in to @siriusxmstars at 10 am pacific to hear all the details live. Next weeks issue of @people will have even more!

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One of the best things about this trend is that there’s no typical surprise wedding. “Whether it’s a big ballroom affair, a backyard barbeque, or a small post-courthouse brunch, surprise weddings come in many forms,” Jacobs says.”When Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux (who are now on the outs, sadly) planned their surprise wedding, they invited their family and friends over for his birthday party. When all were in attendance, they were told it was actually their wedding.” Some couples even invite family and friends to witness a proposal, only to reveal it’s a surprise wedding when guests arrive.

If you think you might be interested in this type of ceremony, Jacobs has some tips for getting it right.



Mind your social media. “If you’re posting on Instagram, Facebook or any other channel, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t inadvertently post something related to your wedding, such as a wedding gown hanging in the background or wedding books or magazines on your table,” Jacobs says. These little details are sometimes easy to miss since you’re clued into what’s going on, but they can easily ruin the surprise if you’re not careful.


Don’t make things too complicated. “This goes for yourself as well as your potential guests,” Jacobs says. “Setting up a surprise may seem like something that requires Fort-Knox-level security and winding maps and roads, but often the best surprises come off because they were planned with a simple execution—which leaves less room for failure or frustration.”


Find an accomplice. “If you have a surprise wedding in mind, it may be worth hiring a planner or finding a trusted friend or family member who can help with the event,” Jacobs says. After all, depending on the size of your surprise wedding, handling everything on your own could get very overwhelming. “Remember, you’re going to be getting married that day—getting dressed, getting photographed, and getting to your surprise.” It’s a good idea to have a helper or two to get guests where they need to be and set up the scene so that when you arrive, all is set to be revealed!


It’s also worth noting that surprise weddings feel especially appropriate at this time in history. “As with all wedding trends, I think surprise weddings reflect a bit of what’s going on in our culture,” Jacobs says. “Weddings are more than ever before for the ‘real world,’ not just what we see in the magazines, websites, blogs, and so forth. Marriages come in all shapes and sizes, and surprise weddings absolutely reflect that fact.” They’re fun, personal, and guaranteed to be a day to remember for everyone involved.