Lindy Cooke Celebrant

Can I have a surprise wedding?

I love a surprise wedding and, importantly, I’m great at keeping secrets! As long as your wedding isn’t a surprise for either of you (which is actually illegal in Australia), the answer is definitely “yes”!


♥   How to orchestrate a surprise wedding

There are any number of reasons why you may choose to arrange a surprise wedding. For example, if things have become a bit stressful for you in the lead up to your wedding and you feel as though everyone has an opinion on absolutely every little detail, you could always change your date and opt for a surprise wedding. This will short-circuit all the advice you’ve been receiving which, although well-meant, may not have been welcome.

As long as you’ve lodged your Notice of Intended Marriage with me with a minimum one month’s notice, we’re good to go! (Note: Please chat to me if you have less than one month’s notice as I will only be able to legally marry you within this time frame if you meet the strict conditions for obtaining special permission to marry with what is known as a “shortening of time”.)

The date you choose could have some special significance for you so as to put your guests “off the scent” e.g. it could be you or your partner’s birthday or you could just invite everyone to your home or another location for an end-of-year celebration, theme party or for any number of other reasons.

If you haven’t had an engagement party, this could be the perfect ruse for you to invite everyone to come to yours and then surprise them with the wedding ceremony!


♥  Who needs to know

Ideally, you should take at least two people into your confidence and ask them if they would be willing to be your witnesses to the marriage rather than surprising them with this role at the last minute. This will require two people, over the age of 18, to each sign three Certificates of Marriage on the day attesting to the fact that they have witnessed your marriage.

You can, of course, include a bridal party with a Best Man, Maid of Honour etc. but, remember, the more people who know about the surprise, the more likely it is that it won’t remain a secret.

Depending on your relationship with your parents, you may also like to take them into your confidence too.

As your celebrant, I will guide you through all the legal paperwork and design a unique ceremony which reflects you as a couple. Usually I would arrive at an agreed time after the party is well underway, perhaps an hour or so after it has started to take into account the late arrival of any of your guests, and then mingle for a while. Legally, I need to be there a minimum of 20 minutes before the start of the ceremony. I can bring the legal documents and a copy of your ceremony in a gift box so that they’re disguised and, at the last minute, discreetly bring in my PA so that everyone can hear the ceremony when it’s time to start.


♥  When only the bride OR groom is “in” on the surprise

In Australia, both the bride AND groom must be willing and able to marry. If a Celebrant becomes aware that either the bride or the groom are planning to surprise their partner with a wedding ceremony, they would be unable to marry them as it could be considered, under S23B(1)(d)(i) of The Marriage Act, 1961, that the consent of the second party was not real as it may have been obtained under duress. If a celebrant is asked to perform a wedding in such circumstances, they must advise the person enquiring that they will be unable to do so. They must also advise the Attorney-General’s Department of the approach as well as Births Deaths and Marriages in the relevant State or Territory in case marriage documents are subsequently submitted by another celebrant who may not be aware of the full circumstances.

For this reason, most couples provide their celebrant with a minimum of one month’s notice by signing, together, a Notice of Intended Marriage. A NOIM may be activated by one party but only if the other party is not able to sign the document at the same time, in which case it must be signed by the second party, in the presence of the celebrant, before the marriage takes place. This could occur, for instance, if one party is in one State or country while the other is in another State or country and, as such, it is not possible to sign the NOIM together. Being busy with work or family commitments etc. is not a valid reason for both parties not to sign the NOIM together.


♥  Let’s do it!

If we’re very lucky in this world, love has a way of helping us to find the person who is just right for us. So, if you and your partner would like to marry with a small and intimate gathering, or have a huge crowd with all the frills or, if you choose to make it all about you and surprise family and friends, then I can help you make it happen! I would be more than happy to chat with you to ensure your ceremony is not only legal but is also very personal and special for you.


If you’re interested in reading the relevant section on surprise weddings from the “Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 For Marriage Celebrants”, which all Celebrants in Australia must adhere to, drag the side bar (on the right of your screen) down to page 103 after clicking on the above link.

023 – 30/11/15

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