Lindy Cooke Celebrant

Wedding surprise!

Unexpected surprise elements

If you include some unexpected surprise elements when planning a wedding or other significant event, it’s a great way to make your day unique and even more memorable. Here are just a few options to consider:


Surprise weddings

In Australia, it’s actually illegal to perform a surprise wedding where one or both parties getting married are unaware there are plans for them to marry at a particular time. Even if the couple has signed a Notice of Intended Marriage with the minimum of 1 month’s notice, surprising one or both of them with all the arrangements in place, no matter how many or few guests are there, is not allowed. This is because each person needs to give what’s called “consent” without any undue pressure to go ahead with the ceremony. You can read more about surprise weddings in Part 11 of the Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for authorised celebrants.

Of course, if the couple would like to surprise their guests with their wedding plans e.g. at their engagement party or, perhaps, their birthday party, there is no problem. I absolutely love this kind of surprise! You’ll find out more about the considerations each couple needs to make in order to plan a surprise wedding by checking out my earlier blog  post on this subject.


Secret vows

These are something I always encourage my couples to write (although they are, of course, optional.) Personal vows don’t need to be overly long but, when written from the heart, they add a special element to each wedding. If couples would like to include “secret” vows, I ask them to email them to me separately and I then print them onto vow cards. This saves them the pressure of having to ad lib on the day and, of course, they become a beautiful keepsake too. Naturally, I leave them out of the draft ceremony I send through for review.


Adding other surprises

There are a variety of other things you could do to add some surprise elements to your celebration.


If, for instance, you’re having a handfasting, you could ask several important people in your lives to choose the ribbon colour they’d like to bring forward at the appropriate time in the ceremony. They should, of course, let the celebrant know their colour choice so he/she can research the meanings of each and weave this into the ceremony they write. It’s a beautiful way to include your loved ones … and for you to be surprised at the same time!

This image, taken by professional photographer Dave Hancock, was from one of my weddings and involved both sets of parents selecting a ribbon colour and then stepping forward with it when asked. My couple had no idea which colours had been chosen ahead of time.



Perhaps you’d like to surprise two of your guests by asking them, on the actual day of your wedding, to be your legal witnesses. You could put a note under two of the chairs and organise for your celebrant to ask everyone to check underneath their’s before the ceremony begins. As long as they’re over the age of 18 and can understand English, they are qualified to be a witness. All they need to do is supply their name in full to the celebrant so he/she can include these details when registering the marriage. There are no identity documents that they need to have on hand. As you can imagine, it all adds to the spontaneity of the occasion!


“Secret” song

Another surprise element could be if the bride, for instance, chooses a “secret” song to walk down the aisle to … one that has special significance to their partner. If you like the idea, the celebrant could also mention the reason for choosing this song during the ceremony.


Unexpected guests

These are the kind you don’t mind! I’ve had family members from overseas arrive as a guest without one or both parties getting married knowing they would be there.


“Secret” vows in another language

I once had a bride who, with the help of the groom’s Nonna, wrote “secret” vows to her soon-to-be husband and read them out in Italian during the ceremony. It was a beautiful way to acknowledge his heritage and show her partner and his family how much he meant to her.


Special rituals

Of course, any special rituals you include in your ceremony can all be a surprise to your family and friends. My suggestion is to keep as many ceremony details to yourself in the lead up to your wedding. Not only will it add to the surprise factor but it will lessen the opportunity for you to potentially second guess your plans.


Gender reveals

Whether you’re getting married or are having a baby shower a little further along in your pregnancy, you can always choose to include a gender reveal in the celebration. This could take the form of a fabulous cake with the colour only revealed when the cake is cut. Or you could have guests choose a cupcake, one of which (the “surprise” cupcake) has been filled with either a blue or pink filling. If each person takes turns to bite into their cupcake, this process may take a while!


Alternatively, you may like some of your guests to shoot off some confetti or smoke cannons as you walk back up the aisle together. Your celebrant can let people know the significance of what’s about to happen ahead of time so they’re in on the surprise. It’s a great spectacle and a wonderful photo opportunity too.

~     ~     ~


I love delivering ceremonies that are different and resonate with the couple and their family and friends. If you think outside the box, you’ll no doubt be able to come up with a few other ideas for making your big day personal and extra special for all involved.



092 ~ © Lindy Cooke Celebrant

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