How to plan a surprise wedding

Surprise weddings are nothing new, especially among the rich and famous. But during the pandemic, their appeal grew in popularity. After a year and a half of quarantine, couples seem to crave privacy and personalization and less pomp.

A surprise or short-lived wedding – perhaps at an engagement or anniversary party – is a memorable way to achieve this. Some of the world’s most popular actors, musicians and influencers have managed to put on some flawless surprise weddings. Among them: Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Ariana Grande and Dalton Gomez, Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost, and Niecy Nash and Jessica Betts, leaving us only mere mortals to know the details of the day when and how they selected. More recently, actor and producer Issa Rae, of the HBO series “Insecure”, married his longtime partner, Louis Diame, a businessman, in a surprise wedding in the south of France in July. .

But how is this business done in an age when people share everything from what they ate for lunch to how many miles they have ridden on the treadmill (in real time no less) on networks social? And how can those of us without a host of publicists, assistants, and huge budgets do the same if we choose? Four wedding industry professionals share their suggestions for hosting a surprise wedding.

Organizing a small list (less than 25 guests) of your dearest friends and family is a good start. “You don’t need a lot of people to have a good time, you need the right people,” said Karleen Roy, executive producer and founder of Vanity Group, a boutique event planning agency. Ms Roy hosted the wedding of Grammy Award-winning artist Ne-Yo, fashion and beauty influencer Kahlana Barfield Brown, as well as media personality Adrienne Bailon Houghton’s Paris wedding with Israel Houghton, a Christian musician Grammy winner. “A creative way to personalize a wedding for an intimate group is for the couple to write individual notes to each guest explaining why they are one of the ‘chosen few’ to attend their special day,” Ms. Roy said. “Each note can be placed in place of the guest as part of the reception table settings.”

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While it can be tempting, it’s crucial not to post anything on social media about an ongoing marriage. “We’re in a world where we just share too much,” said Jung Lee, event designer and founder of Celebrate New York. “There are no secrets.” Ms. Lee has worked with a number of high profile clients, including singer Katy Perry and broadcast journalist Tamron Hall. She finds surprise weddings refreshing. “I love secret weddings – they are so delicious and fun,” Ms. Lee said. Ms Roy said couples should have a media policy in place “that communicates to their guests in advance what their posting rules are.” And at the event, “reinforce the policy with strategically placed signage and verbally during check-in,” she added. “If the couple is willing to share some aspect of the wedding, I recommend that guests be allowed to post only the reception. When people are all dressed up and feeling good, they want to take pictures and we understand them. But the caveat is that guests can only post their respective photos after the married ones. It is important that the newlyweds are the first to announce that they have got married.

Whether it’s hosting a party for 25 or 250 people, the small aspects of the day often matter the most. “Focus on the ceremony itself – it’s the most personal time of the day and probably one of the most sentimental of your life,” said Mylene Clair of White Eden Weddings, the French planning agency. responsible for Issa Rae’s wedding. Ms. Clair runs the agency with her husband Geoffrey.

Ms Lee added, “Weddings are one of the most intimate things you share with your closest friends and family. What is your story ? Having a wedding that is really emotional, the guests will come away knowing you better, ”she said. “You exchange vows where the two of you commit to being together for the rest of your life, through the good and the bad.”

You have to really discourage people, ”Ms. Lee said. “People have a big mouth but also, most of us are inherently suspicious. So whether it’s a birthday party or a gathering of friends, it has to be organic. William P. Miller of WP Miller Special Events, who planned actor Niecy Nash and Jessica Betts’ secret nuptials last year, agreed. “Maybe people don’t even know they’re coming to a wedding,” he said. “They may think they’re joining you for a special dinner or social engagement. Once there, they learn what will happen. And generally, in most surprise wedding celebrations, you don’t necessarily have a wedding party. The fewer people involved in the ceremony increases the likelihood that your secret will remain intact.

Most wedding sellers will accept an NDA or a nondisclosure agreement. “Confidentiality is not just a celebrity claim,” Clair said. “Whether you’re the daughter of a president, the CEO of a global brand, or a Forbes 30 under 30, you can have plenty of reasons to keep your celebration low-key. As wedding planners, our job is to respect the privacy of our clients. Mr Miller noted that Ms Nash and Ms Betts’ marriage involved many salespeople. “We had valet parking and we even performed Covid-19 tests on site,” he said. “None of the attendants knew, not even the chef or the DJ. As a planner, I didn’t tell them anything. If someone requests a secret marriage, the greatest service I can provide is to respect their privacy and ensure that it is not compromised.

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