What better way to start “Pep Talk” and introduce myself to you all, than by telling the story of mine and my husband's surprise wedding! This may also help those of you who are having some thoughts of “should we have a surprise wedding?” and my answer is a big, fat YES!
We had spoken about it a couple of years before we actually got engaged, he didn’t want to spend the money and I didn’t want to be in the spotlight, we both just wanted a really relaxed party vibe where we could be ourselves with our family and friends. This made it super easy when we did become engaged, as it was a no-brainer! Below are some of the details from the day and how it all went according to plan, well most of it!
My extremely beautiful, caring wonderful sister (yes, I have to now refer to her by this), let us use her place and backyard as the location for the shindig. Her yard is HUGE and so can very easily fit the 70 people who we invited. It is also the perfect blank canvas, which made it super easy to fill it with a dance floor, marquee and plenty of casual seating and wine barrels. And was super casual and under stated that it didn't scream “wedding” too much.
In the days leading up to it, my mum, dad, 2 sisters (yes the other one is also awesome, gorgeous and wonderful, she would’ve killed me if I didn’t mention her), a few of Ray’s family and I all came together to start setting everything up for the day. Now, here is my #1 solid gold piece of advice, even if you don’t take anything else from this post, I implore you to live by this - no matter how many days you think will be enough to set up your wedding, it will never be enough!!! Never! Especially if you are doing most of the work. We thought to ourselves, ok we can start to set things up a few days ahead, it’s not like we have to follow any rules, we know the owner of the place, it will all be good! But then came the rain…This pushed us back so much, that we were still setting everything up that morning. But the weather gods must’ve finished laughing at me setting up pillows and mini tee pees out in the rain that they decided to bring the sun out 10 mins before guests arrived!
I decided to take on the role of ‘event stylist,' because I thought being creative I could do this, and also the main reason was that it would be cheaper than having to pay for one. I wanted a sort of eclectic type of feel, a bit like if a gypsy's carriage ran off the road, crashed and up heaved its entire contents that the gypsy had been collecting over the years, all into my sister’s back yard. We had silver and gold table ornaments, layers of silk and velvet, cushions, rugs, wooden tables, tee pees, and vases of pink and white flowers. We then set up the bar in the shed, including a wheelbarrow of drinks, and glassware covering the wooden bench.
We had a variety of different signs all around the place for different areas, such as the bar, the coffee station and the food table. But me being me, I wanted a pun on every sign, I mean I think I’m funny so everyone must think the same, right? So we had "The Beer Barrow” (wheelbarrow full of beer), “You Mocha Me Happy” (coffee and tea station), “The Hydration Station” (water station), and “Let’s Give Them Something To Taco ‘Bout” (the taco station). Hilarious, right?
My sister’s frangipani tree was the perfect backdrop for the ceremony, with candles hanging from the branches. I loved how it was so casual, our family and friends were either sitting or casually standing around, nothing too formal which is my kinda wedding.
I had seen on Pinterest a while before the wedding a giant flower made out of crepe paper and I loved it! I ordered one for myself and one each for my sisters and these were our bouquets. I loved the novelty of them and I still have it and it didn’t die. My mum and I also travelled 2 hours to the Sydney Flower Markets the day before at 4am to get bunches of pink flowers for the tables.
Even with it being a surprise wedding, I still wanted the expensive white dress as it was probably going to be the only time in my life when I would be able to wear something that beautiful and delicate without anyone thinking I was way over dressed. I wore a stunning Karen Willis Holmes straight dress with long sleeves made of lace, and buttons all the way down the back. I wanted to be comfortable during the day without having to heave up 40 layers of tulle to go to the toilet, or be so restricted I wouldn’t be able to breath in it. This was the perfect dress as it was sooooo comfy and I danced so much in it without missing a beat. I also decided I wanted to wear flats, again comfort was the main priority for me. $30 from Novo and I still wear them.
Both of my sisters were my Maids of Honour, and I thought it was just easier for them to choose their own dresses, especially as one of them was pregnant. I gave them my colour palette and told them to go shopping, as I wanted them too to be comfortable and not in something they wouldn’t want to wear. I think we all came together with the matching flower crowns and paper flowers.
When it comes to hair and makeup, most days I chuck my hair up in a high pony, slap on some eyeliner and I’m done. Not really a makeup person, I did however want hot pink lipstick to match a hot pink floral crown. Hey, it was my day, why can’t I have hot pink? I loved how the colour popped in all the photos.
"We danced, drank and ate tacos. It was the best night and exactly what we wanted."
This was probably the one decision I spent the most time on, because #1, I like food and #2, I wanted something a bit different to go with our out-of-the-norm wedding. I wanted something special for the guests while the bridal party was having photos, so my mum and I went op shopping for picnic baskets. We filled them up with dip, cheese, crackers and treats and they turned out so cute and just a fun way for everyone to sit down with some wine and their picnic baskets and just chill out, with some sweet tunes playing in the background.
I had also researched SOOOO many food trucks but one thing I did want that not a lot of food trucks offered was variety. I decided to go with Sprout Catering for cocktail party food, with Rice Paper Rolls, Satay Skewers, Mini Steak Sandwiches, Mini Pies plus more. We also added on a Taco Station because why not?!? Who doesn’t like Tacos?
I love cake obviously, but we both thought a big wedding cake wasn’t for us, and the knife cutting tradition doesn’t tickle my fancy. But we both LOVE Cheesecake so it was fitting that we served a variety of cheesecakes for dessert. Just having a few of them brought out and everyone served themselves suited our relaxed, casual vibe.
Again, I wanted to infuse our quirkiness into every element of the day that I possibly could! I researched for ages on different wedding favours and bomboniere. I made cootie catchers that had questions and answers about mine and Ray’s relationship, like where did we meet, how long had we been together, our dog’s names , etc. It was a fun little game the guests could play while we had our photos taken.
Then possibly the stupidest idea I ever had, was to give out Chinese containers of Fortune Cookies, but with our own fortunes inside them, things like “you just broke your fortune cookie," “go ask your mum," and “If you think we’re going to sum up your whole life on this little bit of paper, you’re crazy.” The reason why I say this was the stupidest idea, was because I had to fold up the strips of paper very tiny, place them inside each fortune cookie with a pair of tweezers without breaking the cookie. And I did this for 160 cookies, the morning of the wedding. It probably wouldn’t be a stupid idea if you did it a few weeks ahead, just don’t do it the morning of the wedding.
So how did we pull of the surprise? Our guests turned up thinking it was our Engagement Party. When they walked up the driveway, there was a large sign saying “Welcome to Elle and Ray’s Engagement Party Wedding!” The photos of some of our guests faces as they walked in are priceless! After everyone had arrived, I walked down the aisle with my mum and dad and we had the brilliant Monty King officiate the ceremony. He made it so relaxed and had everyone laughing. It was just like we were casually hanging out with everyone, chatting and laughing.
Another little quirky detail was the pens we signed the certificate with. I had a hotdog pen, and Ray had a spanner. I’m sure everyone thought they were lame, but I thought they were hilarious.
The bridal party went off for some photos in a rose farm which I loved, my giant pink paper flower looked hilarious amongst the dying roses. We came back to the wedding and the rest of the night was just one huge party! Ray’s band played (free entertainment!!), we danced, drank and ate tacos. It was the best night and exactly what we wanted.
Well, there you have it! Our surprise wedding in a nutshell! I hope this inspires some of you to have your own surprise wedding, but if not, just keep in mind that you can have the day that you want, that you will enjoy and will want to remember for years to come. And you can use every element of the day to show your quirks and quips, even if it is a hotdog pen that you sign the certificate with.
Bridal Dress: Karen Willis Holmes // Celebrant: Monty King (Sassy Celebrants) // Photography: Little Black Bow Photography // Catering: Sprout Catering // Furniture hire/styling etc: The Wedding Designer // Cake: The Cheesecake Shop // DJ/Band: Ray’s band (In The Van) // Hair and MUA – Visage Artistry // Flower crowns: Floral affects & event hire // Paper flower: Etsy