Huffpost Weddings
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Sandy Malone Headshot

Planning a Big Surprise Wedding for the Bride Is NOT a Good Idea

Posted: Updated:
Print

Okay, that's it. I'm calling BULLSHIT on "secret" and "surprise" weddings. I don't mean you can't have elements of surprise for your future spouse (today's groom surprised the birthday bride with cheesecake cupcakes at their pig roast), but I'm saying that deciding to plan an entire, secretive destination wedding with a huge group of people and then planning to pop the question en route or when your bride-to-be is already trapped down here is NOT A GOOD IDEA. I am telling you this from experience. I have now officially planned more than one "secret wedding" and I'm still suffering PTSD from the experience. So is my staff.

Oh sure, it started out innocently enough. I got a call from a guy who wanted to "surprise" his girlfriend with a wedding in Vieques. Not an elopement, mind you -- a full-blown wedding with caterers, tents, lights, first dances, photographers, etc. And he wanted me to plan all of it -- with very little direction from him -- so that it was all ready to go when everybody arrived. The first few months went fairly smoothly as he approved the venues I found him and made those arrangements. Enter the "helpful" friend.

A "good friend" of the bride's (not the MoH, mind you) had volunteered to help with the planning. Oh dear. Suddenly the whole picture changed. I had to do twice as much work because I had to get her to approve everything and then she had to have him approve everything and then she had to come back to me with changes. Extensive changes every time. If you're not giving me much to go on, you can't expect me to get it right on the first try. But try I did.

Despite the challenges, we were ready to go when the group began arriving. The bride accepted the groom's proposal on another tropical island the night before he flew her to Vieques for her wedding. At that point, I felt better meeting the actual bride and talking through the little details with her. Still, the "helpful friend" was aggressive and didn't want me to tell the bride her colors or other pertinent information. The groom wouldn't let her have a say in their processional song (about the only thing left to choose). They hadn't even brought her appropriate dress options to wear and she ended up shopping in my boutique for a sundress last minute. Even after seeing that, I thought we were really good to go at that point.

Turns out, not everybody who travelled to be there for "secret wedding" was actually a fan of the nuptials occurring. And when we (the wedding planning staff that the disgruntled family members always latch onto for venting purposes) found out that half of the guests weren't real excited about the wedding, things just got weird. The "happy" side partied harder, and the unhappy side got quieter and quieter. I'm not sure we've ever done a teardown so fast. Don't get me wrong -- they all had fun (the happy ones, including the bride and groom) at the wedding and I hope that the lucky couple is together and happy for years to come. But I had no idea what we were walking into that weekend. I've had family members and guests to contend with who weren't happy about the union before, but never in such an incredibly weird situation. I kept wondering if I had unwittingly forced this woman into matrimony by being a part of the groom's team? Seriously a conundrum, but we did our jobs. I won't be in the situation again.

We got a call from a groom the other day who wants to surprise his bride with their entire family at the elopement she has so meticulously planned in a coming month. I'd never heard his voice before his secret call to me. He's had nothing to do with any of the planning -- she's coordinated it all. And everything is going to be all screwed up with six new surprise guests (minimum) descending on her wedding and honeymoon. I'm not saying she might not be thrilled. I don't know her that well. But I got the definite impression in planning with her that they were coming all the way to Vieques because she wanted it to be just about the two of them. I CAN'T tell her. If it's a happy surprise, I'll ruin it. If she's pissed, let's just hope she gets mad at her fiancé and not the innocent wedding planner.

I like surprises. Sometimes. I think everybody is a little different. But this is something that I do know -- most women have some vision of their wedding day in their heads... and if you arbitrarily take it away from them -- even with the best of intentions -- I'm not sure that's the best foot to start out a marriage on. Also, most women want some say in what they wear to get married. Again, there are exceptions... but you take a heck of a risk when you drag somebody to a remote tropical island to get married without a wedding gown.

So I did yet another "secret wedding" consult with yet another groom this week -- he wants to do much the same as the other guy did except he wants to actually plan it with me, not pass me off to a friend of a friend to deal with. It's not that I don't believe him when he says she's going to be thrilled, and it's not that I don't think we can pull off the surprise -- we've done it before! I just wonder if, as a woman and fellow human being, maybe I'm not supposed to help "surprise" any bride with a pop-up wedding. Going to have to think long and hard about it before we agree to plan that one.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!
Sandy