Surprise ceremonies

Surprise! Surprise!

We all love to see expressions of delight when we make a love gesture a surprise!

But what if this backfires?

People need to be psychologically prepared to be the focus of attention, even if it is for a short while, by knowing they are going to a party or an event. Elderly people may have even more difficulty being fully present to the occasion, if they are not a little prepared.

So the TCN does not recommend “total” surprises for anyone. The surprise can be part of the event, not the whole event 


Of course, under no circumstances can the bride or groom be surprised about their own wedding, even if they can spring the event on their guests. Marriage is a legal contract and requires a 30 day "cooling off" period in Australia.

A word of caution too about surprising the guests. Parents have invested a lifetime in their children and so in many ways the Marriage Ceremony is a graduation for them. It can be brutal and disrespectful to not give parents (and grand-parents) some advance warning. Many people enjoy the anticipation of a special occasion.  Likewise getting married without their involvement can be even more damaging to family relationships. There are rare circumstances where parent-child relationships are so damaged that the couple needs to "go it alone". So think carefully and deeply. A second "pretend" marriage is not the same in the eyes of most people.

Other ceremonies

The most common requests celebrants have is for a "Surprise Birthday" or "Surprise Renewal of Vows" 

Consider planning the latter as a Wedding Anniversary Celebration not "Renewal of Vows"

Why?  Because putting anyone on the spot to make a public promise is disrespectful, no matter how convinced you are about the strength of the couple's relationship.

So it is a much safer option to plan:

  • A ceremony that celebrates the couple's life together, with participation by members of the family
  • Congratulations from the Celebrant, especially an authorised Marriage Celebrant, for being together as long as they have.

This puts no-one on the spot for public promises, yet has integrity for the occasion.

  • A "this is Your Life" type celebration may have the guest or guests of honour sitting to the side rather than at the front of the ceremony.
  • Therefore so much less threatening and enjoyable to the guest/s of honour

What if the “Guest/s of Honour” are just too shy to agree to participate in any sort of event ?

TCN suggests that you ensure that the person is agreeable to having a gathering, even if certain aspects will be kept as a “surprise”.

There are other alternatives. You may consider engaging a celebrant to

  • host a small an intimate gathering so the atmosphere is less overwhelming
  • interview a family member to create a “This is Your Life” gift as a present, without a ceremony or celebration
  • compile an “Appreciation” album by interviewing family and friends, and creating it with photos etc, a special gift, without a ceremony or celebration.

TCN professional civil celebrants can work with you to ensure that your surprise ceremony does not backfire.

Last modified on Wednesday, 30 September 2015 14:49

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