Spontaneous Ceremonies

By Kristen Castillo

January 20, 2015 5 min read

The mood is light and fun, and guests are arriving whenever it's convenient. They may think they're attending a barbecue or maybe even your engagement party, but what they don't know is the celebration is actually a wedding!

Pop-up weddings, also known as flash weddings, have been trendy lately with couples who want the party without all the typical fuss. Still, the seemingly impromptu weddings require quite a bit of planning and a lot of secrecy. After all, no one except the bride and groom (and a few select others) know the event is a wedding. In some cases, the bride or groom may even be surprised, too, since sometimes one would-be spouse surprises the other with an unexpected ceremony.

"It tends to be easier for couples to plan a surprise wedding on their guests than one half of the couple surprising the other half," says wedding planner Kia Martinson of ESTOccasions and Engaged Connecticut. "There is a lot that goes into planning a

wedding, and having to keep that secret can be difficult."

*Easy Events?

The concept of a pop-up wedding may seem fuss-free, but wedding experts disagree.

"In my opinion, a flash/pop-up wedding takes quite a bit of planning, so it's an ironically complicated spur-of-the-moment wedding concept to pull off!" says Dorian Smith-Garcia, editor-in-chief of The Anti Bridezilla, a luxury bridal site, who explains that at the least you'll need an officiant and a witness, while a flash-mob wedding may require additional pre-planning and rehearsals.

Still, it's an option for brides and grooms who don't want to plan and host a more formal wedding.

Traditional wedding planning "can be exhausting for a couple," says Dezhda "Dee" Gaubert, owner of No Worries Event Planning, noting the pressure of handling big-day details such as invitations and tracking down RSVPs.

"By treating the event as something more casual, the guests are more laid back about the event, barely even connect with the couple in the months or days leading up to it, and thus, the couple can relax and instead get excited about the surprise, instead of stressed about the lead-up to the actual wedding," she says.

Smith-Garcia agrees, explaining pop-up weddings are for couples looking for "a truly unconventional wedding."

*The Guest List

While weddings are all about the bride and groom, their respective families want to be a part of the celebration, too. Some guests, including family members, are OK with flash weddings, while others are not so enthused.

"Much like a destination wedding to a far-flung spot that requires expensive travel plans, not everyone is up for the concept of a pop-up wedding that requires secretive planning and in some cases subdued attire so you blend into the crowd in a very public space," says Smith-Garcia.

Be careful not to hurt family members' feelings if possible, and share your plans in advance with a family insider for both the bride and groom.

"My one big piece of advice is to let someone on both sides of the family know to make sure they are able to help get the right people to the wedding," says Martinson. "You would hate someone important to miss it cause they aren't sure what is going on."

*Planning a Pop-Up Party

Don't be fooled into believing flash weddings really happen spontaneously. Hosting a pop-up wedding does take work, especially if the ceremony is going to be at an offbeat location.

For example, Gaubert plans weddings in Paris where, "the legend is you can literally organize your friends and get married on the street."

Sometimes these on-the-fly weddings work, but not always. "In various metropolitan areas, you really need to check first with the city to ensure there aren't any permits necessary -- or to secure the necessary permit," she says.

If guests are invited, it's essential everyone arrives in time for the ceremony.

"I recommend that couples say there is a 'big announcement' at a certain time," says Gauber. "It'll leave guests guessing and ensures they arrive on time."

*Budget

Think a pop-up wedding is budget friendly? Maybe, maybe not.

Permits can be costly, as can some of the other big-day logistics, such as your clothing, food for the party, flowers, photography, videography and hiring a coordinator.

"Much like a destination wedding, there are hidden costs and hurdles that need to be considered," says Smith-Garcia, noting that time spent planning the wedding adds up, too.

"You may find that you set yourself up for more work than you expected!"

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