Why This Couple Threw a ‘Surprise’ Wedding and What It Actually Means
Cost-saving nuptials seem to be—somewhat ironically—all the wedding industrial complex rage. From microweddings to elopements, couples are eschewing multi-thousand-dollar fetes in favor of budget-friendly celebrations. Like, for instance, my friends Caitlin and Andrew. But they went one step further. They didn’t just elope or opt for a price-savvy event—no, they threw a full-on “surprise” wedding.
What does that entail, you ask? Here, the New York City-based couple spills the confetti on what exactly a “surprise” wedding is, why they did it and probably every other question you had about it.
How their engagement party evolved into a 'surprise’ wedding
“Andrew is a tax lawyer, and therefore, he is very efficient with everything that he does. That's just how his mind works—he suggested that we elope in order to make our wedding about us, and us only. From there, we decided that we would rather save our money, time and energy for a ten-day honeymoon (we wound up traveling all over Japan). By the time we decided that we wanted to elope, we had already given our family and friends a date for our engagement party, so we thought why not step it up and change our engagement to our SURPRISE WEDDING?!”
On eloping and who was in on the secret
“We eloped in a park with a justice of the peace named Beth in New Canaan, Connecticut, on September 25, 2015, and followed it up with a wonderful brunch at a place called Rosie’s. Our parents and siblings knew about the plan, and every year during our anniversary, we try to go back to New Canaan for the day. We walk the grounds of the park with our dog and go to Rosie's for brunch.”
Why they decided on a Chrismakkuh-themed engagement party
“Right. So, our engagement party—yes, it was originally organized to be an actual engagement party—was scheduled for December. After we eloped, though, we decided that we wanted the party to be an ugly sweater Chrismakkuh party—Andrew was raised Catholic, and I was raised Jewish, so it felt very appropriate! At the party we had all kinds of games, gingerbread-making stations, a homemade photo booth that consisted of props like ‘yamaclaus’ (they were red with white pompoms inspired by Seth on The O.C.), photos of our dog Hercules, snowman noses, stars of David, menorahs, scarves, Santa beards and homemade ugly sweater designs. We had a Polaroid camera and a sign-in book where people could glue their photos in and write well-wishes to us. We even had an ugly sweater contest, where the winner won a prize. At one point in the night, our moms hosted the Shoely-wed game, where they asked us and our loved ones questions about us as a couple. After the big reveal, we invited all of our friends and family to karaoke with us at Japas 55 on the West Side. It was one of our favorite establishments that has since closed. (RIP Japas.)”
How they finally revealed the *news*
“About an hour into the party, Andrew and I handed out fortune cookies with the specific request that everyone open them up at the same time. The cookies read, ‘Cait and Andrew got married!’ The back read ‘Lucky numbers 09/25/2015.’ Upon opening the cookies, we heard a bunch of different reactions from, ‘I knew it’ and ‘Oh my God, WHAT?’ to ‘I was supposed to be a bridesmaid,’ and ‘MAZEL TOV.’”
And the friends who might’ve been rubbed the wrong way
“In retrospect, while our siblings knew we were going to elope, I wish we told them the whole plan because Andrew's younger brother and his wife couldn't make it to the party. One of my close friends from college also missed the party since she was on vacation. To this day, she gets upset with me when my other friends discuss my ‘surprise wedding.’ She always says that I should have pretended to be a bridezilla and made her come to my ‘engagement’ party. And many of our close childhood and college friends are still upset with us that we did not have bachelor/bachelorette parties, so about two years ago I was with my college friends in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and we decided to celebrate my bachelorette. Andrew’s college friends and brothers have shopped the idea of throwing him a surprise bachelor party—nothing has been decided yet...so, for now, that’s to be continued!”
How they handled the gift situation
“We requested that instead of people giving us engagement gifts, they bring toys for the children of CASA of New Jersey (a non-profit that advocates for children who were removed from their families) in order to create a playroom in the Hackensack courthouse—my mom is a court-appointed special advocate for children in the foster care system, so this felt close to home. We also set up a honeymoon fund for those that wanted to donate.
The drawback of surprising your guests when it comes to gifts
“I think the one thing that hurts at times is how little some of our family and friends gave us after we they found out that we were actually married. I don't think it was intentional by any means. Over the past three years, I’ve gone to a lot of these peoples’ showers, engagement and bachelorette parties and weddings and always give them a gift. I guess what I am trying to get at is just because someone plans a whole blow-out wedding weekend, does not mean that they are anymore married than Andrew and me. So sometimes that rubs me the wrong way.”
The total cost, drum-roll, please
“All and all, we spent under $2,000. This included everything—materials for games, venue, ugly sweaters, alcohol (everyone got two tickets on us), food (we just had small apps and dessert), karaoke, thank you cards, etc. Also I should add: I surprised Andrew and my mom with an ice cream cake since both of their birthdays were coming up.”