Surprise Wedding in Hastings with 11 Guests

Georgina Piper Photography

October 2, 2017

For their wedding, Terri and Coral wanted to bring their families together for a memorable day in their home town. They kept the whole thing a secret and only told their family they were getting married on the morning of their wedding day! Their theme was ‘surprise seaside ceremony’ and focused on a little bit of everything they enjoy, but mostly their family and the town they both love.

“We decided to get married in September but and were worried about our parents wanting to contribute money that they didn’t have towards the ceremony,” they explained. “We even joked with each other about the possibility of eloping but in the end we decided that we loved our town and our community too much to leave it for the most important day of our lives. We also realised that we wouldn’t have a very large budget and with a large family and group of friends and colleagues, it could have become very unwieldy. Instead, we decided to have the most intimate ceremony possible with our very closest family and to surprise them with the news that we were getting married on the day… at breakfast! With four hours until the ceremony this meant they didn’t have any preconceptions and so could just enjoy the emotions of the day!”

“In order to get everyone that we wanted there, we had to say it was going to be a family day out as there are four birthdays and an anniversary around this time period. We decided to hint that we would be having a family photograph taken later in the day so it might be an idea for everyone to wear something nice. We had planned a breakfast at the beautiful St Benedict’s B&B and incredibly immaculate restoration of a Victorian house in St Leonards, lovingly reinstated to its former glory by the owners, Paul and Stephen. We knew that this was the point at which we wanted to make the announcement and so after everyone was well fed we gave them each a homemade puzzle piece to put together saying ‘You are all about to become in-laws’. Everyone realised that this was about the two of us intending to get married but they hadn’t cottoned on to the fact that the wedding would be that afternoon!”

“On announcing this, we achieved one of our most favourite photographs of the day where you can see the pure shock on our families faces. Given that we’d put them through all of this we’d arranged for hair and make up for them so that they only needed to worry about what they wanted to wear in the four hours leading up to the ceremony.”

The best thing about keeping their wedding a secret was that they could plan their wedding exactly the way they wanted to and do everything they wanted, without having to make compromises. “We’ve had a lot of feedback from other couples we know saying that they wished they had chosen to have a surprise wedding like ours. The one thing we get told a lot is that when lots of people know about the ceremony beforehand (whether family or friends) everybody likes to contribute ideas. Unfortunately they may not always be things that you want but you feel obliged to make compromises. With a surprise wedding this doesn’t factor in and your personalities can really get the chance to shine through – it’s your big day, after all!”

Their wedding was held at the Old Rectory, a luxury boutique bed and breakfast in Hastings. “Our ceremony took place in the beautiful English walled garden during the height of summer in the early afternoon”, said Terri. “We walked around the garden path up to the ceremony area holding each other’s hands in our different dresses and smiled all the way to Birdy’s cover of the Fleetfoxes song White Winter Hymnal. As we took our vows, Coral managed to mess up almost every single line and I cried so much there was a point where I couldn’t speak!”

Lots of tears from both brides and guests later, the grumpy cat cake (in a matching flower headdress) was cut, followed by family photos and a family meal at Webbe’s, a local fish restaurant. “After the day we arranged our main reception for just over month later in a large venue near to where we live. This was so that we could ensure that everybody we knew could come and that we gave them more than four hours to allow them to plan for it!”

Their favourite part of the wedding was seeing it all come together on the day, “Having kept it a secret for almost 10 months, it was incredible to finally be able to share that moment with our family. On reflection they are now so happy that we did things the way we did because it has left them with an incredible memory and a story they have been dining out on ever since!”

Their biggest expense was their ceremony venue, followed by their photographer. “We had seen a beautiful image online of the garden in the Old Rectory without realising where it was and we had both said it would be our dream place to get married. By this point we had already decided that we wanted to get married locally in Hastings so when we discovered the venue was in the Old Town we knew that we would have to get married there, no matter what! We also were keen to stay at the venue as a treat to ourselves – it wouldn’t really have had the same romance to come home and see your knickers drying on the radiator! We also splashed on the photography. We knew we wanted to have someone to really capture the day and from the beginning there was no question that this was going to be Georgina. She was in fact the first thing we booked. We love her style, her work ethic, the quality of each of her pieces and her incredibly easy nature.”

“We saved on both our outfits though as both dresses were from ASOS, together costing less than £100. Our wedding shoes were also from high street brands and Coral’s wedding ring was just £5 from eBay! When we saw it and realised it was fossilised coral we couldn’t think of anything more perfect. We also saved money on our cake which came from ASDA, we personalised it by adding a flower crown to link it in with the two of us.”

“If we have learnt anything it’s that this is our big day and you should do what you want”, they concluded. ” We invested a lot of trust in people that helped make our day what it was and kept it a secret alongside the two of us. Because of this we’ve made some wonderful friends out of the experience and we can’t thank them enough for their help. We wouldn’t have managed to create our perfect day without them.”