A few years ago, Ben saw something on social media about a couple who had invited their friends to a 30th Birthday party and then ended up surprising them all with the fact they were getting married. He told his (then) girlfriend, Alice, that he thought it was a brilliant idea and that he’d love to do something similar if they ever got married as he hates all the ‘fuss’ that a wedding tends to bring.
Fast forward to December 2018, Alice had been to a Christmas party at Riverside, Stratford-Upon-Avon; an unusual, stilted venue that she was particularly enamoured was above a dinosaur mini golf, and hinted to Ben what a great wedding venue it would be. Ben asked Alice to marry him shortly after, and between Christmas and New Year they planned the surprise wedding at Riverside; no-one knew they were engaged until the following February when Ben proposed again with a ring. “We told everyone that the engagement party was going to be our main celebration,” explained Alice, “heavily implying that we were thinking of eloping and that they really should come.”
“A lot of people have asked us why we did a surprise wedding and honestly it was to stop all the rubbish that comes along with a traditional wedding. We didn’t want the only thing people would talk to us about for the lead up to be ‘the wedding’, we didn’t want all the opinions of what you should and shouldn’t have, we didn’t want a traditional day but most of all we didn’t want the obligation and expectation that the word wedding brings with it, that people come just because it’s a wedding. We wanted our friends and family to come because they wanted to, not because they felt obliged, and luckily we have such amazing loved ones that 90 people came to celebrate with us!”
With a £7,000 budget, Alice conducted the classic newly engaged wedding planning trawl of Pinterest for inspiration, alongside buying Rock n Roll Bride magazine and book, of course. Bright, fun and colourful weddings without a traditional colour scheme instantly stood out to her, as well as the opportunity to do some DIY projects. Early on, they decided they wanted to incorporate a senbazuru – a decoration 1000 paper cranes on strings – as a nod to a paper crane Ben made Alice from a napkin on a first date, which meant they had to do a LOT of folding in a short space of time! This was hung behind the top table, which then inspired the table centrepieces of tiny cranes hung in jam jars. Combined with a streamer back drop for their ceremony and pom-poms for other decorations, everything they made was multi-coloured and bright. “It definitely wasn’t a well-thought out, elegant colour palette,” said the bride, “nor was it massively thematic, but we liked that the elements were chose were highly personal to us.”
Their ceremony was held at 5pm to keep up the illusion of an engagement party; only about eight of their 90+ guests knew otherwise! Having their wedding late in the day meant Ben and Alice has a lot of time together, something that you often her couples saying they wished they’d had more of on the day. They woke up together, had breakfast together and got ready together, up until Alice was ready to put on her dress, and which point Ben was kicked out to go off and wait for them to have a first look. They had this on a nearby bridge, took their portraits together, and then had the agonising wait for the ceremony and surprise reveal together.
“At 4:45pm we waited in the room where our ceremony would be taking place for the guests to be ushered through and the surprise to be revealed. There was lots of love and hugs and happy tears. Our guests took their seats and we walked down the aisle together.” They chose ceremony music from bands they have seen perform live together during their relationship, such as Bears Den, Biffy Clyro, Bon Iver and Augustines. They had a reading by Alice’s best friend, that they’d found in the Rock n Roll Bride Facebook group. “Our ceremony was just perfect. Having done all our couples photos earlier in the day after our first look it meant we could head straight into the party after the few group photos we wanted outside.”
“Our wedding wasn’t about hating traditional weddings or throwing any sort of shade about people who got married before us,” concluded Alice. “It was just about us doing it our way. We love weddings, we love talking to our friends about their weddings, being excited for them and sharing their ideas but we just didn’t want that for us. Doing it the way we did meant we avoided a lot of the things that can be stressful about planning a wedding, for example, people’s opinions and expectations, however it also had its flipside as there was an element of guilt over keeping such a massive secret and worrying if people would be upset. Luckily we have such incredible people in our lives they pretty much everyone thought it was amazing and enjoyed the element of surprise and celebrated our love in the slightly crazy way we wanted.”