Hosting a big wedding with lots of lead-up, a crowd of guests and an Instagram hashtag may be right for some couples, but it isn’t for everyone. Perhaps you don’t love all the attention or you’re overwhelmed with opinions from others (no matter how well-meaning). Or maybe you just don’t want to share one of the most personal moments of your lives with the rest of the world. The secret wedding trend is especially popular with celebrities, who may want to maintain a modicum of privacy in their personal lives. Some go to extremes to keep their event hush-hush, only announcing their engagement or marriage months after the event. Whether you’re a public figure or not, here are my top tips for pulling off a secret wedding in style!
Ask wedding professionals to sign an NDA
The first rule of the secret wedding club? Don’t talk about the wedding! The more people who know about your event, the more chance it has of leaking out, so you’ll want to keep those in-the-know to a minimum. For celebrity weddings, a wedding planner can act as a conduit for the client, so caterers, florists, and so on, don’t know who the client is. They may even give the client an alias, and conduct venue tours and other planning activities by video. The wedding team is then asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so that even after the event, leaks are kept to a minimum. For key creative partners, like the dress designer, home visits or after hours appointments for fittings and alterations can be arranged.
Keep the guest list very small
As I mentioned, the fewer people who know about the wedding, the better your chance of preserving your secrecy. Keep your guest list to just family and very close friends. Or, for the ultimate secret wedding, elope! If you want the moment to be just yours, then all you need is a minister, a witness, and a beautiful location. (Did I mention that the Colorado mountains are the perfect backdrop for a romantic mountain elopement?). In some states, you can even apply for a confidential marriage license (no witness needed!).
Bluff a little
This is another tactic you can borrow from celebrity weddings, where a decoy location is often leaked to the press. If you really don’t want your guests to spill the beans, surprise them! Invite them to a housewarming, an engagement party, or another event, and then surprise them with a wedding after they arrive. Or relocate the group to another location once they’ve arrived. Surprise weddings have a special kind of magic, and once they’re over the shock, your guests will love it!
Choose a secret location
One of the best ways to ensure privacy is to rent out an entire locale in a secluded location, or borrow a private residence. Another tactic is to leave the country (and who doesn’t love a destination wedding!). From desert sanctuaries to private islands, there are many options for a super secret wedding, especially if budget is no obstacle. If you’re a public figure where the media are likely to take an interest, ensure you choose a venue with lots of indoor space or areas that can be tented, to thwart drones and helicopter activity. I’ve even seen the above airspace manipulated at times!
These days, you’re only one hasty Insta story away from a carefully-planned secret wedding becoming a public one. That’s why we event planners recommend a cellphone ban. That includes staff, who are limited to walkie-talkies during setup, event and teardown, as well as guests. Create a procedure where they can check their phones as they arrive, and retrieve them easily when they leave. This way, you’ll be able to control any and all photographs of the event, and ensure they are only released when and where you choose. Just remind your guests that in the event they need to check their phone (and check on the kids), they can leave the space to do that and return. Keeping them informed helps to reduce the stress of going without their gadgets for a few hours.
Of course, a secret wedding doesn’t usually stay secret forever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t break the news on your terms. Beyond the wedding professional NDAs, you should also take some time after the ceremony to ask guests to help you keep the event under wraps. The people who love you will almost certainly respect your wishes if you communicate them clearly.
Top image by Brandon Werth