by Scott Johnson

Most of us don’t want to admit it, but we can all be lazy when it comes to planning things. So when something like a wedding needs to be planned–often with an absurdly daunting list of a hundred different things that need to be ordered and organized–it’s not a surprise that a lot of people shut down and hire a wedding planner in order to take on the weight of planning a decadent affair.

Of course, there’s also the option of not planning much at all. You could just boogie on down to the courthouse and get married like Richard and Stacey.

These two proved you can still have a ton of fun getting married and taking pictures around downtown Seattle with just a small bridal party in tow and the sense of carefree joy you get when you do something on a whim, rather than wait months and months for an event to happen.

The other option, as movies like What If and shows like Parks and Recreation have inspired a number of people in recent years, is throwing a surprise wedding. Take Ashleigh Banfield (CNN host) for example who, upon not wanting to get bogged down in “a million details,” threw a surprise wedding for all those in attendance at what they presumed would be her 50th birthday party.

So, essentially, the couple just had to plan for a birthday party and that was pretty much it! Check out the article from People to learn more about their day!

We don’t get too many offers to shoot surprise weddings—mostly because we’re often booked months in advance and the idea of a surprise wedding is pretty much the exact opposite of that—but we have indeed had two that were truly special events full of love and excitement. Also, they just so happened to take place at the same venue. Weird. But that’s just the way we like it! Let’s find out more about them, shall we?

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Alford Wedding

One of our most emotional weddings, the Alford’s was a truly spectacular day. About a month in the works, the surprise wedding was staged as your typical Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone is dressed up, ready to eat some good food, excited to see family and friends—but they’re in for just a little bit more than that!

What makes this day so special is the love these two have for each other and the sheer impact their children have in their decision. Feeling like it was a “good idea” but still “non-traditional,” the couple very quickly established the plans within a month—which by our standards is pretty darn impressive. The wedding, to be held at the place they had their first kiss, is amazingly touching.

Raising a kid on her own, it was always Desiree’s hope that Hartley would find a father figure. “I cared more about her having a father figure more than a mate for myself.” It seemed like she found the best of both worlds with Ron!

Even more special, Ron didn’t know his father which makes his connection with Hartley almost kismet. The bond these two have with their respective kids is something else, but merging the two amazing families is one of those things you only see in movies—until now.

Part of the planning also had to involve including his son who was recently diagnosed with Leukemia, which had shaken things up a bit, but the ability to have everyone be there is what makes it even more fantastic for these two.

The day went off without a hitch, as everyone was welcomed to the wedding right away—with many doubting Ron’s words! As soon as they all saw the chairs and the officiant, it all became clear—this wasn’t just Thanksgiving dinner.

Cofield Wedding

One of the most thrilling aspects of a surprise wedding is that it feels almost like you’re pulling off a big heist. Only a few select people are in on the operation—lest certain family members feel betrayed—in order to make it run smoothly. It is done under utmost secrecy, because then that destroys the whole “surprise” aspect of it. But most importantly, the rewards are key—the excitement and shock on everyone’s face is utterly priceless.

So the Cofield wedding kicked off as a “engagement dinner,” planned for about two months. They both wanted small weddings, Mallory was lacking the “wedding gene,” and simply didn’t want to have all the bells and whistles—but they still wanted to make it special. Only close family and friends were invited, essentially the “wedding party,” as well as his boss who happens to be a preacher.

Once everyone was sat down in Mama Stortini’s, Mike got up on stage with his preacher boss and asked her directly, in front of everyone, if she wanted to officiate their wedding. Being in on the plan, she responds with, “well I’m honored. I don’t even know what to say, but why not just do it now? You have all your family and friends here.” Then it clicked with everyone. The tears, applause and cheers were everything you expect them to be. Everyone got duped! But at least it was the good kind!

Earlier this year, the Cofield’s surprise wedding was actually featured on Offbeat Bride! The article, written by Catherine Clark, discusses the diverse background of the parents of both of the bride and groom. After a more-or-less “traditional” ceremony, the two changed garbs to perform the traditional Korean Pyebaek bowing ceremony, in honor of Mike’s heritage, who is also African-American while the bride is Chinese, Greek, Italian and German!

Surprise weddings can be a lot of fun if pulled off correctly, though for some it might upset some of the more traditional family members. There’s not much more that can be the look on everyone’s face, however, so just that alone might be enough to convince you to throw your own!

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Did you have a surprise wedding? Ever been to one and have pics and videos to share? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll be sure to feature you!