How To Word Invitations For A Surprise Wedding

how to word wedding invitations

How to word wedding invitations

Everyone thinks we are getting married overseas, how do we word our invites so everyone is surprised?

We were planning to elope overseas and then host a reception when we returned, unfortunately, the venue we wanted was booked for any reasonable time afterward, so we booked it for the weekend before we leave to our destination. Here’s the thing though, everyone thinks we are getting married overseas, but we figured it would be a nice surprise to get married at the reception with everyone in attendance. I was planning to word the reception invitation saying something like “so and so are thrilled to announce their upcoming wedding, please join us for a pre-wedding celebration at venue…” and then after the cocktail hour we will make a thank you toast to all the guests and then surprise them with the actual wedding ceremony. I have found advice on eloping and reception wording but nothing quite fits this scenario. Any advice is welcome, thank you!

Darlene Taylor, PBC, TaylorMade Weddings

My first thought right out of the box is: Why change the wording at all? What were you doing before your plans changed? If everyone thinks you’re getting married overseas and then attending a reception in your honor, why not leave it that way? I mean – unless your “elopement” was to be WAY before the reception date. It will make everything more of a surprise for your guests when you actually break out with the wedding ceremony! I’m sure the etiquette experts may get me for this, but in order to pull off a surprise, you gotta fib a little….

Here’s an example invitation wording I like (and adapted for you) that you could use that won’t *really* be lying but would still follow your original “plan.” I love surprises!!!

We’ve been keeping it quiet
like little mice —
a private wedding
we thought would be nice.
We’re excited about marriage —
as happy as can be!
Please celebrate with us
at our big party!


Thank you so much for the quick reply! So, are you saying we should just word it as a regular wedding reception? Would that possibly confuse/tip off people into thinking that there is a wedding? I’ve seen replies from others that don’t like the use of the term “wedding celebration” but that particular phrase seems to make sense to me. We’re not really the type of couple that would use a rhyming invitation, our invitation designs are a clean modern look so maybe clear simple wording is best? Thanks again so much!

More Invitation Guides:

Donna, Wedding Queen, President; Top Wedding Sites, Inc®, a wedding planning guide, and Recent Mother of the Groom –

I’m not sure there is really any etiquette for how to word invitations to this event since it’s so nontraditional.

I’d send a wedding reception invitation, worded the typical way such as:

The pleasure of your company

is requested at the

wedding reception for

Anne Marie Smith
Mr. Frank E. Jones





The guests will think you’re getting married sometime before the reception though, since a reception is what is planned after a wedding. I’m not sure what to call a celebration of a wedding that hasn’t taken place yet., other than a bridal shower or engagement party. Would you be okay with allowing guests to think you will already be married when they arrive at the reception? That would mean that they’ll know (or think they know) they haven’t been invited to the wedding. Then, of course, you’d surprise them when they arrived.

I suppose you’d have to decide if the surprise factor is worth it. If it were me, I’d just plan the wedding and reception, invite the guests and then go away to your destination for the honeymoon. Seems less messy.

Jodi R R Smith, The Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting
Author, The Etiquette Book, A Complete Guide To Modern Manners

I like both of these suggestions. Another concept to consider is to just invite your guest to a regular cocktail party and then surprise them with the wedding. “Please join us for cocktails and conversation (or cocktails and dancing) on Saturday June 16th, 7:00 in the evening, 22 Broadway Lane…”

I wish you all the best no matter what you choose.

Darlene Taylor, PBC
TaylorMade Weddings

Well, you have to admit, this is going to be confusing no matter how you look at it because you are trying to pull off a surprise.

What you have is a couple of choices: Have a surprise wedding in a reception style atmosphere (all in one location) OR forego the surprise and have a traditional wedding in another location such as a church or private garden with the reception to follow. You could also use the same venue for your ceremony AND reception. Make sure the staff has experience to flip the room before you move ahead with that plan. Once you decide what you want to do, then you can figure out how to word your invitations because then you’ll know what you’re inviting them to. Bottom line, at this point, is that you’re inviting your guests to a *wedding*…surprise or not.

Some things to think about: If you go the surprise route, you may not get guests “dressed up” for the reception that you’re wanting to have. If you want the reception, you’re going to have to use that word somewhere in your invitation and that will tip of “wedding” which will compromise the surprise. Then you have to consider what Donna said, “Is the surprise factor really worth it?” In my experience, the phrases “wedding celebration” or “marriage celebration” suggests that a wedding has already taken place and guests are coming to a casual party rather than a wedding reception. It’s a less formal atmosphere than what you get at a wedding reception.

I’ve read about many couples surprising guests with a wedding at their supposed “engagement party.” This is an easier route since guests are thinking they are coming to an engagement party, which they are , and then they get the surprise. This is usually very informal and very intimate which makes it easier to pull off. Unless you have some huge event you can tie this “party” around, like a holiday or a milestone birthday, you are going to have one tough time trying to keep it a secret from your guests. You need a cover in order to pull off a surprise wedding.

how to word wedding invitations

all photos via Style Me Pretty