Surprise wedding: Engagement party and Wedding in One

We have had a few surprise weddings recently - and they are always very warm and exciting. The most common situation is when a couple decides to combine an engagement party and a wedding - and often a few guests and family are part of the plan, but not everyone. The officiant often arrives, introduces themselves, asks people to join the couple, and proceeds with the marriage service. Sometimes the couple slip away briefly and change clothes, and rejoin the group for the ceremony.

In two recent cases, we have held these ceremonies in the party rooms of condos, where it was already set up for a mini-reception for the 'engagement'.  Here is an example of a 'surprise' ceremony, from our other website.

Some advice:
** Decide in advance who will serve as witnesses - this can be an honour for people who were not part of the planning.
** Decide in advance who will need a little time to compose themselves before the ceremony (people who may be affected by the surprise).
** Take a few minutes to set up. Provide chairs in front of the couple to seat elderly guests and close family. Hug some people. Ask close relatives to hold your rings, and involve them.
** Provide a guest book or some other way to capture people's reactions.
** Pass out champagne during the signing of the license, to prepare for toasts and congratulations