When I told people I’d been invited to a Surprise Wedding, nobody said, “What a great idea!”

Cousin Jane had been living with Scott for a decade when he phoned to tell me that he’d finally decided to marry her and that it was going to be a surprise.

“A surprise wedding? You‘re kidding me, right?”

Women like to plan their weddings. Growing up, we spend hours thinking about that special day. Will it be in a chapel? On the beach?  Small and intimate? Fabulous and pricey?  Countless books and magazines are devoted to this topic. Wedding planners work tirelessly to make Perfect Wedding dreams come true.

You don’t just drop a wedding in a girl’s lap.

Of course, this “girl” was in her 60s. And cousin Jane was crazy about her man.  Still, I had my doubts.

“Scott, are you sure this will be a good surprise?”  I asked.

Scott was inviting friends and family from all over the country to gather near their San Diego home He’d lure my cousin to her own wedding on a pretext. Then, he told me,  he’d propose, she’d accept and they’d get married.

I’d never heard of anything like it.

My friends were fascinated. Nobody thought it a good idea.  “You mean she won’t be able to choose her own wedding dress? Or the guest list? Or the venue? What is he — nuts?”

Scott isn’t nuts. He’s unconventional. He’s a magician. (When he moved in with Jane, he brought a rabbit and a dozen doves.)  And he’d never married. He’d always  told Jane his love for her was something that a license and ceremony wouldn’t change.

Jane still wanted that ring on her finger.

We all knew Jane’s heart was set on a proposal. But this wasn’t the proposal she had in mind. What if we flew in from all over the country to be there on her special day and instead of “I do” she said, “No way”?

“Either way,” my friend Rob pointed out, “it’s going to make a great YouTube video.”

How could I miss it?

The last wedding I’d been invited to was for the son of my father’s girlfriend, an elegant bash at an upscale country club.  A week after I’d made nonrefundable plane reservations and dropped a small fortune on a dress, Dad phoned to say that the wedding was off. My friends  predicted that Jane’s wedding wouldn’t fly either.  “How will he keep it a secret? Just wait — at the last minute he’ll phone to say she’s found out and she’s furious. No woman wants to get married like that!“  But the day came and the stealth ceremony was still on. I flew across the country, checked into my hotel and got a ride to the venue with two of my favorite cousins.

There was an hour of milling around a festively decorated party room packed with happy, nervous family and friends, sipping cocktails and catching up. It was a blast but I was still a little tense. “Is Jane going to be OK with this?” we asked each other.

Then the word came: Scott and Jane’s car was pulling into the parking lot!

Jane’s college-age son met his mother at the door. “Congratulations, Mom!” he said. “You’re getting married today!”

Jane screamed. It was a happy scream. We crowded forward, cheering.

Scott, on bended knee, proposed. We whooped and applauded when she said yes. (A few tears were shed.) The ceremony, performed by a friend, was clever and touching. Then everyone partied. It was an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind wedding. It wouldn’t make sense for most people, but for this unique bride and groom, it was pure magic. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

But if a man ever tried to pull this on me, I’d kill him.

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  • Gerry Aubin December 24, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    “Congratulations, Mom!” he said. “You’re getting married today!”

    That’s awesome!

    I think alot of people would react in many different ways to this 🙂

  • Jane Sewell December 19, 2015 at 11:28 am

    I love reading about these stories. I am in the wedding business now. I started as an apprentice with a wedding planner then branched out on my own taking up my hand at wedding photography. Luckily I recently got to take a huge part in a surprise engagement session with a couple who found me here. They employed me to photograph their engagement that started as a flash mob. I must say it was one of the most fun and special events I got to be a part of as a wedding business owner. And talk about one surprised bride!

  • Dot Pasko January 7, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    I just read the story in the February issue of Good
    Housekeeping. It’s a very swee story; but much like Suzanne Richardson MacAaron (who commented on 6/25/11), I wonder how they were able to getaround the license requirement. Have the rules changed since my marriage in 1960? Doesn’t the license have to be signed by both and then filed with a government entity? e.g. county clerk, town registrar ?

  • Suzanne Richardson MacAaron June 25, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Re surprise wedding in CA. Isn’t there a license requirement and don’t both have to appear and sign the application? Or was this just a celebration and then made legal later?