Helen and Jonny wanted to do something a little different without any pressure. So they came up with a plan to have a totally surprise wedding day. Their guests believed they were coming to a surprise engagement party for Helen, but alas they were played a same day edit film of their nuptials. Amazing.
They chose to tie the knot on Saturday 27 September 2014, holding an afternoon tea at Warren House in Surrey followed by a pub party.
Thanks so much to The Image Garden for sharing these wonderful photographs.
Helen and Jonny planned a wedding, without getting engaged, in 3 months and didn’t tell anyone about it. They had been together for over 11 years, and felt some pressure to do the predictable. Instead, they decided to skip all the fuss, and catch everyone off guard with a surprise wedding. They brought everyone together – family at an afternoon tea and friends at a local pub – in September 2014 under the pretence that it was a surprise engagement party for Helen. Little did they know she was in on the whole thing. Helen and Jonny agreed to have their parents present at the ceremony as witnesses, and therefore let them into the secret 2 weeks before the day. Without Helen knowing, Jonny also let their 5 brothers and partners into the secret so they were all there to surprise Helen when she walked into the ceremony room (which was all caught on candid camera). The small wedding party of 16 enjoyed a civilised afternoon tea and relaxed in the grounds of Warren House before moving on to a local Kingston pub on the river Thames in the evening. Here friends gathered, again expecting to surprise Helen on the day of her engagement (fingers crossed she says yes…). With Helen and Jonny hiding just outside, the crowd’s attention was brought to a video of the day’s events playing on a big projector screen. Slowly but surely, the penny dropped around the room. At that point, Helen and Jonny walked in and were greeted with cheers, poppers, confetti – and some very big hugs. Needless to say, a great night was had by all. And at 6am the next morning, Helen and Jonny jetted off to a (yes, you’ve guessed it) surprise honeymoon destination.
THE PROPOSAL | Technically, there wasn’t one! 11 odd years of dating and we’d never been able to agree on when, where, how and even why to get married… then in July last year, we shocked ourselves with a casual chat that led to an agreement – the time was right; we just wanted a great day without all the hype. Everyone would be expecting a ring, a proposal story, the wedding planning, stag and hen dos. Initially all this pressure felt overwhelming, but it soon turned out to be the perfect cover to bring all our friends and family together without raising any suspicion.
THE VISION | It’s hard to pretend we had an overall vision for the day; rather lots of little things all fell into place. And, as we took a slightly unconventional approach, it was easy enough to sidestep some of the traditional details. For instance, we didn’t have flowers, or bridesmaids, or cake. On a whim we bought some cute boxes of Belgian chocolates on our summer holiday which worked well as favours. Our aim was to have a beautiful, relaxed day in our home town celebrating with close family and friends… just with one slight twist!
THE PLANNING PROCESS | Here’s a rough time line of how the planning unfolded:
July – Gave marriage the green light. Ordered the dress that I’d fallen for months before Rang up Kingston Registry Office and took the earliest date possible that didn’t clash with other commitments, and would mean my brother was back from the USA. Went for dinner at Warren House and secured one of their function rooms for the date (I’d heard of the place from a friend at work at least a year before, and always wondered what if…). Booked the pub for the evening on my way home from work one night.
August – Went on holiday, driving around the Low Countries (bought favours).
September – Jonny took the lead on the communications side, as (conveniently) I was not supposed to know anything. Jonny liaised with our photographer and videographers and the venues to get the last few details right.
Registry office: £250
Champagne afternoon tea for 16 at Warren House: £600
Finger food / canapés at pub in the evening: £500 (min spend for hire of upstairs)
Groom outfit: £280
Rough total: £3,175
THE VENUE | Register Office, Kingston-upon-Thames. Warren House, Kingston-upon-Thames. The Bishop pub, Kingston-upon-Thames.
THE DRESS & ACCESSORIES | A lacy floor length gown from Phase Eight, with purple embroidery, and matching purple clutch. Hair; French plait up the back of the head.
FINDING THE DRESS | I found ‘the’ dress when I was least expecting it and, as cliché as it sounds, it was the only one I ever tried on. And it came way before everything else! In January 2014 I was helping a friend shop for bridal accessories when I chanced upon a beautiful evening gown on display in Phase Eight, and couldn’t resist trying it on. It was perfect but I couldn’t justify buying it without an appropriate event. Instead I regularly checked the website for weeks afterwards reassuring myself it was still there just in case I ever received an invite to a ball…
GROOM’S ATTIRE | Jonny wore a checked shirt, waistcoat and trousers from Ted Baker, all with subtle details that were the same shade of purple as the embroidery on my dress.
FILM | Eight Wood Studios absolutely made our day, and it wouldn’t have worked without them. They captured the day perfectly, and used the down time in the afternoon to the edit a short film to use in the pub later than evening. They hadn’t done a same-day edit before and made no promises, but we’re so glad they agreed to give it a go – it worked a dream and they really deserve all the credit
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER | Photography by Image Garden was superb, and Sharron even doubled up as our chauffeur, which was incredibly helpful! We were instantly at ease in her company and the resulting collection of photos are stunning
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. When we dropped the bombshell on my parents with 2 weeks notice, they were quite upset. It took a few days for them to come round to the idea and come on board with the plan. In fairness, I am their only daughter and, although we’d never discussed weddings at length, I guess the reality of the situation made them realise they had always expected a traditional day was on the cards. Of course they thoroughly enjoyed the day and think it was an inspired idea.
One last little confusing detail is that Jonny did in fact propose – on the morning of our wedding day. Armed with a ring from Claire’s Accessories, he waited for the photographer to arrive at our flat and then went outside to meet her. He then proposed at our front door, which is captured in our photos. Obviously I said yes – the whole day was planned – but it was still a very special gesture and one that added yet another surprise to the list!
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE |
Photography | The Image Garden
Film | Eight Wood Studios
Dress | Phase Eight
Suit | Ted Baker
Venue | Warren House
Such a fantastic idea. I am so inspired.
Thank you Helen and Jonny for sharing your story with us today xo Lou