how to word wedding invitations

How To Word Invitations For A Surprise Wedding

How to word wedding invitations

Reader’s Ask: Everyone Thinks We Are Getting Married Overseas, How Do We Word Our Invites So Everyone Is Surprised?

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!

Our Advice

Honestly, this is a great route to take within your specific scenario and there’s no reason to change the wording at all! This is exactly the kind of “bait and switch” that you want to create for your family and friends when arousing this kind of surprise and excitement.

When it comes to surprise weddings though, in general, here are some of our helpful tips:

Create a ‘Cover’

Having your guests think they’re coming to an engagement party and surprise them last minute with the wedding is one of the best routes to take. Make sure they know how much you’d like their presence at this particular event – displayed in your invitation. 

Nix the email invites for this. The more serious you make the engagement event look, the apter you’ll have all your guests arrive to celebrate – and surprise! Go with handwritten or printed selections instead.

You could also have your guests believe they’re coming to a send-off elopement party. Kind of the celebration before you and your beau-to-be jet off to your faraway adventures. This one is really tricky but just as fun to plan and surprise your loved ones with. Do the same here for your invitations as we expressed for the engagement party option.

Pick a Date & Location You Love

Just like if you were planning a real wedding, make sure you’re in love with you date and in love with the venue you’ve chosen.

But, remember, this is a surprise so don’t go overboard. Don’t rent out an actual wedding venue for your engagement party – think more uniquely such as local cafes, bookstores, or gazebo areas in a nearby botanical garden.

Don’t Go Overboard with Decor

Part of the surprise of a wedding is that it wasn’t expected – and it didn’t break the bank. Don’t go overboard with the decor. This kind of event is all about the memories made by the feelings and spontaneity of it all.

Spilling the Secret is a No-No

If you start telling too many people, the surprise will most certainly be ruined. Only tell the musts such as the vendors and the officiant!

Expert Advice from Darlene

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!!

Poem Invitation Example

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!




[Bride’s Name]


[Groom’s Name]

Expert Advice from Donna, Wedding Queen

President of 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:

Simple Invitation Example

The pleasure of your company

is requested at the

wedding reception for

[Bride’s Name]


[Groom’s Name]





The guests will think you’re getting married sometime before the reception though since the 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.

Expert Advice from Odi

Odi 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…”

More Invitation Info & Guides

how to word wedding invitations

all photos via Style Me Pretty