If you’re the spontaneous type, there is no better way to surprise your partner (or favorite couple) than with a vow renewal ceremony. Whether a big anniversary is coming up or you’ve overcome some recent hurdles in your relationship that you think are deserving of special recognition, vow renewals are an extremely memorable and romantic way to acknowledge how much you’ve grown as a couple.
Planning any surprise event comes with its own set of challenges, particularly when it comes to logistics (and keeping things a secret). Below, we’ve outlined some of our most prized pieces of advice to make sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible when planning a surprise vow renewal.
Just as with weddings, nothing else can be done (or booked) until you have a date set. If you’re planning the surprise for your partner, it should be fairly easy to find a date that works for you both. However, if you’re surprising a couple, you might have to ask some creative questions to get them to spill their availability without giving anything away when planning a wedding vow renewal. One of the easiest ways is to plan a pretend get-together with the couple, or gift them with fake reservations at their favorite restaurant where a car will pick them up instead. Just make sure that you have a backup plan in case they try to cancel or change things up.
No matter who you’re planning for, you’re going to want to have a vision early on. Are you picturing an intimate ceremony at the couple’s home for a simple wedding vow renewal? Or an epic, elopement-style shoot with just you and your partner? Vendors such as venues and photographers are often booked the furthest out, so make sure that you hammer out what’s most important for your wedding vow renewal as soon as you can.
Logistics, backup plans, and day-of coordination all become a lot easier when you’ve got someone else helping you out. Whether you’re planning for a couple or your partner, consider enrolling the help of a sibling or parent whom you know would enjoy being involved. A little bit of help will give you the opportunity to embrace what you’re good at and delegate the rest. If you’re not a killer planner, find a close friend who is. If creating a wedding budget is not your thing, maybe reach out to your partner’s accountant cousin for assistance. The more the merrier, as long as they can keep a secret and not ruin the wedding vow renewal ceremony.
If it’s your ceremony, this shouldn’t be too difficult, but if you’re planning for a couple, creating the guest list might be one of the most stressful parts. One of the primary reasons to enlist the help of a close friend or relative is to help figure out who should be invited. Just remember that keeping the guest list to a minimum will not only reduce stress for you as the planner, but will also reduce the chances of a few people feeling left out. Also, the more people who know, the higher the chance of someone slipping up before the big day—so, make sure that it stays a big surprise.
No matter how many guests are invited, it’s best to keep them up to speed as soon as you’ve set a date, so that they can plan ahead. Whether you choose to communicate with the guests via regular print wedding invitations or email, make sure that the “surprise” aspect is up front and obvious. Nothing is worse than spending hours planning something only for it to be ruined by a minor miscommunication.
What happens when you’ve planned a beautiful event and realize at the last minute that the couple doesn’t have something to wear? Or you overlooked the transportation aspect and have to organize something at the last second? It’s easy to get so caught up in the fun parts of the planning process that you forget some of the most important details. This is where you could definitely use the help of some relatives or family friends. Just don’t worry about decor or the wine selection until you have all the logistics figured out.
With special events—big or small—something is bound to go wrong, and the chances of hitting a few bumps in the road are only amplified when planning a big surprise gathering. If you’re a perfectionist, make sure that you figure out the priorities early on and spend your energy making sure that the most important aspects are ironed out. It’s much easier to come up with a solution if you’re simply short a couple of chairs or table settings than it is to deal with a missing caterer (or worse, a missing couple). Hope for the best, plan for the worst, and recognize that the actual day will probably fall somewhere in the middle.
Since it’s a surprise, there’s no rewriting, so you have to make sure that you have the original vows on hand. Make sure that you’re able to track them down (or at least come up with a backup plan) before you start booking locations and vendors such as the wedding venue and photographer. If the vows are nowhere to be found, be sure to check old photos and videos from the wedding day. Vows are generally heavily documented, so don’t be afraid to reach out to family and friends for help tracking them down.