Weddings are great fun but they can also be a bit of a nightmare.
As soon as you get engaged, people are on your back with bleats of, ‘So have you set a date?’ and then when you do set a date, you’re faced with the money hungry monster that is the wedding industry.
You can also expect to pay ‘wedding tax’ for everything you’re buying because hello, hi, people love to rip you off as soon as they hear your shindig’s actually a wedding reception.
So, why not avoid all that by gathering your favourite people around and pretending your wedding’s just a right regular 30th birthday party?
Well, that’s exactly what newlyweds Jenn and Matthew Brisch from Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA did last summer.
Their story first began when the couple matched on dating app, Bumble.
‘Matthew’s profile said he was a sapiosexual,’ Jenn explains.
‘I had no idea what that was, so I looked it up and saw it means someone who is attracted to intelligence and the mind.
‘I jokingly messaged him saying, “Is it bad that I had to Google what that word means?” And it just went from there.’
After exchanging messages, the pair met for the first time at a local bar.
Halfway through the evening, Jenn received a text from her best friend, who was out with her now-fiancé just around the corner, so she and Matthew joined them for a double date.
‘After that, we hung out for around 10 days in a row,’ Matthew says. ‘It was intense, but felt right.’
Then, in autumn 2016, during a trip to Martha’s Vineyard – an island just south of Cape Cod – the topic of marriage came up in conversation, and Jenn mentioned that she’d always liked the idea of a surprise wedding.
The couple only spoke about it jokingly at first, until February 2017, when they decided to actually go ahead and do it.
So, despite not technically being engaged, the pair began to plan their secret wedding.
As Jenn’s 30th birthday was just around the corner, they decided it was the perfect opportunity to get their friends and family together in one place.
However, they had to make sure that everyone came – I mean, you’d hope that a milestone birthday was a big enough draw to get people in, but we guess you have to make sure – so on the invitation, they hinted that there was going to be a surprise, hoping everyone would think that it would be a proposal.
So, how did they go about the hinting?
‘We sent three invites in total – one was a save the date, one had all the details, and we also included a picture with a ring hidden in it as a hint, then one as a final reminder that said, “I propose you all join us”, Matthew explains.
‘We wanted to make it really obvious so everyone would come, but they all thought it would just be the proposal. They’d no idea it was the wedding.’
Now the invitations were out, the couple had only a few months to stealthily plan the big day – picking rings, booking their favourite restaurant for the reception and hiring a photographer and videographer.
Jenn ordered a bridal gown rental from a dress hire website, as well as a long back wrap skirt to cover it up.
So, did they let anyone in on their plans?
Only two – Matthew’s friend Nicole, who was the officiant, and Jenn’s sister, Tricia, who needed to book time off from her nursing studies.
And did anybody guess at all?
‘In the run-up, I did everything I could to throw my friends off the scent,’ Jenn says.
‘One had started to twig and was asking me loads of questions about the day’s plans.
‘I just told her I thought the surprise was that Matthew was taking me away, and she seemed to buy it.’
On 24 June 2017 – the day of the party – the couple’s friends and family gathered at Charles River Footbridge, a beautiful spot in Cambridge.
Jenn and Matthew got ready together at a local hotel, having already made sure they cleared their apartment of any wedding paraphernalia, as they had family staying there.
Then, as they walked across the bridge to meet their guests, the couple staged a fake proposal.
‘It felt so real. There was so much love,’ recalls Jenn.
‘Everyone thought that was the surprise we’d hinted at.
‘We then asked everyone to head off the bridge over to an area we’d decorated with balloons, saying it was for a group photo.
‘Then, once everyone had gathered, I whipped off my skirt to reveal my dress. Matthew said, “That wasn’t the surprise, the real surprise is we’re getting married now.” Everyone was floored.’
Jenn recalls jaws dropping as she whipped off her floor-length skirt to reveal a wedding dress.
‘Everyone was shell-shocked,’ Jenn reveals.
‘Nobody knew what was going on, then my mother Kim figured it out and started crying.
‘We didn’t have any bridesmaids or groomsmen, although my dad Mike gave me away. We’re not very traditional people, so none of that mattered to us.’
After tying the knot, the newlyweds and their guests went to a local restaurant for the reception, before heading onto a club to dance into the small hours.
Months into married life, the couple has no regrets about the quirky way they tied the knot.
‘The video captured on the day is brilliant,’ reveals Matthew.
‘When we first got it back, we watched it on repeat for about three hours straight.’
‘We go to a lot of weddings, and they’re so fun but we wanted to do something different,’ Jenn says.
‘We didn’t want to go broke getting married either, or have to save for years.
‘We just wanted to be married as soon as we could, and we love the way we did it. It was a better day than I ever could have imagined.
‘We think the wedding industry can be so commercial, so it was great to bring it back to us and our love, with the people who know us best.’