Have you ever been a guest at a Surprise Wedding? I almost burst into cartwheels and spirit fingers when I found myself at just such an event a few months ago. And it completely lived up to all my surprise wedding fantasies. The faces are priceless, the love seems a bit more palpable and the mood is as carefree and joyous as they come. All in all, everyone deserves to be a guest at a Surprise Wedding at least once in their lives. Until then, devour this gem captured by  Tara McMullen Photography in the full gallery.

From the Bride… Drew and I have been together for nearly 12 years — we started dating when we were in high school. We wanted to have a wedding that reflected who we are as individuals and as a couple. As a young girl I grew up dreaming about my future wedding dress, but not of my actual wedding. The idea of planning a large event that centered on me always made me a little nervous. As a result, we were originally planning on eloping. Keeping our wedding simple and something just for the two of us greatly appealed to me. A few months prior to our wedding, however, we changed our minds and decided that we wanted to surprise a few of our nearest and dearest with a small wedding. Not having our families with us on the day of our wedding was something we didn’t want to regret. With Drew’s 30th birthday coming up, we knew we had the perfect guise for our surprise wedding. A surprise birthday party for Drew was not only the perfect façade; it also gave made lying to our family and friends much easier as I was able to express excitement to them without giving away our secret. Once we decided that we were going to have a wedding, I enlisted a good friend to help me plan. I knew that wedding dress shopping alone would lead to an instant panic attack, and I needed an accomplice to help reinforce my lies regarding Drew’s surprise birthday party! We really wanted my father, who is a Catholic priest, to marry us so we quickly let him in on our secret as well. In the month leading up to our wedding we did end up having to tell a couple of others who said they were unable to come to the birthday party. Fortunately for us, these people quickly changed their plans.

We wanted to choose a venue that had an intimate, casual feel, and the Harbord Room restaurant in Toronto could not have been a better fit. With its coral pink walls and quaint back garden, it was a very romantic setting.  With a maximum capacity of 30 people, it also meant that our invite list was necessarily small. Drew and I are very fortunate to have many people in our lives that mean a lot to us. Once the wedding planning got going, I began to wonder if we should just go for it and plan a large wedding with everyone we love in attendance. But, my intuition kept telling me to keep it simple, and I am so glad we did. Looking at the photos of our guests’ reactions to the news has made it all worth it. The look of utter shock, followed by love and excitement in their faces, always brings me to tears. The reaction from our family and friends not in attendance has also been overwhelmingly positive. We have gotten a lot of, “I should have done that,” and, “I wish I thought of that first!”

Only having a few months to plan (three, to be exact) helped us to make swift and quick decisions. For brides-to-be who are indecisive by nature, I highly recommend having a short engagement. Because I couldn’t enlist friends and family to help with preparations leading up to and on the day of the wedding without ruining our surprise, I hired a planner to help us. Our planner, Karina Lemke, was absolutely amazing. Choosing the right photographer was also important to us as we wanted to be able to share candid images with our loved ones not in attendance. We could not be happier with the way that our photographer, Tara McMullen captured the day.

Wedding Photography: Tara McMullen Photography / Wedding Venue: The Harbord Room in Toronto, Ontario / Wedding Planning + Coordination: Karina Lemke / Wedding Dress: Elizabeth Fillmore via Mrs. Bridal Boutique / Hair: Industry Hair Dressing / Makeup: Gee Beauty