How can I surprise my wedding guests?

Bride with guests

If you feel like you and all of your friends are getting engaged and married at once, you're not alone. Many couples report a three-year stretch during which they're attending a wedding every other weekend. When that's the case, it can be hard for a couple to sneak in any surprises for guests-when everyone's getting married, it's hard to find ideas that stand out! But when you are able to work in unexpected detail, it's nearly always the thing everyone remembers. To help inspire your unique celebration, wedding planners share their favourite ways to surprise your guests at your wedding reception.

While including a few traditions at your wedding is important, why not make sure your wedding stands out as one your guests will remember long after you've said: "I do"? Put your twist on a favourite trend, like having a cigar or tequila bar instead of offering just a signature drink at cocktail hour. Add a personal touch to popular décor for an alternative look with a timeless approach. 

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Here are our top ideas for an unforgettable celebration that will wow your guests.

Bride with the guests

Make an Unexpected Entrance

Surprise your guests by arriving in a horse-drawn carriage or vintage car. Alternatively, surprise them when you get to the wedding reception by arriving at a grand song or having someone play the bagpipes!  

Incorporate your Heritage

If you hail from another part of the world, embrace your heritage by incorporating a traditional sermon or blessing in your wedding ceremony. There are also plenty of non-religious rituals you could include, such as mixing two colours of sand into one jar to represent the coming together of families.

Provide Alternative Entertainment

Instead of playing a playlist to create the background vibe before a wedding ceremony or during the drinks reception, find an altogether more unexpected means of entertaining guests. This could be a guitarist, magician, caricaturist or a human statue who makes witty quips at passing guests.

Play Dress-up

Not everyone wants to stay informal wedding attire for the entire wedding day, so take this sentiment as a chance to surprise your wedding guests too. You might suddenly appear dressed as your favourite superheroes or in medieval dress at some point during the wedding reception. Make sure the photographer is on-hand to capture the look on everyone's faces! Providing a fancy dress for a photo booth is also a good way of getting everyone involved!

Arrange a Choreographed First Dance

Although it's becoming popular at weddings, it never fails to surprise people when a couple pulls a choreographed first dance out of the bag. If you want to throw your guests off the scent, start the dance as a traditional slow dance, before the music changes into an upbeat jive that you've practised some moves too!

Singing Waiters

Hire some multi-talented waiters to serve your guests at the wedding breakfast. At the moment of your choosing, get them to break out into song in a flash mob-style performance. It'll be unexpected and put a smile on each and every face in the room.

Cocktail Memories

Invite your guests to get creative at your wedding reception by setting up a cocktail bar where they can mix their inventions. Don't leave it at that though – get them to take polaroid photos of their workmanship, write an ingredients list and give their cocktail a name. They'll have a lot of fun in the process, and you'll end up with a cocktail recipe book to remind you of your big day.

Celebrity Look-Alike

Have a little fun with your guests by hiring a celebrity lookalike. It'll take everyone a while to figure out they're not a celebrity and will make for a fun collection of photographs too.

Fairground Fun

Give your guests some alternative activities to do in the evening aside from hitting the dance floor. Bring in a candy floss machine or popcorn maker, add in a couple of retro arcade games, or have a bouncy castle set up while everyone is eating. By this point in the day, guests will think they know what the evening has in store for them, so it'll be a true surprise when something different happens.

Assign Seats With a Sip

Swap traditional escort cards for individually labelled champagne flutes that will get everyone to their tables and ready to toast in one step.

Go Out With a Bang

Jazz up your ceremony exit or nighttime reception with a celebratory firework display. Or hand out sparklers and champagne for your guests to hold as they escort you to your getaway car when the night is over. (Don'tdon't forget to make sure your venue allows for fireworks and sparklers.)

Change It Up

All eyes will be on you, so it'll be a fun surprise when you go from your classic wedding dress to a shorter, flirtier frock at the reception. If you want to stay in your wedding dress, consider making other style changes like letting down your hair, switching shoes or adding a few new pieces of jewellery.

Anticipate Their Needs

Trust us; your guests will appreciate a cute emergency kit for the morning after. Include all the hangover essentials (Aspirin, water, energy bars) to get them back on their feet after a night of celebrating.

Choose Big, Impressive Blooms

Go big with tall, over-the-top centrepieces on your reception tables. Bright blooms like cabbage roses and ranunculus make a colourful statement, especially if paired with a neutral colour palette.

Provide Luxe Lounge Areas

Give guests a place to mingle between dance breaks by creating a lounge area with comfy couches, chairs and plenty of pillows. It's the perfect way to keep everyone in on the party even when they're off the dance floor.

Hang Low Chandeliers

The possibilities are endless when it comes to setting up your outdoor reception. Decorate the space with low-hanging chandeliers and delicate florals. Instead of round tables, seat everyone banquet style for a close and intimate atmosphere.

Offer a Feast for the Eyes

Don't overlook the details surrounding your wedding cake. Play up your cake display with twinkling lights, lots of florals and a unique stand.

Serve a Home-Run Groom's Cake

Make your guests' jaws drop with a second cake that looks (almost) too real to eat. Talk with your partner about which confection would best suit you. Incorporate an inside joke, a favourite hobby or a non-cake treat like doughnuts, assorted pies, cookies or an ice cream bar.

Spoil Them With Late-Night Bites

Just when everyone thinks the fun is winding down, liven up the party with late-night treats that will gear up guests for the after-party. Ice cream bites, fresh chocolate chip cookies and milk shooters, a fully loaded taco bar—your guests will love you for your midnight munchies.

Encourage Game Time

Keep your guests (especially the little ones) entertained at your reception with fun and interactive games. Set up a cornhole game of cornhole at your outdoor ceremony or reserve one of your reception tables as a colouring station.

Have a Fun "Guest Book" to Sign

Think beyond the typical guest book—ask guests to leave a message on a vintage surfboard at your tropical destination wedding, or create a jigsaw puzzle of your photo and let guests sign each piece.

Say Cheese

Having a photo booth is a surefire way to capture those silly, candid memories your photographer might miss. Outfit your booth with themed props like snorkel gear for a summer wedding or opera masks and monocles for a formal affair.

Prioritize Lighting

Revolutionize your venue with creative lighting. For example, decorate your rustic venue with decadent chandeliers for a touch of eclectic elegance.

Display Towering Tiers

With a large guest list, you have the perfect excuse to take a sky' s-the-limit approach to your cake. Talk with your cake baker about creating a multi-tiered masterpiece that steals the show and feeds a crowd.

Wear a floppy hat

Oversized headwear is on-trend for brides, and a floppy hat would be just the right piece to top off your garden wedding attire. Tie a silk ribbon around the brim or add flowers to dress it up.

Honour special people in a unique way

As a couple getting married, you probably have many people to thank. Find a way to express your love and gratitude as part of the wedding. This could mean suddenly stopping the ceremony from delivering a big bouquet to your mom, or it could be using a large photograph of your grandparents as part of your décor.

Check out some of Melbourne’s best Wedding Singers to help you celebrate on your special day.

Create an instant photo guest book

Leave an instant camera next to your guestbook and have an attendant ready to take pictures as each guest enters the venue. Guests can sign their names under the picture, and you will have a wonderful way of remembering who was in attendance on your big day.

Create custom courtesy baskets for the restrooms

Give your guests a surprise in the bathroom by gathering miniature toiletry items to use or take. Include products like mini-deodorants, mouthwash, scented sprays, hand sanitizer, hairspray and anything else you can think of that someone might use to freshen up.

Hang a disco ball

If you love a party, this is a great way to set the stage for a personalized wedding where guests can relax and enjoy themselves. A disco ball signals fun.

Hire a specialized mixologist

If you and your guests enjoy cocktails, hire a knowledgeable mixologist instead of an ordinary bartender. A mixologist can create special drinks for your guests and even be a source of entertainment for those who want to learn more about mixed beverages. Guests can let loose, and you will get some fantastic pictures.

Use real, or fake, trees

Create your magical forest by bringing trees into your venue. You can get real trees delivered in pots, or you can use a piece of art that looks like a tree. Trees are beautiful symbols of family and longevity, making them perfect for a wedding. They also look pretty in pictures.

Hang a canopy of lights

Lighting is an important part of wedding décor, and strings of white lights can be stunning. Take the drama up a notch by decorating the entire ceiling with a canopy of white lights. It will create a romantic mood and wow your guests.

Plant a living wall

Greenery and live plants are a current trend in wedding décor. Bring this style to your wedding in an exciting way by standing in front of a wall of plants as you say your vows. Your florist can help you with this if you're not sure how to start.

Build your aisle over some water

Water can be both dramatic and romantic and will quickly bring your wedding décor to a new level. Choose a venue with a pool or fountain and construct a bridge across space. You and your wedding party will make a beautiful picture walking over the water.

Show a surprising splash of colour.

Adding a pop of colour is a great trend for wedding wear. Grab your guests' attention by hiding some colour under your dress. Colourful ruffles will peek out when you move, offering a little bit of fun to an otherwise traditional gown.

Encourage Pre-Ceremony Mingling

Building up the chemistry of your guests ahead of "I do" time will get them feeling like they know each other, and by the time the ceremony arrives, big hugs and great conversations will take place throughout the big night. Activities that are accessible, engaging, adventurous and even kid-themed can be especially rewarding.

Whether you have a cocktail hour preceding the ceremony or not, invite the whole guest list to a post-rehearsal dinner social gathering at your favourite local hangout or first date location.

  • Plan an easy but beautiful 1-mile walk-a-thon, complete with start and finish line entertainment at a nearby park.
  • Hire several nannies and lifeguards to watch all of the kids at a hotel pool or YMCA while the adults play a round of golf, go on a local brewery tour or do some wine tasting.
  • With everyone encouraged to show up in costume, rent out the bowling alley at 9 am and provide doughnuts and coffee while you mingle among the lanes.
  • Have everyone bring a chair, one food item and one drink ingredient to a taco bar set up outside of your house (or friend's with the largest yard).
  • If it seems like adding 'another event/party' is too much additional work, delegate a couple organized friends to help you pull it off. Usually, they're more than willing to step in and help, especially those that have hosted a wedding before!

You'll be glad for all the time and conversations you can get in during these casual, pre-wedding social gatherings. At the rehearsal, ceremony, and reception, you'll likely not have the chance to mingle in this way.

Wedding Favors Your Guests Will Actually Use

From Jordan almonds to cheap sunglasses, wedding favours come in a wide variety of options. Still, unless very clever and/or meaningful, most of the time they're sadly forgotten and never used again, which seems like a waste.

We feel if you're going to spend resources on guests favours, rehearsal dinner thank-you gifts or wedding party memorabilia, you want it to be something your loved ones are not only going to use on the regular but also help them recall the wonderful occasion when they received it. They remember friendships, love, celebration and good times had by all, wrapped in one small, affordable gift. Simple, right?

Contemplate this option: totally reusable, uniquely useful and easy-to-handle silicone drinkware that travels well, keeps drinks insulated, and maintains the pace at any party. With wildly colourful choices, customization options and availability in eight different sizes, Silipint's silicone drinkware is giving the wedding favour market a shakedown. We've had scores of couples order customized silicone cups for a wide variety of gift-giving inspiration, like-

  • You are offering stemless wine glasses to add a class with no broken glass, on the dance floor at your vintage, classic, rustic or formal wedding alike.
  • They are gifting a 16 ounce Pint for a weekend-long, event-packed wedding bonanza that guests take from one activity to another.
  • They are presenting a Taster base on each table setting during the reception for all guests to commemorate the champagne toasts in unison.
  • They are bundling a 1.5 ounce Shot with a mini liquor bottle to toast the entrance of the bride and groom, or to have back in their hotel room.

We've seen guests bargaining with each other to score some extras at the end of the night—brides hoarding a few for the honeymoon suitcase. Kids are entertaining themselves with their new cups for hours on end. Once back at home, they are brought out, again and again, always reminiscing about "the best wedding they've ever been to."

Check out our post on What are the wedding DJ packages and specials?

Surprise Your Guests At The Reception

Surprise, you're married! Wait, that's not a surprise. It's sweet, it's exciting, and it's the first step in your new life, but it's not surprising. Do you know what is surprising?

  • Giving swing or salsa dancing lessons to guests at your reception.
  • When guests explore your reception venue and discover a secret tent that's serving a themed shot.
  • If tossing the garter or bouquet was tossed out, instead, have guests try catching a Marge Simpson wig and a pair of clown shoes for the embarrassed (and hopeful) still-single couple to adorn as they share a dance.
  • It can be as simple as providing old-fashioned yard games like croquet or badminton or as complex as mapping a treasure hunt, creating an s' mores bar around the fire pit or a setting up a super sweet kissing booth full of lollipops.

Whatever you can think up, the element of surprise should not be overlooked. Your marriage certainly will be full of it!

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Weddings come in all shapes and sizes. So, whether you tend to the more traditional or to the super off-beat, there are many ways to add a touch of something different that is uniquely you. After all, it is THE day to celebrate your love!

Frequently Asked Questions About Wedding Surprise

Ways To Surprise Your Wedding Guests
  1. Wardrobe change. 
  2. Switch up the bouquet toss and garter toss. 
  3. Try this fun spin on table numbers. 
  4. Organize games for each table. 
  5. Set up a satellite bar. 
  6. Book your favourite food truck. 
  7. Have a campfire. ...
  8. Try a fun alternative to a photo booth.

An honorary bridesmaid or bridal party member is an attendant to the bride whose involvement in traditional bridal party duties vary based on the bride's desires. They typically walk down the aisle but will not stand at the altar.

The way a surprise wedding works is fairly straightforward. The couple invites their guests to an event that they will say is another type of party. Then, after all the guests arrive, the bride and groom will tell them that the event is actually a matrimonial celebration.

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