How to Pull Off a Surprise Wedding!
Updated: May 19
My bridal meeting with Amber Doucet was one of the coolest I've ever had. We sat talked over coffee and she explained to me all the details of how I would photograph her wedding but, most importantly, the reactions of her guests that would have no idea they were wedding guests, or that there was a wedding planned at all. Even cooler than that was actually helping her to pull it off. How? To tell it well, I’ve got to tell the entire story!
I met Amber when I was in college. At the time, our boyfriends were best friends, and we would all hang out at the bar Amber worked at. Immediately, I was drawn to her energy. She was so personable, fun, and bubbly. When she talked, I always wanted to listen. I loved how sweet and charming she was. Personally, as someone who often came off bristly without meaning to, those were personality traits I so admired.
Justin was a different story. He was six years older and had gone to high school with my brother; a brother that reminded me often I was his kid sister and not cool enough to hang out with the guys his age. Fresh out of high school, the age gap made guys Justin’s age MEN at a time when I was hanging out with boys. So this burly, motorcycle riding guy, Justin, intimidated the absolute hell out of me! Simply, being born the same year as my brother made him cooler than I was by default. So to be honest, I don't remember us talking much before his wedding day. I’d always just find comfort talking to Amber. In fact, all that I knew about Justin was second-hand information from either Amber or my boyfriend at the time. From that limited knowledge, I knew he and Amber were a non-traditional couple, and no one, including Justin’s family, ever expected church bells in their future.
Years passed and relationships changed. My friendship with Amber and Justin pretty much just existed on Facebook for a while. I’d seen they had a sweet little boy, Colt, but otherwise, we hadn’t really kept up. Believe me; I was totally shocked to get Amber’s message:
“Hey girl, I am looking to book a photographer on Sunday, March 15th, for about 4-5 hours. Justin and I are getting married, nothing big. It will be in Arnaudville at the catholic church. I know it’s short notice, but is this something you would be available for? Oh, I forgot to mention, our family thinks they are coming over for family pictures and will find out then that they are attending our wedding.”
I was as confused as I was intrigued. We met for coffee and I learned that Amber had already done all the leg work and planned her wedding in silence. She and Justin did wedding preparation classes with the church in secret, they picked a date, the dress, the tux(es), a cake, and a reception venue - all without telling a soul other than the priest and me.
Amber explained that she’d coordinated everyone’s outfits for family photos, and told all the girls she would have someone available for hair and makeup that morning.
Once everyone arrived, they were then lined up in the kitchen for the big reveal. I lied saying they were gathered that way so I could get a good idea of how tall everyone was before photos, but by that point I could sense everyone in the room was onto us. Not a moment too soon, Justin comes out holding Colt, who was wearing a special t-shirt! “Can Daddy Marry Mommy?”
In our line of work, we don't typically get to see this part. By the time our couples contact us, the groom has already gotten permission and has already popped the question. Justin’s ask, with the help of Colt, set the bar so high that I can’t imagine anyone will ever top it. The entire family erupted in emotion - laughter, excitement, and tears! That’s when Amber explained that not only were they planning to get married, but that the wedding was in an HOUR! I cannot describe the emotion in the room. It was something I’d honestly never felt before.
Everyone got dressed and ready. We drove over to the St. Francis Regis Catholic Church in Arnaudville. Amber & Justin said; “I do,” surrounded by their nearest and dearest.
The church emptied about half an hour later, but with Justin and Amber married as one. Amber tossed her bouquet from Justin’s classic black Chevrolet as they drove off to meet everyone at The Little Big Cup in Arnaudville for dinner and dessert. The most unique part of their reception, aside from it being a surprise and all, was Father Abadie stepping behind the bar as a mixologist. He fashioned Justin a Fr. Abadie signature drink; what I have named the St. Francis Sazerac.
Every wedding is unique, but I can truly say this is the first of its kind for me. There was no fuss, no stress, no drama, either before or during this wedding. The focus of the entire day was on the couple and the excitement of them becoming one. It was special, romantic, and utterly breathtaking in every way.
I was also able to meet Amber and Justin for the first time. I think with time, we change and grow so much that from year to year we seem to upgrade, much like iPhone models. The operating system is the same but always with improvements. I learned that Amber is incredibly good at surprises, loves hard, and is a great mom, and all this time, Justin is more unassuming than he is intimidating. They were both super kind throughout the wedding process, they make great parents and I am forever grateful to Amber and Justin for allowing me to capture their incredible surprise wedding day.