My wife and I would like to go back in time and change our wedding.
There was a knock at my door. It was my friend Eddie. He was with his girlfriend Michelle. They asked me if I wanted to hang-out.
I said sure.
Got into the back seat of the beat-up Buick. We were all just a year or two out of high school.
“Michelle and I are going to get married,” Eddie said.
“Cool,” I said.
“We got you so that we could drive to Las Vegas and get married.”
“I said. We’re all broke. Vegas is like 3000 miles away. Why don’t you just get married at your parents.”
Which they did the next day.
That’s how I got introduced to the idea of a pop-up wedding.
Every wedding requires a marriage ceremony. And if you don’t want to have a big, elaborate ceremony you might think there is only one option. A courthouse wedding. But this is not true. In, this article we are going to talk about one of the coolest developments in wedding trends. That trend is pop-up or flashes weddings.
Pop-Up Wedding Is More Than An Elopement
A pop-up wedding is a wedding that happens “unannounced” at a public location. It is small. As in there are only a few guests. This could be as few as two and up to ten. Because the two most expensive things are the venue and the number of guests, this helps keep the costs low. And you might be thinking that this sounds a lot like an elopement. Yet, I would say it’s not. The difference is subtle. But it is important. The difference is that elopement does not happen at a public location.
You must go to an official location such as the courthouse. Or perhaps the offices of an officiant. Or one of those Las Vegas wedding churches.
An elopement is much more official.
And more reserved ceremony.
Even if you are having Elvis walk you down the aisle. That’s a regular thing that guy does at the Elvis wedding chapels.
Instead, a pop-up wedding is as unofficial as possible. For example, the couple shows up with the officiant, some guests and the barest plan possible.
And by shows up, I mean at their favorite public place.
As we will show this place could be a “safe” place like a park or a reserved space at a restaurant. Or you can be more adventurous.
For example, you could hold it at a restaurant you don’t have in a reserved location.
Or a movie theater.
Or a museum.
Or a hotel lobby.
But just because it’s not planned down to the smallest detail it doesn’t mean there is no plan.
You Need A Plan
Every wedding needs a plan.
I realized that when I got married.
We just had a small wedding with my wife Jessica.
It was only myself, my wife, my parents, her parents, my sister and my sister-in-law’s family.
We just went to the courthouse. Then had a lunch at our favorite local nice restaurant. Where we had a lovely time and a small wedding cake.
It was intimate and it was nice. Yet, the stress my wife went through that week inspired the advice I give to every groom I meet. As soon as I learn about the engagement.
“Just keep telling yourself, ‘In a week I will have a wife.’”.
My sister had one of those elaborate traditional weddings. I can’t imagine the stress she went through.
And as you can see from our wedding checklist that those types of weddings have many details to track.
A pop-up wedding doesn’t have as many details. But you still need some basic planning.
For example, you will need to have someone marry you.
You will need to decide on a dress.
You will need to get the rings.
You will need to decide who to invite.
You need to decide who will photograph the wedding. And if you will have someone record video as well.
And set a date.
Plus how will you carry it out?
But first let’s talk about how to make it official.
Making The Marriage Legal
First, I’m not a lawyer. So if you want to double check - make sure you talk to one.
You are only married when the law says so. Romantic thoughts dominate discussions around weddings. Religious thoughts also are important.
Yet the most important item for a wedding is the legal contract.
I know that many states have a concept of “common-law” marriage. But it’s a lot simpler when there is an official marriage license.
And when someone says they can marry someone it means a specific function. If they sign a marriage certificate, it’s a binding legal contract.
And this isn’t trivial.
We once went on a destination wedding to Jamaica as part of a cruise. Only to discover the couple wedding wasn’t legal until they got home and went to the JP.
Now when it comes to a pop-up wedding you must be flexible here.
There are many companies who will help you do a pop-up or flash wedding. And they will take care of the marriage certificate.
If you can’t hire one of those firms. And you can’t find an officiant who is willing to help then you will need to do this before.
Just go to the courthouse and make it official.
But the good news here is that anyone can then perform the ceremony.
Though what’s a wedding without its dress?
Choosing A Dress
What’s a wedding without the dress? Not as much fun. Yet with a pop-up wedding, you have permission to be more creative. There are no limits here.
For example, you could go with a traditional wedding dress. Though if you are getting married in a public place like a museum or hotel lobby. And it’s depending on surprise you have to figure out how to hide it.
For example, bring it in a garment bag.
Then when everyone is there - go change.
Or you don’t need a traditional wedding dress.
I wrote two articles that could help you choosing non-traditional outfits:
And after choosing the dress then you will need to figure out the shoes.
After the dress, wedding shoes the most important item.
I wrote a guide to choosing wedding shoes.
And for a pop-up wedding, you need to think not only how good they look but location.
And how you will execute the pop-up.
For example, those Jimmy Choos look awesome but if you are not on level ground, they will be impossible to walk in.
Or if you need to run to set up the wedding.
Or run to get-away :). You need to be wearing tennis shoes.
And a fresh pair of white Nike or Chuck Taylor’s look great. One of my friends got married in a pair and they are still my favorite wedding shoes ever.
Choose A Venue
Even in a traditional wedding you need to choose your venue. In a traditional wedding you will need to reserve it as soon as you can. Some places need 6 months to a year.
This is the benefit of a pop-up wedding. You might not even need to make a reservation. Depending upon how much risk you are willing to take.
Here are some options.
Most of us have day jobs. In our day job we spend more time with the people there than our own family. And if you are close with your co-workers then an ideal pop-up wedding could be work. Pick a random Friday afternoon when work is slow. A fun party then happens. People love parties. Just clear it with the boss first.
Another option is to do the wedding while you have a couple’s bridal shower. I have a story to share about this. So I won’t spoil it here.
If you have a favorite restaraunt then have the wedding there. It also does double duty of having a place to eat for the reception. If you want to play it “safe” then reserve a spot. For example many nice places will have a banquet room. This is separate from the rest of the crowd. And provide a nice quiet place. You could invite people to a lunch date. And then surprise them with the wedding. The more risky option is to do this on the open-floor. But then again, if it’s a place that sings happy birthday to you, the are going to be more flexible.
A popular place to do a pop-up wedding is a park. The location is nice. It’s public. So you don’t run as much risk of being told to leave. And you can combine it with a picnic for a nice, low-stress event. You should scout around your area for multiple parks. Even in our little suburb of Little Elm, Texas we have at 3 parks within the city. Two of which are on Lake Lewisville which is the largest lake in the state. Plus every subdivision has some type of park/ammentity center. So look around.
My mom grew up land-locked and loves the ocean. Though ironically she hates to swim in it. I share my Mom’s love of the ocean but also not a big fan of the water. And my ability to sunburn is a party trick. I once got burned drinking a beer outside in the spring. In 30 minutes. In 80 degree weather. Yet, I still love eating BBQ with sand beneath my toes. Which is a really long way to get to my point here. Beaches can provide an excellent opportunity for a pop-up wedding. For the same reasons as a park. You don’t want to dress up fancy for a beach wedding.
Bed and Breakfast
We’ve covered all of the normal places for a pop-up. So we’ll talk about a couple of places that are little beyond tradition. One idea I had was to get married in a bed and breakfast. You should talk to the propietors to let them in on the secret so they could help you suprise any guests.
FYI - When my wife and I were first married we loved B&B. We haven’t gone as frequently. Plus I mentioned it here because I wanted an excuse to talk about the Magnolia House from the TV show “Fixer Uppers”. I grew up in Waco. And my soccer team practiced near where their farm is. So the last time I visited my parents, we took the quick trip to see the B&B. And got the idea for this pop-up location.
Imagine you and your boyfriend go off on vacation to Africa. Take a safari tour. That night while at dinner, he reaches in his pocket. Pulls out a little box. Gets down on one knee. And asks the question. You say yes. Now imagine that you have come back to the states and hire a pop-up wedding planner. They hear this story of a proposal. They decide they will have your wedding at the Natural History Museum. And while there you get asked by security leave. This happened. As covered in this story. Or another option is you are art lovers, then you could go to an art gallery. And if you are a poetry lover and in the Central Texas area, the Armstrong Browning library at Baylor is a traditional wedding location. It’s beautiful stained glass windows plus home to the Robert and Elizabeth Barret Browning poetry museum collection.
After you have chosen your venue then you get to decide your guests.
Choose Your Guests
Weddings are never complete without their guests. And a pop-up wedding is no exception. Except with a pop-up wedding, you may want to have a smaller guest list. In particular if you are doing a pop-up at a public location. Thus having between 2 and 10 guests is typical for a pop-up wedding. Yet if you can pull it off during a bridal shower, then you could have a larger guest list.
Yet with having a small guest list can make it more stressful.
In particular if you are already worried about what if you leave someone out?
In this case, it requires decision making. Something people are often reluctant to do.
But put your big girl panties on. And admit to yourself, of that list of 1000 Facebook friends, there’s some who are closer than others.
And even among those, there are ones who you are tighter with than others.
Just because Suzy held your hair while you barfed up three weeks of cafeteria food during that senior frat party, doesn’t make your BFF for life.
In particular since you can’t be sure if you would recognize her in a mug shot.
She gets a wedding announcement and a link to your bridal registry. Because you know we will take gifts from anyone!
You also don’t want to invite anyone who isn’t on-board with the spontanaity of this type of wedding.
So you and your fiance pick your tighest of your tighest friends. And maybe your parents too :).
Or you could decide that doing this on your own is too scary. And go in on a group flash wedding.
Be In A Group Flash Wedding
One more option is to join in on a flash-mob wedding. This is where multiple couples get together. And have a pop-up wedding in mass. I think this would be impossible to pull off without a professional to help. And we will talk about hiring firms later.
Whether you are doing it on your own or in a flash mob, make sure that above everything else you are civil.
If you are having your ceremony in a public location then make sure you are civil. For example, if you have your ceremony in a museum or a park, then you might be asked to stop and leave. Be cool. Go with the flow and honor their request. If you hire a pop-up wedding professional they will be prepared for this. And they might even be able to get you to say yes as you walk out the door so that they can officially say you were married at the location.
Which brings me to our next point. Hire someone who specializes in these types of events to help you pull this off.
Hire A Specialist
When you are trying to pull off something like a pop-up wedding you need to make sure your officiant is on board.
And you may need help with the logistics of the marriage certificate. And arranging to have a reception afterwards.
Plus the usual wedding coordinating - the cake, lining everone up, etc.
This is where it helps to have someone who does a pop-up wedding as a speciality.
If you’re in the Vancouver area you might want to look at Popup Weddings BC.
And there appears to be at least one provider who covers anywhere in the US.
Get A Celebrity
There’s another option. You could get a celebrity to perform your pop-up wedding.
I witnessed two of these performed by the director, writer, and podcaster - Kevin Smith. It was during his Hollywood Babble-on in Texas in August 2015.
This is a planned expectation at many of his live events.
And while not the traditional ceremony, he is ordained.
We Wished We Had A Pop-Up Wedding
I started out this article talking about how we wish we had changed our wedding.
My wife and I didn’t want a big wedding.
Because we couldn’t afford it.
In particular since my wife wanted to buy a house.
We debated eloping in Vegas at an Elvis chapel.
Because it would have been funny. I should mention at this point an important fact. My mother knew my wife was the one for me when I said something I had never said before. That my girlfriend, Jessica, made me laugh.
I’m a funny guy.
But like many funny people - it’s sometimes hard to make me laugh.
I never had a girlfriend before Jessica who could make me laugh. At least enough who could make me say that.
So, yeah, we considered Vegas.
Instead we did a courthouse wedding. And honeymooned in Vegas.
Yet, as we look back, we wish we had done a pop-up wedding. We even know how. And where.
At our 2nd wedding shower. It was at her aunt’s house. Huge backyard. Very pretty.
We had all of our closest friends and relatives there.
And the reception taken care of.
All we needed was to bring out someone to marry us.
Kevin Smith wasn’t ordained yet :).
Pop-up weddings are a great way to do something fun and creative. They add an extra air of danger to your wedding ceremony. And I hope this article has given you tips on how you can pull one off.
And If you do have one, post your photos on Instagram and tag us - @weddingintro1. Would love to see them!
Interview With Pop-UP Wedding Coordinators of "Popup Weddings BC"
You can find their link below. But the coordinators of Popup Weddings BC were gracious to do an email interview with me.
1. Why did you become a wedding planner / coordinator? I think because we saw a need for something a little bit different in our area, a type of wedding that is in between extravagant and super small. I also love to see people on such a love filled and happy day! It’s so gratifying to help a couple realize what it is they truly want on their special day.
2. How do you describe what a popup wedding is? A pop up wedding is a simple way to celebrate. A pop up wedding is an event that you don’t have to spend time planning, our team does that for you! We provide several different types of celebrations, gorilla style “shot gun” ceremonies, privately planned elopements, pre planned elopement events, unique and fun destination elopements and several all-inclusive weddings per year. The gist of each event is that you simply show up and say I do with none of the work of a traditional style wedding or elopement.
3. Do you think a popup wedding and an elopement are the same thing? A pop up wedding and an elopement are similar for us, in that each is a pre planned event which our team orchestrates. A kind of fancy elopement you could say.
4. What is the craziest/silliest popup wedding you have ever performed? Our Wed, Dash & Dine events are super fun and exciting because they are so quick and have an element of surprise and mystery to them. The craziest thing we have done is hold an event on Valentines day in which we were able to marry 77 couples in a 4.5 hour time period. We do have several pre-planned elopement packages that are super exciting and for the thrill seeking couple. They are mountain top and bungee jumping elopements!
5. What is the best reason why couples should think of doing a popup wedding instead of the traditional scheduled ceremony? We believe we provide a service for couples that don’t have the time or inclination to plan a wedding themselves. We take all the stress and mess from them and do all the work necessary to provide them with a ceremony of their dreams. We see the wedding industry beginning to move away from having couples get married in a traditional way and we want to provide those couples with out of the box ways to celebrate.
Check out our Wedding themed t-shirts