A couple have revealed how they saved time and money by not telling their guests about their wedding until they arrived at the church.
Jessica Attwood, 26, and husband Adam, 29, from Widnes, Cheshire, invited their 70 guests to a christening for one-year-old daughter Lucia – but they were secretly holding their wedding at the same time.
Only their parents and bridal party knew ahead of the day on 24 July, with everyone else finding out when they arrived at the church.
‘It was truly magical and just the ‘us’ way of doing things. We wouldn’t change a single thing,’ says Jessica, who works as a domestic abuse caseworker.
She met Adam in the summer of 2018 and they officially became a couple in February 2019.
Their relationship moved fast, as Jessica was pregnant with their first child by the end of their first year together.
Lucia Jade, known as LJ, was born in April 2020 at the height of lockdown.
As restrictions eased, they started to plan her christening – and came up with the idea for a double celebration.
‘We were booking our daughter’s christening and actually joked about getting married on the same day,’ says Jessica. ‘We looked at each other and just knew it’s what we were going to do.
‘We’ve had a pretty awful 18 months with Lucia being a lockdown baby and not being able to see friends and family that much.
‘We just thought it would be a lovely surprise for everyone to lift people’s spirits.
‘It was also Adam’s dad’s 60th birthday so wanted him to have a special day to remember. We basically killed three birds with one stone.’
They spent three weeks booking everything they needed and had their plans in order before Adam had even actually proposed, as Jessica told him she didn’t need a ring – but he still wanted to surprise her.
On 5 April, the family headed off for a day out in the Lake District, where Adam got down on one knee.
‘I stressed to him it wasn’t about a fancy wedding or ring,’ says Jessica. ‘That I just wanted us to be married because I love him and our family.
‘Adam had originally planned to propose a couple of weeks later on my birthday, but he felt like a spontaneous day was the right time to do it.
‘We were taking pictures with our daughter and Adam had set a timer on his phone when taking the picture and had it record the whole proposal. I genuinely had no idea.’
Although the engagement meant everyone knew they planned to marry someday, the only people who knew the real plan were their parents and the bridal party to ensure they could get everyone sorted with dresses and suits for the day.
‘When we spoke to the priest about what we wanted to do he was really excited,’ Jessica says.
‘However, he said to take the church seriously we needed to declare to people we were getting married, so we told a handful of people who were there to help keep us sane throughout the whole process of planning a surprise wedding.
‘We had to tell our parents and the bridal party. I had my two best friends and Adam’s sister as bridesmaids. They helped keep the plan together and was a massive help.’
Despite having the massive secret, Adam and Jessica felt it made the whole process easier as there was very little interference from anyone.
‘We didn’t feel the pressure from people. Everything was on our terms,’ she says.
‘We knew it was going to be the best surprise ever, so we held onto that feeling to make sure we didn’t slip up.
‘Don’t get me wrong – I wanted to scream to the roof tops about it all. I post a lot of my life on social media and that was the hardest thing I have ever done.’
It also saved them money as they were able to plan the whole thing for just under £10,000 – well below the average cost of £27,161, according to Hitched.
‘We had two buffets – one when guests arrived straight after the ceremony and then one later in the evening with sausage and bacon barms to soak up the alcohol. That cut costs down dramatically,’ says Jessica.
‘We had a venue dresser but we pretty much had the minimal decor – chair covers, bows, tables runners, and little centre pieces with Polaroid pictures of me and Adam from when we met.
‘I think the little things just add up over time, like wedding favours. We cut all of that out. We decided to do it as a wedding as well as a christening because we realised how expensive a christening would be.’
The most expensive item was Jessica’s dress, costing £3,500 from Knutsford Wedding gallery.
‘I knew no matter what I still wanted my dream dress,’ she says. ‘I was really lucky that my mum helped me with that.’
To finally let guests know what was happening, the couple left a sign outside the church and leaflets for their guests to pick up as they arrived.
Jessica adds: ‘A lot of people were shocked! Some of our closest friends and family were clueless and genuinely couldn’t believe it, but they were so happy for us.
‘Now it’s over, we feel so sad. We wish we could do it all over again. The wedding blues are real.’
The family are now onto their next adventure, having just accepted an offer on their house so they can follow their dreams of moving to Australia.
Jessica said: ‘When one crazy plan ends, we create a new one.’
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