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  • Writer's pictureMiss Lyss

Engagement Party Turned Surprise Wedding - Part 1 of 2

"Oh, you're a wedding planner? So, you already have your own wedding planned, right?" - says just about everybody.

Growing up, when I told people I wanted to be a wedding planner, I heard many versions of that all across the board, going as far as to say the groom would be "cut-and-pasted in."

But it's quite the opposite actually. After I had found my Prince Charming, I knew exactly what I didn't want, which is what everybody else had done. So what was there left to do?

We did the only thing we could - shatter the dang box and do whatever the eff we wanted.

Here's how it all went down:

1. Meet the love of my life.

Matt and I met in a very rom-com sort of way. We were both attending a Fete in Blanc party (French for "party in white") which celebrates the summer solstice, but Lancaster had adapted it to just be a fun pop-up party. In 2019, this was hosted pre-pandemic and at Long's Park, right across the street from Wegman's. So, when both Matt and I ran out of alcohol on this very hot evening, we both found ourselves at Wegman's restocking on white wine. Long story short, we wound up spending the rest of the evening chatting and dancing and as the finale played, I leaned in for a first kiss that resulted in actual fireworks and streamers exploding from the stage.

2. Agree we're going to be together for life.

A few months after we met, we were sitting down for dinner and I asked Matt, "We're going to be together, aren't we?" He chuckled and said yes, and I then proceeded to tell him about the dream I had the night before about how our wedding would go down. He wasn't scared off and he stuck around, so I guess that meant he was game.

3. Clarify the game plan.

So what did this said dream look like? Here's how it went:

  • Invite guests to an engagement party and ask them to wear all white (just like how we met)

  • Have guests mingle, grab a glass of champagne or enjoy a little cocktail

  • Enter the party somehow - by boat, fancy car, balcony appearance, etc.

  • Greet guests with a brief thank you toast and announce, "This it is not an engagement party, but our wedding!"

  • Get married

  • Have a party with music, food, and good cheer

4. Set the wheels in motion.

To have a surprise wedding means you can't tell a single soul. Except for the vendor team you bring to the table. And I knew exactly who those people were.

Venue: I took Matt to a riverside venue - one I had never worked at before - and we both decided it was perfect. Even though Miss Lyss Planning had never planned at the venue previously, that was the biggest selling point. I did not want a venue that I had been at before so that I wouldn't have preconceived notions of what I liked or didn't like from prior weddings. River's Edge at Long Level Marina was the ideal middle ground for both of our friends and families and while we were technically in York County (where we live and he grew up), we were looking at Lancaster County (where I grew up and still call "home"). We both love the water and as the name suggests, we are riiiight on the River's Edge. We told the team at River's Edge our plan, and they were ecstatic and so excited to see something so different happen at their venue.

Photographer & Videographer: I knew I wanted Andrea Daugherty to be our photographer from day one. Andrea was the photographer for the first wedding I coordinated myself, her talent is truly remarkable, and her friendship is golden. There really is no one else I would have rather spent our day with. And a dear friend to both Andrea and me is Mark of Bamboo Shoots Media who I knew would be up to the challenge for this major surprise.


PRO TIP: Time up your hair and makeup trial with your engagement photos! We decided to capitalize on the Wegman's story with our photos after the hot air balloon we were planning on couldn't fly this day. Bummed about that, but at least we got a rain check for it! Andrea was PHENOMENAL and was so game to try something new and out of the box like this!


Florist: When one wedding pro reaches out to another for their wedding, you know you've got a good thing going. But it's another when you already knew you'd ask them to be part of your day too! Long before either of us had wedding plans, I think Nadine of Lancaster Flower Company and I knew we'd support each other through thick and thin.

Caterer: I believe one vendor relationship that often gets overlooked is the one with your caterer. This is such a huge piece of your day from linens to food, to servers, that you want the best people by your side. Karen and Jennifer of Simply from Scratch are some of the sweetest people you will ever meet and you feel their love through their attention to detail and your tastebuds. We wanted heavy hors d'oeuvres that reflected our heritage and favorite flavors, and boy, did they deliver!

Almost a full two years in the making, we got all those vendors lined up, and some other pretty awesome people:

Officiant, The Brofficiant

Hair and Makeup, Amanda McCauley

Event Rentals, A to Z Rentals

Live Band, Big Boy Brass

Caricature Artist, Dylan Draws Stuff Dress, Before Sarah Seven

Custom Tuxedo, Chyatee Bespoke

Jewelry, Brent L Miller

Accessories from Etsy (earrings, clutch, vow books, stationery)

All of this but, wait, did I miss an actual proposal? Nope! It hadn't happened yet, and that was part of the master plan. As soon as there was a ring, I knew people would be asking and suspecting if it took longer than a few months for an "engagement party" to happen. So, while we were planning for an August 2022 wedding, Matt had proposed on a trip to NYC in March 2022. You can't tell by the picture, but Matt is laughing his butt off while I'm sobbing. It's funny now because I should have seen it coming - WE HAD ALREADY PLANNED A WHOLE WEDDING - but yet, I was still surprised.

All of these little ideas eventually transpired into an incredible and memorable wedding. The day itself deserves its own blog post, but it doesn't quite make sense without all of the backstory.

So read on for the actual day of events - with pictures and a wedding video to match!

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