A Diamond Engagement Ring is the ultimate romantic gift of a lifetime. That said, Diamonds have proven to consistently be one of the best investments of all time, if not the very best! Diamonds become family heirlooms for generations. They are historically the most valuable, and stable form of currency. Now can we say the same about weddings? We would never lessen the importance and significance of a wedding here at NYCWD. In my 26 years sharing the joy of couples as they become engaged, many have sought out alternative ideas to a huge wedding. The following is a fascinating article written by Kate Storey appearing in today’s New York Post. Yes, one and the same N.Y. Post that named NYC Wholesale Diamond’s President Keith J. Saxe ‘The New York Diamond District’s Favorite Jeweler’ in their Savvy Shopper Column.
Last spring, a few dozen guests stopped by a going-away party in Greenpoint for Khuong Phan and Shannon Belisario. Wearing casual summer dresses and slouchy jeans, the friends gathered at Paulie Gee’s pizza joint.
There was nothing unusual about the party, except the departing couple was a bit more dressed up than usual — Belisario in a cute purple and red frock, Phan in a sharp sports coat. And surprisingly, their family members had flown in from Florida for the lunch.
After some slices, Phan, then 32, and Belisario, then 30, invited the group of 55 to a nearby photo studio for drinks. A few hours later, Phan and Belisario climbed on top of a coffee table to make a toast.
“Our Brooklyn friends have become like a second family to us,” Phan began as iPhones flashed. “And keep out your cellphone cameras! Because we’re getting married — right now!”
The room erupted in cheers and tears as the couple dashed off to change into their wedding finery.
Top-secret weddings are usually associated with celebrities hoping to escape the glare of paparazzi — think Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick; Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds; Leighton Meester and Adam Brody, who reportedly tied the knot last week in a covert ceremony in Northern California. But recently such undercover weddings have become a welcome alternative for everyday couples looking to avoid the fuss and frills of the over-the-top, “Bridezilla” approach to matrimony.
“Ambush weddings are part of a bigger trend of couples doing away with the traditional way of doing weddings,” says Carmen Feliciano, CEO of pennyandmary.com, a New York-based wedding vendor site.
“It’s driven by a few things: cost, need for personalization and time. People just don’t want to spend a year and a half having wedding planning in the back of their minds.”
And who can blame them? According to theknot.com, the average New York wedding now costs upwards of $70,000, and brides typically spend 14 months planning it.
Simply turning a party into a surprise wedding eliminates the hassle of save-the-dates, fancy invites, rehearsal dinners, bridal showers and decoration details. Plus the planning period is generally reduced to a month or two.
For both celebrities and regular folks, the key to pulling off a surprise wedding is coming up with a strong excuse to lure guests to the bash. LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian told pals they were hosting an engagement party at a private home, in 2011, but when guests showed up, the couple revealed it was actually their wedding. In 2009, Gisele Bündchen and Tom Brady used their son’s christening at St. Monica Catholic Church in California as an excuse to get their group gathered.
Belisario and Phan, who had been engaged for five years, initially planned to go the traditional route with their nuptials. But they kept running into roadblocks.
“We had pseudo-planned our wedding twice,” says Belisario. “We looked around everywhere — The Green Building, The Foundry, all over the place. They’re so expensive!”
So the wedding was pushed off. But when Phan scored a job in Los Angeles, the couple knew they couldn’t leave their beloved Brooklyn — where they’d spent the majority of their relationship — without getting married.
So they dove into action, turning their going-away party into a surprise ceremony. They tracked down a priest who agreed to officiate with only a week’s notice, and tipped off their families in Florida to ensure they’d make the trip north.
Even though some female guests unwittingly wore white, some male guests arrived under-dressed in jeans and sandals, and almost everyone showed up empty-handed — no wedding invites means no registry — the response was overwhelmingly positive.
“I thought it was really romantic and a great way to take the pressure off of all of the bulls - - t that comes with a wedding — save-the-dates and invites and dress code and all of the rigamarole that’s peripheral to the celebration itself,” says Jamie Feldmar, 26, who has been friends wit h the couple for years. “I thought it was kind of awesome.”
Park Slope residents Amy and Dave Frey were so against the nuptial song and dance, they planned to skip it altogether — until a health scare changed their minds.
After dating for about four years and deciding marriage wasn’t for them, the pair decided to start a family in the fall of 2012. But Amy had a dangerous ectopic pregnancy that required emergency surgery.
“In the hospital, right before the surgery, we looked at each other and were like, maybe we need to rethink this whole marriage thing,” Amy says.
“And my husband looked at me and said, ‘Oh, we’re going to get married!’”
But they knew they didn’t want their “I do’s” to be the normal to-do.
“We’d been to nine or 10 weddings over the previous two years, and there’s so much stress,” Amy says. “We didn’t want to be stressed over money and linens and tables and all that stuff.”
In a matter of weeks, Amy, 31, had invited their friends to a surprise birthday party for Dave, 39, at MyMoon restaurant in Williamsburg. But unbeknownst to their guests, the couple secretly exchanged vows in front of a few close family members at the nearby Wythe Hotel moments before the “birthday party” began. So it was a pleasant surprise when the couple walked through the door with rings on their fingers.
“Amy had the biggest grin on her face, and I just knew,” remembers guest Anna Carnick.
“I burst out crying, and she came up and said, ‘We got married!’ ”
Meanwhile, Alec and Gaby Brownstein spent months telling everyone they were planning to elope somewhere exotic and then have a small party to celebrate.
“Our parents were not thrilled,” Alec, 33, says. “They wanted us to do a wedding.”
And when the couple realized their “low-key” soiree was becoming as big as a wedding, they decided to nix the elopement and stage a surprise ceremony at the party.
The only other person who knew of their nuptial plot was wedding planner Tracy Taylor Ward, who set up a photo shoot of the couple around the city, with beach locales acting as stand-ins for exotic elopement spots. On the day of the party, Alec and Gaby played the slideshow for their guests, listing places they’d intended to wed. And then, the big reveal: “But we knew we wanted to get married in front of our family and friends — so we’re getting married today!”
“They were crying and so moved,” 29-year-old Gaby says. “I was so surprised that so many people cared so much.”
But relationship therapist Rachel Sussman recommends treading carefully if you go the surprise route.
“Parents could be very hurt if they were lumped into the same surprise that their kids’ friends and acquaintances and colleagues are,” she says.
Sussman instead encourages couples to bring their closest friends and relatives into the planning process.
And yes, that includes the bride.
Wedding planner Sandy Malone handled the granddaddy of secret ceremonies last year when a would-be groom hired her to surprise his future bride.
The client flew his girlfriend to Vieques, Puerto Rico, where he promptly proposed. The very next day, their friends and family arrived for the ceremony — unbeknownst to the soon-to-be Mrs.
That’s when things got awkward.
At the reception, family and friends began whispering that they thought the bride had been pressured into marriage. They didn’t approve of the groom and, although they knew they were flying to the couple’s wedding, they didn’t think they’d had a chance to voice their concerns.
“I was physically ill,” says Malone. “It was horrible. I wanted to take the bride aside and say, ‘Did I do something horrible? Your paperwork isn’t filed yet. We can tell everyone it’s a bad dream!’ But if nobody in her family has the guts to tell her that, who am I to do it?”
Malone says there is a difference between good and bad surprise weddings.
“A bad surprise is not telling the bride she’s about to get married.”