invitation for a surprise wedding in a nautical theme with an anchor design

Surprise wedding invitations & stationery for Cara & Jack’s intimate winter celebration

Surprise wedding invitations can be a little tricky to plan and organise, without giving the game away to your nearest and dearest. Your initial telephone conversations with your chosen wedding stationery designer could well go something like this.

“Hi Cara, it’s Jo. Just giving you a call to chat about your wedding stationery, are you OK to talk?”, I said. 
“Yes,” was the slightly hesitant reply, “but my Mum is downstairs and she doesn’t know about it, so I’ll have to talk quietly.” 

Cara & Jack got in touch in July 2020 having seen my designs on Instagram and my website. They were planning an intimate surprise wedding with just 30 guests that December. Nothing surprising there given the restrictions in place due to our (not so) friend Covid. The surprise bit? They weren’t telling their guests they would be tying the knot until the day itself. Brilliant!

invitation for a surprise wedding in a nautical theme with an anchor design

Surprise wedding invitations for a winter wedding

Unsurprisingly, one of the first conversations I had with Cara & Jack was about how they planned to invite guests but not let them know it was a wedding. Easy. The couple regularly host a Christmas party for their nearest and dearest in December. As far as everyone would know this year would be no different. 

My brief was to create a simple, elegant design incorporating an anchor, some rope or knots and maybe a navy blue or green colour scheme (Cara is in the Royal Navy & Jack the Royal Marines). The only details to be included on the surprise wedding invitations were the date and time along with the coordinates of the venue, just to add that little bit of mystery. The materials were to be natural and recycled for a slightly rustic feel. 

I came up with a simple flat invitation in ivory with a recycled kraft card backing, the anchor and rope featuring as a ‘watermark’ background image. This anchor design with the coordinates would then become a running theme throughout the rest of the stationery for the day itself.

nautical theme wedding stationery with an anchor design made from recycled card

Personalised ‘welcome to our surprise wedding’ folders

As this was a surprise wedding, the first the guests would know about the true plans would be on arrival at the venue, St Tewdrics House in Chepstow. Cara and Jack’s plan was to present each of their guests with a personalised folder (the same format as I usually use for pocketfold invitations) containing an order of the day, the roles that had been assigned to them and a little personal note from the bride & groom.

nautical theme wedding table plan with an anchor design

Changing surprise wedding plans and adapting

As time went on restrictions due to the pandemic tightened and there were a fraught few weeks when Cara & Jack were unsure whether they would be able to have any guests at their surprise wedding. Fortunately, they managed to go ahead and have their beautiful intimate wedding just before a national lockdown came into place in Wales on the 20th December. 

To be sure those that mattered were there, Cara & Jack had to forgo the full wedding surprise and spill the beans to their guests ahead of the big day. But nothing could spoil the day for them, and shortly after they celebrated they were able to spend their first Christmas as Mr & Mrs.

A rustic, nautical theme wedding table setting with candles and bottles
Photo credit: Johnny Hathaway Photography

Matching ceremony and reception stationery

To keep the theme of the bespoke stationery running throughout their surprise wedding, I adapted the design of the ‘welcome to our wedding’ folders to also include copies of the table plan and menu. I also designed a matching table plan in a larger format as well as menus for the reception tables. All with the navy blue anchor motif and using the same recycled kraft card for that rustic feel.

Cara and Jack a happy couple after their surprise wedding
Photo credit: Johnny Hathaway Photography

A few words from the Bride

After the big day Cara left this lovely review for me on my Bridebook listing

Jo was an absolute joy to work with. She provides a completely bespoke, personal service and has such experience that the whole process of designing and producing stationary is incredibly easy to achieve – even during a pandemic! Highly recommended for an individualised, unique style for your wedding stationary.

And I echo Cara’s sentiment.  As a couple they were fantastic to work with. They had quite clear ideas about the design and feel of their wedding invitations and stationery, but were also open to different design ideas and suggestions. I loved that they were so keen to embrace eco friendly and sustainable materials too, something I’m really keen to promote and work more with. You can read more about why I’m trying to become a more eco friendly wedding business on my blog HERE.

A rustic, nautical theme wedding table setting with candles, a log slice and greenery
Photo credit: Johnny Hathaway Photography

Planning a surprise wedding during a pandemic

Obviously, planning any wedding amidst travel restrictions, lockdowns and ever changing guidelines for guest numbers can be tricky. But everything ran super smoothly with Cara & Jack. Our initial chats and designs were done over the phone, email and Zoom and I sent a couple of samples out to them in the post. 

They did manage to visit my studio during a break in lockdown late August and it was great to catch up in person. Everything else was done remotely, other than picking up the finished stationery when they were passing. If you’re interested in how I can help you design and plan your wedding invitations and stationery during a pandemic, head over to my blog HERE.

And as always, if you have any questions or need any advice about your bespoke wedding invitations and stationery, drop me a line I’m always happy to chat. Bonus if you too are planning a surprise wedding!


A happy couple after their surprise wedding ceremony
Photo credit: Johnny Hathaway Photography

Check out St. Tewdrics House in Chepstow, South Wales, the stunning venue for Cara & Jacks surprise wedding.

Here’s my listing on Bridebook, where Cara left her lovely review.

Save Cara & Jack’s surprise wedding story for later – pin this image!

invitations and stationery for a South Wales surprise wedding

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