When Zoe Lavery, 31, and Andy Lynch, 32, invited their friends and family to their engagement party, they told them that there would be a special guest.
Their friends and family waited in anticipation to see who it was on the 7 September last year. But when Andy introduced their surprise guest, Joolz Stuart, 54, they were a little confused.
Joolz explained she was a mental health social worker, before adding: ‘I’m not just a social worker – I’m also a marriage celebrant.’
For months, the couple had been planning a surprise wedding and the engagement party had been their cover story.
They’d struggled to set a date and had grown tired of relatives getting involved so they’d decided just to tell their mums, and let the rest of their 200 guests find out on the night. Mum-of-two Zoe, a salon owner, from St Helens, Merseyside said: ‘I never wanted to get married until I met Andy.
‘We were sitting on the sofa one night talking about our wedding, and I suggested going on holiday somewhere and doing it in secret.
‘Both of our mums would have been livid if we did that, so Andy came up with this idea instead. ‘He’s such a character and when he came up with this idea I just shouted: “Let’s do it!”‘
Andy, a tiler, said: ‘I wouldn’t have done it any other way. It solved all our problems and meant that we could enjoy our day without stressing about saving up for it, seating plans and who was or wasn’t coming.’
They visited a registry office on the 5th September – two days before the party – and tied the knot officially in an intimate ceremony attended by just Zoe’s mum Viv Lavery and Andy’s mum Anne Rose, who were in on the surprise.
Then unsuspecting guests arrived at The Function Room in St. Helens, Merseyside, expecting nothing but a buffet and a disco, but were stunned when Zoe and Andy – who have been together since July 2017 – got hitched. The penny finally dropped for everyone when Andy revealed the celebrant while Zoe was away getting changed into her dress.
Mother-of-the bride, Viv Lavery, 58, who was in on the surprise, said: ‘Everyone went mad. ‘It was an amazing day. We managed to get everybody that Zoe and Andy love together in one room to celebrate the most important day of their lives.’
Even the bridesmaids, Zoe’s children, Brooke, 10 and Jordy, six, and Andy’s son Ryan Lynch, 12, had no idea – but the couple had organised some special outfits for them all to wear. As well as cutting down on the stress, the surprise wedding had a lower budget too. They spent just £3,800 for 200 guests, the rings, the honeymoon and the ceremony.