Surprise! Will you marry me, few days after?!

The wedding surprise.

There are many kinds of elopement weddings:

  • surprising your guests by making them believe they are going to a party—and it’s a wedding.
  • surprising your partner by telling her we're going to Australia—and instead, bringing her to New York!! 

Yes, it’s been 2 years since the adorable Hugo Pottiez decided to do the latter with his at-that-time beau, Aurélie! 

Normally, girls would complain that boys don’t help much with the planning—but Hugo single-handedly planned this wonderful day for the love of his life, where he told her they are heading to Australia, and instead got her to New York, then staged a surprise proposal for her here and few days after got married at Central Park! A memory I am sure they will cherish forever. 

Have a read on how Hugo made this totally happen. 


Their love story

You told Aurélie that you’re going to Australia. And you got her to NYC. How did you keep it secret from her at the airport?

Aurélie is a dreamy people and very easy to distract. So, when we were at the airport, I was constantly speaking with her. When I had to drop of the luggages, I made my her mother to call her, so that she could not see the destination. I always kept both boarding pass. Then we sat in a restaurant, had lunch with a nice bottle of wine, you know to make her a bit sleepy/dizzy.

At the boarding gate, of course "New York" was displayed. So I had to make something up. I told her it was an error of display. She was  listening music and reading books. So she did not pay attention much.

Where did you propose to her?

For the first 3 days, I rented an Airbnb in Brooklyn. So the first day, when we arrived we decided to cross the Brooklyn bridge to reach Manhattan. I did my proposal on the bridge!


Since when have you been planning this? 

Planning the proposal (2 days). Planning the whole wedding (4 months).

Do you have any tips for the men in case they want to plan a surprise wedding for their darling?

I do not have particular tips. I just did I wanted to do in the aim to make Aurélie happy. Just be enthusiastic, do not do something that you don't. That is the secret. I would say, if they want to get married, don't do it! Or do it your way!

After the proposal, what did Aurélie do? Where did she get her dress, make up from?

She was excited to get a dress. So I gave her some money and she got 2 days to find the makeup artist and the dress. Quite a very short time, but she managed and you know doing shopping in NY made her feel like Carrie Bradshaw!


After the wedding ceremony, where did you celebrate and how many people were invited? Did they fly for the reception or were these local people?

We went to a restaurant and had a limo tour. The day after, by chance I knew via Facebook that two old friends of I were in NY, so we decided to  meet at our place (in the 2nd Airbnb I rent in Manhattan). It was the occasion to celebrate the wedding with other people than us! When we came back in France, several month after, we made a party with family and friends at home

How did you sort out your permit / license to get married in NYC? Any site that helped you?

I spent lots of time on blogs and websites. I also asked advices to Mary Rose Engle (the reverend)

2 years later, what’s the fondest memory you have from that day?

The ceremony of course but also the moment we had to get out the taxi to meet the reverend and to celebrate the ceremony. I am kind of discreet/reserved person and I was a bit stressed to walk in the street dressed in a wedding suit with all eyes on us. But finally people did not care and I enjoyed every details of this day.

...and they now live happily every after! 

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. A big kudos to Aurélie for being totally sporty and excited about this and to go with the flow blindly, and this made it all the more magical. Not to mention, little did she know, that her 'trip to Australia' was going to be a life-changing moment of a lifetime! 


SO, if you are considering to pull off something similar, then as beautiful and amazing their story is, eloping and getting married requires careful planning. 

Here are 5 tips on planning a one successfully: 

  1. Make sure your appointed vendors know that this is a secret. They will be able to help you out and make sure the surprise isn't ruined. 

  2. Assign a Point Person and get some help: Make sure you spend a good amount of time in planning out the details. If you’re having some trouble planning or brainstorming about it, get help from a wedding planner or coordinator. 

  3. Make sure you have your story in place: If your partner starts to find something fishy, make sure you have a cover-up and remember what you told her, or you will get caught! 

  4. Permits and Passersby at Public spaces: If you're getting married at a public space (in Hugo's case, it was Central Park), make sure you have the right permits to access that space at the said ceremony date and time. It happens sometimes, that someone else could have booked for the same time and at the same place, and that's when you face clashes or need to hurry your ceremony up. Also, be prepared that you will have passersby that would stop to view and take photos. This is perfectly normally, so embrace the love and attention :) 

  5. The legals: This is the most important. For example: in Australia, legal requirements mean that only the guests can be surprised at the wedding. Both the bride and groom must sign a Notice of Intended Marriage form and have that lodged with a celebrant at least a month and a day before the wedding date. So make sure you get your homework done for this one and get your permits and legals sorted.

The legals in New York


If you are planning on having a surprise wedding in New York, please visit the site and obtain all the information that you need in order to have a legit wedding. This site also provides you with guidelines on locations and ceremony size, on obtaining parks special events permits, and much more.

To make it easier, I've pasted some important guidelines from their site, to give you a quick overview. I do strongly suggest that you visit the site and the links that I've provided below, to get thorough with all the information. 


  1. Find all your IDs (passport, drivers license, birth certificate, divorce papers if relevant, etc.)
  2. Decide if either of you will change your name.
  3. Buy a $35 Money Order at a drugstore - cheaper than a bank. You can now pay for your license by credit card, and you may even apply online for your license, up to 20 days ahead. 
  4. Go to one of the New York Marriage Bureau offices and apply for your marriage license. It is good for 60 days, and there is a waiting period of 24 hours before you can be legally married. If you have applied online, you must still go together and confirm your identities and certify the application. See
  5. If you are not a US citizen, make sure your home country accepts the regular New York City license, or whether you will also need to apply for an apostille (special certified stamp on your license). Just phone your consulate and ask if you need an apostille, or extended license. A majority of countries, including the UK and Commonwealth countries, simply accept a New York marriage license, so do Canadians, and many Europeans. 
  6. If you do need the apostille stamp, it is possible to return early the next business day to the Manhattan City Clerk's office after your marriage ceremony, get the license, and get the special stamp for a small charge. It's fairly painless, you can ask about the process when you apply for the license. This is ONLY possible if you have PICKED UP your license at the MANHATTAN OFFICE at 141 Worth Street, however.
  7. If you have been divorced or widowed, have documents and information regarding the previous marriage and spouse. You MUST disclose all previous marriages, including those in other countries.
  8. If you wish to be married at any City Hall, enquire when you apply for your license. They do not take appointments, but exactly 24 hours after they timestamp your license, you may line up at any bureau office (including the new facilities at 141 Worth street) with your witnesses and be married by the civil judge. The ceremony is simple, and they advise you the length is 2 minutes, so it's quick, except for the unpredictable wait and lining up :-) 
  9. To be married outside City Hall, or after 3:45 M-F, you must FIND A MARRIAGE OFFICIANT who is LEGALLY REGISTERED WITH CITY HALL TO CONDUCT MARRIAGES in NEW YORK CITY. The rules are a bit stricter to become a licensed officiant for NYC than in smaller cities in the state - so don't assume your officiant is registered hereOnce you find one, you may ask for their registration number.  If you wish, you can call City Hall with the officiant's license number to make sure they are registered: 212-669-2778. Contact if you'd like to discuss planning a wedding outside of City Hall. They will check their schedule and send you sample weddings and information. More info at 
  10. Choose your legal witness(es), 2 persons over age 18, or ask your Marriage Officiant to secure a witness. You need a witness for City Hall, too.
  11. Buy a ring or two (not actually required by law)
  12.  Discuss your ceremony wishes with the officiant (if being married outside of City Hall).
  13. Sign the license. Witnesse(s) sign the license. Officiant signs license with official date and time.
  14. The officiant will congratulate you, and take back the signed license and they will file it for you. It will be mailed back to you in about 4 weeks or more. [Note: if you need the license immediately, you can return to the Manhattan Marriage Bureau at 141 Worth the next working day with the signed license, and they will check it and issue you a marriage certificate, for a fee. This is only possible if you apply for your license in Manhattan, and it is not an advertised service. They prefer to send the license by mail.]

In addition, here are three links that provide details on how to get a marriage license, find a New York marriage officiant, organize your ceremony, park permits, and have your marriage legally registered:

  1. Easy Steps on perfect elopement:
  2. Step-by-step guide on how to elope in New York
  3. Park Special events Permit:

Surprise weddings, if pulled off well, can be an adventure of a lifetime, and I hope this post helps you with all the information you would need in order to get it all together. 

Wish you a fabulous wedding and happy planning!


Dee |

Officiant for Hugo and Aurélie: Rev. Mary-Rose | Wedding photography by: Kelly Williams