Secret service: why getting hitched on the QT is all the rage
Forget the big glossy magazine deal and images of Anthea Turner in her wedding dress nibbling on a chocolate bar. Posh and Becks snapped sitting on golden thrones? So last century. These days, the really cool couples are getting hitched on the sly. Ashton Kutcher, who wed wife Mila Kunis in secret, this month opened up about their desire to keep their wedding private. He told talk show host Ellen: "It was a ninja effort. We really didn't want helicopters at our wedding and it's a legitimate concern," he laughed.
"We didn't want to be screaming our vows at each other and being like 'Forever, did you say 'never'?' We didn't want to do that thing so we went really under the radar with it."
Which explains why the A-listers want to get hitched on the hush hush, but what about the everyday couples choosing to have a secret wedding? When you don't have to worry about helicopters ruining your vows - why be furtive about your festivities?
Necessity played a part in Sarah Griffin (28) and her husband Ceri's decision to get married without a fuss. Writer Sarah and Ceri Bevan (30), both from Dublin, were living in San Francisco. Ceri's paperwork was more permanent, but time was ticking down on Sarah's visa.
"The conversation we had around marriage was 'do you want to keep doing what we're doing? Because otherwise, things are going to change because of this stupid piece of paper'," explains Sarah. "So we got another piece of paper, a marriage certificate, to make sure we wouldn't be pulled apart."
The couple married in San Francisco on March 18, 2013. Sarah had her hair done, drank a freshly squeezed orange juice and the pair shared a taxi to city hall.
"The ceremony was about five minutes and we were alone but for a photographer to capture the experience," recalls Sarah. "Another taxi took us to brunch, from where I posted an Instagram of Ceri holding up a prosecco glass but with no explanation why. Then we headed to the airport and went to Disneyland for a week."
While Sarah and Ceri's ceremony was to keep them together, Tom Coleman (43) and his wife Jeeny Maltese's secret wedding was a way to say a brief goodbye. The couple, who now live in Dublin and run a nutritional consultancy firm, My Nutrition Ireland, were living in the Caribbean in 2009 when Tom had to return to Ireland, but Jeeny (38) needed to look after her mother in Venezuela.
"It was a lovely parting gesture," says Tom from Mayo. "We had a gorgeous tropical little wedding with four of our lovely friends who acted as witnesses. It was blue skies and scorching sun and Jeeny wore a gorgeous Caribbean dress with a flower in her hair."
The couple reunited four months later but while he has no regrets about the day, Tom admits they both harbour hopes of a big do.
"We both feel that we will do it again and do it properly," he reveals. "We both wish to have all our family and dear friends at a big celebration with food, music and lots of happiness. But there was something really magical and special about secretly getting married in a Caribbean Island."
Caroline Bradley, editor at the wedding website hitched.ie and a newly-wed herself, says she's seen a growing trend online for smaller, secret dos but reckons secret wedding regret is something couples need to beware of.
"A small and secret ceremony can be perfect for some couples, however, it's not something to do on a whim. By having a secret wedding, you will lose that special day with your closest family and friends, so think carefully about whether it is what you really want."
Avoiding guestlist anxiety and costs are two of the top reasons for having a secret service. When Belfast woman Leanne Ross (31) and her rugby player husband Bronson (30) (who hails from New Zealand) got engaged, one of the first questions was where could they get hitched that would suit both families.
"How do you co-ordinate family from two opposite sides of the world? Better still, how do you pay for it?" says Leanne, author of the book 'Talk Is Cheap'. After a three-month secret engagement, and with the help of wedding planners, Dubrovnik Event, they got married in Croatia on a secluded stone balcony, overlooking the sea.
"We rang our parents that evening after dinner," says Leanne. "It was probably only at that point that we really got nervous!" Her parents were looking after her seven-year-old son Che who answered the phone.
"I heard him shout 'Nanny, mummy and Bronson got married today' followed by some form of tray crashing to the floor in the kitchen and my mum screaming and rushing to the phone."
Both Leanne's parents and Bronson's were delighted for them and thought it was a "romantic and individual" decision. But not all reactions were positive.
"We did come back and feel a little like our wedding was treated as sort of, well, not as legitimate or real as others," says Leanne. "People were in shock I suppose. But you want to be congratulated and to celebrate with friends, not be laughed at or dismissed. There are people to this day that have never congratulated us."
But, she says, that just makes her more certain they made the right decision not to have a 'traditional' big wedding.
"I hate to offend anyone and everybody's day is special to them, but to me they're just a waste of money," she admits. "Two people exchanging vows is a sacred, beautiful thing and it shouldn't be lost among the pageantry."
Psychologist Sally O'Reilly says the important thing for any couples considering a secret wedding is to ask themselves why they don't want to share it with others.
"Our happiness deserves to be of paramount importance in our lives and that might mean getting married in secret to avoid exposure to unhealthy, maladjusted or dysfunctional members or simply giving ourselves permission to say 'no' to potential judgement or conforming to someone else's ideals," she explains.
"But secrecy might also be about avoidance, not wanting to address the possibility that the partnership is troubled and having loved ones witness it might shed too much light on it."
Of course, with studies showing that 'the larger the rock, the rockier the marriage' there could be a lot to be said for a smaller do being more likely to result in a lasting marriage.
Sarah loved the intimacy of her big day. "The best thing is the feeling of having literally, only done it for us," she says.
"It was so different to how I imagined a wedding day but even though it wasn't all doves and confetti and everyone we've ever met cheering for us - it was perfect."
Shhhh! The couples doing low-key nuptials
This week Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave revealed he'd tied the knot with his model girlfriend Faye Dinsmore in a secret ceremony after seven years together.
Eva Longoria kept her recent wedding to Pepe Baston under wraps - however the exclusive photos in this month's 'Hello!' magazine suggests she might have had her own reasons for not letting the cat out of the bag.
Kate Winslet and third husband, Ned RocknRoll, (above) didn't even tell their parents they'd wed. Asked about the nuptials Ned's dad replied: "It's not something I know of but nothing would surprise me with those two."
Notoriously private duo Scarlett Johansson and journalist Romain Dauriac (above) wed in secret, as did Johansson's former beau Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively (below).
- Chrissie Russell