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A Surprise Wedding to Sidestep Chronic Illness

Photo by Stephanie Scapellati

Skipping the Engagement

I got a chance to interview Nicole about the amazing wedding her husband, Danny, surprised her with. Nicole deals with a handful of chronic illnesses, including POTS, lupus and fibromyalgia. She found me discussing my own wedding day here on my blog, and reached out because my story really reaffirmed her decision to accept the gift of a wedding she didn’t have to plan, prepare or anticipate. Instead of just the standard surprise of a proposal, Danny also had a wedding ready in hopes that Nicole could skip the worry and stress that would most likely make her health worse during the special event. This wedding was replete with guests, food & drink, flowers, decor, music, photography, a minister, the rings and even a dress! Nicole skipped the engagement and chose to jump right into one of the best days of her life. The only flare happening at this lucky girl’s wedding was the fun kind!

I wanted to gather some practical details and advice from this lovely couple, so others can be inspired to see this as a real viable option for themselves! A chronic illness can take the fun out of a lot of things, especially something like a wedding where the stress is almost guaranteed to cause symptoms and further anxiety. Even happy excitement and anticipation can cause a flare for many of us. What I love is that this is a way to relinquish some tradition, while still getting an amazing traditional event filled with more happiness and love than worry and dread.

If you’re looking to marry the man or woman of your dreams and they’re challenged by a chronic illness, maybe this could be an option for you! A good way to see if your person is open to the idea of a “surprise wedding” is to have someone else float Nicole’s wedding story by them in passing and see how they respond. A more traditional bride or groom may gawk, and explain that they’d hate to miss out on something about planning their own event. Personally, getting my own dress and photographers and mementos was really important to me, and though my wedding day still yielded amazing memories and beautiful photos I treasure despite the challenges, Nicole’s story made me reflect. I truly think my mom, friends and family could’ve pulled off a surprise wedding I loved and the gesture with their own details would’ve made it all the more meaningful to me. I have the feeling that many other brides and grooms would say that being surprised with a wedding would be an absolute dream come true!

I ask questions, and Nicole shares her story and advice below…


First of all, how did he get you a wedding dress!? It fit beautifully!

My mom and Danny actually picked it out together. They had gone to a few stores but once they saw this dress they said they knew that was it. My mom got it in two sizes and had it hemmed to her height because we are about the same height. It’s funny though because hearing about them going into the store together, the people working at the store were so confused and had no idea how they would make this work without me being there. I keep saying we must’ve had a bunch of people watching over us to make sure everything went flawlessly, which it did. I tried on one of the dresses that night and I could’ve gotten away with it but it was a little loose…so I tried on the next one and it fit like a glove. I loved it!


What would Danny have done if you weren’t feeling well that day? Did he have a backup date in mind? Would he have tried to surprise you with the engagement and/or wedding later? Or was it a one time shot?

Danny and the few people helping set up had no idea how I was going to feel that day (especially because we were flying home and I don’t always feel well after flying). He knew he was going to propose in front of our family and friends and then privately give me the option to get married that night. When he asked about getting married, I said yes because I felt okay and also LOVED the idea! He did tell me to think about it though and said that if I want, we can have the night simply be an engagement party like all of our guests thought and then plan a wedding together!


Was Danny more confident in making plans because he knew that if you weren’t anticipating the event it was more likely you’d do well?

Yes. Although I don’t like to think it, big events stress me out because I never know how I will feel that day or if I’ll be able to make it…so committing to events is hard for me. He knows that the anticipation of a wedding would have completely stressed me out and caused me to flare. He knows me better than anyone and knew that this would be something I’d love (and he was absolutely right…I never in my wildest dreams could have dreamt up something this amazing!).


How important was it for certain guests to be there for the wedding? I imagine the parents were “must-haves,” how did he make sure everyone could make it?

Danny has said he wanted our closest family and friends there. Our parents knew that there was a chance of a wedding because they all helped with setting up while we were on vacation, so yes, they were “must-haves.” Everyone else was “this is the amount of people I can fit in the tent so let’s make a list”. He said that the guest list was the least of his worries. He said that he knew that our closest friends and family would be there but he said all that he really cared about was what would be best for me. 


Were vendors flexible with arrangements? Particularly catering and florists? Did he find vendors to be accommodating to your predicament? Was he able to use friends for certain things, who’d be easily flexible and reschedule-able? I saw dad officiated the wedding- sweet touch!

There was still going to be a party that night whether I said yes to getting married that night or not…it just would’ve been an engagement party. So no one really had to be flexible, just available. That’s where our family (and a few friends) stepped in. My family took care of the food, centerpieces and my bouquet. Danny’s mom got our tent. Our parents took care of everything while we were away, which I am so thankful for. They literally took all of the stress away from me. Danny asked our good friend who’s a photographer to be there to take pictures. He asked another one of his good friends to take care of playing music. Originally, a family friend who is a Deacon was supposed to marry us but he ended up in the hospital so Danny’s Dad was the “back-up” haha.


Were some traditional wedding elements not included to make the event more feasible? What might be easy to forgo to make this kind of wedding style more doable?

We never wanted a “traditional” wedding anyway. We had discussed having something small and simple…that was more our style. It wasn’t a huge dance party, more of a regular, intimate party. We had the traditional father-daughter, mother-son, and newlywed dances (plus an untraditional mother-daughter dance because she is one of my best friends) and also, my brother was my man-of-honor as he is my best friend. Other than that, it was just close family and friends hanging out and celebrating our love! If you’re okay with not having all of the traditional things that people think of when they think of weddings, this would be easy to do. Make it exactly how you want. Do whatever you want. This is YOUR wedding and your celebration of love…no one else’s. Danny laid out for our parents exactly what he wanted them to set up and how he wanted the night to go, whether I said yes to a wedding or not, and that’s what we did. We were completely supported by our family and friends with our choices, but I don’t even think that matters. All that matters is doing what makes you happy and beginning your life with the person you love! 


How did he go about making some key choices that are traditionally important to brides- like flowers and decor? Was he able to use the help of your friends and family?

He had some secret meetings with family members when I thought he was working overtime. They delegated who would take care of what and it all worked out smoothly! Luckily our family was amazing and helped out with EVERYTHING.


Did you have any “Pinterest” board inspiration that he was able to check out to help make your dream wedding?

I did have a Pinterest board but it was only used once and right before the wedding. I had my mom and Danny with me at a doctor’s appointment that I was nervous about so I randomly brought up that board and started showing my mom some things. One of the things she saw was a heart shaped wooden puzzle that guests could sign and write on. She ended up finding that exact thing, and I love puzzles so that was amazing! Other than that, everything was planned just by knowing me 🙂 . 


Looking back was there anything either of you would do differently or suggest that others do differently?

I say everything was perfect and I wouldn’t have changed a thing!

The only thing Danny would have changed was the music. One of the songs while I was walking in was changed and he was a little upset about that (I had ZERO idea), but for Valentine’s day I edited the videos with the music and it was beautiful and just as he had imagined. Danny also said in regards to what people should do while planning, really get your vision out clearly to the people who are helping. Even if you think you have it planned out for them, do your best to paint that picture for them. You’re trusting people to plan something that you want to be done your way so the more specific you are, the better. 


I imagine there are some things you feel that you missed out on by not having a traditional wedding. What might that be? Things like wedding dress shopping? Of course those things were worth skipping, right?

We both don’t feel like we missed out on anything at all. If anything, we feel like we avoided all of the unnecessary BS and stress that comes along with wedding planning. My mom told me she got a little emotional wedding dress shopping without me because I am her only daughter, but once she knew how much she helped SAVE me and my health by planning this surprise and how perfectly it worked out, she wouldn’t have changed a thing either. 


How do you think someone would know if their partner would want a surprise wedding?

Danny said he paid attention. To all the girls out there who think that their guys aren’t paying attention, they are…or he was at least. He also said, “You’ll just know…you’ll know if it’s a good idea or THE idea for the both of you.” Like I said before, Danny knows me better than anyone. Although some people may have thought it was odd, it made sense and was absolutely perfect for us. Some people love planning weddings and that’s amazing for them. I also give them a lot of credit because I know it’s a lot of work. For me, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it and Danny knew that. I feel so lucky that my husband and family helped take all the stress it would’ve caused away from me and simply allowed me to enjoy the best surprise and day of my life!


Thanks so much, Nicole and Danny, for sharing your amazing wedding story! It’s inspiring to see such a creative team effort conquer something chronic illness can make so challenging. What a great way to capture such happy and special memories for your big day!


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