Anita and Sam gave their friends and family a treat at the Panama Dining Room with their Surprise Wedding Melbourne!

Melbourne surprise weddings are fantastic, particularly when Melbourne Celebrant Julie is involved! And Melbourne wedding venue, The Panama Dining Room, certainly didn’t disappoint. If you want to turn your milestone birthday or engagement party celebration into a wedding, I say go for it!

Melbourne Celebrant Julie Byrne - Panama Dining Room - Surprise Wedding Melbourne - Anita & Sam

A surprise wedding (not a surprise to the couple, of course) is a wonderful way to marry your partner for life without the pre-wedding stress. It also keeps the build-up lower key. The delightful Anita and Sam chose to marry at their engagement party and, after a couple of postponements, managed to celebrate in absolute style, excitement, and amazement with all their beloved guests.

Sam and Anita chose The Panama Dining Room, a converted loft in the heart of Fitzroy, for the engagement turned wedding. Inviting guests for a 6pm start, the wedding ceremony was to commence at 7.30pm, with Anita ducking off to change from her engagement frock into her gorgeous Raffele Ciuca gown at 7.15pm.

Nikki McCrone Photography was there to capture all the ‘engagement’ party photos and Dj Sierra Jane kept us entertained with the tunes.

The Surprise Wedding Reveal!

About 7pm, I sashayed in to covertly introduce myself to the venue, photographer, and DJ – and assess the situation. All was on schedule and going fabulously. Anita and Sam had informed a few family members of their plans, but all other guests were none the wiser.  The ceremony space looked divine with Pomp and Splendour providing the stunning floral frame for our soon-to-be-newlyweds. Excitement grew, as the time came to make the announcement that Anita and Sam were getting married that very night.

Melbourne Celebrant Julie - Surprise Wedding Ceremony Melbourne - Anita & Sam
Melbourne Celebrant Julie - Panama Dining Room Surprise Wedding Ceremony - Anita & Sam

As I gathered the guests’ attention, I introduced myself, mentioning that I was a fellow teacher, like Sam, but also a marriage celebrant. And that is what I was there to do that evening. Anita and Sam were getting hitched! There were gasps, shrieks, double takes, tears, cheers, and an absolute air of excitement. Getting this moment right is so important for guests to understand what’s happening and for the photographer to capture the moment. The ceremony space was finalised, the guests congregated, and the time had finally arrived.

It’s fair to say that surprise weddings are totally upbeat, relaxed and a little ‘looser’ than a traditional wedding, and I love that. Even more fun, laughs and some lovable heckling and comments will happen, all par for the course. When Anita walked down the aisle with her father, everyone was in awe and thrilled. And, believe me, the paparazzi were out in force (see the pics!)

Anita and Sam were just beaming and knew this is exactly the way they wanted to marry. The ceremony was filled with laughs, love, a dedication to their wonderful parents with a short story about the couple and unassuming vows that reflected who they are. It had a real celebratory and party vibe with a few shrieks from me too.

Melbourne Celebrant Julie - Surprise Wedding Celebrant Melbourne - Anita & Sam
Anita: ‘Thanks for finally marrying us Julie, everyone loved you!’
Sierra Jane DJ: ‘You were absolutely phenomenal last night, Julie, lots of fun and very professional’


After the couple was declared husband and wife, guests congratulated the newlyweds, and photographer Nikki took the couple out into the urban streets of Fitzroy for golden hour and sunset photos which look absolutely stunning. I couldn’t be happier to have ridden the Covid postponement journey with Anita and Sam and I wish them all the best in their married life and family plans.

Julie Byrne - Panama Dining Room Photobooth Melbourne - Anita & Sam
Julie Byrne - Panama Dining Room Melbourne - Anita & Sam

Their Love Story

Anita and Sam met whilst working at Hoyts, Northland when they were much (much) younger. They obviously made an impression on each other and, ironically, went to see a movie for their first date. Clearly, it went well, as we are here 13 years later.

In these early stages of dating, Anita and Sam noticed each other’s easy-going nature and smiles. They soon knew it was love: for Sam when he realised that making her happy was truly what made him happy. And, for Anita, it was after she had her first meltdown in front of him and he knew how to support and ground her. It was Sam who proposed on their trip to the Northern Territory, overlooking Uluru.

Anita describes Sam as loving, supportive, funny, and stubborn. She loves the way he supports her, comforts her, laughs with her (or at her) and he always knows how to cheer Anita up. Sam has taught her that you can never be shown too many times how to turn the washing machine on.

Sam describes Anita as kind, positive, down-to-earth, and stubborn. Sam loves the way she always smiles, tackles problems with positivity, and is always there to support and/or put up with him. Anita isn’t his better half, she is Sam’s better three quarters. Anita has taught him that there is only one correct way to put items away in the fridge.

They love spending time together and with their fur baby and love to travel (so bugger off Covid, this couple has places to go!) Anita and Sam can’t wait to start the next chapter of their adventure, with lots of love and laughs along the way.

Melbourne Celebrant Julie - Panama Dining Room Surprise Wedding Melbourne - Anita & Sam
Melbourne Celebrant Julie - Surprise Wedding Dance Floor Melbourne - Anita & Sam

The Wedding Vows

Both Anita and Sam wanted to keep their vows short and simple, something I do advise and suggest if you’re having a surprise wedding. And, they felt more comfortable keeping them compact – it was what they wanted. Let’s capture the essence with a ceremony that packs a punch and continue with the celebrations.


I promise to love you, to be your best friend, to respect and support you, to be patient with you, to work together to achieve our goals, to accept you unconditionally and to share my life with you forever.


I choose you to be my best friend and life partner. I promise to grow with you and support you. I promise to be patient, understanding, and kind. In good times and in bad, I will love you, I promise this now and forever.

So, if you’re looking for someone to marry you or help organise your surprise wedding, contact me!


Venue: Panama Dining Room

Photography: Nikki McCrone Photography

Flowers: Pomp and Splendour

Bridal Gown: Raffaele Ciuca Bridal – Madison James

DJ: Sierra Jane DJ

Cake: Sweetly Styled

Hair & Makeup: Laura Jean MUA

Melbourne Celebrant Julie - Secret Wedding Melbourne - Anita & Sam
Melbourne Celebrant Julie - Panama Dining Room Surprise Wedding Venue - Anita & Sam
Melbourne Celebrant Julie - Surprise Wedding Venue Melbourne - Anita & Sam
Melbourne Celebrant Julie - Secret Wedding Venue Melbourne - Anita & Sam
Melbourne Celebrant Julie - Surprise Wedding Cake Melbourne - Anita & Sam
Melbourne Celebrant Julie - Surprise Wedding Ceremony Venue Melbourne - Anita & Sam