by Disney Magic Diva
Walt Disney World Resort is known as a place where dreams come true. If your dream wedding is to say your vows in the shadow of Cinderella Castle, Disney’s Fairytale Weddings and Honeymoons may just be able to help you make that dream come true!
My daughter was married at the Walt Disney World Resort. The planning was relatively painless (or at least as painless as wedding planning can ever be!), and we found the wedding consultants to be extremely receptive to doing whatever they could to make her dream day a reality. And now that my daughter and her prince charming are living their “happily ever after,” I’m happy to share some tips with any brides who are dreaming of a Disney wedding.
The Budget Let’s start with the least fun aspect – the expense. Even if your budget was set by Scrooge McDuck, a Disney wedding CAN be affordable! Start by checking out the website, and making those tough choices. We found that for about the same price, we could either have a smaller wedding at Disney or a bigger wedding at home. We chose Disney! Disney offers packages beginning at about $2,500 for an intimate ceremony for you and 4 guests, $5000 for up to 18 guests, and $12,000 if you have a minimum of 18 guests. The hardest part is prioritizing what’s important to you, and then choosing from all the fabulous options available!
The Ceremony Venue There are plenty of options when it comes to where you can hold your ceremony. Each of the wedding packages has several choices of venues for the ceremony, so you’re sure to find your perfect place. My daughter had her heart set on the Wedding Pavilion, and also on being married on a specific date – her grandparents’ anniversary. She only booked about nine months in advance, and so was lucky to get the date she wanted. Since it happened to be a Saturday, the only remaining time available was 10:00 am. (Weekday weddings or other locations often have more availability. There are often 4-5 weddings on a Saturday at the Wedding Pavilion!) While we weren’t thrilled with a morning wedding at first, it turned out to be absolutely lovely. And booking a morning time helped with our budget, too, since the rental fee was a little less.
The Reception One of the seemingly endless decisions you’ll need to make is where to hold a reception, or even if you want to have one. Your options are only limited by your imagination. If you’ve chosen a small, intimate wedding, you may want to celebrate with an elegant dinner at one of Disney’s many fabulous restaurants. But, if you have a larger guest list and want a more traditional reception, you’ve still got dozens of places from which to choose. I’ve heard of receptions inside the Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios, in your favorite country’s pavilion in World Showcase in Epcot, on the beautifully landscaped lawn of a deluxe resort or high atop the Contemporary in California Grill, overlooking Magic Kingdom. We decided on a more traditional setting – cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the terrace at the Grand Floridian, then a buffet inside one of their ballrooms.
The Wedding Party Think about whether you really want a big wedding party, or any at all. For my daughter’s wedding, they opted to not have anyone stand up with them. It gave the ceremony a more intimate feel with just the bride, groom and minister at the altar. If you do have a wedding party, consider keeping it small. You don’t want more people standing on the altar than sitting in the pews. And speaking of the minister, your wedding planner will be happy to refer you to officiants in the area who have performed Disney weddings. We were able to contact them and after a few emails and phone calls, found a perfect fit.
The Photographer We used Disney’s Fine Art Photography and Videography, and couldn’t have been more delighted! They came to my daughter’s resort room to get some “getting ready” photos, and then met us in the lobby of the Grand Floridian for family and bridal shots. They captured every moment of the ceremony, then got fantastic bride and groom photos immediately after the ceremony while guests were enjoying the cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. They stayed through the reception, so every moment of the day was captured. We were then able to choose which photos we’d like in the wedding album, and they created an exquisite hardcover photo book. We also received hard copies of every photo they took – hundreds and hundreds of them! If you’d prefer to use an outside photographer, that’s fine too. Just talk to your wedding planner about what is allowed.
The Flowers This was one area where we tried to keep it pretty simple. We wanted an understated, soft look since it was a morning wedding. The florists worked with us to find arrangements which could be used at the ceremony, then transported to be used again at the reception. We did splurge a little, though, on a customized runner for the aisle. It was gorgeous! And probably the biggest gamble we made was the decision to pay for confetti cannons to shower the bride and groom as they left the Wedding Pavilion. It seemed somewhat pricey for something that lasted only seconds, but the memory will last forever. We had all the guests line the walkway outside, and as the newlyweds exited the venue instead of rice or bubbles, we had the canons explode confetti ribbons! It turned out to be one of my favorite photos of the entire day!
The Cake If you’ve never ordered a cake from Disney bakeries, you’re missing quite a treat. They are absolutely delicious! And when you combine that yumminess with the special attention the bakers give a wedding cake, you’re sure to get the cake of your dreams. The bakers are happy to find just the theme, size, color and flavor combinations you want for your cake. We sent them photos of cakes we loved, and they were able to create just what we imagined.
The Music Another big decision, with lots of options. We chose to have an organist at the ceremony, and a pianist at the reception. We were given an extensive list of selections for each part of the ceremony, and, believe me, it took awhile to decide! We were also able to choose what type of music would be played at the reception (classical, love songs, Disney, etc.) They did a marvelous job!
The Dress We live in the Midwest, and it’s a 26 hour drive “home.” So flying is our only realistic option, if we want to maximize our time at Disney. Deciding how to transport the dress led to several sleepless nights. Should we pack it in a carry-on suitcase, check it, or ship it? Letting that precious cargo out of sight by shipping it was a little too far out of our comfort zone. On previous trips, we’d seen brides carry their dress on the airplane in a garment bag, but the airline couldn’t promise us that would be allowed, and that we’d need to be prepared to check it at the last minute. Having it stowed in a cargo hold with nothing but a garment bag to protect it was also just a little too scary. So we ultimately packed it in a carry-on suitcase. With the help of the Disney wedding consultants, we arranged for a service to come to the resort room and steam the dress the day before the wedding. It was a wonderful solution!
You might also want to consider how you will get the dress back home. If you are leaving directly from the wedding to a honeymoon, you’ll want to arrange for someone to take the dress. You certainly don’t need to carry that with you on your honeymoon! Disney can put you in touch with businesses that will pick up your dress from your resort, clean it, preserve it and ship it back home to you. Since the newlyweds were headed off to a honeymoon cruise, we loved that option! One less thing for me to deal with on the way home, and we knew it was well cared for immediately rather than sitting in a suitcase for days until we returned home.
As for the guys – we all know they have it easier when it comes to wedding attire! Disney can put you in touch with tuxedo rental companies, if that’s what your groom needs. We decided to just have the guys wear black suits, which they were able to pack from home.
The Hairstyle What bride doesn’t have a Pinterest board dedicated solely to hair styles? It’s a big part of her special day, and not being able to have your regular hairstylist create that special look could be terrifying. But my daughter talked with her stylist at home and together they decided on a style that would be perfect. She gathered lots of photos and booked two appointments with a Disney salon stylist – one as a practice run the day before the wedding, and one for the wedding day. It was extremely helpful and reassuring to meet the Disney stylist beforehand and know exactly how her wedding day hair would look. The morning of the wedding, the same stylist came to my daughter’s resort room and styled her hair, as well as mine. It was exactly what we wanted!
The Resort As part of our wedding package, we were able to offer guests a discount on a Walt Disney World Resort hotel room. We had a block of rooms reserved at Coronado Springs Resort, but guests were able to obtain a discounted rate at whatever resort they chose. Many did choose to stay at Coronado, but others chose resorts which offered family suites. To obtain the discount, we had to guarantee a certain number of rooms, so it took a little coordination with guests to obtain a commitment from them on whether they were planning on staying at a Walt Disney World Resort. But it was worth the effort, because as a bonus for booking the required number of rooms, Disney allowed the bride and groom to book a room at a resort of their choice for their wedding night! What a nice gift from the Mouse!
The Transportation Since the vast majority of guests flew to Walt Disney World Resort, we relied heavily on Disney transportation. But on the day of the wedding, we wanted to make transportation from the resort to the Wedding Pavilion a little easier. Our wedding planner had a great solution! We were able to charter a Disney bus just for our guests! The bus went from resort to resort, gathering guests at times we designated, and everyone arrived at the Wedding Pavilion together. We had the bride and groom’s immediate families picked up by a towncar a little earlier, so we were able to have some family wedding photos done before the ceremony. But the remainder of the guests all arrived on the charter bus, and it worked perfectly for us! It saved the guests the cost of renting a car or the stress of using the regular bus transportation when they were dressed for a wedding. It was also so fun to have the bus to transport everyone from the Wedding Pavilion to the reception, and then back to their resorts.
Another splurge we decided on was renting a vintage Rolls Royce to transport the bride to the ceremony, and the newlyweds from the ceremony to the reception. It was a once-in-a-lifetime memory they (especially the groom!) really loved. And what a photo-op! Well worth it!
The Itinerary -We knew this trip was going to be a big expense for guests, and we hoped they could make it a memorable and fun family vacation. To help them plan, we scheduled some pre- and post-wedding events and sent invitations to those along with a little “Let’s Get Excited” gift box a few months before the wedding. We included our favorite guide book The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World a tote bag to use for travel both to and in the park, and a few other trinkets to help them get excited for the trip. We also had a welcome bag for each family when they arrived at the resort, with more detailed information on the scheduled pre – and post-wedding celebrations, how the charter bus transportation would work on the wedding day, and some snacks, water bottles, etc.
The Before and After Party Since the guests were coming from all over the country, we wanted to give them chances to get more acquainted with their new in-laws. So we planned “get-to-know-you” dinners, time at the park, a Girls’ Night Out at Jellyrolls and a Guys’ Golf Outing. Guests could choose what worked with their schedule, and it was really fun enjoying everything Disney had to offer with our closest family and friends.
The Personal Touches One way to help save money and interject more personal touches to the ceremony and reception is to do some of the work yourself. That’s not to say you’ll be lifting a finger on the day of the wedding – the Disney wedding staff will take care of everything! But we did choose to make and bring our own programs for the ceremony, memorial and unity candles, place cards and thank-you’s for the reception place settings, photos to be displayed on the cake table, and a few other personal things. We just handed everything off to the wedding planner a couple days before the wedding, along with instructions on how we wanted them used, and they handled it!
The Disney Overload Worried your big day will be all Mickey Mouse and Cinderella? It doesn’t need to be. If you look at most of my daughter’s wedding pictures, you’d have no idea it was at Walt Disney World. Sure, there are some photos with Cinderella Castle in the background, but most are just beautiful images of a gorgeous setting and a happy couple. The wedding was classic, elegant and perfect. Just what she wanted. Each couple gets to make it what they want, so if Mickey and Cinderella are what you’re looking for, I’m pretty sure you can put them on the guest list!
That’s not to say you shouldn’t have some Disney fun! We had ear-hats made for everyone, and surprised guests with them on the charter bus on their way to the wedding. We didn’t wear them during the ceremony, of course, but afterwards we took a group photo of everyone with their ears on. It sounds pretty cheesy, but it’s one of my husband’s favorite photos of the day!
The Stress My daughter says the best part of her Disney wedding was that she didn’t have to stress about it. On her most important day, she knew that EVERYTHING would be magical, because the Disney wedding planners had everything under control. It was the planner’s job to make sure each detail was perfect – the venue, the dress, the food, the music, the photographers, the transportation, the flowers – and it was! All she had to do was smile.
The Princess Effect Be prepared to become the next Disney princess. Since the bridal photos were taken in the lobby of the Grand Floridian, my daughter in her wedding dress certainly caught the eye of a few guests, especially little Disney princesses. Her advice? Wave, say hello, blow kisses, ask their names, play it up – when else will you EVER get to be mistaken for a princess at Disney???
Even outside of the wedding day, don’t be afraid to share the news that you’re getting married! While waiting to go into the Magic Kingdom two days before the wedding, the bride, groom and groom’s family were chatting with a cast member (who little did they know got to pick the First Family). They told the cast member how excited they were to be there, and that they were getting married at the Pavilion that weekend, and she quickly escorted them in!! They got special bride and groom mouse ears and she even told the groom to get down on one knee in front of the castle for a special photo op. Just a little more Disney Magic!
So if you’re dreaming of a wedding at Walt Disney World Resort, my best tip would be to pursue it! You can discover quite a bit of information just by using the Disney Fairytale Wedding and Honeymoon website, and it doesn’t cost anything to talk with a wedding planner about what you envision. (Florida Diva’s article tells about her experience!) You may be surprised at what’s possible! With some planning, compromise and a little pixie dust, the dream that you wish may come true and you, too, will be living happily ever after.
***Disclaimer – We at Tips from the Disney Divas and Devos hope you enjoy reading our articles, and encourage you to share any you feel may be of interest to someone else. We do ask, however, if you choose to share the photographs attached to our articles, you give credit to the photographer. Thank you for your cooperation and sharing our love of Disney!