Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings

by Carrie Hayward, AllEars® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the July 14, 2009 Issue #512 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)


If a trip around Seven Seas Lagoon has taken you past Disney's Wedding Pavilion, you know that it's possible to get married at Walt Disney World. Maybe you're among the many people who roll their eyes and think "Yeah, if you're rich!" Or maybe you've written off a Disney wedding as only for princess-crazy girls in pouffy gowns. Or do you secretly dream of a Disney wedding but assume that none of your guests would be willing to travel to Florida to see it?

These are the three biggest myths about Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings. (Another myth is that they only do weddings - Disney also offers vow renewals and commitment ceremonies.) As a Disney bride who once believed all three myths, I'm happy to be able to say that the reality is much different.

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MYTH #1: Disney Weddings Are
Too Expensive
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Grand Floridian Wedding ChapelLike many people, when I found out it was possible to get married at Walt Disney World, I just assumed that the cost would be astronomical. However, after a few weeks of researching local venues for my wedding, I realized that it was possible to have one of Disney's package weddings - including the site, the cake, the limo, the bouquet, photography and music - for less than it cost just to rent a reception site in my town.

Recently released surveys by bridal magazines The Knot and BRIDES place the average cost of a wedding in 2008 at just under $30,000. In 2009, Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings' Escape Collection package wedding starts at $4,500, including all the elements previously listed, plus theme park annual passes for the bride and groom. Even Disney's completely customizable Wishes Collection has a minimum expenditure of just $10,000 in 2009. (And, yes, it is possible to keep your costs at the minimum - many of us have done it!) Plus, Disney is currently offering a 10% discount on most elements of the Wishes Collection for events held before Dec. 18, 2009 (although the $10,000 minimum must still be met).

It is true that you can have a wedding for a lot less than $10,000 or even $4,500 if, say, you follow a City Hall ceremony with dinner out for a few friends or you get married in your parents' backyard. Regional differences can also have a big effect on wedding costs -- couples in small Midwestern and Southern towns will pay half or even a third as much as those in big cities on the East Coast and West Coast. But if you have your heart set on most of the elements of a traditional wedding reception -- the ballroom, a catered meal, dancing -- a Disney wedding might save you money and will definitely give you more bang for your buck!

For example, hiring a wedding planner may cost as much as 20% of your total wedding budget. All Disney weddings include the services of a planner at no extra charge. Even if you do hire a wedding planner, arranging a traditional wedding still requires you to run all over town scouting venues, tasting food and cake, and meeting with vendors. Disney weddings require only a few phone consultations and/or a single on-site planning session, at which you get to make decisions on fun things like colors and cake flavors instead of outdoor heaters and cutlery rental.

A Disney Fairy Tale Wedding also offers the opportunity for magical touches that would cost a fortune anywhere else – like holding a cocktail hour, rehearsal dinner or dessert party in front of a dazzling fireworks show. And while there are plenty of pricey extras to drive up the cost of a Walt Disney World wedding, you could forego all of them and still enjoy the world-class quality and service that set Disney events apart from typical reception hall weddings.

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MYTH #2: All Disney Weddings
Are Princess-y
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While it is true that Disney does a booming business in fairy tale-style weddings, ultimately the look and feel of your event is up to you.

The best example is the Wishes Collection, which allows you to completely customize your event. Start with ceremony and reception venues that appeal to your sense of style. Among your choices are elegant and traditional venues like Disney's Wedding Pavilion and the Grand Floridian ballrooms, sleek and modern sites like California Grill at the Contemporary Resort and Living Seas Salon inside Epcot, and eclectic and highly themed locations like Animal Kingdom's Tamu Tamu Courtyard or Epcot's Italy Pavilion.

With your locations as a canvas, you can add as many or as few floral and decor elements as you wish. Only certain venues allow you to bring in your own florist, but even if you are required to use the Walt Disney World Florist, the options are limited only by your imagination and budget. And nowhere is it written that you have to have masses of pink roses or carriage-shaped centerpieces just because you're getting married at Walt Disney World!

Disney also offers the Couture Collection of ceremony and reception looks designed by celebrity wedding planner David Tutera. With one of these high-end decor packages you'll get a magazine-worthy wedding without having to design every detail yourself. Two of them in particular, Simply Chic and Cocktail Soiree, eschew the frills and gilding for a clean, modern look.

Even the basic Escape Collection package offers a choice of bouquet and cake styles that range from classic to contemporary and from whimsical to, yes, even fairy tale. You may also customize them for an additional fee.

And if you do want to play prince or princess for a day, Walt Disney World is the place to do it! Among your options are Cinderella's Glass Coach, complete with costumed footmen; a Major Domo in powdered wig and full regalia to carry the rings; Herald Trumpeters to announce your arrival; gilded thrones for the happy couple; and even a  giant castle backdrop or oversized storybook entrance for the reception.

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MYTH #3: Our Guests Won't
Travel That Far
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For many people, the biggest obstacle to a Walt Disney World wedding is the thought that no one will travel that far to attend it. However, destination weddings are becoming more and more common -- The Knot's 2009 survey found that one in five couples planned an out-of-town wedding, while one in 10 planned to wed more than 200 miles from where they lived. As one of my fellow Disney brides says, these days friends and family rarely all live in the same town, so every wedding is a destination wedding for someone!

Unlike many destination-wedding locales, Orlando is easily accessible from most cities, offers accommodations at all price points, and is kid-friendly, making it easy for your guests to turn a trip to your wedding into a family vacation. This may be why Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings reports that Walt Disney World weddings draw a greater percentage of the guest list than the 50%-75% typical for a destination wedding.

There are also a number of things you can do to increase the likelihood that those invited will attend and make it easier on the ones who do.

  • Hold your event during Disney's Value Season. Hotel prices (and usually airfare) will be cheaper and crowds will be lighter. If you block a certain number of hotel rooms, Disney offers your guests discounts of up to 30% off rack rates. Alternatively, they may take advantage of any discount they qualify for, including AAA, Annual Passholder, PIN offers, and seasonal discounts like the free Disney Dining Plan frequently available in September.
  • Send "save the date" cards with the wedding date and location as soon as you have signed your contract (Disney will send these on your behalf for free if you have a Wishes Collection event). Wedding invitations are usually sent out only a month or two before the big day, so a save-the-date card will give your guests plenty of time to start planning and saving for a trip.
  • Point your guests in the direction of helpful Disney vacation-planning resources like http://allears.net or enlist the services of a travel agent to answer their questions and book their trips. You can also keep guests in the loop with a wedding website and/or a newsletter that covers everything they need to know about your event.
  • Once guests arrive, show them your gratitude with a casual welcome party or thoughtful welcome bags containing essentials like sunscreen, bottled water, and Disney park maps. It is also helpful to provide transportation to and from wedding-day events.

And for those who are unable to attend your wedding, consider holding a reception in your hometown a few months later. Whether you plan a formal event that mimics a wedding reception or throw together a backyard barbecue, a home reception will let you share your photos, video and memories with a wider circle of family and friends and give them a chance to participate in the celebration.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Carrie Hayward is the author of PassPorter's Disney Weddings & Honeymoons, a guidebook and bridal organizer for weddings, vow renewals, commitment ceremonies and honeymoons at Walt Disney World and on the Disney Cruise Line. She was married in Epcot's Morocco Pavilion, with a reception at The Attic at Disney's BoardWalk Resort and an IllumiNations dessert party at Epcot's United Kingdom Lochside patio. Carrie and her husband, Patrick, like to travel and enjoy swing dancing at Disneyland's Carnation Plaza Gardens.


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.