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My Visit with a Disney Wedding Planner
by Michelle Scribner-Maclean
AllEars® Feature Writer
This article appeared in the July 6, 2010 Issue #563 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
Growing up, I wasn't one of those little girls who dreamed about being a princess and having a fairy-tale wedding. No, much to my mother's chagrin, I was one of those girls who was out catching bugs, riding my skateboard, and playing baseball. I don't think I ever thought of what my wedding would be like... it just didn't interest me.
Fast forward several years and one thing that I was definitely interested in was Walt Disney World. As I sat on the monorail headed back from the Magic Kingdom, I used to glance at the Wedding Pavilion with a teeny bit of curiosity, but never a full-blown interest to go visit it. Even after my dear friend Karen relocated from the northeast and became a cast member (an Escape Wedding Coordinator, of all things), the thought of going to see the wedding pavilion (when there were so many other things to do at WDW) didn't hold that much appeal. During a recent trip that changed.
I was having lunch with Karen and she mentioned that she'd be working at the pavilion and invited me to come for a tour. I thought, "Why not?! It's something that I've never seen at Disney. Might be interesting."
As I drove up, I found my friend conversing with a group of cast members about some little spots that had been found on the outside of the pavilion and brainstorming how they were going to remove them. This attention to detail is something that we know makes WDW special and this was no different at the wedding pavilion -- the cast members there are so dedicated to making each wedding event special, that they call in a team to confer about how to make sure that the inside and outside are spotless.
The setting for the pavilion is next to the Grand Floridian, overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon, with the Polynesian Resort across the way. A circular driveway leads to a bridge to the pavilion and I was surprised to find out that the pavilion itself consisted of several rooms. The main pavilion is larger than I expected and can seat about 300 guests. (Karen mentioned, though, that she often hosts weddings with only the bride and groom present -- even though it's a large space, it has an intimate feel with fewer numbers.) As you walk in, the first thing that you notice is that the large glass window behind the altar perfectly frames Cinderella Castle in the distance. The decor of the pavilion is very refined and tasteful, with lots of light and lots of possibilities to customize in terms of decorations. What I mean to say here is that I think in the back of my mind I was expecting "bride and groom" Mickey and Minnie to be plastered everywhere. This was not the case. The building and its interior furnishings seem to be created as a tasteful backdrop to whatever decorations you choose to add.
Just outside the entrance to the pavilion is a small, comfortable room for the groom and his party. As for the bride, in Karen's words, "We gave the bride her own building!" Across from the entrance to the chapter is The Bride's Vestibule, a series of rooms in which the bride and her maids can rest and wait for their processional.
Although wedding planning can be done remotely without visiting WDW, couples can come to Franck's Studio, on the wedding pavilion grounds. (When I asked about the name "Franck" and the Disney connection, I was told that Franck was the name of the wedding planner played by Martin Short in Father of the Bride.) There you can meet with planners, who will assist with everything you'll need for a WDW wedding from transportation (couples can choose to arrive by carriage via Cinderella's horse and carriage), to place settings, favors, and flowers. There are also dozens and dozens of photos of cakes that you can choose, as well as some sample cakes on hand so you can see the variety of things that WDW culinary will do to customize your wedding.
If you aren't able to make it on property, they've created an interactive website to help plan your wedding, as well as your honeymoon (www.DisneyWeddings.com). As a tech-savvy person who has seen it all, I found myself very impressed with not only the amount of information available on the website, but also how fun it was to look at all the different options. The dozens and dozens of photos provided really help give an idea for what options Disney has available. You can also get info about wedding planning on a Disney cruise ship or at Disneyland. Even if you're not planning a wedding, it's really fun to just go take a peek.
In terms of settings, the Wedding Pavilion is certainly beautiful, however, it's not the only option. Want a Hawaiian feel? You can opt for Sunset Pointe at the Polynesian Resort. If you'd prefer more of a beach feel, you might opt for Sea Breeze Point at the BoardWalk Resort or the wedding gazebo at Disney's Yacht Club.
What types of "themes" are available for a Disney wedding? You might be surprised to find out that not every wedding features characters or a hidden Mickey at every turn. For those who choose to have an ultra-themed Disney wedding, that certainly is an option, but the planning team can also put together an ultra-couture wedding with all the bells and whistles and just a sprinkling of Disney theming.
Another surprise to me was the cost of a Disney wedding. There are actually several affordable weddings. Disney will certainly cater to those who want over-the-top wedding extravaganzas, but there are wedding packages that are very affordable. Couples can truly opt for weddings that meet their budget and style, from an intimate gathering with fewer than 10 people, to a large affair with several hundred guests.
There are basically three categories of wedding packages available at Walt Disney World, each with infinite variations. Escape Weddings start at $4750, Wishes packages start at $10,000, and Couture weddings begin at $65,000. If you opt for a wedding on the Disney Cruise Line it starts at $2,500 for an on-board wedding and $3,500 for a small wedding at Castaway Cay.
And, there's one more thing that's important to know...
I asked Karen about any potential glitches that had happened at any of the weddings. Being a friend of one of the planning staff, I am a bit biased, but as I listened to her describe how they worked around the occasional torn or stained dress or weather event, it was clear that this group of cast members really care about creating a magical experience for couples coming to Walt Disney World to get married. They will bend over backwards to make sure that it is perfect.
So, as I left the Wedding Pavilion area, my last thought was that, just as is the case with so many things at WDW, it exceeded my expectations beyond belief, but with the special Disney flair that we've come to expect.
Guests are invited to visit the Wedding Pavilion whenever there isn't a wedding taking place. (You can check the marquee at the end of the pathway to see if there is an event happening. The pavilion will be "booked" for one hour pre- and post wedding time.) Guests are also welcome to visit Franck's during regular business hours. For more info, check out the website or call (321) 939-4613.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michelle Scribner-MacLean is a college professor by day and a Disney fanatic in every other bit of free time. She first visited WDW when she was a teenager and now is a DVC owner who visits Walt Disney World two or three times per year. Michelle lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two boys and loves roller coasters, the fantastic food at Disney, and always cries when she sees IllumiNations. She is also a Disney
podcast addict and adores WDW Today.
Other articles by Michelle Scribner-MacLean: http://allears.net/btp/michelle.htm
Michelle is also co-captain of Team AllEars®, the AllEars.Net Running Team:
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.