For Whom the Bells Toll: Weddings at WDW

Compliled by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Senior Editor

Feature Article

This article appeared in the April 14, 2015 Issue #812 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

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.

Disney Wedding ChapelA few weeks ago, Alexandra wrote to us: "I am newly engaged and am finding it difficult to find detailed info on Disney honeymoons/weddings except from the Disney wedding website… Any info on weddings, anniversary dinners, wedding rehearsal dinners (any have set menus for groups or special rooms), etc.?"

Having not participated in a Disney wedding recently, we had little advice to offer Alexandra, so we turned to our readers to offer some insight on this subject. We knew we could count on you!

With June, the traditional month for weddings, right around the corner, we thought we'd share with you some of the tips, advice and personal experiences Disney brides and grooms (and their parents) passed on to us:

Nancy Skow: My daughter had her wedding May 2014 at the Grand Floridian Wedding Chapel and the reception at Citricos restaurant. It was absolutely beautiful, and everything went smoothly. When sitting down with the wedding planner, skip all the extras that are mentioned, such as having a character at the wedding, a wedding carriage, runner down the aisle, extra appetizers. We kept it to the basics.

Becky Belt: My son married on the beach of The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin. Since these hotels aren't owned by Disney, the cost was more practical.

Audrey Olsen: It's worth pricing out the options! When I was pricing out a wedding at Disney, the wedding in the chapel was $3000. With the dinner at Epcot, I was quoted $25,000! Instead, my husband and I were married at the Swan, on the beach. We had the wedding dinner at Il Mulino. The wedding cost about $3500 for 25 people, including the flowers, champagne toast, cake and musical accompaniment. The dinner options at Il Mulino were wonderful — multiple options at different price points. We also chose a white and a red wine to go with the meal. I think the total bill for dinner (with 18 percent gratuity included) was around $6500. (We had something like 20 bottles of wine, which drove up the costs.)

Allison: I'm a Disney Bride! I got married in 2011 at Disney World and then spent the week there. My advice is to just call the wedding planners to talk to them about the different packages they have. It really all depends on how many people you have. We had 20 (including us) and it was perfect. We were able to do a smaller wedding and save some money to do extra stuff for our honeymoon.

Jennifer Turner: I was just married in WDW last October. Best decision EVER! It was awesome, to say the least. I would HIGHLY recommend purchasing Carrie Hayward's book, PassPorter's Disney Weddings & Honeymoons.

Jessica Raposa: My husband and I got married and "Disneymooned" in the World in May 2013.

For our wedding, we went through Disney's Fairytale Weddings. We had the best service, but be careful. Additions to the basic package could get expensive! We got married at Sea Breeze Point with nine other members of our close family. We also had bridal portraits in the Magic Kingdom the morning after. One thing that I highly recommend is to opt for an outside photographer for your wedding pictures. In 2013, Disney only allotted two hours of photography with the package, with the option to add more hours for more money. We found it was worth our while to hire an outside photographer and we are glad we did! In lieu of the photography that came with the package they offered us a "family" photo-shoot.

In the days leading up to the wedding and a couple days after, we stayed at the Boardwalk. We found this was best since it was right next to our venue.

Since we were a group of 11, we had dinner together the night before the wedding at Le Cellier in Epcot. We made those reservations ourselves. For dinner the night of the wedding, we made reservations for everyone at Narcoossee's, which I highly recommend.

Something I also recommend is renting a pontoon boat for the group or just the newlyweds, to watch Wishes or IllumiNations. We rented a boat for ourselves and watched Wishes from the Seven Seas Lagoon. It was almost $300, but worth every single penny! It allowed my husband and me to enjoy a moment to ourselves at the end of the night and reflect on all the events of that day. It was one of the best things we've ever done in WDW.

On the night after our wedding after most of our family had left, we had dinner at Victoria & Albert's to celebrate our newlywed status! It was the most expensive, but BEST meal we've ever had on Walt Disney World property and I highly recommend it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience to celebrate a wedding or anniversary!

For our honeymoon we decided to take our first Disney cruise on the Dream. It was perfect because it let us relax after the wedding. After the cruise we spent a few days at Art of Animation resort and the parks to close out our honeymoon.

Thanks for giving us Disney brides the opportunity to chime in!

Caitlin: I had a Disney wedding in July and it was everything I ever wanted and more!

Pre- Planning: Truly a Disney experience! I started planning the wedding about two years out. We met our wedding consultant Christie Davis, who answered all of our questions and helped us while we were down there for our onsite visits. She explained the booking process and how we were in the lottery for the date and time we wanted. We could enter the lottery exactly one year out from the wedding. We didn't get our first time choice but we did get our second and it worked out better!

Planning: Our wedding planner was Diane, and because of her our day was perfect! We started talking to her via email about some details and packages before our planning session. We went down in January to meet with Diane, the chef and the florist, and it was nothing like we expected. We planned the whole wedding in about 6 hours! Diane knew our budget and saw our vision and helped us make decisions. She even went over a transportation schedule with us that featured to the minute pick-up times for everyone. The last thing we did with Diane was our cake-testing, which was great! Then we met with our florist and she pulled up my Pinterest board on the computer and took down notes for the colors I wanted and which bouquets were my favorite. The final step of our planning session was meeting with the chef from the Grand Floridian. He was very kind and listened to our likes and dislikes for each item. He helped customize a few things as well to make them special for us.

Room Blocks: The room block requirement that you have to meet is easy. We chose to pick one resort in each price range: All Star Sports, Port Orleans French Quarter and Wilderness Lodge. Most of our guests stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter, so we decided to stay there as well. The Wedding Reservation line was quick and easy for all of our guests to use and they even tried to put us all together. Before our guests arrived we brought down welcome bags to the front desk with their names on them and the management staff gave them out as they arrived.

Rehearsal Dinner: We had a total of 55 guests at our wedding and at our rehearsal dinner we had 30 people. We had a 3 p.m. rehearsal at the Wedding Pavilion and then went over to Cape May Cafe in the Beach Club for our dinner. We called the restaurant directly 180 days out and they were able to make reservations for us and used a back corner of the restaurant. Everyone loved it and it was cost-effective for us since it was seafood buffet with great food all for one price!

The Big Day: The big day was truly a fairy tale. I woke up and took my girls out to breakfast at 'Ohana in the Polynesian and my fiance took his groomsmen out bowling at Splitsville. We arrived back at the hotel where the makeup company came to my room. Before we had to leave, our photography team came and took some "getting ready" photos, which to this day are my favorites. Then it was off to the Grand! My fiance and I decided to do a first look at the Grand Floridian before the ceremony, and it is one of my favorite memories of the day! After that we went to the Wedding Pavilion for our wonderful ceremony and then pictures at Picture Point. Diane was with us the whole time making sure everything and everyone was in place and even tracking the weather! When it was time to go over to the reception, Diane walked us into the room while everyone was enjoying cocktail hour. It took my breath away! Every detail was in place and there were even a few surprises along the way. We met with our DJ and talked over a few last minute details, then Diane escorted us to a small private room where we had cocktails and some food from the cocktail hour. It was nice to have a moment to ourselves. After that, our happily ever after began. We even had some last-minute guests, Mickey and Minnie, and our guests went wild for them!

If you are debating having a Disney Wedding, think no more. You need to do it! It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that all of our guests still talk about.

Cinderella's CoachAnneMarie Calpin: We got married at Walt Disney World in October 2013. I cannot recommend it enough. The planning was seamless and all my guests are still raving about how wonderful it was. We got married at Sea Breeze Point at the Boardwalk, had our reception at Living Seas Salon, followed by a private nighttime dessert party in France. My absolute best advice to you is to contact Disney Weddings directly. They are more than happy to help you plan the wedding of your dreams. A few advantages of having a Disney wedding:

1. Planning was FLAWLESS. We live in Chicago so could not just hop over to meet with our planner. We traveled down once before our wedding. In that ONE planning day we did site visits, met with florists, and were taken into the Epcot kitchen for a private food tasting, where they accommodated everything we wanted, down to asking us if we wanted more or less garlic in the pasta. We were brought every flavor of cake and frosting that they have to sample and so much more. If I would have done the same planning here I would have had to contact so many vendors and can assure you it would have taken more than one afternoon.

2. We had our rehearsal dinner at Olivia's at Old Key West (my family's home resort). We made the reservation ourselves for about 35 people, so we did not have a planned menu. The restaurant was wonderful. I would suggest a smaller restaurant along these lines just for a little more privacy.

3. You will 100 percent have no worries the day of your wedding. My Disney wedding ran like clockwork. When my husband and I were done with pictures awaiting being announced at the reception they took the time to create us both a plate of appetizers and our drinks of choice (they asked at planning) in a private room so we could eat and enjoy them.

4. If you book through Disney Weddings you will enjoy a night at any hotel of your choice for free to use anytime during your stay. We did not use this night the night of the wedding as we knew we would be out late and wanted to fully enjoy it, so we used it the night after.

5. Price. I'm sure this is all depending on where you are from, but being from the Chicago area nothing is cheap. We had a day with three events for 50+ people all for the same cost that having our wedding in a standard ballroom with awful food would have cost. One tip I have is look into paying for drinks on consumption, this all depends on your family but the open bar works out to about 6-7 drinks per person cost wise. We had plenty of people who drank more than that, but also many people who did not drink at all. Know your group, and depending on the time of your event it could benefit you.

6. FREE annual passes. As soon as you book, you are granted free annual passes, valid from whenever you first use them.

Bottom line is I could not recommend it enough. If you are looking for a seamless, no-stress wedding, it's Disney all the way. Happy Planning!

Debbie L.: We had a wonderful Disney wedding for our daughter in January 2012. The Disney Fairytale wedding planners were very thorough and had many suggestions, of course. We had a rehearsal breakfast, rather than dinner, at the Grand Floridian's 1900 Park Fare. It was terrific, with everyone getting photos with the characters and Mary Poppins. The night before, instead of having a dinner for the out-of-town guests (after all, the whole wedding guest list was from out of town), to save money, we had a dessert party at the Rix Lounge at Coronado Springs. It was a comfy setting and we arranged it directly with the Rix Lounge, so it was a bit less expensive. It is a great way to be able to greet your guests, especially those you haven't seen in a while from other cities, and be able to flow among them, not restricted to a sit-down dinner arrangement.

The bride and groom had their bachelor/bachelorette parties with their friends the day before as a full day visiting the theme parks.

The wedding ceremony was at the Wedding Pavilion near the Grand Floridian and was beautiful. We had all the wedding party photos taken before the ceremony in the Grand Floridian lobby and outside in a lovely walkway near the pool with palm trees. They arranged the "First Look" with our daughter making her entrance at the top of the grand staircase, with her fiance at the bottom of the stairs, truly enthralled, with the rest of us looking on.

The reception was the biggest treat — we had it IN the Great Movie Ride. It began after hours, they removed the ride vehicles, and we had the whole attraction at our disposal. Hors d'oeuvres were in the vehicle loading area, then we had the dinner tables set up along the ride track, from Busby Berkley through to gangsters and into the Wild West room. We were limited to 150 guests. The arrangement was unusual, but people could flow among the rooms to greet each other. The dinner was a magnificent buffet, so it encouraged people to be able to move around. Then we were "escorted" through the rest of the ride, and into Munchkin Land for dessert. Here is where we had the toasts and speeches with wedding cake served. Then the large finale room where they show the film clips was where we had the DJ and dancing, so that the final hours of the wedding had a free flow between Munchkin Land and the dancing room. Bars were set up at various locations throughout the attraction, the film clips were running periodically, and the Wicked Witch came out with her usual scene. Part of the deal was they provided a troupe of actors to play characters and mingle with the guests throughout the evening (extra charge, of course!), including the Movie Director, starlets, gangsters, old-time band musicians and Glinda the Good Witch, who sparred with the Wicked Witch! The actors really were an added treat. Our guests were thrilled and said it was truly the most unique wedding they ever had attended, and so much fun. The Great Movie Ride has always been our favorite attraction, so this opportunity was truly a dream come true!

Megan: My husband and I got married at Walt Disney World on 3/3/13 (all the 3's in our date was purely accidental) and we loved the entire affair. We chose to do an Escape Wedding, which is the smaller wedding package. You are only allowed 18 guests (you and your significant other make for a total party of 20) and do not have a full reception as part of the package. We wanted a small wedding so this was the perfect size for us. The Escape package is basically to cover the ceremony, photos, first dance, toasts and cake cutting.

We got married at 2:30 (there are 4 times of day you can get married) at Sea Breeze Point at the Boardwalk. We then had everyone limo-ed back to Wilderness Lodge where everyone enjoyed a drink at the bar before we had our dinner at Artist Point. We're not big party people, so for us the option to have a sort of big dinner party really appealed to us. We were treated to some wonderful Disney magic at dinner too, the chef provided us all with champagne to toast, some roasted hazelnuts and rosemary before the appetizers and lemongrass infused vodka before the main course. We had done our ceremonial cake cutting for the photos after the ceremony but they sent the cake on to the restaurant for our dessert after dinner. It was also less expensive for us to do this with our small party than bump up to the Wishes Collection for the full reception and catered food.

I think the biggest reason I would recommend Disney for anyone's wedding is because you know they can handle everything and it will go smoothly. I really wanted to make sure that on the day of the wedding I could concentrate on getting married and not have to worry about whether anything could/would go wrong. We got married in early March and had been to Disney several times early in March and the weather had always been great. Not so on our wedding! It reached about 58 by our wedding time with 20mph winds from the north. It was cold and Sea Breeze Point is outside right on a body of water! But Disney being Disney, my wedding coordinator called that morning and told me they could move the mini reception part of the wedding indoors, into a small conference room at the Boardwalk. I agreed and everything went just as smoothly as if it had always been planned that way. We did get some hilarious photos where everyone in the foreground is smiling and looking comfortable but anyone in the background is all hunched up in their coats!

By the way, I actually heard about your website from the first person I talked to at Disney Weddings!


So, there you have it — some first-hand experiences of what it's like to get married at Walt Disney World. If you've dreamed of getting married there but the thought of the logistics or cost have held you back, don't rule it out quite yet. As our readers have pointed out, there are many different options available throughout Walt Disney World, including some of the hotels that are on Disney property, but not part of the Fairytale Weddings group. If you can dream it, they can do it!

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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.