So you want to plan a Disney Wedding?
guest writer: Haily Windell
Disclaimer: All this information is true as of May 2013 for the Disneyland Resort location. Disney may change options and prices at any time.
Hi my name is Haily and I’m a Disney bride. I got married at the Disneyland resort in May 2013. I’m sure when you think of Disney and weddings in the same sentence it conjures images of Cinderella and her grand carriage, glass slippers and a beautiful castle. Think that type of wedding can only happen in fairytales? Think again! Disney has a service to help you plan your dream wedding, aptly named Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings & Honeymoons!
How a Disney wedding came about:
Back when I got engaged in early 2012 (at Disneyland of course); a Disney wedding wasn’t even on my radar. I don’t remember how I heard about them, but I know I had checked out their website (https://www.disneyweddings.com/) and it didn’t seem like a possibility. We began planning a traditional at home wedding; that is until I had a meltdown. You see, I was never one of those girls that envisioned a big wedding. I hate dresses, I can’t walk in heels, I didn’t really care about flowers and most of all I hate being the center of attention. Finally my husband agreed we could elope. So our plan changed to going to Disneyland, eloping at the Orange County courthouse, and then spending the rest of the week in Disney. We didn’t set any definitive date, so as our engagement kept growing longer. Then I realized something. Eloping would mean we wouldn’t have any wedding photos, and that was the one aspect of a wedding that was important to me. I don’t remember what clicked in my brain, but I went back to the Disney weddings website and noticed they had an option called the Escape Package which was $5,000 all inclusive (as of 2013, prices have changed). I could get married at Disney for only $5,000?!? I clicked on it to get more details. The Escape package included an assigned wedding planner, the brides bouquet, a boutonniere for the groom, a half hour ceremony at your choice of a handful of lovely outdoor locations at the Disneyland Resort hotels, your officiate for the ceremony, a three and half hour reception at the same hotel your ceremony is located at, a three course plated meal for you and your partner and 18 guests and a small two tiered cake along with some add-ons for an additional price. This sounds like exactly what I wanted. Small, low key, and with only a couple options I couldn’t go crazy planning. When my fiancé got home, I was so excited to tell him about this! He was on board with the idea right away and I believe we went straight to our calendars to pick our wedding date (for Escape packages at the time, you could only book 6 months out). We picked a date and called Disney that day. We now had a wedding date and it was only 5 months away.
How do you plan a Disney wedding in five months?
With faith, trust (in your planner) and pixie dust! After calling or emailing Disney for more information and officially setting your date, you will get an email from the sales coordinator with a checklist. This checklist was my lifesaver. While Disney does offer bigger weddings with unlimited options, the Escape package is limited. You only have a couple choices to make and your wedding is planned. I loved that. It starts with some basic questions such as do you need Disney to provide you a dressing room at your ceremony hotel? Would you like breakfast/snacks sent to the room? What kind of flowers do you like? Any flowers you don’t like? Do you need additional bouquets for your bridesmaids (upcharge for additional items), etc. If there was anything you didn’t know, you could leave it blank and your planner would help you figure it out later. We sent in our pages along with the deposit required to hold our date.
The next step was being assigned a planner. Your planner will help you with the more specific details such as how do you want your bouquet to look. Do you want a tight, round ball of all roses? Or do you want something more freeform and organic with lots of greenery? You can send your planner photos or Pinterest pages to help them get an idea of what you are looking for. I had sent a list of flowers I liked and just told them I hate roses and to go from there. You also pick your cake style and flavors as well as your meal. You are given several options for both and can note any allergies or dietary restrictions here. We decided to upgrade a couple of options in our package such as the chairs (from the standard hotel ballroom chairs to chavari chairs) and the linens on the table (from white/ivory to colored linen) as well as switching the dessert on our chosen menu. Upgrading options will increase the costs of the overall package; however, to us it was worth it to get the vision of what we wanted. We decided on having a Princess and the Frog themed wedding, so our colors were purple, grey, green and ivory. We chose the Wedding Garden at the Grand Californian as our ceremony location and the Wistera room as our reception location. Some of the additional options we chose not to upgrade too were centerpieces (we would DIY our own) and a DJ (we opted for the upgraded iPod hook up instead)
Finalizing of the plans:
Within a couple weeks you will also receive a package from Disney Fairy Weddings (or in short hand DFTW). It seems to change what people receive, but we got bride and groom Mikey pens and a lot of paperwork! The package will include handout and pamphlets from their preferred vendors for invites, videographers and photographers. You will notice on your checklist there was a spot for photographer which you probably haven’t picked yet. Note that unless they are a Disney preferred vendor, they will have to jump through some hoops to be allowed to photograph your wedding. Disney is sensitive about their image so your photographer will need to sign a contract. We went with a preferred vendor just to make things easier. Your Disney provided officiate will also contact you around this time. You will have the choice of one of two (a husband and wife team). You can also chose to provide your own officiate if they are ordained. If you chose to go with the Disney provided one, they will give you their website so you can review your ceremony options and they are happy to help you customize one as well.
If you have the chance to visit Disneyland prior to your wedding, the ceremony locations are public areas, so you can check them all beforehand. Escape packages do not receive a planning session or food tasting, so if you are in the area, I do suggest taking a wander around the hotel you have chosen to check out the choices as the pictures the provide you are limited. They don’t tell or show you that the courtyard option has the monorail running over it. For some that may be ok, but it would be awful to show up on your wedding day not expecting it! The ballrooms are locked, but a friendly Cast Member may be willing to show you the room if there is no other event going on.
Tick tock tick tock..the waiting leading up to the day:
At this point you should be pretty set on what your planner needs from you so now it’s just time to wait! For me the waiting time included finding a dress (I bought mine off the rack at Macy’s for less than $200), and lots of DIY projects including our invites, centerpieces, favors and bridesmaid’s bouquets. We also spent some of that time convincing our family that a Disney wedding was a good idea. My mom was a little upset that our whole family couldn’t go and was convinced I could’ve spent $5,000 on an at home wedding. After I gave her a reality check that $5,000 was in no way feasible for what she was envisioning and reminding her that since we were paying for it ourselves, what we said goes, she came around to the Disney side.
About a week before you wedding, your planner should be contacting you again to let you know the day of details. You will be assigned a Day of Coordinator (DOC) that will help you and your guests know where to go. You will provide them some info such as your room number or if you are using one of their dressing rooms so that they can deliver your flowers to you. They will also open up your reception location a minimum of one hour before hand so you can set up anything that you may have brought. As a general rule, Disney will not touch or set up anything not provided by them so if you have DIY items, appoint a guest or family member to set them up.
Now before you know it, it will be your wedding day!
We arrived at Disneyland Resort 2 days prior to our wedding to get some park time in and to be able to settle in and relax a bit beforehand. It was over 100 degrees the day before our wedding, so I slathered myself in sun screen and ran from building to building all day. I did not want to be a lobster in my wedding photos! We went to our room early that night, sent our texts to our bridal party on when and where to meet us the next morning and went to bed as our last night as an engaged couple.
The next morning I was up bright and early. I took a shower before anyone else was up and proceed to wake up my mom and our friend who was staying with us by running into their room in my bath robe screaming “It’s my WEDDING DAY!!!!!!!!!” (Subtle right?) Everyone got up and we decided to grab a quick breakfast so off I went with our friend to grab some. I guess I had major butterflies because I hardly ate a thing. Soon my maid of honor showed up and as she is a makeup artist, she was the one doing my hair and makeup. While I was getting ready, the men ran off to Californian Adventure to get Starbucks (only location at the time). Lucky men, they saw Gene Simmons from KISS while they were there. Good omen on our wedding day though right? KISS, wedding kiss? Get it? Right after they returned, my flowers were delivered. They were beautiful! Disney did a great job of creating something perfect for me.
Soon our room was packed as our photographer also showed up. We did some getting ready shots, shots of my dress, shoes and flowers. Once my dress was on we decided to do some bridal party shots, so we gathered everyone up and went to the Brisa Courtyard. By this time our family had also arrived, so we were able to get a majority of our posed shots done before hand. Once we were about half an hour away, our DOC found us in the courtyard and escorted us to the Wedding Garden. I was sent to the bridal room to have a few moments to relax and take a deep breath before the big moment. Soon my uncles were at the door waiting to escort me and away we went!
The rest of the day was kind of a blur! Our ceremony was short and sweet, which was great since it was still blazing hot. They had set up umbrellas for us and our guests so we didn’t roast and had a station with ice water set up. As I said previously, the ceremony location is in a public area but no one interrupted our wedding, only a few people stopped and watched from a distance.
Once we were done signing our marriage license, the DOC escorted us to the reception location. Once everyone was seated inside, we were announced as husband and wife and walked inside. The room and décor was lovely. Wistera is the most often used room by Escape brides due to the high ceilings which add such a nice flair.
We had our first dance and sat down to enjoy one of my favorite activities, eating! Every table received a basket of assorted breads. As the bride I claimed all the pretzel bread to be mine! Servers came around to get drink requests (we didn’t have any alcohol except for the toasts). Next we received our salad. I really don’t remember much about it other than it was plated nicely. For our entrée we had lemon meyer chicken with vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes. Our vegetarian guest had lemon meyer tofu. Everyone said it was delicious. And when we had an issue with an allergy, the servers and staff took care of it quickly without me even knowing until after the wedding was over and our guest was quickly brought a new plate of food in a matter of minutes. A+ for that.
Again, the day was such a blur I don’t remember eating any of it though I’m sure I cleaned all my potatoes off my plate. For dessert we had made a menu switch from the crème brulee (which I wanted) to the chocolate covered strawberries (which my fiancé wanted). Well marriage is about compromise so we went with the strawberries. Everyone loved them, though we were all now so full that my aunt ended up with a huge take out container of strawberries to go. And there was still cake! We went with chocolate cake with fresh raspberry filling. It was delicious and moist, one of the best wedding cakes I’ve ever had.
Everyone just sat and chatted and enjoyed the rest of the evening until it was time for it to end. We made just everything left in the room that was ours was packed back up and a bell hop took it back to our room for us. We said goodbye to our DOC and our planner who came by to say hello and made our way back to our room to change. We spent the rest of the night at the tiki bar with some friends and basked in the newlywed bliss.
Overall, I cannot recommend having a Disney wedding enough. I know everyone has different experiences, but for me the planning was effortless and stress free and I have nothing but good things to say. If you are interested in a Disney wedding, check out their website. It’s interactive and will help you get an idea of what they can do and the price range they offer. No matter if you want a small intimate wedding or the whole shebang, Disney will help you have your happily ever after.
(all photo credit to Jenna Henderson of White Rabbit Photo Boutique except the strawberry photo to Justin Kitto)
**Haily is a full time working woman and a devoted wife who also enjoys creating custom art with her husband Jason. You can check out their work at Windell Customz