Fairy Tale Weddings: Tying the knot at Disney parks and resorts
Disney Fairy Tale Weddings let you live out your dream wedding with exotic backdrops and one-of-a-kind details. USA TODAY NETWORK
In many of Disney's classic animated films, the princess finds her beloved prince and, in true fairy tale form, they live happily ever after (once they deal with missing glass slippers, evil sorcerers, and other plot detours, that is). Capitalizing on the surging trend of destination weddings and the popularity of its theme parks and other properties, Disney offers Fairy Tale Weddings. Couples can celebrate their big day amid iconic characters, storybook castle spires, and other fantasy flourishes. They get to be princes and princesses in their own tales.
Disney's weddings specialists offer one-stop shopping. Planners work with couples to help identify ceremony sites, reception venues, food and beverage options, entertainment offerings, and more. Because this is Disney, the entertainment isn't restricted to a band cranking out a wimpy version of Don't Stop Believin'. Couples and their guests could be treated to appearances by Mickey Mouse and his pals, medieval trumpeters, or a variety of sea creatures (at receptions held in Epcot's Living Seas pavilion) for example. Receptions could even include rides aboard Disney’s famous attractions.
There are a ton of other options. With so many choices, it might seem overwhelming. But Disney's planners talk couples through the process and help guide them. "We'll hold their hand every step of the way," says Korri McFann, marketing director for Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings. The division is based at Florida's Walt Disney World, but also organizes weddings at Disneyland in California, at Aulani, Disney's resort in Hawaii, and as part of Disney Cruise Line getaways.
In addition to the wedding itself, the specialists can help with ancillary events such as rehearsal dinners and farewell brunches. They can also make travel arrangements for guests, including hotel reservations and park tickets. It's not just weddings, either. Disney has the whole coupling cycle covered with engagement, vow renewal, and honeymoon services available as well.
Planners can even print invitations and sell brides a gown fit for, well, a princess. Some of the gowns, cakes, table settings, and other options are on display at Franck's Bridal Studio. It's located adjacent to Disney's Wedding Pavilion at Disney World. Named after Martin Short's wacky wedding planner character in the film, Father of the Bride, Franck's is where couples can go to meet with personal coordinators.
The wedding pavilion, nestled along the banks of the Seven Seas Lagoon across from the Magic Kingdom, is where many couples choose to have their ceremonies at Disney World. A large window behind the altar offers a picture-perfect view of Cinderella Castle in the distance. Speaking of Cinderella, her horse-drawn royal coach can pick up couples after the ceremony and whisk them away to a number of reception locations throughout the vast resort.
Newly announced this year, weddings can now happen within the Magic Kingdom while the park is open. The East Plaza Garden will be available for 9:30 a.m. ceremonies and can accommodate a good-sized destination-wedding crowd of up to 100 people according to Disney's McFann. The park will also be open to regular customers at that time.
A couple could also choose to have its ceremony at a hotel gazebo, a courtyard in one of the parks, or other spots located closer to where their reception would be held. While brides and grooms generally keep their ceremonies traditional, they often get more adventurous with their receptions according to McFann. How adventurous? "The sky's the limit," she says.
Some couples opt to send their wedding guests 13 stories up to the sky. There are many standard reception locations, including hotel and restaurant function rooms as well as outdoor spaces in the parks and elsewhere. But The Mouse is also happy to go off script and accommodate special requests. For instance, McFann says that some couples have staged their receptions in the Tower of Terror courtyard at Disney's Hollywood Studios. And yes, the wild, stomach-churning attraction is open for rides during the reception.
"One of my favorite wedding spots is at Epcot's American Adventures," says McFann. "Guests have cocktails while watching Illuminations [the park's nightly fireworks extravaganza], and then move inside the pavilion's elegant Rotunda room for the reception."
Sometimes, in-park weddings are held when the park is closed to regular guests, and a special section of the Magic Kingdom is available for ceremonies while the park is open. "Park guests love it," notes McFann, who adds that it is all part of the show for visitors. "Sometimes the monorail goes by just as guests have exited the wedding pavilion. Private fireworks are going off, rose petals are being thrown, the horse-drawn coach is there. It's quite a sight."
Disney-hosted weddings may be the stuff of fantasy, but they require real dollars. So how much might the celebrations set back actual fathers of the brides? Disney World packages start at $2,495 for a simple ceremony with a handful of guests and $12,000 for a larger, custom-tailored wedding. As for the upper end? The sky's the limit.
At Disneyland, popular wedding spots include a garden near the resort's Disneyland Hotel and a rooftop venue at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel. Couples could also plan their ceremonies inside the parks. Locations include the mall in front of "it's a small world" (I'd want to make sure the earworm theme song is turned off during the wedding) and the forecourt at Sleeping Beauty Castle — especially apropos for aspiring princes and princesses.
Located on the western shores of Oahu, Aulani is a stunning wedding locale. It doesn't have Dumbo or Tower of Terror rides, but the Hawaiian resort does have swaying palm trees, ocean vistas, and breathtaking sunsets over the water (as well as lei-wearing Disney characters). Among Aulani's more intriguing venues is the Laniwai spa. Its lovely outdoor garden provides a lush and tranquil atmosphere for couples to celebrate their wedding day.
Uniformed senior officers add pomp and style to weddings when they preside over onboard Disney Cruise Line ceremonies. The elegant ships feature a number of indoor and outdoor function locations. Couples could also choose to have their wedding on land at Castaway Cay, Disney's private Bahamian port of call.
With a variety of unique and charming settings and an impressive array of resources, Disney is able to help couples orchestrate the weddings of their dreams. Its specialists can take care of virtually everything (except paying the tab of course). The happily ever after part? That's up to the would-be princes and princesses.