The question was popped, the answer was yes, and now you’re going to Walt Disney World for your big day. Before you become overwhelmed by the choices to be made and the details to keep track of, check out these tips for saving time, money and sanity throughout the planning process.
- choose your date and time carefully
- expect 50-70% of your guest list to attend
- order your marriage license online
- schedule a “first look”
- ship the wedding dress
- choose an in-park venue if you want to pick your own photographer
- stress out over the room block
- pay for a package bar
- assume what’s been offered is all that’s available
- waste time on newsletters
Minimum expenditures for Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings’ Wishes weddings are higher on the weekends and after 12 pm. And while wedding prices don’t vary by season, the cost of almost everything else you’ll be paying for at Walt Disney World does, from hotel rooms to meals. Flights are also usually more expensive on the weekend. Choosing a weekday morning wedding in the off season can help you and your guests save hundreds or even thousands of dollars!
Destination weddings usually draw a much smaller number of guests than the typical at-home wedding, but Disney reports a higher-than-average response rate for its weddings, likely due to the ease of travel to Orlando and the attraction of the many theme parks there. Your number will depend on such factors as guests’ proximity to Orlando and their familiarity with Walt Disney World. Expect a lower turnout if most of them live thousands of miles away and don’t frequent theme parks but a higher one if your family lives on the East Coast and makes an annual pilgrimage to Disney.
Instead of spending two or more hours of your precious pre-wedding time in Orlando hunting down a marriage license, you can apply online to receive it by mail. This service is provided free by Florida's Brevard County courthouse, and the process is identical to the one you'd follow if you paid a hefty fee to the provider recommended in Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings' planning packet. All you pay is the actual cost of the license.
More and more couples are choosing to schedule their bridal portraits before the ceremony instead of after, which allows them extra time for photos and lets them experience their entire reception. Not only does this mean that guests aren't kept waiting after the ceremony, it may also mean that the cocktail hour (and its associated food and beverage costs) can be cut out completely. But one of the biggest advantages of this practice is the “first look,” an opportunity for the bride and groom to see each other for the first time that day with no one but a photographer there to capture this moment of pure emotional connection.
If you can bear to be parted from it temporarily, you won't have to lug a heavy bridal gown through security, buy it a seat, stress out about fitting it in the overhead compartment, or sweet-talk the flight attendants into finding it space in the front closet. Sure, everyone’s heard a second-hand FedEx or UPS horror story, but there are just as many airline baggage horror stories. Shipping your gown directly to the Orlando vendor who will be steaming it saves even more time, and some of them will also pick it up from your resort and ship it home for you.
Disney’s rules prohibit outside vendors, including photographers and videographers, at events inside the theme parks. Although Disney offers these services, they cannot guarantee you a specific photographer whose style matches yours. If it’s important that you be able to choose from a wide variety of photographic styles and know exactly who will shoot your wedding, you’ll need to hold all of your wedding events at the Disney resorts instead of inside the parks.
Wishes and Couture weddings require you to fill a certain number of nights in Disney resorts. These are set aside in a room block, a percentage of which must be filled or you will have to pay for unused nights. It can be stressful trying to figure out which resorts your guests might want to stay at and for how long. But keep in mind that you can always change these details or cut down the number of nights until a few months before the wedding. Under certain circumstances, you may be able to skip the room block altogether. Ask your Disney consultant for suggestions before you stress out.
If you’ll be paying for the bar, you have two options: a pricey package bar where all drinks are paid for whether they’re consumed or not, or a bill-on-consumption bar that only charges you for drinks people actually open and drink. Don’t get scared into thinking your guests will all be discarding half-empty drinks and perpetually starting new ones. Unless the majority of your guests are heavy drinkers, you will almost always save money—and may even get a refund–if you go the bill-on-consumption route.
Disney has wedding-planning down to a science, and they know which venues and options make for the smoothest experience. But if you’re planning a Wishes or Couture event and the choices aren’t speaking to you or don’t fit your vision, let them know! Often there are so many choices that Disney can’t possibly list them all. Whether you want a non-traditional ride to the ceremony, a reception venue that’s off the beaten path, or a specific dish that’s not on any Disney menu, they can work with you to customize almost anything.
I’d estimate that 75% of your guests are not going to read any of the planning information you send them ahead of time or put in their welcome bags. To avoid the inevitable deluge of questions about what’s going on when guests arrive at Walt Disney World, delegate: Ask a family member or a close friend to be the liaison who can answer guests’ questions and be available to answer frantic phone calls so you can focus on worrying about everything else.
Planning a wedding should be one of the most fun times of your life, not the most stressful. With this expert advice, you’ll be well on your way to pulling off the Disney wedding of your dreams while spending less money, wasting less time, and avoiding stress.