- I planned a small Disney World wedding for less than $25,000 and learned a lot about the process.
- I knew I had to hit a minimum event, but I didn’t realize how complicated the system was.
- I definitely should have paid for private transportation for my guests, the Disney World property is huge.
Getting married at Disney World was one of the greatest experiences of my life.
I was able to create my own fairy tale, but realized how different the planning process is from a traditional wedding.
Read on for the most important things to know before planning a Disney wedding.
There really is a Disney wedding venue for everyone, and you don’t have to limit yourself to just one.
Disney World has wedding venues for just about every aesthetic — the castle, a waterfront, a trip around the world.
We had our welcome dinner at Tamu Tamu at Animal Kingdom, which transported our guests to another corner of the world. We then had a quaint wedding in the Italian pavilion at Epcot and a reception at Sea Breeze Point at the BoardWalk, which made us feel like we were on the lake. For our dessert night, we chose the Whitehall Patio at the Grand Floridian, which transformed our evening with swing jazz.
There were no limits to how we wanted our wedding to feel, and we never felt like we were in a theme park.
There are event minimums for every aspect of your wedding
Disney’s event minimums can be extremely complicated, so it’s important to research them and be aware of them when you start planning.
Your main event minimum is calculated based on your ceremony and reception locations. As you can imagine, getting married at the castle has a much bigger minimum. Also, getting married on a weekday instead of a weekend can cut the minimum.
For example, we got married at Epcot’s Italy Isola on a Tuesday, and our minimum was $7,000.
But your venue may also have minimal food and drink. Ours was $1,000, which we had to spend on food, alcohol, and cake.
Brunch, lunch, and dinner options also come with different minimums per person. We had a brunch and had to spend $140 pp on food and alcohol.
Essentially, you either have to hit the food and drink minimum or the per person minimum, whichever ends up being higher.
Our welcome dinner and dessert did not count towards our main event minimum, and each also came with their own food and drink minimum.
There are tons of entertainment options to make your day more magical
We enjoyed a mix-in, which allowed our guests to skip the line at one of Disney World’s most popular attractions, Avatar Flight of Passage.
You can also attend a private performance of shows, request an animal encounter, or even have “random” tourists come to your wedding and ask everyone about their Disney knowledge.
The most popular of all the entertainment options, however, is inviting characters. Steamboat Willie came to our dessert party and everyone loved him.
Prepare yourself mentally to use a backup rain site
No bride wants to plan for rain, but it’s very common in Florida.
It’s important to familiarize yourself with your save location, and I’ll be honest, it’s not always ideal.
For example, the backup to Cinderella’s castle is the wedding pavilion, which is breathtaking, but you still have to pay the much higher rental fee for the castle.
You can always apply for a specific rain slot, but if it’s popular, you may have to pay a rental fee to keep it.
Guest experience in the parks takes precedence over your wedding
At Disney World, the parks always come first. You can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on your wedding, but that doesn’t compare to what tourists report.
If you are getting married in the parks, it will either be very early in the morning or late at night when they are not open. Epcot is an exception since the World Showcase section only opens at 11 am.
We were grateful for our 9:30 a.m. ceremony. I’ve seen many brides talk about doing 6 a.m. ceremonies at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. And the evening events start until midnight.
We were so excited to have our ceremony during the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival because the pavilions are decorated with so many flowers at no additional cost. But if they’re doing a flower installation where you’ve planned part of your ceremony — like they did the Friday before our wedding — you may have to adjust at the last minute.
Luckily the Disney wedding team are absolutely amazing and were able to find us another location in the Italian pavilion which turned out to be better than we had originally planned.
It’s expensive but definitely worth ordering transportation for your guests
I really wanted to leave transportation out of my wedding as it can really eat into your budget. But at Disney World, it’s absolutely necessary.
I learned the hard way that the property is huge – roughly the size of San Francisco. All of your out-of-town guests who don’t choose to rent a car must blindly rely on the free transportation system that all Disney tourists use.
My husband ended up being late to our welcome dinner and many of our guests missed our grand entree at our dessert party because of this.
The best thing you can do for your guests (and your own sanity) is to arrange a charter bus to all events.
There are additional events you can use to fill your schedule
Given the very early and late timeslots for weddings in the park, there is plenty of room for additional events.
Welcome parties, farewell brunches, and even a bridesmaid tea featuring Alice and the Mad Hatter are all popular additions. But probably the most popular is a dessert night.
You and your guests can get cozy and watch the nightly park shows with sweet or savory treats.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, fireworks were not available at our wedding. But we still enjoyed a dessert night at the Grand Floridian, and it was the perfect end to our day.
Disney World’s planning calendar is very different from most traditional weddings
In my experience, you can’t start planning your event for 16 months. At that time, you can contact a marriage consultant to start looking at different places.
They will go over your options with you and get a general idea of the dates. They can write to you, but they can’t officially book anything for 12 months.
After a year, if your place is available, they will write a letter of agreement. Be sure to let them know your priorities, whether it’s location, time of day, or date. If there is more than one demand for this location, you may need to go through a lottery system.
Once you have your letter of agreement, it may be months before you hear from a planner. You usually start planning around five months.
During your planning session, you will review timelines, menu choices, and entertainment. About two to three months later, your florist will contact you.
It might sound terrifying if you like to plan everything in advance, but consultants are experts.
You’ll find cheaper alternatives to Disney Springs
You may use outside vendors for expenses such as personal flowers, photos and videos. But you have to use Disney for catering, decoration and transportation, which is expensive.
One way we were able to save some money is to book a Disney Spring restaurant for our farewell breakfast. These are booked directly through the restaurant, in our case Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’.
We paid $55 per person which is significantly less than some of the park or resort options.
If you’re looking to save on ceremony or reception venues, you can book at Paddlefish or House of Blues.
You will probably have to help your guests more than you usually would
Many of your guests won’t understand the size or complexity of Disney World, so it’s important to guide them through the process so they know where they need to be and when.
I created personalized itineraries for each of my guests and included a map of the property.
You also ask your guests to spend a lot of money to be there with you. The best thing to do is give them as much notice as possible so they can prepare for the expense.
On the other hand, you need to set limits on time frames. It’s hard when someone can’t do it, but “maybe” can end up costing you a significant amount of money.
I expected everyone to fully commit three months in advance, so I had plenty of time to do a final staffing report. It saved me money on food and I was able to consolidate tables and save on decoration.