- I planned a small wedding at Disney World for under $25,000, and I learned a lot about the process.
- I knew I’d have to hit an event minimum, but I didn’t know how complicated the system was.
- I definitely should’ve paid for private transportation for my guests, 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 I 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’s truly a Disney wedding venue for everyone, and you don’t have to limit yourself to one
Disney World offers wedding venues for just about every aesthetic — the castle, a beachfront, a trip around the world.
We had our welcome dinner at Tamu Tamu in Animal Kingdom, which transported our guests to another corner of the world. We then had a picturesque wedding in the Italy pavilion at Epcot and reception at Sea Breeze Point at the BoardWalk, which gave us a feeling of being lakeside. For our dessert party, we chose Whitehall Patio at the Grand Floridian, which transformed our night with swinging jazz.
There was no limit to how we wanted our wedding to feel, and we definitely never felt like we were in a theme park.
There are event minimums for each aspect of your wedding
Disney’s event minimums can be extremely complicated, so it’s important to research and be aware of them when you start planning.
Your main event minimum is calculated by your ceremony and reception locations. As you can imagine, getting married at the castle has a much larger minimum. Additionally, getting married on a weekday instead of a weekend can lower the minimum.
For example, we got married in Epcot’s Italy Isola on a Tuesday, and our minimum was $7,000.
But your reception venue may come with a food-and-beverage minimum as well. Ours was $1,000, which we had to spend on food, alcohol, and cake.
Brunch, lunch, and dinner options also come with different per-person minimums. We threw a brunch, and we had to spend $140 a person on food and alcohol.
Essentially you either have to hit the food-and-beverage minimum or the per-person minimum, whichever ends up being higher.
Our welcome dinner and dessert party didn’t count toward our main event minimum, and they each came with their own food-and-beverage minimums, too.
There are tons of entertainment options to make your day more magical
We took advantage of a ride mix-in, which allowed our guests to skip the line of one of the most popular attractions at Disney World, Avatar Flight of Passage.
You can also watch a private performance of shows, request an animal encounter, or even have “random” tourists show up to your wedding and quiz everyone on their Disney knowledge.
The most popular of all the entertainment options though is inviting characters. We had Steamboat Willie come to our dessert party and everyone loved him.
Mentally prepare yourself to use a backup rain location
No bride wants to plan for rain, but it’s super common in Florida.
It’s important to familiarize yourself with your backup location, and I’m going to be honest, it’s not always ideal.
For example, the backup for Cinderella 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 put in a request for a specific rain location, but if it’s popular, you may have to pay a rental fee to hold it.
The guest experience at 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 the tourists bring in.
If you’re getting married in the parks, it’s either going to be really early in the morning or late in the evening, when they’re not open. Epcot is an exception since the World Showcase section doesn’t open until 11 a.m.
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 evening events start as late as midnight.
We were so excited to have our ceremony during Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival because the pavilions are decorated with so much floral at no extra cost. But if they happen to do a floral installation where you planned a portion of your ceremony — like they did the Friday before our wedding — you might have to adjust at the last minute.
Luckily, the wedding team at Disney is absolutely amazing and was able to find us an alternate spot in the Italy pavilion that actually turned out better than what we originally planned.
It’s expensive but totally worth it to order transportation for your guests
I really wanted to leave transportation out of my wedding because it can really eat up your budget. But at Disney World, it’s absolutely needed.
I learned the hard way that the property is massive — about the size of San Francisco. Any of your out-of-town guests who don’t opt to rent a car have to blindly rely on the free transportation system that all the Disney tourists use.
My husband ended up being late to our welcome dinner and many of our guests missed our grand entrance during our dessert party because of this.
The best thing you can do for your guests (and your own sanity) is arrange a charter bus for all events.
There are extra events you can use to fill your schedule
Given the very early and late time slots for park weddings, there’s plenty of room for added events.
Welcome parties, farewell brunches, and even a bridesmaid tea featuring Alice and the Mad Hatter are all popular add-ons. But the most popular is probably a dessert party.
You and your guests can cozy up to watch the parks’ nighttime shows with sweet or savory treats.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, fireworks were unavailable during our wedding. But we still enjoyed a dessert party at the Grand Floridian, and it was the perfect end to our day.
Disney World’s planning timeline is very different from most traditional weddings
In my experience, you can’t start planning your event until 16 months out. At that time, you can reach out to a wedding consultant to start looking at different locations.
They’ll go over your options with you and get a general idea of dates. They can pencil you in, but they can’t officially book anything until the 12-month mark.
At that one-year mark, if your venue is available, they’ll draft a letter of agreement. Make sure to let them know your priorities whether it’s location, time of day, or date. If there’s more than one request for that venue, you may have to go through a lottery system.
Once you have your letter of agreement, it may be months before you hear from a planner. You generally start actually planning about five months out.
During your planning session, you’ll go over timelines, menu choices, and entertainment. Around two to three months out, your florist will reach out to you.
This may sound terrifying if you like to plan everything in advance, but the consultants are experts.
You’ll find cheaper alternatives at Disney Springs
You can use outside vendors for expenses like personal flowers, photography, and videography. But you have to use Disney for catering, decor, and transportation, which gets expensive.
One way we were able to save money is by booking a Disney Spring’s restaurant for our farewell breakfast. These are booked directly through the restaurant, in our case Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’.
We paid $55 a person, which is significantly less than some of the park or resort options.
If you’re looking to save on the ceremony or reception spots, you can book at Paddlefish or House of Blues.
You’ll probably have to help your guests out more than you usually would
Many of your guests aren’t going to 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 custom itineraries for each of my guests and included a map of the property.
You’re also asking your guests to spend a lot of money to be there with you. The best thing you can do is give them as much notice as possible so they can prepare for the expenses.
On the other side, you need to set boundaries on deadlines. It’s hard when someone isn’t able to make it, but “maybes” can end up costing you a significant amount of money.
I set an expectation that everyone needed to fully commit three months in advance, so I had plenty of time to report a final headcount. This saved me money on food, and I was able to consolidate tables and save on decor.