Did you dream of having a Disney wedding? Think it’s too late because you’re already married? Well, I have the ultimate way to spend your anniversary and still get your dream Disney wedding – a Disney vow renewal!
I will admit I had dreamed of a Disney wedding. When I got married, however, I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the money on a big wedding. My fiancé (now husband) and I wanted to do things like buy a house and start a family and it just seemed like a big wedding wasn’t the way to spend our money when we were just starting out. Don’t get me wrong. We had a lovely small wedding in Las Vegas with our parents and some family and friends there and we are just as happily married now. We may have ended up even more happily married since we didn’t start out in debt and instead were able to buy a house and have a baby within the next two years, so I don’t regret my decision at all… but the little girl in me still dreamed of a Disney wedding. Fast forward a few (well, maybe more than a few) years and we decided that we could do it as a vow renewal instead.
So how does this work? In some ways, a vow renewal at Disney is exactly like a wedding. We still met with Disney Weddings at Franck’s Studio, were assigned a wedding planner, are having a ceremony and a reception with family and friends in attendance, I even bought a special dress (but not a big, fluffy white wedding gown). There are some things, though, that will be different. First, it’s not our wedding, so the pressure is off for a “perfect” day. Instead, we’re going for a celebration with lots of fun. In addition, we’re already married so all the formality is gone. We don’t need to get a marriage license or a licensed officiant. In fact, a close friend of ours is officiating instead. We are renewing our vows in a ceremony, but this time, we are focused on celebrating family and friends and the ties that bring us all together, not just the two of us, but all of us. In fact, we’re including little ceremonies within our ceremony to celebrate all in attendance, especially immediate family.
I learned early on in this process that the options in a Disney wedding or vow renewal are nearly endless, and it doesn’t have to be crazy expensive (although it can be). An intimate vow renewal begins at $3,500. That price would include the ceremony, some flowers, some photos, and a limo or in-room celebration, and up to 4 guests in addition to the couple. To me, this would be a nice intimate celebration for a couple and perhaps their children. Perhaps a couple of adult siblings could even surprise their parents with this for a 50th wedding anniversary. Wouldn’t that be a lovely way to celebrate?
After that, the price begins to climb. Because of our guest count and the things we wanted, we opted to go with the Wishes collection. It basically means that nearly everything is customizable, but it does require a minimum of 18 guests in addition to the couple as well as a minimum $12,000 expenditure, which is quite easy to get to, but still not expensive as far as weddings or vow renewals go. Most of the ceremony locations we considered cost anywhere from $3,500 to $5,000, the meal is $175 per person, and other enhancements like characters, flowers, decorations, musicians, and, of course, a horse and carriage add up quickly. While I will admit I was dreading the draft invoice fearing that all my dreams were going to blow our budget out of the water, amazingly enough, the initial invoice was only about $80 over our budget. The planners do a great job at finding out what you want and working with you to find out what’s important, what you can live without, and fitting it all in within your budget and their rules.
A few of the most common questions I’ve heard when it comes to Disney weddings (note that the answers are based on my experiences at Walt Disney World and may vary at Disneyland Resort or Disney Cruise Line):
Can we have our ceremony in one of the Disney Parks? The quick answer is yes, but there are certain guidelines and restrictions that must be met. First, the price depends on where you want to have your celebration. Some locations like certain pavilions in World Showcase at Epcot begin at $4,500 for the location rental while others like the East Garden in front of the castle at Magic Kingdom begin at $75,000. Second, times may be restricted to when the park is closed so plan to have the celebration either really early in the morning or really late at night. Finally, certain dates may be blacked out altogether, especially around holidays and peak periods.
Do I have to use Disney Floral and other Disney vendors? Again, the answer is that it depends. If your celebration is in a ballroom in one of the convention center properties outside of public view, there are fewer restrictions. If your celebration, however, is outside in the Parks or somewhere that the public can see it, plan that everything will need to be provided by Disney. The biggest exception I saw was the photographer or videographer can be hired outside. The one other item I noted in our contract is that all food and beverage must be provided by Disney no matter the location. No exceptions.
Can Disney characters be present at our celebration? Once again, it depends. First, characters are not allowed at most outdoor celebrations. For example, I originally wanted our reception to be in the France Pavilion at Epcot and was informed that the characters would not be allowed there. Second, it depends on which characters you’d like to have. Mickey and Minnie are a relatively simple request. Some others have more restrictions. Alice and the Mad Hatter can only appear together and must have a themed backdrop. Characters from different movies must appear separately. For example, Cinderella and Belle cannot appear together even though both are princesses and often appear together in the parks. In addition, characters appearing at Walt Disney World may have different restrictions than characters appearing at Disneyland Resort or on Disney Cruise Line.
Our own anniversary celebration will be happening this November. We were able to schedule it on our actual anniversary, which is great. Because I wanted it to be whimsical and fun, it is themed as a Mad Hatter Tea Party. Because we are having it at Walt Disney World Resort, we are able to pull in licensed and other unique elements. For example, if you’ve attended the Gone Mad Wishes Fireworks Dessert Party at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, you’ve possibly sat in one of our ceremony chairs. The back row at our ceremony will be using those big pink and purple chairs from the party. In addition, we will be “guarded” by the Queen of Hearts own card guards. In attendance at our reception will be none other than Alice and the Mad Hatter. I’m sure they will love our centerpieces complete with little tea cups hanging from giant floral bouquets. I will be sure to share photos on my blog and Facebook page sometime in December.
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