What Would a Disney Wedding Consultant Do?
We chatted with Fairytale Weddings Guide author Carrie Hayward on all things Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings.
So, you’ve decided to plan a Disney’s Fairy Tale Wedding at Walt Disney World. What often follows is an urgent need to research and assemble your game plan. The process of planning a Disney wedding can be confusing, overwhelming, and exhausting! That’s why we’ve enlisted the help of podcaster, content creator, and weddings expert Carrie Hayward. She sat down with Wishes & Wayfinding to answer our most pressing questions about Disney weddings.
W&W: What is the most unique thing you’ve heard someone do at their Disney Fairy Tale Wedding?
CH: Disney offers so many options that are unheard of at any other kind of wedding — world-class fireworks displays, events held inside rides, visits from real Disney characters — so basically every wedding is unique. But one that stands out is a couple I interviewed who held a traditional Indian wedding that included a baraat procession of the groom and his family. Disney actually allowed him to ride from the Grand Floridian to the Wedding Pavilion on horseback — and they lent him Rapunzel's parade horse to do it!
W&W: What is the most underrated element of a Disney Fairy Tale Wedding?
CH: At first glance, it's hard to pinpoint one, because anyone who's ever been to a Disney wedding will not stop talking about how great everything was! I will say that most people assume a Walt Disney World wedding is going to be astronomically expensive, but in reality, you can have a very elegant event starting at $7,500 — less than half the average cost for a wedding in the U.S.
If I can sneak in a plug for the most under-publicized element of a Walt Disney World wedding, it's the fireworks dessert parties. This is a private event for you and your guests with a view of the fireworks, including desserts, appetizers or even real food (my favorite is the DIY nacho bar). You can also have an event like this as a cocktail hour before a longer reception, or just have one as a short reception after your ceremony. This is the event your guests will still be talking about years after your wedding!
W&W: What’s an element of a Disney Fairy Tale Wedding that is expensive but doesn’t feel that way? And what is an element that is less expensive but feels luxurious?
CH: Transportation is one of the least glamorous yet most expensive items on a Disney wedding budget. Walt Disney World is 43 square miles, so the logistics become quite complex when you're transporting your guests to the ceremony, reception, and dessert-party venues. In the last year, Disney has also introduced extra fees for transportation coordinators and backstage security screening, making this unglamorous element even more expensive!
Ride mix-ins are a less expensive luxury unique to a Disney wedding. For $20 each, you and your guests can be escorted directly onto an attraction during your in-park private event. You must be having the event in the same park as the attraction you want to ride, and it must time out with the first or last ride of the day. While it's not exactly cheap if you have a large group, a ride mix-in is still a bargain compared to the alternative, a full-ride buyout for $10,000 or more. And the wedding couple mixes in for free!
W&W: What was your favorite part of your own Disney Fairy Tale Wedding, and what would you do differently if you were getting married today?
CH: I've already sung the praises of fireworks dessert parties, so I'll go with the Friendship Boat ride from our ceremony in EPCOT's Morocco Pavilion to our reception at the BoardWalk Inn's The Attic. Rather than putting our guests back on the motorcoach that brought them to the ceremony, we led them to the Morocco boat dock for a private cruise out of the park and across Crescent Lake. Friendship Boats are an iconic form of transportation at Walt Disney World, so having one to ourselves — and getting to spend a few minutes alone together on the aft deck — made us feel like VIPs on our wedding day!
Anyone who's listened to the Disney Wedding Podcast or read the Fairytale Weddings Guide knows exactly what I would have done differently at my wedding, because I harp on these subjects continuously to save future couples the pain! These are options Disney never mentioned, and they could have saved me money and frustration. Among them are customizing my brunch and dessert party menus, adding a ride mix-in to my dessert party, and paying for beverages individually instead of wasting money on a huge package of drinks that no one drank.
W&W: What is the most important thing to keep in mind when planning a Disney Fairy Tale Wedding in 2022?
CH: In the wake of the pandemic and the loss of personnel to other career paths, Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings in Florida is severely understaffed and facing unprecedented demand for two years' worth of postponed and new weddings. Disney's response time and level of service during the planning process have suffered accordingly. Most of the couples I've interviewed in the last eight months have found the planning process extremely frustrating, with little to no communication from the planning staff until weeks or days before their weddings. Some did not receive their first budget until a few weeks before the event, while others received their final budget the day before or the day of the event — or not at all. Yet, nearly all of these couples have said that the wedding itself turned out to be as magical as they had hoped.
If you are not interested in dealing with this kind of uncertainty or anxiety leading up to your event, you may wish to investigate alternative wedding options at and around Walt Disney World. I have details on many of the most popular alternatives in Chapter 9 of the Fairytale Weddings Guide, including the Four Seasons Resort, Paradise Cove and Paddlefish, plus events planned by Just Marry! at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin, Disney Springs, and Universal Orlando Resort.
For more of Carrie’s helpful hints, check out the Disney Wedding Podcast, where she interviews couples who have had all sorts of Disney weddings and breaks down the process of planning one. Or, schedule a 1:1 consult with the expert herself!