The 411 on Planning a Disney Fairy Tale Wedding
A wedding at WDW is a wish your heart makes… Here’s how to make that dream a reality
There are few things in this world that make a Disney fan go absolutely nuts, and one of those is a Disney wedding. Maybe you’re scrolling through the latest Disney Allure Bridal Collection, or you just got done binging Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings on Disney+. Either way, we’ve got a breakdown of everything you need to know about planning a wedding at Walt Disney World.
Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings. More details can be found on Disney’s site.
How much does a Disney wedding cost?
This is often the most stressful part of researching a Disney wedding. There are no flat-rate packages because every Disney wedding is completely unique and customizable to your budget. The first thing you’ll need to figure out is your Event Minimum Expenditure (EME), which is the minimum amount of money you have to spend on anything Disney offers for weddings, including the Ceremony Venue Fee, food, beverages, cake, flowers, transportation, entertainment, and characters.
For example, to have your ceremony at the Wedding Pavilion at the Grand Floridian on a Friday at 5:00 p.m. costs $25,000. This venue has a $6,000 ceremony fee. Subtract that from the $25,000 EME and you’re left with $19,000 to spend on flowers, photography, carriage rides, or anything else you can get from Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings for your event. On top of that, you’ll need to pay a tax and service charge (which is essentially a tip for food and beverage service). Currently, there is a 25% service charge and 6.5% sales tax, neither of which count toward the EME.
Each venue has a different price, and the day of the week and time of the ceremony affect the price as well. When you submit your Letter of Agreement (i.e., the contract) to book your event, you will need to pay a deposit. The amount of the deposit depends on your EME, and all but $1,000 is applied toward your EME. (That $1,000 will be refunded to you after the wedding if it is not used to cover expenses incurred after you make your final payment to Disney.)
For an EME of $10,000 or less, you will have to pay a $2,000 deposit
For an EME of $10,000 or more, you will have to pay a $4,000 deposit
A ceremony at Magic Kingdom requires a $10,000 deposit
Not only does the event location, day of the week, and time affect the price of your wedding, but so does the length of your reception. Disney has two options: reception and celebration. A reception is what you typically think of when it comes to a wedding: a full, sit-down meal with dancing in an event space that is yours for three hours or more. A celebration is a smaller, walk-around event where you are not guaranteed seating for every guest. You may choose to serve appetizers, desserts, or heartier foods, as long as it doesn’t require a knife and fork. The area is usually yours for one to two hours.
If you choose to add a reception or a celebration to your ceremony, there is a per-person food and beverage minimum. This can be met by the menu you choose, as well as a cocktail hour, cake, and bar. So maybe you only want to spend $150 per person on food, but your EME requires you to spend $210 per person. You can add in a cake and a cocktail hour to reach the $210 minimum for a dinner reception. The food and beverage minimum is determined by what time you have your ceremony, not what time you have your reception.
So you can serve breakfast food at your dinner reception if you want, but you will still have to meet the dinner food and beverage minimum of $210/person.
For an 8:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., or 9:30 a.m. ceremony, there is a $140 food and beverage minimum for each guest for brunch
For a 12:00 p.m. ceremony, there is a $175 food and beverage minimum per guest for lunch
For a 2:30 p.m., 5:00 p.m., or 7:00 p.m. ceremony, there is a $210 food and beverage minimum per guest for dinner
For a celebration, regardless of the ceremony time, there is a $75 food and beverage minimum per guest
Okay, but can I have a cheap Disney wedding?
Admittedly, weddings are expensive, and a Disney wedding can be quite extravagant. However, that doesn’t mean it is completely out of reach. We chatted with Carrie Hayward, the host of the Disney Wedding Podcast and the author of the Fairytale Weddings Guide. She shared some helpful tips to lessen the cost of a Disney wedding:
Limit your guest count and the number of people in your bridal party
Have your wedding on a Tuesday or a Wednesday
Select a venue other than The Wedding Pavilion
The cheapest EME is $7,500, and it applies to four outdoor venues at the Grand Floridian (Conch Key Marina and Sago Cay) and Polynesian Village Resort (Luau Pointe and Luau Beach). These venues have a Ceremony Venue Fee of $3,500, which leaves you $4,000 to spend on everything else for the wedding
Instead of adding a full reception, have your ceremony through Disney and then get a dining reservation somewhere on property. Or add just a celebration, like a private dessert party at a reserved viewing area for fireworks
Select an off-property ceremony site with a smaller fee, like a church, then have the reception through Disney
Have your reception at Paddlefish in Disney Springs or the Four Seasons Orlando, which are both on property but less expensive than other venues
Choose an outside vendor for photography. This won’t count toward your EME, but it could save you enough money to afford other items you want to get from Disney
If you and your guests don’t mind the taste of Florida water, take bottled water out of your bar and just serve tap water in pitchers
Use an outside vendor for transportation if none of your events will be inside a park
Elope as a couple in Disney, and then have an event back home to celebrate
How do you book a Disney’s Fairy Tale Wedding?
If cost hasn’t deterred you, then you made it to the planning stage! COVID-19 has put the Disney planning team through the wringer, so processes are changing often and replies are delayed. You may have to email Disney numerous times to get a response. But try not to stress! This doesn’t mean you won’t get your desired day or venue.
The booking window depends on the event type:
If you’re having a ceremony and full-blown reception, contact Disney 16 months out with interest, and then you’ll book around 12 months out
If you’re having a ceremony and celebration, contact Disney 12 months out with interest, and then you’ll book around 10 months out
Once you’re in contact with a sales consultant, they will “pencil in” or hold your date, venue, and time until they can compile your Letter of Agreement. This is your contract and, as of February 2022, it takes about eight weeks to prepare. Once they send it to you, you will have two weeks to sign and return it with your deposit or forfeit your hold.
Then, you are sort of sitting still and looking pretty until you’re assigned an event planner to organize all the details. You used to be assigned one a year out, but pandemic delays have resulted in meeting your rep around three to six months before you say “I do.” They will meet with you for a virtual planning session, and, if you’re having a full reception, you’ll get an invitation for an in-person meal tasting. This is a group session with other couples that is held at one of the convention centers at Walt Disney World. While you don’t get to pick specific dishes to try, it’s a great sampling of what they have to offer.
Ninety days before your event, your Event Minimum Expenditure (EME) is due. This will have been outlined in your Letter of Agreement and does not change based on the different elements you select for your wedding, even if you choose different meal options from the tasting. So it’s totally okay if you haven’t had a lot of contact with your event planner before you pay this.
Around 45 days before your event, your Banquet Event Order (BEO) will arrive. This is essentially your event bible that spells out exactly how you want your day to go. It’s important to be as specific as possible in the BEO, because the wedding day will be executed by a team of two or more Experience Team Coordinators, not your event planner. These coordinators will make magic by following your BEO to the letter.
Thirty days before your event, your BEO should be finalized. As with everything else, it could end up being closer to your event with the current delays. But rest assured, the Disney Fairy Tale Weddings Experience Team knows their stuff!
To get started planning, email the Disney Fairy Tale Weddings team at firstname.lastname@example.org. If your desired date is not yet within the booking window in which Disney will talk to you and you have questions about the process you can also schedule a 1:1 consultation with Carrie Hayward here.