Disney Weddings FAQ
Alrighty, buckle up folks. It’s time for a little Disney Weddings FAQ!
It’s been over 9 months since Mark and I said “WE DO” during the Disney Wedding of our dreams at Aulani. I know I say this a lot, but where does the time go?? Feels like just yesterday that we were packing up for Hawaii and strategizing how best to get my beast of a wedding dress onto the plane. Despite all the big day jitters (what if I trip and fall down the aisle? what if I forget the silly first dance routine we spent weeks practicing? WHAT IF IT RAINS!?) everything ended up PERFECT.
From the outset, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted our wedding day to be, and none of it would have been possible without the wonderful team over at Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings. We had the opportunity to plan our dream wedding at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii, AND a second reception at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel at Disneyland — so I wanted to take some time to share what we learned throughout the planning process.
This took me ages to write and it may very well be TLDR, but I’m hoping it’s at least marginally helpful for anyone looking to plan a Disney Wedding!
Why did you have two weddings?
We didn’t actually have two weddings, but we did have two events that were coordinated through Disney Fairytale Weddings: Our actual wedding ceremony & reception at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii, and then a second wedding reception at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel in Anaheim, held a couple weeks later.
After Mark and I got engaged, our marriage talks always landed in the same place: AULANI. It’s one of our favorite resorts at one of our favorite places on earth (combining two of our favorite things — Disney + aloha vibes) so we knew it would be our ultimate dream destination wedding. We also knew that not everyone would be able to make the trek out to Hawaii, so we added on the second reception in California as a way for us to include the rest of our friends and family in the festivities.
How far in advance did you book?
We booked our Aulani venue about 15 months in advance, but it’s not necessary to lock it down this far out — in fact, the Disney Weddings website advertises that you can can only book out 12 months in advance (but obviously there’s wiggle room there). We were pretty aggressive cause we knew we wanted to get married at Aulani (no ifs, ands or buts!), and there were only a handful of dates that worked for us and our families.
On the flip side, we didn’t book our second reception at the Grand Californian until about 4 months prior to the event. So it will really depend on the date that you’re after, and your Disney venue of choice.
How long did it take to plan your Disney Wedding?
In terms of the actual planning timeframe…We put our deposit down for Aulani in September 2017 for our December 8, 2018 date, so we didn’t feel a huge need to jump into planning right away. In fact, we took a bit of a mental break after we booked and didn’t do anything wedding-related until the following January, when we started researching and booking vendors (photographer, florist, DJ). After we had those important pieces squared away, we were able to plan the majority of the wedding over the next 10 months at a pretty leisurely pace.
On the other end of the spectrum, we only had 4 months to plan the second reception at the Grand Californian, which landed exactly two weeks after our Aulani date. This one was more stressful, since the planning for it overlapped with our Aulani wedding planning. That stress was compounded by the fact that most of final decisions (confirming final guest count and meals, plus any other last minute changes) were due around the time we were in Hawaii getting married. Somehow (spoiler alert) we survived the juggling act and both events turned out lovely, but I’m not sure I’d recommend doing dual Disney Weddings events so close to each other unless you are prepared for all the added planning insanity.
Does Disney provide a wedding planner?
Yes! A dedicated planner is included in the cost of the wedding, I think it’s one of the best perks of getting married through Disney. We actually had two planners — one at Aulani and one at the Grand Californian — and there’s simply no way we would’ve been able to make a destination wedding AND a second reception happen without the help of the two of them.
I cannot speak highly enough of our Aulani wedding planner, Nicole. I think you typically get assigned a Disney Weddings planner based on their availability, but I got lucky and connected directly with Nicole via a mutual acquaintance who’d also gotten married at Aulani. I am SO grateful for that chance connection, because Nicole was amazing. I could literally ask her ANYTHING and she’d figure out a way to make it happen. She completely understood the vibe I was going for, and would suggest things before I’d even think of them. She was also incredibly hands on with all of our vendors, making sure everything was in order and that nothing fell through the cracks. Best of all, it felt like she really truly cared about making our day special, and that we weren’t just another nameless cog in the industrial wedding machine.
Was it difficult to plan a destination wedding at Aulani?
Not at all. Our Disney Weddings planner handled all of the coordination with the local vendors in Hawaii, so it never felt like we were stretched thin trying to juggle things out of state. We also had the benefit of having visited Aulani a number of times already, so we had a really good idea of the venue space since we’d been there before. We were even lucky enough to meet up with Nicole in person when she was in the area for Disney Weddings-related events at the Anaheim office.
I’d say the ONLY downside of our destination wedding was that we didn’t get to do a food tasting of our reception dinner and cake choices. I mean, the Aulani team was more than happy to host us, we just couldn’t make the trek out with work schedules and such. Good thing we got to have a food tasting for our Grand Californian reception though, cause it was such a treat!
Does Disney Weddings let you pick your own vendors?
They do, but I believe the specific rules vary by venue and location. Aulani provided a list of preferred vendors for us to choose from for photographer, florist, and DJ, and it was a steep fee if we wanted to bring in outside vendors. Luckily, there was no need to, cause all of the preferred vendors were amazing. It really helped that they were all intimately familiar with the Aulani Resort, because we knew we were in good hands. Our photographers knew all the best photo spots around the resort, and our florist knew exactly how to transform our ceremony and reception spaces.
How many guests did you invite? Is there a limit?
Guest count limits are dictated by two things: (1) your Disney Weddings package, and (2) your venue.
We chose the Wishes Collection package, which has no limits on guest count. However, our ceremony reception at the ‘Ama ‘Ama patio had a limit of 60 guests, based on space. So, we invited a little over 60 guests — mostly family and some close friends — and we had about 50 make their way across the Pacific for our big day.
Our second Disney Weddings reception was much bigger. Our venue choice (the Sequoia ballroom at the Grand Californian Hotel) had very high guest caps (200+) so we invited about 160 people and just over 100 joined us for the evening’s festivities.
Are the cake options as amazing as I’ve heard?
The Disney pastry chefs are out of this world, and they can literally make anything happen. I wanted a timeless look, so we didn’t go too crazy with the Disney touches on our Aulani wedding cake — just a few hidden Mickeys in the frosting. And for our second reception cake we went for the rustic, woodsy route since the party fell right before Christmas.
But the flavors, my GOODNESS. We had the most decadent red velvet cake for our Aulani wedding and it was perhaps the best red velvet cake I’ve ever had?? And I promise I’m not just saying that. Then, for the Grand Californian reception, we had each tier be a different Disneyland-inspired flavor: Dole Whip, Churro, and Strawberries ‘n Cream. So, so delicious.
If you have something more extravagant in mind, you can do cake mapping. Using a white sheet cake, Disney will customize your cake with up to 6 animated sequence selections (think: the magic carpet scene from Aladdin, or the lantern scene from Tangled). Cake mapping starts at $5,000 and includes a faux cake, projector, projector decor, technical equipment and support, and 6 animated sequence selections (each additional is $300).
Where did you get your dresses?
BHLDN. It was the only bridal boutique I ended up visiting, and my shopping experience was fantastic. You can try on all of their dresses in-store at no cost, and they’ll take all your measurements and let you know the appropriate size to order from their website. They’re not pushy at all, and there’s no awkward sales pressure. My only gripe is that my second reception dress ended up going on sale right after I purchased it, but they refused to price match it. C’est la vie.
Is it an extra charge for characters to attend your wedding?
Yes. Prices varied a bit across Aulani and Disneyland, but it was roughly $1500 for a 30-minute block with Mickey + Minnie, and slightly cheaper for a solo character. It sounds like a splurge, but in the grand scheme of wedding costs we thought it was pretty reasonable for such a unique experience. At Aulani, you have the option of a visit from Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Shellie May, Duffy, and Stitch. They can’t come out during your ceremony, but other than that there’s a bit of flexibility in what they can do.
We had Mickey and Minnie visit for a 30 minute window right before dinner was served at our Aulani reception, and then we had Donald come out a bit later to help with cake cutting — a hilarious endeavor! Then at our second reception in Anaheim we added a meet & greet with Mickey and Minnie, who were decked to the nines in a special formalwear that they don’t wear anywhere else. On both occasions, it was a highlight of the night — putting a smile on all our guests’ faces, young and old alike.
How much did it cost?
Ah, the million dollar question (no pun intended), and one that I’ve gotten many times. First off, Disney Weddings has options for brides across a very wide range of budgets, and costs will vary depending on location (Florida vs. California vs. Hawaii), venue, day of the week, etc.
Since we had our wedding at Aulani and a second reception at Disneyland, we got see firsthand just how varied those costs could be. Oddly enough, Aulani was vastly more reasonable than Disneyland in terms of pricing. That’s not to say Aulani was cheap, but we found that the Disney Weddings team at Aulani was much more open and transparent about pricing upfront. The amount of hidden fees we encountered with the team at Disneyland was incredibly frustrating, and is probably the only real downside to our entire experience with Disney Weddings. But I don’t say that to deter you, just to be fully open about our experience overall.
In terms of pricing specifics for our Aulani wedding, we could choose between two main packages:
- Starts at $4,700
- Includes a maximum of 18 guests
- Includes a one-hour ceremony
- Only available Monday-Fridays
- Requires (4) minimum room night commitment at Aulani and a $1,000 deposit
- Starts at $11,800
- Requires a minimum of 18 guests
- Available 7 days a week, and can be booked 12 months in advance
- Includes a one-hour ceremony, and four-hour reception
- Minimum food & beverage spend of $100 per person (lunch receptions), and $150 per person (dinner receptions)
- Requires (10) minimum room night commitment at Aulani and a $2,000 deposit
We went with the Wishes option, which allowed us full flexibility. I don’t want to get into specifics on how much we spent for our wedding, but I can tell you that it all ultimately depends on the vision you have for your special day. You can save big by going with the standard options included in the package (e.g., white garden chairs, an indoor ballroom reception). But if you have a very specific vibe in mind, know that it will require upgrades. And with those upgrades come costs.
An example of what we needed to pay extra for: the Wailana Pool reception venue, extra floral, a videographer, additional hours with our photographer, ghost chairs, white ceremony runner, rustic wooden communal tables, rustic wooden sweetheart table, rustic wood bar table, balloon decor for the pool, Dole Whip dessert station, character visits, “ALOHA” signage, customized dinner menu, upgraded place settings and glasses, champagne during our ceremony, etc. etc. etc.
Bottom line is — you can absolutely have a Disney Wedding on a budget, and you can also absolutely splurge on a ceremony in front of the Disneyland castle that comes with a six figure venue fee and minimum food spend. If you’re seriously considering a Disney Wedding, I’d suggest reaching out directly to the Disney Fairytale Weddings Team at (714) 520-7005, or via their website. They’ll be able to give you a true sense of cost, or even draft up a custom quote for you, no strings attached.
Would you recommend a Disney Wedding?
As you can probably guess… YES! 100%! Disney has played a big role in our relationship over the years — from our first date to Mark’s proposal — so it only felt natural to have Disney Weddings be a part of our special day. Beyond simply providing those pixie dust touches, Disney Weddings essentially built out our vision from the ground up, making our somewhat fuzzy Pinterest-inspired dream a reality. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s absolutely the truth. We couldn’t have done it without them.
I obviously can’t guarantee that all Disney Weddings experiences will be equal, especially since each wedding is handled by different teams based on the location. I can’t personally speak to the quality of Disney Weddings in Florida or on the Disney Cruise Line, since I haven’t experienced those myself. But I can say that the Disney Weddings team at Aulani is absolutely phenomenal, and if I had the chance to do it all over again I would in a millisecond.