This post is sponsored by Randy Chapman Photography.
Congratulations on your engagement and your decision to have a Disney wedding!
The process of planning a Disney wedding can seem a little overwhelming at first, but it’s actually one of the easiest places to get married (in my opinion). You have a huge variety of options available to you, which means you can easily one-stop-shop customize whatever wedding day fits the two of you as a couple. The toughest part is deciding what that day looks like (and figuring out little things like budget, travel arrangements, and narrowing down your amazing options).
Here are the first 5 things you should focus on when planning a Disney wedding:
1 /// Choosing a location: how much Disney do you want in your perfect Disney wedding day?
Deciding to have a Disney wedding doesn’t narrow down your choices as much as you’d think it would. Some brides need to go directly through Disney Fairy Tale Weddings and Honeymoons to feel like they got their “real” Disney wedding. Other brides choose “unofficial” locations in the Downtown Disney areas or at area hotels like the Swan and Dolphin, which offer proximity to Disney magic with more flexibility on things like budget and the details of the big day. Adventurous brides (particularly those with a smaller guest count) enjoy getting married during a Disney cruise, either on the ship or at the private ceremony location on Castaway Cay. You might even want to have a Disney wedding at home, incorporating Disney details into your big day without asking your guests to travel quite so far.
The easiest way to approach this question is to work backwards and list the Disney elements that you HAVE to have on your wedding day. If your list includes photos of you in your wedding dress inside a Disney park, you know that you want to go through Disney Fairy Tale Weddings to make that happen. However, if your list is more general (a Disney themed cake topper, pixie dusted wedding invitations, or engagement photos with a Disney twist), you might find that you’ll get more bang for your buck if you get a little creative. At the very least, this is a great exercise to do together because your visions of a Disney wedding might be completely different!
2 /// Creating limits: what are the hard numbers for your budget, guest count, and amount of time you want to spend planning?
Once you know the Disney elements you really want on your wedding day, you need to set some parameters to see how realistic they are. A Disney wedding doesn’t have to be unbelievably expensive but it isn’t hard to hit high numbers when you start adding things up! It’s important to know now if your wedding vision is doable on your budget, $2000 over budget, or $20,000 over budget because you don’t want to get too attached to an impossible dream.
This part of wedding planning isn’t all that fun, but it’s a great way to efficiently narrow down your options. You can also compare/contrast what the same budget will get you through Disney Fairy Tale Weddings vs. one of the other Disney area locations vs. your local venue with a little pixie dusting of your own. You might be surprised when you really look at the numbers all at once – we found out that it would be just as expensive for us to get married at home with everything we wanted as it would be to get married at WDW, which made our decision a whole lot easier!
Don’t forget to create a time budget as well. If you aren’t thrilled about spending a ton of time on wedding details, you can work with your official Disney wedding planner (or another wedding coordinator if you’re at a different location) to see what they can organize to save you time. Although you might pay extra to hire out a few things, saving your sanity might be worth it! Also, getting crafty doesn’t always mean you’re getting a deal. I made our wedding invitations because I wanted to say money and ultimately, after all of the craft supplies I had to buy and the postage spent on sending out the oversize things I created, we spent about $900 on them! It would have saved me money and a ton of time to have someone else do our wedding stationery.
3 /// Choosing a time: when is the best time for the wedding you want?
After location and budget, it’s important that you pick a time. This will allow you to start the process of booking the venue you want (important to do this ASAP!) and it will also tell you how long you have to plan your wedding.
Start by picking a season. This might mean that you get married at certain times that work better with your schedules or it might mean that you coordinate with the Disney park seasons so that you’re there during low crowds or when the holiday decorations are up. After you pick a season, explore options like which day of the week and what time of day would be perfect for you. Budget comes into play here (along with how long you have left to plan) because Friday and Saturday night events are more expensive and more likely to get booked in advance.
Getting married mid-week or in the morning will save you money, but you have to keep in mind that this might make it harder for some guests to travel and if you really want a time-specific element like fireworks in your photos, you might need to add a separate wedding event to the schedule. If you’re going through Disney Fairy Tale Weddings and Honeymoons, talking to your wedding planner will help with this decision. You can talk to them even before you put a deposit down and they’ll work with you to see what’s available and advise you on the best time for your event. You want to lock your venue in as early as you can!
4 /// Creating a vision: what do you want to really remember about your wedding day on your first anniversary?
After the big details (location, budget, date) are settled, you need to start crafting your day. Even if you are going to be fairly hands-off and choose to have your coordinator work out the details, you still need to come up with the general mood or theme for your event. Instead of browsing through wedding magazines (or this blog!), try working backward from your imagined first anniversary. What details do you want to stick with you? Do you want to remember the beautiful flowers? Wearing a large princess gown? Enjoying special Disney desserts at the reception? The huge buffet? Dancing with Mickey and Minnie?
It’s easy to say yes to all of it, but if you really dig deep you’ll probably come up with a couple of things that you know you’ll want to remember. I had two things when we first started planning: (1) lots of romantic portraits on Disney property with my new husband and (2) lots of vacation photos from spending time with friends and family at the parks. Kyle really wanted: (1) dancing at the reception and (2) a wedding day that looked very traditional.
Starting there, we realized that our priorities were photography, a reception with a dance floor + DJ, and keeping the general look of the wedding pretty simple. We also realized that we didn’t think that the floral, cake, or what we wore was all that important so that told us that those weren’t elements we wanted to spend much time or money on. (We ultimately had silk flowers we bought on eBay, two yummy desserts in the buffet instead of cake, and we only spend $200 a piece on our wedding day attire. No regrets!)
5 /// Divide and conquer: how can you break down the wedding planning process into small bites?
Now that you’ve crafted your vision, list all of the things that need to happen and then break them down into smaller bites. For example, “hire a photographer” becomes “(1) find a style of wedding photography that you like, (2) find at least three photographers who shoot those kinds of photos and would be available for your location, (3) contact them to find out about availability/prices, (4) book the photographers, (5) have your engagement photos done, (6) come up with a list of must-have shots, (7) pay photographers”.
This probably sounds tedious, but the act of breaking down everything into smaller bites will actually save you a lot of stress in the long run and also give you a way to figure out who needs to do what when. You’ll probably be surprised how many details you can get started on early on so that you aren’t slammed later!
You’re well on your way to planning your Disney wedding, so be sure to reach out if you have questions about the process. Even if I can’t answer them, I have a great community of Disney wedding experts who can help you out. Have fun!
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This post was sponsored by Randy Chapman Photography. Randy Chapman has been performing his photographic magic on Fairytale weddings at Disney since 1996 and around Florida for 25 years. Randy acquired a great reputation with Disney Fairytale staff from the sales department to the planners. Ask any of their staff and they will say; “When working with Randy Chapman, it’s like working with someone who’s a part of our team.” With his knowledge of all the wedding locations and Disney, the Bride and Groom receive award winning photos that they will cherish for a life time.