The Italy Pavilion at Epcot is one of my favorite places in the world, so I squee’d a bit when I saw Lauren and Ryan’s wedding photos! They had their ceremony in Epcot then hopped over to Disney’s Contemporary Resort for a reception with a view. Their wedding looked so fun and relaxed, and I’m sure their guests had the best time! And I love how Lauren and Ryan’s photographer made great use of all the beautiful florals during their Epcot portraits. Congrats Lauren and Ryan, thank you for sharing your beautiful Disney wedding day with us!
Photography: Nicole Ami Photography
Disney Bride: Lauren, 28, New Jersey
Disney Groom: Ryan, 27, New Jersey
Wedding Date: May 3, 2017
Ceremony Venue: Italy Isola, Epcot
Reception Venue: California Grill, Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Dessert Party Venue: Isola West Plaza, Italy Pavilion, EPCOT
Total budget: $27,500
Guest count: 50
Why did you choose a Disney wedding?
We never considered any other options. We both loved Disney as kids and started going together in 2009. My husband was a little nervous about a big wedding and being in front of people. We were both very budget conscious and weddings in NY/NJ are more expensive than Disney. We wanted a fun celebration with family that was easy to plan. So we were initially drawn to the Escape package for it’s one-stop-shop approach of pick some items and it’s done. But we had a higher guest count than Escape allowed and loved ceremony venues that weren’t an option for that package. So we went with a customized Wishes Weddings and took advantage of the discounts they offered for doing a weekday at brunch time with a shorter reception (Often referred to as Mini-Wishes but unfortunately not all these discounts are still offered).
How did your family/friends react to your Disney wedding?
They expected it. A few other family members have done destination weddings so they were prepared for it. And our friends had been talking about doing a Disney trip together for years so it was pretty prefect.
What was your theme?
I don’t think there was a set ‘theme.’ I wanted the decor and attire to have a modern romantic look, almost minimalist; clean, simple and soft but a few bright pops of color. Our colors were grey, white and orange. We also worked in a few vaguely mid-century modern details to match the feel of California Grill.
What was your biggest challenge in planning your Disney wedding?
Helping my family coordinate their travel and trying to balance my tendency to over-plan with my desire to give my guests a relaxing trip. I booked my parents travel for them and then had rest of my immediate family asking for help too which I didn’t mind but occasionally lead to typical family bickering.
I also had made a suggested itinerary for guests (based on researched crowd levels) and a bunch of large group dining reservation so people could join us without making plans and we’d run into people in the parks, etc. This worked out pretty well but distributing the information and linking people magic bands was annoying at times.
Tell us about your ceremony. Did you include any Disney touches?
Our ceremony was thankfully short as it was a hot day but really beautiful. I found our officiant, Rev. Lee Ganim online and he did a wonderful job; he was so warm and inviting and put some humor in the ceremony. We had a couple Disney touches; the men walked into to ‘Star Wars Throne Room’ and our recessional was ‘A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow’ from Carousel of Progress. I also used a Finding Nemo quote in my vows and later was told it made everyone cry. The ultimate Disney touch was having Spaceship Earth as our backdrop.
Describe your reception. Was it completely traditional or did you do anything unique?
Our reception was a brunch at California Grill. Food was one of the most important things to us so we had to pick one of best restaurants on property; my husband isn’t a fan of breakfast foods so we choose a lunch menu and added Mickey Waffles and bacon. The view was of course amazing as well. We had the traditional elements of first dance, parent dances and toasts but mostly went for a chill vibe; no party dances or bouquet toss etc. We had our groomsman sing along to our first dance song so that was different.
During the planning we went back a forth on using a live musician (jazz trio, pianist or violinist) vs a DJ. I’ve had some pretty horrible experiences with DJs and we don’t dance so I was nervous when we choose that route. But Disney did a great job matching us with DJ Steve. We’re Rush fanatics so he played all Rush during the meal and completely understood our request for 80s drunk sing-a-longs for after the food. He was great at reading our goofball crowd and reacting. During the best man’s speech, he mentioned Ryan was wearing a Eminem T-shirt when they met back in middle school so DJ Steve played an Eminem clip as we were leaving.
After the reception, all our guests and ourselves boarded the bus back to our hotel, Port Orleans French Quarter. Our guests staying offsite joined us to hang out at the pool for the afternoon and in the evening we returned to Epcot for our Dessert Party. Ending your wedding day with fireworks and ice cream is something you can only do in Disney.
What did you splurge on? Where did you save money?
We splurged on the guy’s attire; they got custom suits because we were being super picky and figured they’d have something they could use again rather than spending on rentals.
I splurged a little on floral and upgraded ceremony chairs. I love flowers; my mom gardens a lot and I walk through the flower district everyday so it was important to me to have good flowers. I joked with my hubby that I was making up for him never buying me flowers during most of our dating relationship (he’s since made up for it 🙂 )
We saved on video by getting a ceremony-only package.
We also kept reception entertainment simple; the shorter reception meant the DJ was less expensive. The focus of our reception was the amazing food and everyone enjoyed hanging out on the walkway overlooking Magic Kingdom so we didn’t need anything else.
What was your favorite moment of the day?
Just one? Looking at my groom during our vows; he’s not typically an emotional guy so to see him get choked up was touching. There were a few other highlights that are my tied as second favorites. Another emotional moment was seeing all my favorite people as I came over the bridge at the ceremony.
The most Lauren-doesn’t-give-a-crap chill moment was going in the pool between the reception and fireworks and having my new husband hold me to keep my hair out of the water.
And the most uniquely Disney thing: I loved walking to our dessert party through Epcot in my dress and having my uncle lead the group with the tour guides wand. And being the last ones out of the park that night.
What would you change if you had to do it all over again?
The only thing that went kinda wrong was our processional. Doing our ceremony in Epcot meant our rehearsal was in a ballroom not onsite. So half our bridal went straight to the altar-area along the side rather than down the middle aisle. My MoH was last one down and realized they all did it wrong so she went the same so it looked intentional. The actual problem was that I was the only one that went down the middle aisle and discovered it was too narrow for both my parents to walk next to me. The chairs had been placed too close together. There was nothing I could do about it at the time so we adjusted. My photographer and videographer creatively edited so you don’t notice any of the awkwardness. We laughed about it immediately after and now. But Disney was so good running everything so smoothly and catching every detail so I was surprised more than anything. I guess I wish I would have walked over to the ceremony area during our photo time before hand to check it out, maybe we would have caught that.
I also hated the feeling of my make-up in the heat; I wish I wouldn’t have let myself get talked into thinking airbrush wouldn’t feel like make-up and stuck to my original plan of no foundation just eye make-up.
What advice would you give to couples that have just started planning their Disney wedding?
General wedding planning advice: Trust your gut. Also, it’s cliche but don’t sweat the small stuff. I’m usually chill but sometimes found myself getting caught up in unnecessary frustrations. But the day of, I let it all go and returned to my usual self. I recall during the reception we were sitting at our sweetheart table and I realized there was an empty vase at the table that was meant for my bouquet but there was a plate of risotto in front my face to be eaten so I ignored it. I never did get around to finding my bouquet and putting in there (it was on the cake table). I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who knew something was missing. Even my husband who was also staring at it, didn’t notice.
Disney Specific: Do your research (sites like this, blogs, forums, Facebook groups, the Passporter Guide to Disney Weddings) but be cautious not to over do it. It can be overwhelming to see the number of options out there. I got some information online that Disney wasn’t forthcoming with so I had to ask but also remember some of the information you get online can change pretty quickly so ask your planner your specific questions.
Any other details you want to share?
Many of our guests expected us to have lots of nerd-y references and such in our wedding. People sent me photos of quirky video game centerpieces and other detail ideas. We chose to express our nerdy and geeky interests in subtle ways. We incorporated a lot into our music: The guys walked into Star Wars, the girls walked into a Legend of Zelda Medley and I walked into the theme from Jurassic Park. At our reception we entered in to Rain of Castamere from Game of Thrones. For our ring box, we painted a little wood box to look like a treasure chest from Legend of Zelda. And lastly our table numbers were a nod to our love of math; they were paper rhombicuboctahedrons (it’s a solid with triangular and square faces with even vertices) and the table numbers were only prime numbers.
Venue: $3500 for ceremony $250 for dessert party
Floral & Other Decor (chairs): $2000
Ceremony Music: included with venue
Reception Music: $1000
Other Entertainment: $800 (the viewing fees for the fireworks and the guides for having our events in the park counted as entertainment)
Favors: $100 on day of favors and about $200 on welcome bags
Bride’s & Groom’s attire: ~$3000
Card box, Guest book, Cake Topper, ring box: ~$75
Wedding coordinator: Diane Bowen, DFTW
Photography: Nicole Ami Photography
Videography: Apex Media Weddings
Officiant: Lee Ganim
DJ: Steve Dunlap (Disney DJ)
Stationery: My awesome co-workers