What’s it like getting married at Disney? It’s not always a fairy tale.

  • “Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings,” a 90-minute special aired Sunday at 8 p.m. on the Walt Disney Co.’s Freeform cable channel, offering a behind-the-scenes look at weddings at “the happiest place on Earth.” Freeform

Washington Post
Friday, May 12, 2017

True love’s formula, per classic Disney princess custom: First, a storybook romance. Next, a lavish castle wedding. Then, a lifetime of “happily ever after.”

According to the Walt Disney Co., mere mortals can achieve this fairy tale. That is, with their help, and for the right price.

Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings, the company’s wedding branch, may not be able to set you up with Prince Charming or promise wedded bliss, but they can help you design a wedding day fit for a queen – make that a Disney princess – complete with Cinderella’s horse-drawn carriage and a castle backdrop, naturally.

Since September 1991, Disney has put on more than 30,000 weddings around the world, including at Disneyland in California, Walt Disney World in Florida, Disney’s Aulani resort in Hawaii, on multiple Disney cruise lines, and in Disney resorts and parks abroad.

In 2013, Disney held 1,500 weddings on its properties. Last year, that number swelled to more than 4,000, with about 11 ceremonies a day globally. That trend is likely to continue, as Disney rolls out live-action updates of its classic films over the next several years, such as the recent Beauty and the Beast update starring Emma Watson.

It doesn’t hurt that millennials are lapping up the princess fantasy.

“They’re all about customization and engaging their wedding guests,” said Korri McFann Spolar, director of marketing for Fairy Tale Weddings. “I think this generation really is fit for a destination wedding, you know, multiple days of celebrating, multiple days of gathering with family and friends.”

It also helps that the park photos make for one-of-a-kind keepsakes – and easily shareable social-media content (#AndTheySelfiedHappilyEverAfter).

For Nathan Mulder, 30, and Brian Falco, 30, it was always Disney World or bust. Months before a proposal even took place, they had decided to spend what would be “the best day of their lives” at “the happiest place on Earth.”

The theme park was a natural fit for the Disneyphiles, who met in Daytona Beach, Fla., in 2006 and wed in August 2016. Fans of Disney movies since childhood, Mulder and Falco visited the park frequently over their decadelong courtship and were at one point annual ticket-holders.

For their ceremony at Disney’s Beach and Yacht Club Resort in Orlando, the couple envisioned something elegant and traditional, minus the gimmicks and characters – save for a few hundred “hidden Mickeys” scattered throughout the venue.

“I think that a huge misconception about Disney weddings is that ... they are childish, or maybe even cheesy, with characters plastered everywhere,” Mulder said. “We really wanted to have a wedding that was at Disney, not so much a Disney wedding.”

For the reception, they splurged on some subtle hints of “Disney magic” for their 225 guests, including an appearance by Mickey and Minnie ($1,700) and a customized projection cake, which lit up with scenes from their favorite Disney films (about $3,000).

The final price tag? More than $100,000. “The entire week (and) weekend was a dream come true,” Mulder said.

But not every wedding at Disney is as magical. Yasmin Uddin, a 22-year-old YouTube gamer based in Leeds, England, had a much different experience with the House of Mouse for her wedding last month. After toying with the idea of eloping in Vegas, the bride-to-be and her finance, Kyle Sinnett, 26, settled on a small ceremony for 24 guests at Disney’s Wedding Pavilion in Orlando for about $25,000.

First, Uddin and Sinnett’s fairy godmother – what Disney calls their wedding coordinators – was sparingly communicative. When Uddin requested a venue visit in January, she was told that the coordinator wouldn’t be able to host her.

“I don’t think she really took me seriously,” Uddin said. “I think she just thought I was some spoiled kid who was getting it all paid for.”

Despite the hiccups, things appeared to be on course the morning of the wedding, when the bride rose at 4:50 a.m. to start her bridal prep. But as the 10 a.m. ceremony grew closer, things were missing, namely a bouquet and the officiant. After waiting 30 minutes, Uddin learned that the officiant had been told that the start time was noon.

“All the guests sat there waiting, not knowing what was going on,” she says. “Kyle was left there thinking, ‘Did she run away? Did she leave me at the altar?’ ”

About an hour later, the ceremony finally began, but at the reception, the venue manager and DJ started to shut down the party an hour early, as they hadn’t been informed of the timing goof.