Catie + Wes: Our Fairy Tale Wedding at Walt Disney World
On August 23, 2015 - Wes proposed.
8 months later, I was road tripping to Walt Disney World with a wedding gown in the backseat...
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd have a big Disney wedding, or that the people I cherish most would be together at my favorite place celebrating the happiest day of my life.
But I'm so thankful it happened.
Wes and I got engaged on August 23, 2014, and after weeks of searching for “a perfect place” to get married at home (in Nashville), we had a moment of insanity/inspiration and decided to have a destination wedding – at Walt Disney World.
I've been a lover of all things Disney for as long as I can remember. Walt Disney World has always been a special place to me, as I grew up vacationing there with my parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and closest friends.
While many children outgrow magic and fairytales, my love for Disney deepened with each passing year. I eventually started performing at Walt Disney World, and it didn't take long for me to experience the joys of creating magical moments for others, as well as recognize Disney's constant attention to detail and genuine care for guests.
I could finally put into words what I really wanted on our wedding day: for our family members and closest friends to feel that same joy, magic, care, and love.
AND SO, my very own Disney Bride diary of our wedding day begins...
Our Wedding Timeline:
April 18, 2015
When I woke up at 4:30am on my wedding day, I immediately jumped out of bed and opened the curtains. I was entranced by the beautiful view of Cinderella's castle from our "theme park view" room at the Grand Floridian Resort. I saw the sunrise over Magic Kingdom as stylists curled and jabbed bobby pins into my hair. I watched the monorails in motion as I dug into the complimentary box of "Happy Birthday" chocolates from the resort staff. The Disney magic was just outside my window as I was getting ready for my wedding day, and I couldn't have been more excited.
My wedding gown was a couture, ivory lace dress from Spain. The gown was sewn with real lace, and it had a beautiful chapel-length train. Around the waistline was a satin, floral sash with Swarovski crystals. My bridesmaids were excited to see my dress for the first time. Only my mom and sister had seen my gown before the wedding day (I wanted to keep the dress a total surprise!)
My friend Dawn, a talented florist/wedding planner from San Diego, created our personal florals. Tied around the bouquet were charms to honor our grandparents who had passed away. The flowers were absolutely stunning, and when I carried my bouquet for the first time, I was overwhelmed with all sorts of emotions. It was finally my wedding day, and although there were a million thoughts racing through my mind, I couldn't wait to walk down the aisle and marry Wes.
I was still in a daze as I walked to the Grand Floridian lobby for pictures. In a private area near the lobby, I had a "first-look" with my dad. When he turned around to face me, he gasped.
"You look so beautiful," he cried.
The first-look with my dad was very emotional - almost borderline heartbreaking. The photographer cried. My bridesmaids cried. I cried. Our sobs turned into laughter and hugs. When I mentioned I was hungry, my dad found a bag of apple slices for me. Even on my wedding day, he still wanted to take care of his little girl.
Wes and I had a private "non-look/prayer." Being more traditional, we chose not to see each other before the ceremony, but holding hands beforehand was a special moment. It was exactly what I needed to stay calm.
I took pictures with my family and bridesmaids outside and was lead to the grand staircase of the lobby for bridal portraits. Several resort guests stared, pointed, and yelled, “Look, it’s a bride!” My bridesmaids and I took the limo to the Wedding Pavilion, and my hands were shaking as I snacked on the apple slices on the way there. We walked over the bridge and waited in the Bride's Vestibule of the pavilion where we played with the fancy props. When it was finally time to walk down the aisle, I was excited and ready!
Wes and I were married at Disney's Wedding Pavilion at 10am. The sides of the aisle looked beautiful covered with soft pink and white rose petals. On the altar was a wood cross that Wes and I provided, the unity candle, and a beautiful floral arrangement.
As I walked down the aisle with my dad, a friend played a violin rendition of "Fly To Your Heart" from the Tinker Bell movie. Wes and I were excited to recite our own vows, which was a personal and special element of the ceremony for us. My siblings sang "For the Beauty of The Earth" as Wes and I lit our unity candle. I felt my heart burst when our officiant said, "I now pronounce you husband and wife," and I tried my best to hold back tears. We waited a long time to hear those words, and it really was a dream come true.
The recessional was to "Married Life" from Disney/Pixar's UP. Following the ceremony was a rose petal toss, which was one of our favorite parts of the wedding day!
While Wes and I posed for wedding photos, our guests took a shuttle to the brunch pre-reception at the White Hall Room in the Grand Floridian Resort - such an elegant space. There, mimosas were served, as well as assortments of fruit, muffins, and pastries. In addition to our guest book, we also set up a video camera for guests to record a personal message which had a great turnout.
Before our guests entered our reception space, The Disney staff snuck Wes and me into the ballroom for a private look at all the decor. I started sobbing. The Grand Floridian ballroom had been transformed into our own “enchanted forest” with accents of Snow White - my favorite Disney princess. Our romantic woodland theme was conveyed in the wishing well with running water and our detailed table decor which was personalized based on a different Disney/fairytale place: Snow White's Cottage (our head table) Pixie Hollow, Neverland, 100 Acre Wood, Sherwood Forest, Wonderland, etc. In order to accomplish this while staying in budget, my family, friends, and I worked endlessly on DIY projects. On each table were two unique matching lanterns and one main centerpiece - my husband, parents, siblings, friends helped design and create these pieces. We found most of the items at craft stores and added reindeer moss and votive candles. My husband wood-burned and stained our table names, and we created 120 name cards using hot glue, twigs, and reindeer moss.
Our unique seating chart was a 4 x 3ft canvas I painted to represent a map of our "enchanted forest." We burned the edges of paper with the names of our guests and mod-podged each the paper onto the canvas.
It was the most incredible feeling to see that the glue gun burns and late night projects were all worth it. My vision finally came to life, and I ran around the ballroom in complete disbelief of how gorgeous the room looked. Disney gave me the greatest wedding gift: a chance to appreciate all the hard work, planning, and crafting that went into our wedding. (I hope to write a separate blog post about the wedding DYI projects we did! - Stay tuned!)
The food was one of my favorite aspects of our Disney wedding. (My goodness, Disney knows how to glam up a buffet!) There were all sorts of delicious brunch/lunch items including made-to-order omelette, brioche french toast with bananas foster, wild berry crepes, maple ginger roasted pork loin, penne pasta primavera, seared salmon, and a mashed potato bar. Wes and I met with the chefs at the Grand Floridian Resort a few months before the wedding for a taste-testing, and everything they cooked was divine.
The Disney staff treated us like royalty on our wedding day. They took our food/drink order and brought it to our table for us. They consistently asked if we desired more food/drinks and made sure we took the time to eat at our own reception.
Our three-tier wedding cake was red velvet with buttercream frosting. I actually found a picture of this cake on Pinterest, and sent it to our wedding planner. Disney recreated it for us, and they did a phenomenal job. We loved our wedding cake and saved the leftovers to enjoy on our honeymoon!
There were cheers and applause as DJ Steve introduced the bridal party, and it was the perfect start of our reception. Wes and I danced to "La Vie en Rose" and made a speech together to thank our guests for celebrating with us. After the brunch buffet, my dad delivered a charming and heartfelt speech, and we nailed our choreographed dance to "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah." After the mother/groom dance, DJ Steve invited all of our guests to dance. Within seconds, the dance floor was packed!
Our romantic reception turned into a series of many exhilarating surprises, including a visit from Mickey and Minnie, a special bridesmaids dance to Wilson Phillips' "Hold On," hilarious speeches by my sister and brother-in-law, and a confetti cannon that went off during the last dance of our reception, "If I Didn't Have You" from Disney/Pixar's Monster's Inc. Wes and I had such a blast at our reception, and our guests did too!
Our reception ended at 3pm, and we had a few hours to spend before the fireworks/dessert party with our guests. Wes and I drove to our honeymoon resort, Disney's Wilderness Lodge. After we pulled hundreds of bobby pins out of my hair, we quickly changed clothes and headed to Epcot to enjoy our first dinner together as husband and wife.
We reserved a table at Coral Reef Restaurant, and everything was delicious. During dinner, we exchanged wedding cards and gifts. A lot of couples exchange gifts before the ceremony, but I wanted to see his reaction when he saw that I bought him a plot of land in Scotland!
Finding Nemo in 3D was our very first date, so after dinner, Wes and I went on the Finding Nemo ride together. We were styling the famous Disney, "Just Married" buttons as well as the "bride and groom" Mickey ears, and cast members and park guests congratulated us as we walked around Epcot. It was fun sharing our big day with friendly Disney-lovers!
At 7pm, we met our guests at Terrace des Fleurs (France Pavilion) in Epcot where we hosted a private fireworks/dessert party. Our guests were escorted from backstage Epcot to the exclusive and beautiful viewing area by the water. Desserts included chocolate-covered strawberries (my favorite!!), banana pudding, cannoli, and of course, Mickey ice cream bars.
We spent a couple hours with our guests before the firework show Illuminations started. Disney's Illuminations is my favorite firework show at Walt Disney World, and as a performer, I would race back inside the park after work to watch the last part of it. Watching the show with my husband and our family/friends was the most magnificent way to end such magical day!
Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings not only created a plethora of magical moments for my husband and me, but also made it possible for the most significant and influential people in my life to gather together and celebrate our wedding day in the place I like to call home. The staff at Disney was extremely organized and professional. I had the vision, my family defined it, and Disney executed it perfectly.
Our wedding celebration was a fun-packed week of running around Disney World with relatives and close friends, and every moment was filled with happy faces, breath-taking scenery, and of course...magic. What more could this Disney-lover have wished for?
I thank my parents, and those who supported us and celebrated with us from the day we got engaged to our wedding day. We are living our happily ever after.
Ceremony: Disney's Wedding Pavilion Reception: Grand Floridian Ballroom Firework/Dessert Party: Terrace des Fleurs