Plan a Small Private Event at Walt Disney World

There are a couple of ways to set up a small private event at Walt Disney World. For an event at the Grand Floridian, call Private Dining at the Grand Floridian (407-824-2474). For an event anywhere else on property, call Disney Catered Events (meetings@disneyworld.com or 321-939-7278).

If you prefer listening to reading, here are three podcast episodes that walk you through booking each type of event:

Grand Floridian Private Dining: 407-824-1951

You can work with Private Dining (a.k.a., room service) at the Grand Floridian to arrange dinner somewhere in the hotel or at the Marina during Wishes. The cost is $125/person plus 18% service charge and 6.5% sales tax. There’s also a $100 charge  for the services of the butler who meets you in the lobby and serves you at your table. If you need more than 2 hours of butler service, additional hours are billed at $50 each. You will be sent a standard menu to make choices from, but you can also request food from any of the resort’s restaurants for a hefty surcharge.

Click here for a sample menu.

Here’s a link to a great detailed report of an anniversary party there, and here’s a sweet surprise birthday party.

Disney Catered Events: meetings@disneyworld.com or 321-939-7278

To plan a private catered event anywhere else on property, including the theme parks, you’ll need to work with Disney Catered Events.

To get started, contact Disney Catered Events at 321-939-7278. The first person you talk to will not have a lot of information or answers, and I do not recommend asking them questions about availability or policy. They’ll just take your info (date, number of guests, any ideas about what you want) and pass it to a sales consultant, who will call you back in a few days. The sales consultant will help you choose your venue, draw up a contract and take your deposit. When that part of the process is complete, you will be passed to an event coordinator who will manage all the specific details of your day (menu, transportation, decor, entertainment, ride mix-ins, etc.).

In 2017, Disney Catered Events dropped the 10-person minimum but introduced an overall minimum expenditure of $1,000 before tax and service charge. All the venue fees and site-specific food and beverage minimums remain the same, but you must spend at least $1,000 with Disney now to do a catered event—even if there are only two of you.

This page links to photos of nearly every event venue at Walt Disney World. I also have a post with detailed pricing info and photos of event locations inside Disney’s Hollywood Studio. If you own a copy of PassPorter’s Disney Weddings & Honeymoons, detailed pricing for every venue is listed in Chapter 3: Wishes Collection and in Chapter 5: Additional Events.

Basic Dessert Party Pricing

NOTES: These food and beverage minimums are for dessert parties only. Certain locations have higher minimums for a full meal. You must spend at least $1,000 (pre-tax and service charge) to hold a Disney Catered Event.
  • Venue Rental Fee: $150-$500, depending on location
  • Food & Beverage Minimums: $250-$2,500, depending on location
  • Viewing Fee: $10/guest (except bridal couple) for Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings events or $10/guest without admission for Disney Catered Events
  • Ride Mix-in Fee: $15/guest without admission.
  • Backstage transportation may be required at an additional cost
Wishes at the Grand Floridian
  • Venue Rental Fee: none
  • Sago Cay Pointe (10-75 guests) Food & Beverage Minimums: $1,250
  • Marina Patio & Terrace (20-100 guests) Food & Beverage Minimums: $2,500
  • Viewing Fee: none
  • Wishes Soundtrack Fee: $645 up to 50 guests
Wishes at the Contemporary
  • Venue Rental Fee: none
  • West Rotunda Courtyard/Patio (20 to 80 guests) Food & Beverage Minimums: $1,500
  • Porte-Cochere (50-500 guests) Food & beverage Minimums: $1,250
  • Viewing Fee: none
  • Wishes Soundtrack Fee: $645 up to 50 guests
  • Venue Rental Fee: $250
  • Small Patio (up to 40 guests) Food & Beverage Minimums: $400
  • Large Patio (40-100 guests) Food & Beverage Minimums: $750
  • Viewing Fee: $10/guest (except bridal couple) for Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings events or $10/guest without admission for Disney Catered Events
  • Ride Mix-in Fee: $15/guest without admission.
  • Backstage transportation may be required at an additional cost

Sample Menus

You can see a wide variety of Disney Catered Event menus here. Remember that all menus are customizable, so feel free to dip into older menus for ideas to re-create at your event.

Ride Mix-ins

If your event is held inside a theme park, you can arrange what’s called a “ride mix-in” where your party is escorted to the front of the line at a ride. This must occur at the end of the park’s operating hours and in the same park where your event is held. For example, you could do a ride mix-in on Frozen Ever After immediately following an IllumiNations dessert party at Epcot. The $15/person fee is waived for those who have park admission.

A Note About Transportation…

Whether or not you are required to hire transportation for your in-park event depends on its location. Usually Epcot venues close to the International Gateway do not require transportation because everyone can meet the included event guide at International Gateway and walk in. Some couples have also arranged to have the guide meet their guests at Epcot’s main gate. If your coordinator requires you to book transportation, this does not have to be a pricey chartered motor coach unless you have a large group. Groups of about 40 or fewer will find it cheaper to take multiple $42 one-way vans backstage.

How to Plan a Primeval Diorama Dinner Party

How to Plan a Tower of Terror Dinner Party

How to Plan an IllumiNations Dessert Party

277 Responses
  • Charlotte
    March 4, 2017

    Hi Carrie!

    My boyfriend has hinted to me he wants to propose this year and we both want a wedding at WDW. We are from the UK and our guest list will most likely be under 20 so the Escape package is great but I’ve been worrying about a reception after! I’ve tried to do some research myself and am I right in that if we try to do a private catered event after through Disney we cant have a dance floor/DJ and I can’t be in my wedding dress?

    If this is the case would it make more sense to go through the Swan and Dolphin in their reception only packages for after the Escape package ceremony? Is that allowed?

    Sorry for all the questions, I’ve done nothing but worry about all this for days and I’m not even engaged yet haha!

    • Carrie
      March 6, 2017

      Hi Charlotte! No need to worry! If you do an Escape package you can plan a private catered event through your Disney Wedding planner and you ARE allowed to wear your wedding gown. However, the event is limited to 2 hours—it’s more of a meal than a reception. They will tell you it is too short to have a DJ and dancing. You probably don’t want to go through the Swan & Dolphin for your reception because their prices are as high as Disney’s. Some options: Reception at House of Blues or another Orlando-area hotel, do a dessert party (with regular food in addition to desserts) as your private catered event and then you won’t need other entertainment, or do a Wishes Catered Event Experience, which starts at around $8,500 for ceremony and reception, depending on time of year and day of the week. This episode explains the Wishes Catered Event Experience: http://disneyweddingpodcast.com/2017/01/18/wishes-collection-overview/. And this episode is more detailed but doesn’t cover the fact that you can now only do the Catered Event Experience in Low Season (Jan-March and July and August): http://disneyweddingpodcast.com/2016/06/22/mini-wishes-catered-event-experience/

      • Rose
        March 14, 2017

        The Wishes says it starts at $12,000, is this not correct? I am trying to plan for January, there’s only 20 of us (my fiancee and me included in that), so I cannot see spending $12,000. So the Escape collection seems to be the best, however I’d like to add light appetizers to it. The person on the phone said I can’t even start planning until next month, and I can’t add to the Escape package. I am not looking for a reception, just light apps along with the cake. I’m taking everyone to dinner and doing a dessert party later on in the evening. Also, I really loved The Attic, but that doesn’t seem to be an option for anything unless you do the Wishes Package, correct? Thank you!!! This information is great! Much appreciated for those of us that want to plan but have to wait!

        • Carrie
          March 14, 2017

          Hi Rose!

          1) That is not correct. The Wishes Catered Event Experience starts at $8,500 for 20 people for brunch on Tues-Thurs in the months of Jan-March and July-August. The only difference between the Catered Event Experience and regular Wishes is that your reception is only 3 hours and you can have a max of 50 people. We actually cut our regular Wishes brunch to 3 hours and it was plenty of time.

          2) The people who answer that first phone call are not planners or sales consultants, and they are notorious for spreading misinformation. You can add almost anything to the Escape package, including a 2-hour catered reception at the Attic. Do you happen to have my PassPorter Guide? It explains everything and shows you all your options, with prices. You can also get all this info on my podcast. I suggest these two episodes: Escape Collection Overview and Wishes Collection Overview.

          • Rose
            April 2, 2017

            Thank you so much! This is great information. I looked for your book on my Kindle but couldn’t find it. I will try Amazon for the hard copy! Thanks again. That information is fantastic!

            • Carrie
              April 3, 2017

              Hi Rose! Amazon has been sending out years-old copies with out-of-date info instead of the most recent print guide. The best version is the eBook, which is a PDF you can get directly from PassPorter (they don’t have it in the Kindle store, unfortunately, but you can send it to your Kindle): https://www.passporterstore.com/store/1587710781.aspx

  • Emily
    March 15, 2017

    Hi!

    I was wondering if you would be able to advise me of what my options might be!

    We are getting married on Halloween this year, the ceremony has been booked through JustMarry and is at the Swan & Dolphin.

    We are hoping to be able to do the evening meal for hopefully somewhere between 25-35 people through Disney private dining with fireworks viewing – so I suppose this would fall into either Epcot or Bay Lake area.

    As the wedding itself is booked through JustMarry, they aren’t able to advise about on site options. We’ve emailed Disney directly about options but they’re just pointing us to Disney Fairytale Weddings and quoting us for an escape package, which obviously isn’t what we’re after as the ceremony is already taken care of. I’m assuming this is because I said it was a wedding party!

    Do you think we would still have the option of doing a firework viewing either dessert party with food added in, or a full meal on Disney property? And if so, would you advise I avoid saying it’s for a wedding or should it not make a difference?

    Thanks!!!

    • Carrie
      March 15, 2017

      Hi Emily! Yes, sometimes the people who answer that first call/email at Disney Catered Events do everything they can to shoot you down. But plenty of Swan brides have planned dessert parties through them. You just can’t wear your gown in the park or have a wedding cake or a DJ or anything that makes it seem like you’re circumventing Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings. I would contact them again and just say you want to do a party/family reunion. Once you get assigned a planner, you can tell him/her what’s going on if you want. But make it clear that you understand they can only plan a party for you, not a wedding reception. You can do a DP, a full meal—anything you want!

  • Rebecca
    March 24, 2017

    Hi!

    So I see if you do a Disney catered event you cannot wear your wedding dress. Does this include the Grand Floridian marina/sago cay pointe? Since it’s at a hotel as opposed to inside the park I wasn’t sure. Looking at having a dinner at Shula’s/Paddlefish and then doing a wishes fireworks viewing. No ceremony at Disney though.

    Thanks so much!

    • Carrie
      March 25, 2017

      Hi Rebecca! As long as they know you just want a fireworks party and are not attempting to hold a wedding reception without going through Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings, they can’t stop you from wearing your gown at the resorts. There’s no gate they can turn you away at, and if you show up to the party in your gown, your planner is not going to make you go change. BUT, I would not mention what you’re wearing to your planner. I’ve heard one or two stories of Disney Catered Events planners who made a big stink about not allowing brides to wear their attire at resort locations, even though there’s no way to actually enforce that.

      • Rebecca
        March 28, 2017

        Thanks so much! Definitely going to consider it, hopefully they wouldn’t!

  • Amanda
    April 4, 2017

    Hi Carrie!

    I discovered the Italy Overlook through your website, and had a fabulous time watching Illuminations there last year. I called last week to book it again for this June, but I was told that they no longer rent that space for fireworks viewing. Do you know if that’s true? The first person I talked to wasn’t very knowledgeable about that venue, so I asked to speak to a supervisor. It was the supervisor who assured me that their policy has changed and it’s not possible to rent the Overlook ahead of time anymore.

    Thanks for you help, and for the great website!

    • Carrie
      April 5, 2017

      Hi Amanda! Disney Catered Events just instituted a $1,000 pre-tax-and-service-charge minimum for holding an event, and there’s no way to spend that much money at a venue where you can’t serve food. You could call back and get the party planning process started without telling them where exactly you want the event. Once you are assigned a sales consultant, you can tell him/her the location you want, but you’ll need to add an event elsewhere to meet the minimum.

  • Claire Agnew
    April 16, 2017

    Hi thanks for such a good description of these events.
    I am looking to book Epcot illumination for our 15th anniversary for 8 people, I would like if possible dinner then dessert package with private viewing of fireworks, is it possible to have someone there to take photos or do we do that ourselves? I know it is a minimum of $1000 package can you please let me know if this includes dinner or what the $1000 can actually be used towards.
    My husband would really like himself and our sons to wear kilts and myself and daughters will be wearing party dresses is this allowed?

    Sorry for all the questions it’s just a lot of planning I appreciate any advice you can give me x

    • Carrie
      April 19, 2017

      Hi Claire! The $1,000 can be used toward anything provided by Disney: food, beverages, cake, viewing fees, transportation, photography, entertainment, floral and decor. You can hire a Disney photographer for about $350 or bring your own local photographer for a $90 escort fee. The only outfits that usually get stopped at the gates are full-length bridal gowns. You all will have no problem entering in kilts and party dresses. Let me know if I can answer any other questions!

  • Chelsea Spears
    June 5, 2017

    Hi Carrie,
    Your post are very informative, but I am looking for some information. I am getting Married in May of 2018 at on offsite location called Paradise Cove, but I am only doing the ceremony. Later in the evening we were looking for a space to have dinner that can accommodate all 50 of us without having to break my bank account. We also would really like to have an open bar. I have never been to Disney so I am unsure where to even start. Please help hahah!

    • Carrie
      June 5, 2017

      Hi Chelsea! Your best bet for saving money on a reception is to do a large-party dining reservation at a restaurant. Downtown Disney has lots of popular choices, but there are many others in the Orlando area. You can usually work with the restaurant to get a special menu printed without prices, if that’s important to you. If you are interested in having a private event in a theme park or other Disney-owned venue, you would need to work through Disney Catered Events. All the information on this page applies, whether you’re having 5 people or 50 people. Depending on the food and beverage minimums for the location you choose and the number of guests you have, you should be able to do something for around $3,000 for 50 people. I would recommend doing the bar “Bill On Consumption,” which means that you only pay for exactly what people drink instead of buying an unlimited package and (usually) paying for drinks no one consumes. This episode of the Disney Wedding Podcast explains BOC bars: http://disneyweddingpodcast.com/2013/03/27/how-to-save-a-bundle-on-the-bar/ And this episode explains more about planning a private event through Disney Catered Events: http://disneyweddingpodcast.com/2016/07/06/how-to-plan-a-small-private-event-at-walt-disney-world/

  • Sophie
    June 20, 2017

    Hi Carrie

    I’m currently half way through your book and it’s helped so much.

    My fiancé and I are having an escape wedding in April and are planning a dessert party at either Sago Cay or Marina Patio.

    We’ve been told that we need to pay the fee at Sago Cay to have the music piped in but at Marian Patio the music will be played from existing permanent speakers?
    We definitely want to have the music piped in if we need to but is the music actually loud enough at the Marina to not have to?

    Sorry for the essay we’re just struggling to find much information about dessert parties that aren’t illuminations.

    • Carrie
      June 20, 2017

      Hi Sophie! Yes, the music will be loud enough—you don’t need to pay for speakers at the Marina anymore. They had these paid dessert parties at the Marina a while back for the express purpose of watching Wishes, so DFTW can use the same speakers for your event!

  • Olivia
    July 21, 2017

    Hi! I love your site and ebook and have been a long time reader. I saw your update about the new $1000 minimum for 2017. Just to be clear, for Illuminations dessert parties, if you book, say, one of the $150 venues with $250 F&B min, do you still have to spend at least $1000 to hold the event? Or are dessert-only parties excluded from that 1k? Thanks!

    • Carrie
      July 21, 2017

      Hi Olivia! Yes, unfortunately the minimum applies everywhere—I think it is precisely those inexpensive parties at UK Pubside that prompted DCE to add the minimum, since it was turning out to be a lot of work for what they considered a little money. The one positive is that they now don’t give you a hard time for having fewer than 10 people. They don’t care how many you have, as long as you’re spending that $1,000. For a cheaper location like Lochside, you can add things like floral, decor, transportation, ride mix-ins and photography to meet the $1,000. But I know it is a bummer to have to spend that much for just 2 people!

  • Ami
    August 3, 2017

    Hi Carrie. We are planning an escape wedding in 2019 and want to do an illuminations party. how much will it cost 10 of us to be at UK lochside? Is it $1000 and then we have to pick food, maybe have a photographer to meet the minimum? Not sure I understand. Thanks.

    • Carrie
      August 3, 2017

      Hi Ami! Because you are doing a Disney’s Fairy Tale Wedding, you do not have to meet the $1,000 overall minimum to have an event—that is only for events planned through the Disney Catered Events department. So you would only pay the actual costs of the party: $250 venue fee, $460 food and beverage minimum, $10/person viewing fee and the cost of transportation, if you need it. And 6.5% tax and 24% service charge on the food and beverages. These prices may have gone up by 2019, but probably not too much.

  • Colin James
    August 21, 2017

    Hello, we wish to treat our whole workforce to a day at Disneyworld. probably Epcot. We dont need any event planning . But because there will be 400 of us, do we need to inform Disney that a large group of us will be meeting up at one of the parks? Thank you.

    • Carrie
      August 21, 2017

      That’s a good question! I know that unofficial events like Dapper Day just sort of happened until they got so big that the organizers began working with Disney on specific events. But I don’t think you have to let Disney know if you don’t need any kind of help from them to facilitate the meet-up.

      • Colin James
        August 21, 2017

        Thanks for quick reply. We don’t need any help but was just concerned about a large group of us taking up room at the parks. We are very well behaved (most of us are of senior age 🙂 ) … do you know of an email I could send to Disney to ask if they prefer us to say split in to smaller groups or ?
        Thank you

        • Carrie
          August 21, 2017

          I really think you’ll be OK. There are lots of other unofficial gatherings at held at Disney parks, like Gay Days and Bats Day, where thousands of people show up to celebrate without arranging anything through Disney. But if you do want to contact them, their Guest Services email is wdw.guest.communications@disneyworld.com. Have fun!

          • Colin James
            August 21, 2017

            Thank you 🙂

  • Tiffany
    August 25, 2017

    Hello, I was wondering if you could give me some advice. I was trying to see if I could just hold my reception at Disney and get married elsewhere. I thought about doing a dessert party but my fiance wants an actual reception and I’d like to be able to wear my dress. I’m looking at a Feb 2019 date with a guest list of about 20-25. He doesn’t want to spend 15k on a wedding because he doesn’t love Disney like my family and I do. If we do have an actual Disney wedding it would be somewhere besides the wedding pavilion because be worked on the building and doesn’t want to get married somewhere that he worked. Thanks

    • Carrie
      August 25, 2017

      Hi Tiffany! You can do a Wishes wedding reception at Disney and have your ceremony elsewhere—Disney does this all the time for Catholic brides who want to be married in the Church. However, you have to meet the Wishes food and beverage minimums (starting at $140/person for brunch) and the Enhancement Minimum (starting at $5,000 for resort locations on Tuesdays and Wednesdays). You just don’t have to pay the $4,000-$5,000 ceremony location fee. Here are all my Disney Wedding Podcast interviews with couples who have done this: http://disneyweddingpodcast.com/?s=catholic. If the Wishes minimums are too high, you can have an off-site ceremony and do a private meal at a resort or inside, say, Epcot during fireworks. However, this would have to be booked through Disney Catered Events, not Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings, and there are restrictions on what you can do. You can’t wear a wedding gown inside the parks and they discourage wedding cakes and DJs—basically, if they think you are trying to have a Disney wedding without going through DFTW, they won’t let you do it. Here is an interview with a bride who was married off-site and had a Disney Catered Event: http://disneyweddingpodcast.com/2016/01/13/maitland-art-center-spotlight-lisa-will/

      • Tiffany
        August 25, 2017

        That actually helps a lot. It puts me in the budget I was thinking if we did something Disney. If we booked a fireworks cruise with a meal and skipped a reception would I be able to wear my dress or is it against policy? Also, if I went with a memories collection do they count children? We are considering something with our parents and our children who will be 3 and 8 at the time. That puts us at 6 people. The main thing I want is to book a magic kingdom photo session and then we will probably have a very small ceremony somewhere and something after. Thank you for the quick response. How can I buy your book?

        • Carrie
          August 25, 2017

          Yes, you can wear your gown on a fireworks cruise! Technically, children 3 and older count toward your Memories guest count. Sometimes people get away with having extra guests lurk on the walkway, but with kids that might be awkward. Anybody can book a Magic Kingdom portrait session, though, so you don’t have to do the wedding through Disney. There are other on-property options that cost less (House of Blues, Swan & Dolphin—even the Four Seasons!), and I have a chapter in the book devoted to those. You can buy the book here: https://www.passporterstore.com/store/1587710781.aspx Let me know if I can answer any other questions!

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