When Aulani debuted, I was desperate to get out there. But then I started reading reports of overpriced, underwhelming food; a location in the boonies that meant commuting to see any of Oahu’s tourist sites; and crowded pool and beach areas overrun with locals and tourists who had nothing else to do out there. The only thing that might tempt me, the availability of Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings’ Wishes Collection, was similarly unappealing due to its $4,000 overall minimum expenditure, 10-night room requirement, and $100/$125 per-person food and beverage minimums that made it unfeasible for a small vow renewal.
Then Disney introduced its Memories Collection at Aulani, and suddenly I was interested again. Every other year we do something at Disney to celebrate the anniversary of our Disney wedding, and if our Tower of Terror 3rd anniversary dinner party topped our IllumiNations 1st anniversary dinner party, I knew our 5th anniversary was going to have to be pretty spectacular to top that! I started talking with the Roots, who became our friends after shooting our wedding and have since made guest appearances in several of our Disney trip reports. We’ve loved spending previous anniversaries with them, but it’s gotten harder to connect since they moved to Nashville and their schedule has filled up with weddings around the globe. So the idea of getting to take a whole trip with them was very appealing (to us, anyway!).
Memories Collection Basics
Price: $2,500 + tax ($1,995 when we booked)
No. of Guests: 13 + Bride & Groom
- Ceremony site
- 1 hour of photography + proofing website
- Ukulele or guitar player
- Seasonal Hawaiian leis for the bride and the groom
- Wedding Coordinator
- Aulani Commemorative Wedding Certificate (we never got this, maybe because it was a vow renewal?)
- Signature Aulani amenity for the bride & groom (didn’t get this either… not sure what it is…)
Getting the Ball Rolling
When I first called Aulani to book last summer, their Disney’s Fairy Tale Wedding department was still going through a lot of changes. One of the planners from Walt Disney World was temporarily working at Aulani to help them get started, and she was the one I worked with at first. Over the course of about one month, I was shuttled among five different people and given all sorts of conflicting information. Initially I’d been told that the deposit for Memories was $500, but when it came time to pay, they told me it was in fact $1,000—and then they charged my card $2,000!
After I detailed my experience in a survey Disney sent, I got a call from the director of catering sales, who apologized for the mixup, refunded me the extra $1,000, and told me I’d been assigned to my really-for-real contact person and would no longer be playing planner roulette. Hooray!
My planner, Elena, was fantastic! I was continually impressed by how much attention our tiny Memories event got compared to my experiences planning six different private events at Walt Disney World over the last five years. Granted, Aulani only does about 10 weddings a month right now, whereas WDW might do 10 in a day. But it was more than just the fact that she had plenty of time to help me—it was the level of interest and enthusiasm she expressed that really impressed me.
Not only did Elena anticipate my needs, she was the one prodding me for information and not the other way around, as it usually is. She also volunteered to send me progress photos of the construction and sent lots of shots of the sites, the photographer’s work and the work of the cosmetologist who works at Laniwai spa. She responded to my emails in a timely manner, and if she didn’t have an answer, she researched it for me.
I figured most of the planning would be done in the last two months or so, but I had a lot of communication with Elena for the full 8 months that I was planning. In fact, I was the one dragging my feet on a lot of the planning aspects, for a number of reasons: Not getting my dress til about 3 weeks out put a big crimp in a lot of plans. Also, having the holidays so close to our event meant losing about a month of planning time to celebrating. And I had almost no vision of what I wanted for our vow renewal because I wasn’t trying to improve upon or top our wedding.
Pretty much the only thing I knew I wanted for the event was that the ukulele player NOT play the “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” medley that you hear all the time. Elena, bless her heart, put this in our BEO in all caps!