I thought I’d do a planning session trip report for anyone who hasn’t had theirs yet, just cuz I found them so helpful when I was first planning my wedding.
I was really excited to be at Walt Disney World having my planning session and very appreciative of the opportunity. I never dreamed we’d have a Wishes wedding, so I never thought I’d get to do a planning session. However, I was disappointed with some aspects of it – maybe because I’d built it up so much in my head, but also because the Wishes wedding is a big financial deal for some of us, and I thought the experience could have been a lot better for what one pays to have a Wishes wedding. So I apologize for griping a bit in my trip report – I just want to give my honest impressions.
We flew out from California for three days to meet with our planner and choose between the two sites we liked in Epcot: Japan and Morocco. I won’t bore you with the details of the rest of the trip, but here’s what happened on our planning session day.
That morning, our sales manager drove us backstage at Epcot (very cool!) We knew almost immediately that we wanted Morocco – Japan has a very weird setup now that they’ve planted 2 trees right in the middle of the walkway. We would have been up on the bridge, separated from our guests by a noisy waterfall (which meant we’d need microphones), and our guests would have been all squeezed off to one side of the koi pond.
Morocco has several neat areas that could be used. I wanted to have the altar be the fountain in the courtyard, but that would have put our guests out on the main walkway, and apparently the Segway tour comes through there right in the middle of our ceremony. Even in our new spot – between the fountain and the archway – our wedding planner couldn’t guarantee that the Segway tour wouldn’t come by.
It was really cool to get into the park from backstage and to see the sites in person (I hadn’t been to WDW in 15 years). Our sales mananger was very good about coming up with options for staging the ceremony and didn’t mind that I wanted to time the walk to the altar in a bunch of spots (so we can edit our music accordingly).
However, we were informed just that morning that our site visit would be cut short by half an hour because the chef at the Boardwalk wanted to move our tasting up. This meant that we didn’t get to see our dessert party location, which really bothered me. We had to take Upper UK because when we switched our dates forward 2 weeks to avoid President’s Day, Lower UK had already been reserved by a corporate event. Upper UK has a bunch of umbrellas at its tables, and I am worried that they will block our guests’ views of the fireworks. (We didn’t have park admission, so we couldn’t go into Epcot on our own later to check).
So then our SM drove us over to the BoardWalk convention center to see our reception site, the Attic, and meet our wedding planner for our tasting session. We went into the DVC side of the BoardWalk Inn, and our SM walked us down the 15-mile hallway to the Attic.
Every time we told someone at DFTW we wanted the Attic, they’d say, “Now you know that it’s a really long walk to the Attic. I mean, *really* long!” Like they were trying to discourage us from using it, or something. So when the SM mentioned, once again, the long walk, we were like “OK, our guests are flying 2,200 miles from California to attend this wedding – I think they can handle a long hall.”
The Attic is gorgeous – I feel like our pictures didn’t do it justice. (But I’ll put them in anyway!)
The view of the lake and the Boardwalk is amazing, and I love the covered deck and all the windows. Plus, it just felt right for what we were going for – a casual family get-together. Oh, and the floor is really shiny! I counted all the tables (4 inside, 5 outside) and measured them for reference for the centerpieces. We talked to our SM about where we could put the cake, the sweetheart table, and the iPod, and we took pictures of those places. It’s a good thing we did, because when we met our WP we were immediately told we couldn’t use any of those places. However, our WP eventually relented when we showed her our pictures and explained that our SM said it would work.
After our SM passed us to our WP, we went into one of the BoardWalk ballrooms for our tasting. Apparently only Epcot and Grand Floridian weddings get to have their tasting sessions in the kitchen like they show on that Disney weddings TV special. The chef met us in the ballroom. He was polite, but he acted like he’d rather be somewhere else and took off as soon as the dessert course was served. The first thing they had us do was pick which napkin fold we wanted.
Since we’re doing a buffet, we won’t have chargers, so that eliminated a lot of the choices. Our server was Brenda, a banquet captain, and she was the sweetest lady. She treated us like royalty (and we later learned that she has actually served royalty at Disney!) and did more to make me and Patrick feel at ease than anyone.
As soon as our appetizers were served, our WP began peppering us with questions about the wedding. I had been under the impression that we’d only be talking about food at the tasting, and we’d leave the other details til the session at Franck’s. Instead, we were making major wedding decisions while trying to concentrate on the food. For instance, our WP wanted to know how Patrick and I were planning to get back to our hotel following the reception. I asked if we could talk about that when we covered transportation back at Franck’s, but we were told we had to decide right then.
The other thing that bothered me was that the WP shot down just about every idea or request we had and was very resistant to doing things differently that the traditional way (i.e., getting really agitated when we said we didn’t want a DJ and we didn’t need a master of ceremonies.) This continued almost all day, starting with the table placement in the Attic and going through transportation, photography, and just about everything else. Sometimes I was able to shoot back things I knew (thanks to the DIS boards!) and our WP would relent and say it might be possible, but other things got “no, no and no.”
It wasn’t until our tasting was almost over that our planner began to warm up. I think once this WP is on your side, she is a good planner to have because she will make sure your wedding runs like clockwork. I am not sure whether our WP is on our side yet, but she really got what I wanted to do with the music during the ceremony, and I know she will make sure the sound tech does it right – something that’s really important to me.
OK – back to the tasting session: After we tried the appetizers (crab rangoon and bacon-wrapped scallops), they brought out our two salad choices, first the mixed field greens and then the seafood salad.
Our main courses arrived on the same plate:
The appetizers were OK, but were typical hotel-buffet quality. The salads were beautiful and good. I thought the main courses were just average. The parmesan-crusted chicken was bland and didn’t taste like parmesan, and the basil-mashed potatoes didn’t taste like basil (even though I could see it in there! )The filet was kinda chewy and gristly, and the tomato hollandaise was bland. The mushrooms were fantastic though!
Last we tried the Cinderella Slipper dessert.
I asked for it because so many people on the DIS rave about it. It must be because of the presentation, cuz the mousse and the white and dark chocolate were pretty average. However, knowing what a hot commodity it is, I asked to take one of the spares with us! (They made 2 extra in case ours were damaged in transit).
Before we finished (and after the chef took off), our WP had to go make a phone call back at the office in Celebration, so we had to get ourselves back to Franck’s. We did the bus routine and met there about an hour later.
I was looking forward to this part of the session, and I think it was a little less hectic than the tasting session. First our WP asked us about transportation. We were really confused about how all that works – getting us to the ceremony, getting the guests there, getting them to the reception, getting us there, etc. The big sticking point turned out to be this ridiculous 5-hour (consecutive) minimum for the charter bus.
When you do just about anything in Epcot, you have to bus guests in. You can do a one-way or roundtrip bus that just picks people up in one spot and brings them back there, but our guests are staying all over the property, so we have to charter a bus. Five hours of bus is not long enough to cover an entire ceremony and reception, but it’s not short enough that you can afford to have the bus come twice. We really only need the bus for 2 hours at the beginning to get everyone there and then 2 hours at the end to take everyone back. But we’re required to do 5 hours, which ends right in the middle of our reception and forces us to add on hours (not to mention we have to sign up for another 5 hours to get our guests to and from the dessert party that night). I think that’s pretty sneaky to set it up that way.
Every alternative I tried to come up with was shot down. Town cars? We were told they are too unreliable and that if someone approaches the driver and asks for a ride to the airport, s/he will abandon our wedding guests to take the fare. I find this extremely hard to believe. Limo? We were told it ends up costing more than the bus, etc. Grrrr…
After we set up a schedule for the @#$%! bus, we talked about the order of the ceremony and pictures, then the cake. Thank goodness our planner liked the custom cake we brought pictures of – it was the first time we’d been given approval for anything we wanted all day!
Then Rose from the Disney Florist came by to talk about flowers. (Rosie is the Disney florist who works with Escape weddings, and she works out of her home in the Midwest. Rose is an on-site coordinator for Wishes wedding floral.) She had these neat sets of cards that showed flowers by color, and she sketched our photo of the ceremony site to help her do the arrangements. She also had big books of chair cover and sash fabric swatches.
I didn’t want chair covers, I just wanted to rent the $5 wooden chairs to replace Epcot’s black plastic monstrosities. However, the delivery fee on the wooden chairs is more than double the cost of the chairs, but chair covers can be put on for $8.50, so… covers it is!
I also met with more rejection here, but it was couched in nicer tones. The flowers I wanted for my bouquet are out of season, the petals I want for my aisle will probably blow away, and Disney has no props or plants they can rent us for the altar – we have to buy spendy floral arrangements. (Patrick only half-jokingly suggested we bring our own 5-ft urns to place by the archway. From California. On the plane.) By this point I was staring to be overwhelmed and burned out, so I just picked a bunch of expensive centerpieces I’ll be cutting out later.
The last thing we did was try cake.
I appreciated that they’d arranged to have the specific flavors we wanted: chocolate, vanilla, marble and red velvet cake; peanut butter, peanut butter cup, cream cheese, chocolate, dark chocolate and buttercream fillings. Everything I’d heard about the fillings on the boards was pretty much true: the peanut butter was good, the milk chocolate didn’t taste like anything, the red velvet cake was dry, and the cream cheese frosting tasted like it’d picked up the flavor of whatever else was in the fridge. DF also found the chocolate bland and the marble cake boring, but he liked the red velvet and cream cheese, so it really is all just personal taste!
As we bit into our first piece of cake, our WP announced, “You’ve planned your wedding!” That is something I love about the Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings process — you only have to make mostly the fun decisions, like cake flavors and flowers, and it’s all taken care of so quickly. We were told our BEO (Banquet Event Order) would be ready in about 2 weeks, and Rose said our floral proposal would take 2 to 3 weeks because she wanted to try to get my out-of-season flowers – that was nice!
On our way out we took tons of pictures of Franck’s, as you can see! Here are some details:
I hope that somewhere in between all these opinions I’ve put enough helpful info for anyone curious about how planning sessions work! Let me know if I can answer any questions (or offer any more opinions!)