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. All the venue fees and site-specific food and beverage minimums remain the same, but you must spend at least $3,000 (Monday–Thursday) or $3,500 (Friday–Sunday) with Disney now to do a catered event—even if there are only two of you. Anything you can buy through Disney applies to the minimum expenditure: floral, decor, food, beverages, entertainment, transportation, and photography.

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 Carrie Hayward’s Fairytale Weddings Guide, detailed pricing for every venue is listed in Chapter 3: Wishes Collection and in Chapter 5: Additional Events.

Events at park venues may be booked up to 12 months in advance. Events at resort venues may be booked up to six months in advance, although your sales consultant may request permission from the resort to book earlier. A deposit of $500 or 10% of the estimated event expenditure (whichever is greater) is due with your signed Letter of Agreement (contract). The remaining amount is due three weeks before the event. You will receive a Banquet Event Order that contains every detail of your event—be sure to look over it carefully, because if it’s not in the BEO, it won’t happen.

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 $3,000 (Monday–Thursday) or $3,500 (Friday–Sunday) before 6.5% tax and 24% service charge to hold a Disney Catered Event.
  • Venue Rental Fee: $125-$500, depending on location
  • Food & Beverage Minimums: $300-$2,500, depending on location
  • Viewing Fee: $10/guest (except bridal couple) for Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings events or $15/guest without admission for Disney Catered Events. If you add a ride mix-in to a Disney Catered Event, the viewing fee goes down to $10/person.
  • 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
  • Small Patio (up to 40 guests) Venue Rental Fee: $275 
  • Small Patio Food & Beverage Minimums: $1,000
  • Large Patio (40-100 guests) Venue Rental Fee: $325 
  • Large Patio Food & Beverage Minimums: $1,500
  • Viewing Fee: $10/guest (except bridal couple) for Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings events or $15/guest without admission for Disney Catered Events. If you add a ride mix-in to a Disney Catered Event, the viewing fee goes down to $10/person.
  • 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

308 Responses
  • Mish
    July 9, 2018

    Hi Carrie ! I was wondering if you have any information about private dining in Disneyland. I am hoping to do a private dinner on the 6th floor at the grand Californian and looking for fun options ! Thanks

    • Carrie
      July 10, 2018

      Hi! My experience with attempting to plan small events at Disneyland has been that their Disney Catered Events department is really geared toward large events, with very few options for small events. Definitely give them a call, in case this has changed. But you may want to try working with the actual Private Dining department at the Grand Californian if DCE turns you away.

  • Stephanie
    June 16, 2018

    Hello 🙂
    I’m a little confused after reading a few things.
    So I will be having my wedding at paradise cove Feb 2020 (from the UK) and was hoping to have a dessert party at Epcot although I’m not too sure which area is best yet.
    There would be about 15 of us maybe a few more.
    I understand I can’t wear my wedding dress but would a knee length white gown/dress be okay?
    Also would I have to have to spend a minimum of $1000 or $3000 for the event?

    Thank you 🙂

  • Charlotte
    May 31, 2018

    Hi Carrie,

    Me and my fiance are wanting to get married around November 2019 time. We are from the UK and quite flexible on what date we can get married, we will basically be happy to work around Disney on when things we want are available (Wedding Pavilion and Cinderella Coach in particular). We will have maybe 14 guests (16 with myself and my fiance included) so the Escape package is great. I have bought your wedding book which is amazing but I’m getting stressed about how to plan things timescale wise but it’s frustrating you can’t book anything until 10 months in advance. We would like a meal after the wedding since cake and champagne isn’t going to fill anyone and I don’t want the day to feel over after a couple of hours. I’m hoping we can plan a private meal afterwards and we like the Whitehall Room but is it available for private meals for Escape Package couples?
    I know the Wishes package states you can only have a minimum of 18 guests but what if we just pay for 18 but not actually have 18 guests? Do they check things like that?
    Thank you.

    • Carrie
      May 31, 2018

      Hi Charlotte! I know the shorter planning timelines can be frustrating for UK couples because you guys need to plan so much farther in advance. However, because you are so flexible on your date, you should have no problem getting what you want! That said, if you are willing to pay the Wishes minimums for a smaller group, Disney will absolutely let you have a Wishes event. They don’t advertise it, but you can definitely do it. I would just tell the first person you speak to when you call that you will have 20 or more people, because they often are uninformed about this policy and may attempt to discourage you. Once you are assigned a Sales Consultant, you can talk real numbers. You may find this option gives you more peace of mind because you can start planning and confirming things so much sooner. And if you do decide you’d prefer Escape, you will be able to book the Whitehall Room for your post-wedding catered meal as long as a Wishes couple hasn’t already booked it.

  • Ryan
    May 11, 2018

    This is pretty specific so hopefully you might have some insight. My husband is a huge Dumbo fan and I want to surprise him for his birthday with a small catered meal, and a meet and greet with Dumbo. I’ve read the prices for a character to attend an event, but what would the going rate be for a small catered breakfast? Say in Storybook Circus? Is this possible? Is there a minimum amount for people attending or in terms of price?

    • Carrie
      May 11, 2018

      Hi Ryan! Disney Catered Events now have a minimum overall expenditure of $3,000 (Monday–Thursday) or $3,500 (Friday–Sunday), so you’re looking at spending at least that much on the venue fee, character fees, food, etc. Storybook Circus has a venue fee of $2,000 and a $7,500 food and beverage minimum. If you wanted to stick to the $3,000/$3,500 minimum you could do the event in a ballroom at a resort or an indoor location in one of the other parks. Ballrooms have no venue fees, but the food and beverage minimums vary. In-park locations have venue fees and food and beverage minimums. You might be able to have Dumbo at a semi-outdoor park location like Fez House in Morocco or Tamu Tamu Courtyard in Animal Kingdom if the breakfast was held before the park opened. I have photos of all the venues here: https://disneytravelbabble.com/disney-weddings/wdw-venue-photos/

  • Kelly
    April 28, 2018

    Hey! just looking for some advice, With regards to the desert party at Sago Cay Pointe and the minimum food & drink spend. Can things such as the cost of the bartender, service charge and the $75 charge for not meeting min amount of people be added to this? Thank you!

    • Carrie
      April 29, 2018

      Hi Kelly! Unfortunately taxes and fees do not apply to food and beverage minimums. However, the bartender fee and $75 small-party charge would apply to the new overall minimum of $3,000 or $3,500 that you have to meet if you want to have a Disney Catered Event.

  • Becky
    April 20, 2018

    Hi Carrie,

    I am planning a surprise 50th for my husband with about 25 guests. I was originally interested in just buying seats at The Hoop De Doo Revue but it seems like it will be hard to get everyone over there in enough time for the show. I found your website and now I’m interested in doing Fantasmic. Might be easier for everyone. So my question is, for all the people who don’t have park tickets, how do they get in? Is there an employee who walks them back? Do I have to pay the $15 per person for them to see the show and if I do the ride also, that’s an extra $15 per person as well right? And do they have to pay for parking? And do you know if they will do any decorating or would we be allowed to? Sorry about all the questions, but most of the people coming are out of state and don’t have a lot of extra spending money so i will be paying for them.

    Thank you

    • Carrie
      April 22, 2018

      Hi Becky! When you do an in-park fireworks event like Fantasmic! or IllumiNations, Disney charges you a $15/person viewing fee for each guest who doesn’t have park admission. Your group assembles at a park entrance or is conveyed backstage by transportation you hire, and then an event guide leads everyone to the party venue. Ride mix-ins cost $15/person without park admission BUT if you’re already paying a viewing fee for those guests, they give you a little bit of a break and only charge you $10/person for the viewing fee. Guests will have to pay for parking if they park at DHS’s lot. If they park at a resort and take transportation to DHS (either public, like the bus or a Friendship boat, or private transport you hire) then parking is free. Private backstage transportation starts at $34 one-way for a 4-passenger town car or $42 one-way for an 8-passenger van or SUV. This episode of the Disney Wedding Podcast explains all your transportation options and prices. DCE will happily put you in touch with the Disney Floral team to buy decor. You are not allowed to DIY decor at in-park venues, unfortunately. You can see what we did for decor at our Tiki DinoVersary Party here: https://disneytravelbabble.com/blog/2017/03/13/our-tiki-dino-versary-party-at-universe-of-energy/

  • Kim
    March 12, 2018

    Carrie,

    I’m a little confused, is the $2500 minimum also for Dessert parties or is that minimum for full catered private event? I thought the dessert party is a flat venue rental fee and a per person charge?

    • Carrie
      March 12, 2018

      Hi Kim! Basically it’s $2,500 to get in the door with Disney Catered Events. It doesn’t matter what type of event you want to have. All the same venue-specific minimums and fees apply, but your total spend with Disney (via food, decor, photography, transport and anything else they offer) must be at least $2,500. So if you want a 2-person dessert party at UK Pubside, which only has a $100 venue fee and a $250 food and beverage minimum, you’re going to have to add a LOT of extra stuff to reach $2,500. DCE has been trying to get out of the small, low-dollar event business for a while now, and this is how they’ve done it. 🙁

      • Kim
        March 13, 2018

        Thanks Carrie,
        that is so disappointing :/ I was really hoping but I just can’t justify that price…boooo!

  • Tim Williams
    February 6, 2018

    Hi Carrie,

    My wife and I will be celebrating our Silver Anniversary this year and my daughter and I want to do something really special as a surprise for her. Something in the category of Vow renewals. I was hoping to get a beach theme possibly outside and we are looking to invite around 100 people. I would like it to be catered by Disney for the food, drinks, flowers and possibly photos. But I would like a 4 string quartet to play some pieces and maybe have a family member handle the music at the reception. I need this the first weekend in June. Am I too hopeful that I could do this on Disney property? I am looking for costs and availability right now. Any suggestions you could provide would be so appreciated.

    Thank you

    • Carrie
      February 7, 2018

      Hi Tim! Congratulations on your silver anniversary! To do something like this via Disney, you’d need to use their Wishes Collection, an a la carte event where you meet a set of minimum expenditures starting at $12,000. The full pricing can be found by clicking on “2018 Minimum Expenditure” here: https://www.disneyweddings.com/florida/pricing/wishes/.

      Prices depend on day of the week, guest count, time of day and location. Weddings and vow renewals are treated interchangeably. You still have plenty of time to plan. The cheapest option would be a weekday brunch. You could use a beach location like Luau Beach at the Poly or Shipwreck Beach at the Beach Club for a $4,000 fee. The brunch food and beverage minimums are $140/person. The Enhancement Minimum for a resort reception location on Tuesday or Wednesday is $5,000. Anything else you buy from Disney besides the ceremony site and food will help you meet that minimum (so floral, decor, string quartet, photography).

      There are cheaper non-Disney options on property, but none of them have a beach location except the Swan & Dolphin, which has packages available through JustMarry! starting around $4,000 (total). Paddlefish does ceremonies on the deck, though, and the Four Seasons has a man-made lake. Hope this helps!

  • Jenna
    February 6, 2018

    Hi! I’m so sorry if this question has been answered. I am having a Memories wedding at Luau Beach in September, and want to have a dinner for around 18 (possibly a few more or less) guests later that evening. We were interested in trying to book the Sonoma room at the California Grill for this, do you have any information on the minimums ? I’m not sure if 18 would be too low of a guest count in the room either. We’re really open to any suggestions of a location that accommodate this large of a group, but wanted it to be in the MK area so we could see the fireworks at night too. I haven’t been able to find any restaurants in the resorts in that area that can accommodate our party size on a regular dinner reservation though (which we’re totally fine with, just doesn’t seem possible). Any insight would be so appreciated!! I’m getting a little nervous since we’re about 7 months away from our wedding 🙂

    • Jenna
      February 6, 2018

      Sorry, forgot to mention in my last post but would I have to contact Disney’s Catered Events to book the Sonoma room? And would the menus for this be the ones you have listed as 2018 California Grill menus? Would we be able to order off the regular menus in that room, or the catering menu? Thank you again!! I really appreciate any advice.

      • Carrie
        February 7, 2018

        Hi Jenna! First, in case this saves you the trouble and expense, the way you’d make a regular restaurant reservation for a group of 18 is to make multiple reservations for the max they’ll allow (it varies)at the same time. Then when you check in you let them know you want to be seated together. Or some restaurants have a number to call to put in this request – if you have my Fairytale Weddings Guide, these are in the chart in the Escape chapter.

        Next… In the past, Memories brides have been on their own for booking private events, BUT I would check with your Disney Wedding planner just in case to see if s/he can book the Sonoma Room for you. Now that DCE will officially work with groups of any size, DFTW may have relaxed their rules too.

        If not, them yes, you would book the Sonoma Room via DCE. The minimums are in the Fairytale Weddings Guide too, in Chapter 3: $2,000 for events ending before 4pm, $3,000 for events starting after 6pm, and $5,000 for events occurring between 4pm and 6pm. Menus are the ones I have on my menu page for CA Grill, which are basically the same as the restaurant menus. There is no minimum guest count to book the room.

        You might also look into the private room at the Wave. Thought I think its minimum has gone up, I believe it is still only $2,000.

  • Sally graham
    February 3, 2018

    Hi there, my son will be getting married next Feb and we are staying at Port Orleans He is having the ceremony, drinks and cake At Cypress Grove but would like to have an evening meal for around 20-25 guest after we get back from Cypress Grove. He was looking at The Boathouse but has been told they no longer are private tables. Any suggestions would be very welcome, oh and the bride wants to stay in her dress so would need to be out of the parks . Thank you

    • Carrie
      February 4, 2018

      Hi Sally! I sent you an email. Check your junk mail if you don’t see it.

  • John Perri
    January 23, 2018

    Hello. We were wondering what the deal is with having special character meet and greets at these events? Do you have any idea approximately how much characters are and what the rules are in regards to backdrops and specific characters requests. Thanks for your help!

    • Carrie
      January 24, 2018

      Hi there! You can add a character appearance to any indoor event or to an outdoor, in-park event after the park has closed. For up to 30 minutes of interaction, prices are $1,275 for one character, $1,795 for two or $2,395 for three. Each additional character at the same appearance costs $600. Certain characters may not appear together, so you’d have to pay the full $1,275 for each to have them appear separately. The Fab Five may appear anywhere. Other characters may be prohibited if they do not fit the theme of the environment, or you may be able to get them by paying for a backdrop that they stay in front of. This episode of my podcast is an interview with a woman who had 32 characters for her wedding events, and we talk about the rules and pricing: https://disneyweddingpodcast.com/2015/03/11/wishes-spotlight-stephanie-vincents-character-filled-fairy-tale/

  • Jane
    November 10, 2017

    Hi Carrie, I am trying to plan something special for my boyfriend’s birthday during our stay at Bay Lake Tower. In the past we’ve done the Epcot Aqua Seas adventure and pontoon boats. Would Disney ever do something along the lines of delivering his favorite breakfast location (Kona Cafe) to our room on his birthday? I’m trying to think of things a bit more out of the box without going overboard! We’ll also be doing a spa day and eating at Victoria and Alberts so fun things as well!

    • Carrie
      November 10, 2017

      So…. Private Dining at the Contemporary is separate from Private Dining at the Poly. The most I’ve ever seen them transfer among resorts is a cake, but that’s in a box and doesn’t need to be kept hot! Still, I’m sure you could work with Contemporary Private Dining to re-create his favorite meal at Kona. I would contact them a few weeks ahead to work on the menu and timing. Just call the main number for the Contemporary and ask to be transferred to Private Dining.

  • Andrew
    October 20, 2017

    That’s ok. Information is not bad news. Just information. I appreciate you taking the effort.

  • Andrew
    October 18, 2017

    All of your tips seem great and you answer everyone’s questions so completely, which doesn’t always happen. Wonder if you can help guide me. My finance and I are thinking of a January wedding at Epcot in Italy. It will be just the two of us and 5 college age+ children. Simple, no pomp, just the family. Can we just arrange to reserve a space for a small quick ceremony in a nice locationin Italy, have a nice dinner, and go on our merry way or do we need to book one of the packages? Should I call the catering line or the wedding line to avoid some of the pitfalls you described above? Thanks very much for any assistance.

    • Carrie
      October 19, 2017

      Hi Andrew! So, the smallest wedding package Disney offers is Memories, but it’s only for 6 people total and none of the locations are inside Epcot. The next biggest package, Escape, will accommodate up to 20 people total, but the only Epcot ceremony location is Canada. So, unfortunately, in order to have a ceremony in Italy, you’d need to do the a la carte Wishes collection, which requires a catered reception and starts around $13,500 before tax and service charge. Disney Catered Events will just shuffle you back to Disney’s Fairy Tale weddings if you ask them for a ceremony, and the official word on unsanctioned “guerilla” weddings in the parks is immediate ejection. Although you do hear of people getting away with guerilla weddings in the parks, who wants to have that kind of fear and anxiety hanging over one of the happiest days of your lives? So my suggestion would be to have a ceremony in your room (some local officiants do these, but the ones on Disney’s list do not for fear of being booted from the list) and then do a catered meal in Italy via Disney Catered Events. As long as you don’t ask for anything wedding-y or call it a wedding, you can plan through them. Italy Isola West has a food and beverage minimum of $460 for a dessert party, $500 for a pre-reception and $1,500 for a full meal, with a venue fee of $400. The guest minimum is 20, but as long as you meet the food and beverage minimum you should be able to use it. Hope this helps!

      • Andrew
        October 19, 2017

        Thank you very much. That info, while disappointing, is very helpful.

        • Carrie
          October 20, 2017

          Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. The least expensive wedding package I’ve heard of on WDW property is Just Marry’s $1,365 elopement package at House of Blues, which takes place under the outdoor folk-art arch and allows up to 10 people. The package includes the site, an officiant, a bridal bouquet, a boutonniere, and a coordinator to help you find vendors and coordinate on-site the day of your event. However, there are no chairs at the ceremony site.

  • 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: https://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: https://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!

  • 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 🙂

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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: https://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: https://disneyweddingpodcast.com/2016/07/06/how-to-plan-a-small-private-event-at-walt-disney-world/

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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: https://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): https://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

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