Orlando is the theme-park capital of the world. Disney World is only one of thousands of reasons that people have for coming to Florida. It’s no surprise that couples choose this magical place to exchange their everlasting vows.
Perhaps you’ve been mapping out your lavish, princess-in-glass-slippers, magic-carpet-ride affair since you were small. Or maybe you’re still in the brainstorming stage of planning your charming, tasteful and intimate destination event.
For the pragmatic or budget conscious, Orlando is relatively inexpensive to fly into. It has tons of hotels at various price points, and it offers destination wedding guests endless options for entertaining themselves on their own. For those who know exactly what they want (from the rehearsal dinner to the final explosion in the post-reception fireworks show), the availability of venues, menus and entertainment in Orlando is sure to satisfy.
Whether it’s walking down the aisle on your own private island, saying "I do" in Disney's Wedding Pavilion, or pledging eternity amidst lotus flowers in Epcot’s China Courtyard, the setting options are endless. Throughout the weekend, you can spend time with the most important people in your life in various locations, each of which has its own unique attractions. So how will this fairy tale weekend begin?
Orlando is busy year-round, and the competition for the best venues can be fierce. When planning a destination affair, it is good to be open about the definition of the term weekend. It’s likely that you aren’t having your wedding on Saturday. Having a ceremony at the end of your destination weekend gives everyone ample time to show up, get settled and enjoy the thrills of Central Florida before the big ceremony and party.
From the Orlando International Airport, the Walt Disney Resort is a 20-minute drive. Off-site hotels usually offer shuttle services to and from the airport. It’s ideal but unrealistic to expect everyone to stay at Disney properties. These accommodations are typically more expensive. Knowing where everyone is staying for the weekend will be extremely helpful in coordinating the activities.
The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is the ultimate when it comes to Magic Kingdom accommodations. With over 800 rooms, suites and villas, this is the crown jewel of Disney hotels. Whether or not you get married here, the impressive view of Cinderella’s castle might be just the fairy tale touch you desire for your weekend stay. This hotel's location is unrivaled. It sits bayside, next to the Seven Seas Lagoon, a deluxe resort. A convenient monorail whisks guests from the Floridian to the Magic Kingdom in under 10 minutes. The resort's restaurants, full-service spa, and formal décor appeal to adults more than children.
An alternative place to check in to is Lake Buena Vista Resort Village & Spa. This is a great off-site choice that is only about half the price of Disney properties. This luxury, full-service resort offers spacious suites with full kitchens, access to the spa and 24-hour fitness center, and kid friendly activities (as if they won’t have enough to do in Orlando!) The Pirates Plunge Themed Pool is an attraction all its own - a zero entry pool resembling a shipwreck amidst waterfalls and a poolside bar. Bonus: the pool is wheelchair accessible, which may be a consideration when recommending accommodations to your guests.
Two Days Before
Get acquainted with Orlando by taking your guests down International Drive. I-Drive is an 11 mile thoroughfare through Orlando. It is home to the new Orlando Eye. Since you’re all now near the sea, a reputable fish house is an appropriate choice for an informal welcome dinner. Bonehouse Grill is highly regarded in the Orlando area. The Capital Grille is more formal, but if 400+ wines, dry-aged steaks and chops says “get acquainted” to you, then it’s the perfect place to gather.
This is the ideal day for visiting a theme park. It doesn’t have to be Disney World. The latest and greatest parks are Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Discovery Cove. If you have a larger party, it might be ideal to keep this day open for people to explore on their own.
Those who don’t care for the wild rides and water slides can visit Flea World Orlando. Over 1,700 outdoor and air-conditioned vendors will delight shoppers and treasure hunters. Kids love the animal-petting area and adults appreciate the Florida craft beers. Best of all, admission is free!
After a long day, regroup back “home” for a Disney rehearsal dinner at the Grand Floridian. You can go for variety during this event. For example, if the "big show" is going to have a "princess pink indoor elegance" theme, hold the rehearsal dinner in the breezy, green outdoors at Sago Cay Pointe, a tree-lined terrace with waterfront views.
Disney’s Wedding Pavilion is the most famous Disney location for exchanging forevers. The non-denominational chapel allows for 300 guests. From there, take the reception to the Grand Floridian ballroom for a plated menu dinner and enough square footage for 800 guests to dance the night away. Fairy tale fantasies are truly realized here.
St. Augustine Hall is also spacious and can accommodate over 200 guests with enough space for a buffet-style dinner. Although you’re in the Sunshine State, the Disney team will ensure a space indoors is available in the case of inclement weather.
Epcot is also an amazing location for wedding receptions. It offers couples a wide spectrum of choices. An on-site team will assist you with finding the best setting. You also may be able to move between venues if, for example, you want to have a pre-reception in one location, your reception in another, and then a different venue for dessert. Each country pavilion has something unique to offer.
For a Beauty and The Beast fantasy, choose the French Pavilion, which has an amazing venue space above the Chefs de France restaurant. It seats up to 120. If you want Italian romance, there are two options– the outdoor Italy Isola or the terrace of Italy West Plaza.
Our absolute favorite event space is The Living Seas Salon. This incredible venue has five large windows that look directly into the aquarium at The Seas Pavilion.
Have you Planned a Destination Wedding Weekend in Orlando, Florida? We want to hear about it. Share your tips and favorite venues in the comments below.