I had my dream wedding at Walt Disney World on a $25,000 budget. 

My wedding weekend included a gorgeous venue, brunch, special VIP ride for my guests, dessert party, and much more. I was also able to pay less than the US national average cost for a wedding by being flexible and a little bit creative.


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We had a lot of menu options. Mystee Yannarella for Insider .jpeg
Our dessert party's offerings were black and white. Mystee Ipong for Insider .jpeg

Our dessert party's offerings were black and white but we were given a variety of menu options./Mystee Ipong

  • Author Mystee Ipong's Disney World wedding cost $25,000 as she tried to budget carefully. 
  • She chose venues that didn't need extra decor, kept her guest list small, and skipped an open bar.
  • Disney gift cards she got for 5% off with a Target Red Card were used to pay for part of the wedding. 

 

Our long engagement helped us budget and save as a couple 

We elected for a long engagement because we wanted time to save as much money as we could.

When we first got engaged, we discussed a wedding budget and figured out how much out of each of our paychecks we would feel comfortable contributing it. We set up a joint bank account and had that amount direct deposited each pay period. This account will now be our shared account for our family. 

We agreed that if there was anything we wished to add that was over budget, whoever wanted it was would have to pay for it. 

Lastly, for all gift-giving holidays we asked for Disney gift cards. We also purchased Disney gift cards with our Target Red Card, which gives us a 5% discount on each purchase. 

With these gift cards, we were able to make five payments up to $1,000 a piece toward our wedding.

Venues have different restrictions and requirements, so we paid close attention when choosing our event locations

Disney provides every couple with a free wedding planner and mine helped me stay on track with my budget.  

I wanted to get married to Pandora in Animal Kingdom but changed my mind when I learned we'd have to pay for a light package since that area of the park would still be dark during the ceremony hours. 

After searching the over 100 venues that Disney World offers, we chose four to host our events:

  • Ceremony: Italy Pavilion — $4,500
  • Welcome dinner: Tamu Tamu Courtyard — $325
  • Dessert party: Whitehall Ballroom and Patio — No venue fee
  • Next-day brunch: Sea Breeze Pointe — No venue fee 

Our ceremony fee for the Italy Pavilion included chairs, a violinist, and sound system. Our reception venue had chairs, tables, and white linens with a food and beverage minimum to meet. 

By having our ceremony at the Italy Pavilion during Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival, we basically got to use the flowers around the park as free decorations. We also got to have the "Lady and the Tramp" topiary as the backdrop of our vows.

Our welcome dinner was at Tamu Tamu Courtyard in Animal Kingdom, which was so beautiful it didn't require much decor.

For our dessert party, I chose a ballroom because I wanted to be able to add additional forms of entertainment, which can be restricted if your venue is in a theme park or accessible by the public. This was tricky because I don't like the look of ballrooms and didn't want my budget having to go to draping or lighting.

Fortunately, Whitehall Patio is attached to a ballroom so our guests sat outside and enjoyed the atmosphere of the Grand Floridian resort and the famous monorail flying above them.

Whitehall had only a food and beverage minimum and it came with tables, cutlery, and standard linens. 

We had our next-day brunch nearby at Sea Breeze Pointe, a gazebo-style venue on the lakefront.

Transportation is required for most theme-park venues and can be expensive. We cut corners by only offering transportation for our guests for the ceremony.

Keeping our guest list small really helped us save money

We had a total of 27 guests, including my husband and I, which was a huge step down from the 400 we initially wanted when we were planning a wedding in our home state Oklahoma. 

It was hard not to have all of our friends and family with us, but a smaller guest list helped us stay within our budget and spring for special add-ons. It was also nice to be able to spend one-on-one time with each guest.

We also did not pay for our guests' travel. 

When planning our menus, I stayed close to the minimum 

As with most typical venues, Disney has a food and beverage minimum that I needed to meet for each location. These ranged from $145 to $190 per person depending on the meal. The dessert party had a $50 per person minimum. 

I tried to stick as close to the minimum as possible for each spot while getting my money's worth. 

Disney provides standard menus that you can customize — or you can build your own from scratch. The chef takes the requests and prices out the menu based on ingredients. 

Most of our locations required buffets since they did not have an onsite kitchen. For an upgrade charge, we could make our buffet into action stations which would have the chef prepare the item to the guests' liking right in front of them. We did this for omelets, crepes, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese.

To remain within our budget, we requested our must-have items and then asked the chef to curate the remaining menu but to stay as close to the minimum as possible. 

For our dessert party, we told the chefs our favorite sweets and requested everything be black and white. 

Our Steamboat Willie-themed, two-tier vanilla wedding cake was made by the Grand Floridian bakery for $500.

We served it at the dessert party instead of the reception so we could hit the higher food and beverage minimum for that venue. We used the extra budget to add more action stations to the reception. 

We offered fun drink options instead of an open bar 

In order to have more money to spend on food, I chose not to have an open bar at any of my events. Instead, we chose a few drinks or special cocktail bars for each. 

For our welcome dinner, our guests could choose a red or white wine to pair with the heavy meal.

Since our brunch was from 10 a.m. to noon, we chose to do a mimosa bar and Bloody Mary bar. 

The mimosa bar had orange, grapefruit, cranberry, or tropical juice and a bunch of fruit toppings. The Bloody Mary bar had tons of toppings, including celery, cheese, salami, shrimp, pickles, Tabasco, Worcestershire, lime, lemon, and celery salt.  

For our dessert party, we did signature His and Hers drinks that complemented the desserts. Mine was a Champagne with a piece of cotton candy on top and my husband's was a chocolate-based martini. 

We knew only half of our guests would order alcohol, so we chose to be billed on consumption — only charged for what people actually drank. 

To save on my decorations, I capitalized on the beauty of Disney World

Most wedding venues at Disney — except for ballrooms, which usually necessitate lighting and drapery — need little to no decor. 

For my ceremony, I utilized the florals from the park's Flower and Garden festival and went only with the decor offered to me, focusing on adding petals down the aisle. The location was so pretty it did not need any more than that. 

Fresh florals can get expensive, so I was open with my florist from the beginning. I showed her what I was looking for instead of giving her specific flowers. 

This allowed her to create items like my centerpieces and bouquet with more cost-effective flora that was in season. 

Disney's florist also used my Pinterest pins as inspiration for decor and got creative within my budget by excluding items that the guests may never notice. 

Lastly, I chose decor at my different venues that could be reused between events.

Even though my ceremony and reception colors weren't the same as my dessert party's palette, I used a lot of white floral so I could transport it and reuse it at each event. 

It was nice to reuse flowers and rental items to create a different look in each place without paying for more arrangements. 

We budgeted for cooler perks by skipping the DJ and adjusting our violinist's schedule 

I decided not to have a DJ because of our small guest list. I knew this wasn't going to be the party of the year, instead it was meant to be an elegant, inmate event with family.

Our ceremony fee included four hours with a violinist. Since we skipped dancing and saved our cake cutting for the dessert party, we were able to shorten our reception to two hours. This allowed us to utilize the violinist at the reception for the remaining two hours at no added cost.

We brought a bluetooth speaker to the dessert party so we could still have our first dance, parent dances, and background music. 

With the money we saved on music, we splurged on a VIP ride for guests.

After our welcome dinner, each guest got to cut the line and ride on Avatar Flight of Passage. This cost us under $20 a person and we were only charged for those who went on the ride. 

As a gift to my husband, I also paid around $2,000 to have Steamboat Willie come to our dessert party. This character is his favorite and he very rarely does meet and greets at Disney World.

Since he's a specialty character, Steamboat Willie must be rented with a backdrop, which is included in the price. I wanted to get my money's worth, so I also requested the team set up the backdrop behind our wedding cake.

When it came to additional vendors like our photographer, videographer and hair and makeup artist, we chose vendors from our hometown whose work we loved.  


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