If you weren’t able to attend Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings’ 2020 Wedding Showcase at Walt Disney World and/or you’re wondering whether it’s worth attending the next bridal showcase, this post is for you! If you’d rather listen to this information, check out the Bridal Showcase recap episode this week on the Disney Wedding Podcast! And if you’re curious about the West Coast version of the showcase, click here to read all about the 2020 Disneyland Wedding Showcase!
Florida’s showcase was held March 13-14, 2020 at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. Probably due to the overwhelming crowds and long lines for food samples at last year’s showcase, this year attendees got to choose between two identical sessions, one from 10am to 12pm and the other from 1pm to 3pm.
Also included were a self-guided walking tour of ceremony and reception venues at the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian Village, access to a shop selling Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings-branded merchandise, and a free “Planning a Disney’s Fairy Tale Wedding 101″ informational session available by reservation only and held at 9am and 12pm. A ticket cost $45, and the showcase sold out several months ahead of time. However, Disney did have a waitlist that allowed some guests to get tickets when others canceled.
There were two extra-cost events (which also sold out well in advance). On Friday night, guests could attend a Welcome Dessert Reception at the Grand Floridian Marina for $80 each. The event ran from 8:00pm to 9:30pm and included viewing of the Happily Ever After fireworks over Magic Kingdom. On Saturday night, there was a Food and Beverage Menu Planning Experience available for $150 per person from 6:30pm to 8:30pm back in the same Grand Floridian ballroom that had held the showcase.
There was no mobile site for the bridal showcase this year. As creaky as last year’s was, I still thought it was a great idea to make the agenda, venue map, FAQ and continuous updates available that way—especially when you consider that more conventions around the world were being cancelled each day leading up to Disney’s Bridal Showcase, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Disney was remarkably silent on the subject of potential cancellation, with just one post that week on the Facebook page that was supposed to be our main source of info for the showcase, and that was an ad for the showcase partner promotions at Disney Springs. A “What to Know” email went out only four days before the showcase, and on the first day of the showcase we got a three-sentence “See you at the Showcase” email—neither of which had any reassuring info about all the events continuing as planned or what steps Disney was taking to ensure guest safety.
Instead of a mobile site, Disney buried a text link to a PDF of the venue tour map in the “What to Know” email. On the second page was a map of the showcase exhibit hall layout showing where the food stations, partner booths and floral setups all were—I thought that was a great touch. However, as the author of an eBook, I know how much trouble people still have figuring out how to view PDFs on their phones, and I can’t understand why Disney never includes paper copies of these showcase maps in their registration bags. I did spot cast members handing out generic maps of the Grand Floridian at the intersection of the convention center breezeway and the path to the Marina, but they ran out during the morning session.
The registration bags this year were disposable (ahem—reusable! But not the full, pocket-having tote bags given out last year) and practically empty. They included the event credential, with a tear-off drink ticket at the bottom; a card listing all the partner promotions at Disney Springs; wristbands for the dessert party and menu tasting, if applicable; and a Lilly Pulitzer shopping bag (which, as a Lilly Lover, I found to be worth the price of admission!). An agenda and paper copies of the maps would have been nice. A USB drive containing Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings’ Event Minimum info packet and venue pricing like the ones given out at Disneyland’s wedding showcase would have been even better! And if the Wedding Showcase Boutique was giving out gift bags containing luggage tags, Cinderella’s Coach pins and Mickey Crispies like the ones at the Disneyland showcase, nobody told us about it. Let me know if you got one at Florida’s showcase!
Wedding Venue Walking Tour
I was thrilled to see a return of the wedding venue walking tour at this year’s event. Not only does it give couples a chance to see potential ceremony and reception sites in person, it doubles as a showcase of Disney’s floral and decor offerings. However, not all of the venues were decorated this year.
The majority of the venues on this year’s tour trigger the lowest Event Minimums offered by Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings, so it was great to be able to see them looking their best.
Luau Beach — Polynesian Village Resort
This was the venue I was most excited to shoot because it’s so hard to find images of it set up for a ceremony, let alone a reception. This may be due to the blazing-sun factor, but the beach does make a great spot for an evening cocktail hour.
I was also interested to see the choice of patterned tablecloths on the reception tables, since the options you see from Disney Floral are usually limited to mostly solid colors.
You can see more photos of these setups (including floral and decor closeups) on my Luau Beach venue photo page.
Luau Pointe — Polynesian Village Resort
This is my favorite of the least-expensive venues because it’s private, shady and so gorgeous it barely needs any decor. Disney must’ve thought so too, because all they did was set up the standard folding chairs in the upper venue and nothing in the lower one.
You can see a ton more photos on my Luau Pointe venue photo page, including decor ideas!
Disney’s Wedding Pavilion
I mean, what can I say about the Wedding Pavilion…? It’s THE most popular place for Disney weddings, and if you haven’t already seen a bazillion photos of it, you can here!
The Summerhouse — Grand Floridian Resort
This is another blazing-sun kinda spot, but it’s quite picturesque, with great views of the lagoon. (Alas, you cannot see the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks from here.) It’s mostly only used for receptions, but I’ll bet a ceremony facing the water would be gorgeous.
Check out my Summerhouse venue photo page for more shots of this location!
Grand Floridian Marina
I’m not sure how many people actually get married at the Marina, what with the honking boat horns and proximity to a quick-service restaurant. But Disney can sure make it look nice! In this shot it looks like that floral arch is blocking the view of the castle, but you can see it when you’re actually there.
I geeked out about this shot because it includes at least 12 different types of seating, though I have a feeling these are offered as a “mismatched chair” package and not available in large quantities individually.
Click here to see more photos of the Grand Floridian Marina set up for events, including closeups of the floral and decor!
Sago Cay Pointe — Grand Floridian Resort
I was disappointed that Disney didn’t do any ceremony setups at Sago Cay Pointe because I think it’s hard for couples to imagine what a wedding there would look like. There are at least two spots you could use—one with the two trees as a backdrop and one with the castle in the background. You can see photos of both types of ceremonies on my Sago Cay Pointe venue photo page.
Here’s what it looked like during the showcase:
Wedding Showcase Expo
We decided to attend the afternoon session of the expo so we could do the outdoor venue tour during the “cooler” part of the day. (It was still 88 degrees, so I’m not sure that mattered.) I think the strategy of splitting the expo portion of the showcase into two identical sessions was great for alleviating the crowded conditions of the last showcase. The room felt lively but not crowded, and no line was more than a few minutes’ wait.
The middle section of the ballroom (Salon V, if you’re keeping score at home) had a ton of great decor examples: entrance gates with draping, uplighting, a tree package and swags (starting price: $10,000); an O-shaped table for 16 with matching chairs; an elaborate triple-chandelier stand; a light-up dance floor; Cinderella’s Glass Coach; the Major Domo; ficus trees with twinkle lights; and a castle backdrop!
Salon IV was done up in a Coco theme, complete with a market backdrop and a cake covered in succulents!
Salon VI held most of the table setups, the cake samples and the DJ stand.
This year’s event was smaller than last year’s, with few outside vendors and no makeovers from MAC or massages from Senses Spa in the halls outside the Grand Floridian Ballroom—everything was contained in Salons IV-VI. The models wearing wedding gowns had been replaced by mannequins, the string quartet by two solo musicians, and there was no selfie wall. Disney also eliminated the ability to sign up to chat with a Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings representative, something I thought was essential to the usefulness of past showcases. Instead you had to flag someone down to get your questions answered. However, everyone I was able to talk to was very eager to provide answers.
Let’s take a look at what there was to see, starting with the only reason anybody ever has a wedding…
Maybe it’s my imagination cuz I’m so cake-obsessed, but I feel like cakes get less and less representation each year. This year there were three repeat display cakes from past showcases, the table for samples was smaller, and there was no live demo of cake decorating techniques. (At previous showcases there were pastry chefs hand painting flowers or white chocolate characters—none of which were on display this year).
However, Chef Richard’s Coco cake was a knockout. I loved the sophisticated hand painting of the better-than-real succulents and the incredible level of detail in the decor! Apparently there was supposed to be a skull hidden somewhere on the cake, but after Patrick and I and some hapless fellow attendees we roped into the task failed to find it after poring over the cake for 10 + minutes, we learned it had been removed!
Here are the rest of the display cakes, including two standard Disney Cruise Line wedding cake designs.
I was thrilled to see that the cake samples came in the form of normal-sized cupcakes this year instead of slivers of cake topped with dabs of filling. They included a swirl of vanilla buttercream frosting so you could taste the whole combo as it would be in your cake (Disney puts vanilla buttercream frosting under the fondant on all its cakes.)
Floral & Decor
This is always one of my favorite parts of the wedding showcase because you get to see a ton of new ideas in person, rather than just squinting at Pinterest. This year, in addition to individually themed tables, Disney Floral really maximized the opportunities for displaying floral and decor ideas via split tables that contained two themes apiece.
And of course Disney dressed each spot on the wedding venue tour to the nines, so it was like getting to see bonus floral and decor ideas. You can see more of those at the links in the Wedding Venue Walking Tour section, above.
This year the food was provided by teams representing each of the convention center resorts and the theme parks culinary team. It was neat to see what each team came up with and how they tried to outdo each other! Unfortunately, there was no indication on any of the signs which team was which, so I can’t tell you who made what. However, every Disney culinary team can re-create dishes originated by another, so if you want any of these for your event, it won’t matter who created them.
Walt Disney World’s Wedding showcase didn’t offer photo ops with Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy the way Disneyland’s did. But they did have the Major Domo (see above) and the Uninvited Guests, actors who will “crash” your wedding armed with intel on your guests for teasing and generally making a spectacle of themselves. Alternatively, they can arrive dressed as Tacky Tourists for a similar effect.
Disney also featured performances by a solo guitarist and a harpist, the latter of whom was plucking her way through the “Imperial March” from Star Wars when we walked by.
And DJ JW Jaeger—whom you can hear on this episode of my podcast—kept the party going with plenty of tunes by ’90s Disney Channel stars!
Another fun touch were the two Virtual Photography booths offered by Disney Fine Art Photography.
These drop you into your choice of background, including…
The Italy Pavilion…
… and a Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings’ notepad!
This year’s event had only a few vendors, and half of them were just different divisions of Disney.
The Disney Cruise Line had a nice booth set up with samples of their standard wedding package cakes and bouquets.
Disney’s Vero Beach‘s weddings team seems to have less of a presence at these showcases with each passing year. This year it appeared that all they had was a backdrop and this gift bag…
Recommended bouquet-preservation vendor Keepsake Floral had a really pretty setup this year. The only time I ever wish I’d preserved my bouquet is when I see their booth at the wedding showcase!
Impressions: Themes Come True is one of the only vendors authorized to use Disney iconography and images in stationery AND the owner, Shelley, created the beloved white chocolate castle cake toppers seen on so many Disney wedding cakes. You can hear an interview I did with her on the Disney Wedding Podcast to learn more, including how to preserve your white chocolate castle!
Local shop Carolyn Allen Bridal & Tuxedo is one of the gown-steaming and formalwear-rental vendors on Disney’s list, and I have an interview with them too! Since the new Allure Disney dresses haven’t debuted yet and the Alfred Angelo ones were discontinued years ago, I’m thinking none of these have a Disney connection.
Approved vendors Cinemedia and Switzerworld offer videography for weddings and theme park bridal portrait sessions, and their services count toward your Event Minimum!
Disney Fine Art Photography’s booth is always a great place to check out samples of the myriad album types they offer, which can be overwhelming for couples. It also gives you the opportunity to speak with one of their photographers in advance. Even though they can’t guarantee you’ll get that person for your wedding, it could help you narrow down your request list.
Since there were no labels or prices on the albums or printed products for me to show you, let’s look at the ones featuring Disney Wedding Podcast guests!
And waaaay in the upper left of this shot you’ll see BrieAnn & Ian in the China Pavilion!
Then there were these bridesmaid proposal boxes—made by Disney Floral & Gifts, perhaps? There were no signs. But I though you might like to see them!
Wedding Showcase Boutique
Last year was the first time Disney offered Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings-branded merchandise at the showcase, and it must’ve been a hit, because this year they were letting people pre-order it before they even got to Florida.
If you read my Disneyland Wedding Showcase post, you’ve seen almost all of this already, but here we go…!
If you see something you like, never fear! Last year they released all the leftover Wedding Showcase merchandise on shopDisney a few months later.
For complete details on the brand-new line of Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings engagement and wedding rings, check out all the details in my 2020 Disneyland Wedding Showcase recap!
They also had on display a trio of illustrations of the forthcoming Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings bridal gown collection through Allure Bridals.
“Planning a Disney’s Fairy Tale Wedding 101” Session
This free seminar was added about a month before the showcase and required you to sign up for either a 9am or 12pm session. I was excited for this, thinking it would be an informative seminar like the menu-planning and getting-started sessions held at the 2015 Wedding Showcase.
Things got off to a rocky start: No location was listed for the 12pm session in any of Disney’s emails. When Patrick tried to confirm at Franck’s that the 12pm session would be held at the Wedding Pavilion just like the 9am session, he was told it was actually back at the Grand Floridian Convention Center. Off we went, only to be told by the registration staff at the convention center that the noon session was indeed at the Wedding Pavilion! And when I asked if there was a shuttle to get us back there, they said no. Imagine my surprise (and delight!) when I walked out front and discovered not only a golf cart but also a limo, both of which were making round trips between the two venues. I made it just in the nick of time!
The session was hosted by another of Disney’s entertainers, this one a “mother in law” who had the crowd in stitches and moved the presentation along efficiently. However, her main job was to lob softball questions at representatives from Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings and Disney Fine Art Photography.
With a title like “Planning a Disney’s Fairy Tale Wedding 101,” I expected them to cover the actual process of getting started: how far out you can get the ball rolling; what the process is after the initial call; when you can sign a contract; how long it takes to be assigned a sales consultant and, later, an event planner; and what you can do to prepare if your wedding is more than 16 months away.
Instead, the session was amusing but short and extremely light on real information. It felt more like a sales pitch than a “101” education, and every answer seemed to boil down to, “If you can dream it, we can do it.”
However, you can draw your own conclusions: Click here to listen to audio of “Planning a Disney’s Fairy Tale Wedding 101.”
Welcome Dessert Party
I really love that Disney has been offering the chance to attend a dessert party with their last few wedding showcases. It seems like whenever I interview a Disney bride or groom who wasn’t part of a Facebook group devoted to Disney weddings, they tell me that they had no idea they could add a dessert party to their day.
At $80/person, this year’s party wasn’t cheap. But it was a great way to see what a Happily Ever After fireworks dessert party is like. The event ran from 8:00–9:30pm and was held at the Grand Floridian Marina and Sago Cay. Disney had set up dessert buffets and bars at both venues, so you didn’t feel left out if you were way out in Sago Cay. There were plenty of adorable little desserts, plus a live painter creating souvenir watercolors of Cinderella Castle during the event.
We’ve had several private anniversary dessert parties inside Epcot but never at the Grand Floridian or the Contemporary, so I was excited to finally get to see what that’s like without having to pay the exorbitant new $5,000 minimum for a non-wedding Disney Catered Event!
I was pleased to see that the fireworks don’t feel as far away as I’d imagined they would, having been spoiled by the proximity of Epcot’s fireworks all these years. We chose a spot at the very end of Sago Cay, which is really only marginally closer to the show than the Marina, but it made us feel like we were as close as possible.
However, I was surprised that Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings didn’t spring for the fireworks soundtrack at Sago Cay. I see so many couples debating whether to pay $700+ to have speakers set up there. (The Marina has permanent speakers and therefore no extra fee for the soundtrack). Although we could hear the louder parts of the soundtrack from the Marina, the spoken words and softer musical passages were lost on the wind, making for a less-than-immersive experience. It made the party feel less like a VIP experience and more like we’d just stopped wherever at the resort to watch the fireworks.
So if you really want to have your guests be engaged by Happily Every After, I recommend biting the bullet and paying for the soundtrack at Sago Cay. (I’ll help you find someplace else in your BEO to cut 700 bucks so you can afford it!)
Food & Beverage Menu Planning Experience
The showcase ended at 3:00pm, and from 6:30–8:30pm Disney hosted a Food & Beverage Menu Planning Experience back in the ballrooms where the showcase had been held. Tickets were $150 and, like the dessert party, the event sold out well in advance of the showcase.
I had my fingers crossed that we’d get to sit at that over-the-top gorgeous O-shaped table from the showcase. We were assigned to this one instead—not too shabby!
The new Sales & Services Director of Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings kicked off the event by introducing a chef who explained that we’d be served a soup and salad duo plate and then turned loose to sample dishes from the same action stations we’d been grazing at all afternoon at the showcase.
The menu items were different, of course, and this time they explained that each station was staffed by a different resort’s team. However, there was no further explanation of what we’d be eating or why it was chosen.
Yacht & Beach Club
The best part of this event was getting to know the other people at our table. We all compared notes after each dish and, interestingly, were evenly split on what we liked and weren’t so enthusiastic about. Half the table loved the salmon, the other half thought it was dry. Those who didn’t love the salmon loved the beef tenderloin, but the other half thought the accompanying porcini custard was weird.
Toward the end, Mickey and Minnie slipped into the room almost unnoticed for a photo op (at a wedding they are usually ushered in with great fanfare to the strains of “Hey Mickey,” but there was no DJ at this event).
And then it was over. Some of us had been waiting around for dessert to show up, but we finally figured out that the bagged favor at all our plates WAS the dessert: a bready donut covered in tooth-shattering glitter crystals.
The Food & Beverage Menu Planning Experience was the only disappointing aspect of the 2020 Wedding Showcase and definitely did not feel worth the $150/person we paid.
As with the “Planning a Disney’s Fairy Tale Wedding 101” session, there was no actual planning information provided. Besides the small signs at each station, no additional background was provided about why or how the dishes were created. There was also no information on how menu planning works, how to customize a menu, how Disney handles special diets, how menus are priced, or ideas for unique or popular reception menu items.
After the briefest introduction, we were left to our own devices, never knowing what was happening next. It was even hard to tell when the event was over—some people left before the characters appeared. At the very least, there could’ve been a DJ to provide structure by emceeing the event, announcing Mickey and Minnie, and letting us know when things were wrapping up.
By contrast, the Disneyland Bridal Showcase’s menu-planning event featured the resort’s head chef describing every course in detail and offering customization tips. There was also a Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings cast member seated at every table to answer guests’ questions throughout the event. And Disney surprised us with a trip into California Adventure to view World of Color from a private location. I guess I was spoiled by attending that event, because I kept waiting for a big “But there’s one more thing…” surprise that never came.
The Bottom Line
Is a Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings Bridal Showcase worth making a special trip to Walt Disney World?
- If you are planning a wedding/vow renewal but not close enough to your date that Disney will speak to you, YES.
- If you are planning a small event that doesn’t qualify for a planning session and want to taste the cake, see floral and decor options in person, or add a catered event, YES.
- If you are already working with a sales consultant or a planner on your wedding/vow renewal, MMMMAAAAYBE…. If you can swing an extra trip, the floral, decor, food and cake ideas might be worth it. But I wouldn’t choose this over a planning session trip if you can only afford one.
And if you’re wondering whether there will be another one of these next year, Disney doesn’t really have a set schedule for these showcases. But they’ve managed to plan one each of the last three years, so the answer is “probably”!