One of the main
excuses reasons for our long vacation to Walt Disney World last November was to meet with our wedding planner and tour the various ceremony and reception sites that the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels have to offer. It was one part of the trip I was anticipating most of all.
In hindsight, I wish we would have planned our meeting with Jennifer from Just Marry! for earlier in the trip because by the time the tour came along, I was on pins and needles in anticipation. It also may have allowed us a little more time in the World after our date was set to coordinate with other local vendors. For instance, had we been able to confirm our wedding date when we first arrived a week earlier, we might have been able to schedule a cake tasting with It’s Tasty Too!, booked an engagement photo session with wedding photographers like Misty Miotto or Root Photography, seen some floral examples from Lee Forrest Design, and I could have booked a trial styling session with Beaute Speciale or LeJeune Artistry, two popular local teams of hair and makeup artists. The Orlando-area vendors with whom we’re now working have all been wonderful over the phone and via e-mail, but some face-to-face meetings would have been a lot of fun too.
It was a beautiful day, and nearly a year to the day out from our wedding date. I can only hope the weather on our big day is at nice as it was the day of our tour. We arrived early for our meeting with Jennifer and had a chance to take some photos of the locations we were considering. Jennifer would show us all of our top choices and more, so we didn’t stray too far from our planned meeting spot. There was no way we were going to keep her waiting.
When we met Jennifer, we chatted a little bit about what our vision was for our wedding day (we didn’t really have much of one yet) and how many guests we were expecting (about 20). She then showed us the venues that she thought would work best for our group’s size.
The three standard ceremony venues at the Swan are the White Sand Beach, which overlooks the hotels and Crescent Lake, the West Courtyard, a small garden area with a lovely swan fountain, and the Crescent Terrace, a dais surrounded by trees near Crescent Lake and the bridge to the Boardwalk resort. We chose Crescent Terrace for our location because we liked the size of the space and the fact that it’s still relatively private even though the nearby bridge still gets plenty of foot traffic. Photos of all the ceremony venues at the Swan can be seen on Carrie Hayward’s website, Disney Travel Babble. In addition to the standard outdoor ceremony locations, we were also shown some indoor backup locations that can be booked but are more frequently used in case of rain.
After deciding on a ceremony location, Jennifer showed us some reception venue options. We knew before the tour that we would want to have a non-traditional reception. Ballroom receptions have high minimums at the Swan and Dolphin, and renting that kind of space would be pretty silly for a group of our size. We wouldn’t need a dance floor and DJ for so few people, and our entire group could fit at two round tables. Instead, we wanted to choose a restaurant with excellent food and good ambiance.
We had talked to the event managers for all of the Swan and Dolphin restaurants prior to our visit and knew that we would be in good hands with any of them. Our top contenders were Il Mulino at the Swan and Todd English’s bluezoo at the Dolphin. After touring both restaurants’ private dining rooms, we chose the latter. The fact that it would mean having our cocktail hour in our favorite lounge in the world was a big bonus.
After we wrapped up our venue tour, we sat down with Jennifer and she took some notes about what elements we wanted to include in our day so that she could recommend vendors. We already knew that we were bringing in our own officiant and photographer, but we were undecided on everything else. We talked about things like color selection, floral, live music, and custom linens. Jennifer had come prepared with her iPad, which was full of photo and video of other events at the Swan. We were able to watch video of the musicians we would eventually hire to play at our wedding ceremony, playing in the very spot they’ll be playing on our day. Jennifer has been a huge help in planning at every step of the way.
Before we parted ways, we asked Jennifer to put in a date request with the Swan as soon as possible. We were hoping that we would know our wedding date before the end of our trip so that we could secure our group reservation with bluezoo (which requires a signed contract and credit card hold) before we left town. Jennifer told us that she would push for a quick reply from the hotel, but that these requests can sometimes take a while to get approval. The Swan and Dolphin tend to wait until about a year out to start taking date requests for weddings, so that the larger events like professional conventions can book first. Even after the one year mark, they will sometimes hold back certain locations for a few weeks more. We were 363 days away from what would be our wedding day, so there was no guarantee that the hotel would give us approval before we left. Jennifer said that she would throw a few extra exclamation points in to the request and hope for a fast reply. The very next evening, while Danny and I were on a bus from Downtown Disney to our resort, I got an e-mail from Jennifer:
It looks like my extensive exclamation points on getting space approval as soon as I could paid off!
Congratulations! Your space has been approved for November 5, 2013 at the Crescent Terrace with a 4:00 p.m. start time! So you can go ahead with space at Blue Zoo.
How exciting! We ended our trip on a high note with much anticipation for our next visit, which could very well be our most memorable to date. We’re really looking forward to spending time with our friends and family, celebrating in a place so special to us.