On November 10, 2021, my now husband, Pat, and I were married at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin in Central Florida. If you have been considering a Disney wedding, but aren’t sure if Disney’s Fairytale Weddings is the right fit for you, you might want to consider some of the other wedding options available at Walt Disney World like we did. Originally, we had planned to be married aboard the Disney Magic, one of Disney Cruise Line’s ships, in October 2021. However, our cruise was canceled when the ship was moved to Europe. While we were disappointed when our original plans for our wedding were changed, our wedding at Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin turned out better than we could have imagined!
Planning our Swan and Dolphin Wedding
If you haven’t read my previous blog posts about our wedding planning journey or watched my YouTube videos, I’ll give you a quick recap – Pat and I got engaged in July 2020 and began planning our Disney Cruise Line wedding for September/October 2021. At the time, we both had grandparents who we wanted to be able to join us at our wedding and wanted to have a Disney wedding, so we planned to take a Disney Cruise out of New York City, since we were living in New Jersey. A few months after we were engaged and booked our cruise wedding, we began building a home in Central Florida. Fast forward to June 2021 and both my grandparents had passed and we were getting ready to move down to Florida. We got an email that month letting us know that our cruise has been canceled. We received no notification from Disney about our wedding, so I called our planner. She said that she was sorry and let me know that someone from Disney Fairytale Weddings would be reaching out to me about transferring my wedding to a “land” event. Unfortunately, Disney was unable to work with us to plan our wedding. While I wish that Disney would have done more to try to assist us in hosting our wedding, they did not seem to have the capacity to do so.
Below I will share all about our day and everything leading up to it, including the good, bad, and the ugly. I hope that it will assist anyone getting married at the Swan and Dolphin or thinking about opportunities to be married on Disney property, but not through Disney Fairytale Weddings. Of course, please understand that this was our experience and yours may be completely different!
Working with JustMarry
Everything happens for a reason right? That’s what Pat and I tried to focus on and I began researching other options for a “Disney” wedding. We came across the Swan and Dolphin Resorts at Walt Disney World and fell in love with the venue and options. At that time, all Swan and Dolphin weddings were handled by JustMarry, a Central Florida event planning company. JustMarry allows you to decide if you want to use their vendors or bring in your own – in a lot of ways you can consider it like an a la carte wedding planning provider. I brought in my own for everything other than the cake, which I’ll discuss later. This allowed me to shop around, find people who I was most comfortable with and determine where I wanted to spend my money. In the end, I was very happy we wound up going with the Swan and Dolphin through JustMarry because of this.
To guide me through the process, I was put in contact with a planner. This planner assisted with booking of any vendors through JustMarry and answering all my questions before the event. She was extremely helpful and timely in her responses (something I really appreciated!). About two weeks prior to the wedding day, I was put in contact with our day-of coordinator. She sent me information about the day, including a timeline and information about where people needed to be on the day of the wedding. While I had a phenomenal experience with my first planner, the day-of coordinator and I did not vibe as well. There were several edits that were never made to our timeline and I had to follow up to get a copy of the timeline for my records.
I was not impressed with the way the day-of coordinator and team handled the event. They seemed a bit confused by my group because we were so small and a lot of the group was “in” the wedding. They did not come and introduce themselves to me and were not proactive in organizing our group. When we were preparing to walk everyone down the aisle, I couldn’t find my sister who was my maid-of-honor and it wound up she had been told to go to another location. I also found out later that the day-of coordinator could not find my cake topper and asked our florist for flowers to put on the cake. When my sister and sister-in-law approached her, she said that I seemed like I was low-key and wouldn’t mind (she was correct that I was very low key about our wedding, but there were certain pieces that I had made, including the wedding cake topper, that were important to me). Thankfully, my sister-in-law had agreed to help out as my point of contact during day and handled the situation as well as a few others that came up.
Overall, I would recommend using JustMarry. No matter was coordinating group you have, I would highly recommend designating a family member/friend who will serve as the point of contact for you on the day of. Coordinators understandably do not know you as well as your friends/family do, so it’s good to have someone to be your spokesperson who is aware of all the elements that matter the most to you.
The Location and Cake & Champagne Reception
When you get married at the Swan and Dolphin, you are able to select from several different locations. We selected the Crescent Terrace, which is located to the left of the Swan if you are looking directly at it and backups onto the waterway between Disney’s Boardwalk Resort and the Swan. We were so happy with the location and love walking by it now and remembering our day!
As part of the Swan and Dolphin wedding package, you get a cake and champagne reception immediately after the wedding. Crescent Terrace was set up perfectly for the cake and champagne to be served right next to the area where we were married. This cut down on having to get people to other areas and allowed us to have much more time to enjoy the day with our families. The team that assisted with the cake and champagne reception from the Swan and Dolphin were exceptional and so helpful!
Photographer – Sara Ella Photography
I could not speak more highly of our photographer, Sara. I had reached out to Sara on Instagram because I had seen her work through my sister-in-law and liked her style and how comfortable she seemed to be able to make those she worked with. She took the time to meet with Pat the month before our wedding and talk about our “must-have” photos and what we were comfortable with. The day of the wedding, she arrived right on time and got down to business right away. I really appreciated that she familiarized herself with our wedding party and family, going out of her way to introduce herself to people. Sara spent so much time with us exploring the Boardwalk area and letting us just enjoy the morning, while getting some incredible photos!
Sara also made us feel completely comfortable doing something that isn’t a normal everyday activity. I think Pat and I were both a little nervous before hand because we don’t love being the center of attention, but Sara made us feel like we were just hanging out with a friend in Disney. At one point, Sara asked us to kiss for a photo and I told her that wasn’t really us – later she had us take the Mickey Mouse balloon we had brought for some photos and pretend kiss behind it. It turned out being one of my favorite photos!
After the ceremony, Sara effortlessly corralled our families together and got a photo of just about every grouping you could think of, always being respectful of family dynamics. She took so much stress off of us, not having to worry that we were going to miss an important photo. We truly cannot thank Sara enough for being a part of our day!
The Fancy Florals
I came across The Fancy Forals while searching for an Orlando based wedding florist on Instagram. When I saw Owner, Denae’s work, I was sold. I reached out to her and she quickly responded with a time for us to speak. I gave her some basic information about our wedding, letting her know we had a loosely Tangled themed wedding and that it was important to me to incorporate thistles into my bouquet as an homage to my grandfather who recently passed and had grown up in Scotland. Denae completely understood the look I was going for and was incredible to work with.
On the day of our wedding, Denae arrived right on time and started getting everything set up. She created such a gorgeous backdrop for our ceremony and turned it into exactly what I had envisioned. I am still completely obsessed with my bouquet and cannot thank her enough for all of her work.
Reception at Il Mulino
When you book a wedding with the Swan and Dolphin, a full reception is not included. Pat and I decided we did not want to have dancing at our reception, so instead went for a dinner in one of the private spaces in Il Mulino, a restaurant in the Swan. I had booked the space about six months prior to our wedding and followed up the week before to ensure that everything was set. I received an email notification back letting me know that we were good to go for our reservation and that I would be able to set my tables up with placecards and favors on the day of the event. Unfortunately, the General Manager who had been included on the email had not seen the email, so the space was not set up when we arrived a half hour before and he said he had not received notification we would be arriving to set anything up. They got the room together and we were able to set up the table in time for our reservation, but I will say, we were not impressed with the way the situation was handled, especially considering we had booked the space 6 months out and for such a special occasion.
That being said, the food was excellent and we got a ton for what we paid. All of our guests commented on how great the menu was. The service was not up to the standards we are used to at a Disney property, but that probably was due to them only having one server for our party of 14. We also had an issue with the way they handled a food allergy in our party.
All in all, I probably would have selected another location for our reception had I known the way it would be handled.
All but one couple who came to our wedding stayed at the Swan or Dolphin resort. Pat and I stayed there for two nights and upgraded to a suite in order to have extra space to get ready. The rooms were clean, well kept, and what you would expect from a Marriott resort (as the Swan and Dolphin are Marriott properties). The Swan and Dolphin are located right off of the Boardwalk and within walking distance of EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We took advantage of the location and took the Skyliner over to Disney’s Riviera Resort for lunch after our wedding and watched Harmonious, EPCOT’s fireworks, on the bridge near the World Showcase entrance of EPCOT that evening.
I dropped off welcome packages for my guests the day before their arrival and the front desk got to all of the guests other than two. Thankfully, I mentioned it to those guests and they were able to stop down and grab their welcome bag.
I had noted on our reservation that we were there for our wedding and had hoped that they would do something special for us, but nothing was done. Not a big deal, but more just a note not to expect anything if you are staying at the Swan or Dolphin for your wedding.
Words of Wisdom for Swan and Dolphin Brides and Grooms
Our biggest piece of advice for couples getting married at the Swan and Dolphin is to stay on top of all the different elements of your wedding. If there are certain pieces that are important to you, don’t be afraid to share that with those you are working with to ensure they know what the focus should be.
Overall, we were very happy with our choice of Crescent Terrace at the Swan for our ceremony and even though there were a few things that were a bit challenging or didn’t go as planned, it didn’t really matter in the end because we were finally married!