ON LOVE: What it’s like get­ting mar­ried at Disney.

Want Jack Spar­row at your re­cep­tion or rings de­liv­ered in a glass slip­per? Disney ful­fills nup­tial dreams — for a price.

The Washington Post Sunday - - ARTS & STYLE - BY ME­GAN MCDONOUGH me­gan.mcdonough@wash­post.com

True love’s for­mula, per clas­sic Disney princess cus­tom: First, a sto­ry­book ro­mance. Next, a lav­ish cas­tle wed­ding. Then, a life­time of “hap­pily ever after.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Walt Disney Co., mere mor­tals can achieve this fairy tale. That is, with their help, and for the right price.

Disney’s Fairy Tale Wed­dings, the com­pany’s wed­ding branch, may not be able to set you up with Prince Charm­ing or prom­ise wed­ded bliss, but they can help you de­sign a wed­ding day fit for a queen — make that a Disney princess — com­plete with Cin­derella’s horse-drawn car­riage and a cas­tle back­drop, natch.

Since Septem­ber 1991, Disney has put on more than 30,000 wed­dings around the world, in­clud­ing at Dis­ney­land in Cal­i­for­nia, Walt Disney World in Florida, Disney’s Au­lani re­sort in Hawaii, on mul­ti­ple Disney cruise lines, and in Disney re­sorts and parks abroad.

In 2013, Disney held 1,500 wed­dings on its prop­er­ties. Last year, that num­ber swelled to more than 4,000, with about 11 cer­e­monies a day glob­ally. That trend is likely to con­tinue, as Disney rolls out live-ac­tion up­dates of its clas­sic films over the next sev­eral years, such as the re­cent “Beauty and the Beast” up­date star­ring Emma Wat­son.

It doesn’t hurt that mil­len­ni­als are lap­ping up the princess fan­tasy.

“They’re all about cus­tomiza­tion and en­gag­ing their wed­ding guests,” says Korri McFann Spo­lar, di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing for Fairy Tale Wed­dings. “I think this gen­er­a­tion really is fit for a des­ti­na­tion wed­ding, you know, mul­ti­ple days of cel­e­brat­ing, mul­ti­ple days of gath­er­ing with fam­ily and friends.”

It also helps that the park photos make for one-of-a-kind keep­sakes — and eas­ily share­able so­cial-media con­tent (#AndTheySelfiedHap­pi­lyEverAfter). For Nathan Mul­der, 30, and Brian Falco, 30, it was al­ways Disney World or bust. Months be­fore a pro­posal even took place, they had de­cided to spend what would be “the best day of their lives” at “the hap­pi­est place on Earth.”

The theme park was a nat­u­ral fit for the Dis­neyphiles, who met in Day­tona Beach, Fla., in 2006 and wed in Au­gust 2016. Fans of Disney movies since child­hood, Mul­der and Falco vis­ited the park fre­quently over their decade-long courtship and were at one point an­nual ticket-hold­ers.

For their cer­e­mony at Disney’s Beach and Yacht Club Re­sort in Or­lando, the cou­ple en­vi­sioned some­thing el­e­gant and tra­di­tional, mi­nus the gim­micks and char­ac­ters — save for a few hun­dred “hid­den Mick­eys” scat­tered through­out the venue.

“I think that a huge mis­con­cep­tion about Disney wed­dings is that . . . they are child­ish, or maybe even cheesy, with char­ac­ters plastered ev­ery­where,” Mul­der says. “We really wanted to have a wed­ding that was at Disney, not so much a Disney wed­ding.”

For the re­cep­tion, they splurged on some sub­tle hints of “Disney magic” for their 225 guests, in­clud­ing an ap­pear­ance by Mickey and Min­nie ($1,700) and a cus­tom­ized pro­jec­tion cake, which lit up with scenes from their fa­vorite Disney films (about $3,000).

The fi­nal price tag? More than $100,000. “The en­tire week [and] week­end was a dream come true,” Mul­der says.

But not ev­ery wed­ding at Disney is as mag­i­cal. Yas­min Ud­din, a 22-year-old YouTube gamer based in Leeds, Eng­land, had a much dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence with the House of Mouse for her wed­ding last month. After toy­ing with the idea of elop­ing in Ve­gas, the bride-tobe and her fi­nance, Kyle Sin­nett, 26, set­tled on a small cer­e­mony for 24 guests at Disney’s Wed­ding Pavil­ion in Or­lando for about $25,000.

First, Ud­din and Sin­nett’s fairy god­mother — what Disney calls their wed­ding co­or­di­na­tors — was spar­ingly com­mu­nica­tive. When Ud­din re­quested a venue visit in Jan­uary, she was told that the co­or­di­na­tor wouldn’t be able to host her.

“I don’t think she really took me se­ri­ously,” Ud­din says. “I think she just thought I was some spoiled kid who was get­ting it all paid for.”

De­spite the hic­cups, things ap­peared to be on course the morn­ing of the wed­ding, when the bride rose at 4:50 a.m. to start her bridal prep. But as the 10 a.m. cer­e­mony grew closer, things were miss­ing, namely a bou­quet and the of­fi­ciant. After wait­ing 30 min­utes, Ud­din learned that the of­fi­ciant had been told that the start time was noon.

“All the guests sat there wait­ing, not know­ing what was go­ing on,” she says. “Kyle was left there think­ing, ‘Did she run away? Did she leave me at the al­tar?’ ”

About an hour later, the cer­e­mony fi­nally be­gan, but at the re­cep­tion, the venue man­ager and DJ started to shut down the party an hour early, as they hadn’t been in­formed of the tim­ing goof. Luck­ily, thanks to a lit­tle bib­bidi-bob­bidi-boo — i.e., many calls to Disney rep­re­sen­ta­tives — it worked out.

“You ex­pect, for that amount of money, you are go­ing to have an amaz­ing day,” says Ud­din, “but it was just a mas­sive mess.”

Even Cin­derella’s car­riage was a let­down. “You feel like you are sit­ting in a green­house, like you are lit­er­ally be­ing boiled alive,” she says.

After mul­ti­ple com­plaints, the cou­ple was told that their flower costs would be re­funded and that the wed­ding ser­vice di­rec­tor would have “a stern word” with the co­or­di­na­tor. Ud­din and Sin­nett also were given a free por­trait ses­sion in the park for their first an­niver­sary. No air­fare or lodg­ing in­cluded.

Ud­din’s ad­vice to Disney brides-to-be? “If you want your wed­ding to be perfect, just do it your­self.”


TOP: “Disney’s Fairy Tale Wed­dings” (air­ing Sunday at 8 p.m. on Disney’s FreeForm cable chan­nel) fea­tures an inside look at theme park nup­tials, with “Bach­e­lor” alums Ben Hig­gins and Lau­ren Bush­nell.


ABOVE: Nathan Mul­der and Brian Falco (with Mickey and Min­nie) on their “best day ever” at Walt Disney World in Au­gust 2016.

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