By Susan Kirby
Destination weddings have become a popular way for couples to celebrate their love with family and friends. Disney has made this easier for brides and grooms with their Fairytale Weddings Department that provides a wedding coordinator to assist with every step of the planning for the bride and groom. But what does a guest do to prepare for a destination wedding? My family got the chance to find out when my sister decided on a Disney Cruise Line wedding last summer.
Planning started the last week of December as my sister and I checked prices and availability for cabins on a 3-night Disney Cruise that would also be able to accommodate the wedding. Disney only allows two Fairytale Wedding events per sailing to ensure the bride and groom feel it truly is their special day.
Once the cruise was booked and wedding confirmed for Castaway Cay planning began in earnest. Other than deciding on a wedding dress, the groom’s clothing, flowers, and music, there really wasn’t much planning for the bride and groom. I, on the other hand, had the concern of just what to wear to a wedding on Castaway Cay for my husband, two sons, and of course myself.
The four of us were driving to the port, so we did not have to worry about meeting airline luggage requirements, but I still wanted to keep things simple for packing. We also had to consider the heat in the Bahamas in July. Wearing a coat and tie would be impractical and look out of place.
Personally, my biggest concern, as is true for many women, was shoes. The location my sister picked was on the beach itself as opposed to the pier location. This translated in my mind to needing shoes for all of us that were not too hard to walk in on sand. After numerous discussions with my sister over shoes, she finally decided to wear flip flops or go barefoot depending on the temperature of the sand. My family did not go that casual in the end, but we did decide the boys were fine with Crocs.
The shoes and the sand had to mix!
Six months later, all planning was done and everyone was on their way to Port Canaveral and the Disney Wonder. After we had checked in and eaten lunch (the “welcome aboard” lunch at Parrot Cay for us, and Beach Blanket Buffet for my parents), we were able to drop our luggage in our stateroom and explore the ship empty handed.
During this time, we just happened to look down at the atrium where guests were still boarding and see the wedding couple walk onto the ship and hear their introduction. For those of you who have not sailed on Disney, a Cast Member introduces each family and welcomes them aboard. Both the future bride and groom looked a little dazed and overwhelmed at this point. Later on we met up with them and the rest of the family by the Mickey pool. About an hour before sailaway, my sister and her fiancée left to meet with the onboard wedding coordinator. Since the wedding would not take place until Castaway Cay day, the first night onboard and the day in Nassau were no different than for anyone else on the cruise (other than the extra excitement in anticipation for us!).
Shortly before dinner in Nassau, an invitation was left outside our stateroom to attend the wedding the next morning on Castaway Cay. We were instructed to meet in the atrium the following morning and we would be escorted to the ceremony site on Castaway Cay. As we ate breakfast, the Disney Wonder approached the dock at Castaway Cay.
We returned to the stateroom to get ready for the wedding and take pictures around the ship while we waited for the wedding coordinator, Jerome, and the rest of the family that would be headed to the site together. The bride and both mothers would follow a little while later. The groom, best man, and guests left the ship as a group and were driven to the beach on two extended golf carts. Fortunately, the weather was perfect the morning of the wedding, but it quickly got very warm in the sun. The beach wedding location is at the far end of the family beach just down from the Heads Up Bar allowing for a perfect backdrop of the Disney ship that brought you to paradise. Thankfully, they kept us supplied with ice water.
The bride arrives.
A third golf cart approached, this one decorated with flowers. The bride had arrived! The keyboard player began to play the music picked out earlier by my sister and her husband. The wedding ceremony was performed by a Bahamian official arranged for by Disney.
After a few pictures, the wedding guests were transported back to the ship and up to Palo for the reception, while the bride and groom were taken around the island for more beautiful pictures. Once they arrived in Palo, Jerome presented them with a commemorative certificate signed by the captain, then the cake was cut and served and toasts were made. We all headed back outside for a group picture outside Palo and then went our separate ways to enjoy Castaway Cay or a quiet ship for the afternoon.
The cake at Palo
Later that evening, most of us met back up to attend Disney Dreams, but all too soon our cruise was over and it was time to return to reality. The majority of the newly extended family met up one last time in Triton’s for an early farewell breakfast.
The family onboard
Overall, Disney Cruise Line does a fabulous job with their weddings allowing plenty of time for both wedding activities and just enjoying the experience of a Disney Cruise. I would not hesitate to recommend participating in a Disney wedding if you are ever given the opportunity, and from talking to my sister I would also be comfortable suggesting a Disney Cruise Line wedding or vow renewal. After all, it’s a pretty good wedding when the biggest dilemma is deciding whether or not to wear flip flops on the beach!