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Orlando Weddings and Honeymoons
Orlando and its theme parks have become increasingly popular shower, wedding, and honeymoon destinations. The area appeals to starry-eyed Gen Y couples and, more and more, older couples, some marrying for the second time and many bringing family and friends in for the wedding-vacation-reunion of a lifetime. They come from across the United States and throughout the world, and their ideas of the perfect wedding vary greatly.
One bride made an entrance in Cinderella's glass coach; her groom rode in on a white horse. A thrill-seeking couple took the freefall plunge on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Two couples, on separate occasions, tied the knot in the middle of their Walt Disney World Marathon run, exchanging vows in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom. Moonlight on the Ritz-Carlton lawn set the scene for another couple's romantic vow exchange, and a rooftop Orlando wedding wowed yet another couple's guests with a 360-degree view of the downtown skyline and scenic Lake Eola Park.
Showers and bachelor and bachelorette parties are easy to arrange in a city where there's so much to do. At Disney, the Mad Hatter can show up for a bridesmaid's tea event at the Grand Floridian. Parties can begin with dinner and a wine tasting at Hannibal's wine cellar in Winter Park before moving on to a local nightclub. Grooms who stay at Portofino Bay like to party at Universal CityWalk because no driving is required—a ferry will shuttle them back to the hotel.
For rehearsal dinners (or wedding receptions) Disney pulls out the stops to stage events ranging from an after-hours reception at the Lion King Theater in Animal Kingdom to an internationally themed event at one of the World Showcase countries in Epcot.
You can opt for a traditional ceremony at Disney's Wedding Pavilion on the Seven Seas Lagoon by the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Designed with the charming features of a Victorian summerhouse, the pavilion is an airy room with a view of Cinderella Castle just across the lagoon. Alternatively, you can plan an informal beachside vow exchange at a lakeside Disney resort; a garden or gazebo ceremony; an over-the-top, Cinderella-style wedding; or a Broadway-themed blowout.
Downtown Orlando and historic Winter Park are popular wedding destinations, as well, says Lisa Konecny, owner of E Events (www.eeventsdesign.com). The Grand Bohemian Hotel stages amazing rooftop ceremonies. Konecny and her team have planned rooftop weddings and receptions at other downtown buildings, including one with a panoramic view of the skyline and Lake Eola.
Other top wedding spots are downtown's Orange County Regional History Center; the City Arts Factory in the arts district, where exhibits constantly change; the Mennello Museum of American Art in the city's Loch Haven area; and Casa Feliz, a historic Spanish home-museum in Winter Park.
According to Konecny, couples who hire E Events tend to be a bit older and are sophisticated. They also like to hold the wedding ceremony and reception in one location, making Orlando the perfect choice. The area is rife with professional entertainers who are available for receptions. Theme-park musicians and other performers often contract out at reasonable prices, and there's a lot of diversity, from zydeco and salsa bands to groups that specialize in swing music.
Heather Snively, owner of Weddings Unique (www.weddingsunique.com), says Orlando attracts a lot of couples planning second marriages, couples with children, and those seeking a wedding-family reunion-minivacation packaged as one. Resort hotels like the Ritz, Waldorf Astoria, and Portofino Bay at Universal feature romantic backdrops for the ceremony, plus smaller ballrooms ideal for receptions.
The hotels can also support activities ranging from spa parties to golf outings for those in the wedding party. Snively and her team plan up to 40 weddings a year from soup to nuts, working closely with in-house resort coordinators to smooth out every detail and with travel agents to make arrangements for guest travel.
Central Florida resorts cater to honeymooners with special packages. Honeymoon suites with whirlpools and other amenities create the backdrop for romance that's enhanced with extras like champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. Resort pools with cabanas, beaches, waterfalls, swaying palms, and poolside margarita delivery make the subtropical setting seem as exotic as a tropical island.
Disney's Fairy Tale Honeymoons division helps you customize a vacation package and even offers a Honeymoon Registry if your guests wish to contribute to your post-wedding getaway rather than give a traditional gift. There are package deals to be had at Walt Disney World resorts and at Disney's Vero Beach Resort. Some couples make their wedding dreams or vow renewals come true at sea, where the honeymoon follows immediately.
If you're dreaming about a central Florida wedding, keep these tips from the experts in mind:
Hire a reputable planner long before the big date. Though you'll pay a fee for your planner, he or she will be an advocate with barter power when dealing with vendors.
For a destination wedding, build in plenty of time to book travel arrangements and accommodations for all who plan to attend.
If your budget is tight, plan your Orlando wedding between Monday and Thursday during non-peak season for the lowest hotel rates.
Split the wedding-planning tasks with your partner. If the groom is focused more on the reception's music, food, and beverages, the bride can focus on, say, wedding flowers and photography.
Let your wedding planner arrange romantic escapes from your guests, especially if you plan to wed and honeymoon in Orlando. If everyone's staying at the Gaylord Palms Resort or the Hard Rock Hotel, have your wedding planner book you a spa package at the Waldorf Astoria or Ritz-Carlton.
Start your research by visiting several Orlando-area wedding-planner Web sites; the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitor's Bureau site at www.orlandoinfo.com/weddings; and Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings & Honeymoons at www.disneyweddings.disney.go.com.
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