Our Fairy Tale Wedding in Walt Disney World was one of our favorite days ever and there are so many magical memories from that time. In today's crazy world we think celebrating love is very important and we strive to make our anniversary special every year. When we realized we were coming up on a milestone year we started discussing the possibility of planning a vow renewal.
More than 1 Year Before
Our initial thought was for just the two of us to visit Disney's Aulani resort in Hawaii and book a private vow renewal package. We liked the idea of using Disney Fairy Tale Weddings again as everything is taken care of with that Disney magic. Their Escape package included location, officiant, music, flowers, photography, etc. But we found out it would cost the same whether it was just the two of us or up to a party of 20. So then we thought "Why not ask some of our closest friends and family to join us?" But was it too much to ask people to travel all the way to Hawaii? So then we had the crazy idea to combine the two ideas and host a vow renewal in Disneyland, (which was much more accessible for guests coming from around the country), and then continue on to Hawaii since we were already on the west coast.
The next big question: how are we going to pay for this event? We have recently come to the conclusion that we are much more satisfied with experiences and memories in life then with "stuff". Looking through our overstuffed basement Julie realized she had a lot of childhood items that were valuable and could be sold on eBay. It was a win-win, get some clutter out of the house but also know that cherished childhood items would at least be turned into something meaningful. The budget was set and we estimated that selling all the items would just about cover the vow renewal package.
12 Months Before
So our goals were set and we knew the date: January 18th, exactly 10 years after we said "I Do." We reached out to DFTW to figure out next steps for booking the event in California. Looking at the smaller Escape packages we found out they are not able to be officially booked until 6 months out. But we had all the pricing and details in order to start planning whatever we could until then. We came up with a guest list of closest friends and family that would be within our 18 guest limit and let people know verbally right away to save the date if they wanted to join us.
7-11 Months Before
There wasn't a ton that we could officially do but being planners we did start moving on some items:
We tried to get a good feel for what guests were definitely planning on attending. Surprising enough almost everyone was a yes right away!
We also started a website to have the most up to date information so guests could plan early and find good travel deals
We figured out colors/themes for our event. We stuck with a Cinderella theme to give a nod to our original wedding.
Julie started designing event collateral such as branding and an invitation package. She sourced an artist to create an adorable illustration turning us into Disney style characters!
Julie went dress shopping and ended up finding a Cinderella sample gown in a clearance rack for 80% off. It was blue, was the right size, and was perfect for the theme. And she was super lucky to snag it about a week before Alfred Angelo went under.
We were able to book our flights and accommodations. We used our DVC points to book at the Grand Californian hotel on property.
6 Months Before
And this is the point where EVERYTHING STARTED TO FALL APART! Right before we were supposed to sign on the dotted line and give Disney our deposit we found out they raised their Escape packages. We calculated the new price would by well over 30% of what we planned for. This completely blew our budget and we felt completely at a loss. Don't get us wrong, the price was still very fair for an actual wedding, but we had already had our wedding this was starting to feel a little out of control. But at this point people were booked for this trip, we had to do something!
We discussed that we didn't need some things that come with a typical vow renewal such as an officiant, flowers, etc. We were already married, but at the same time we couldn't just cancel at this point with other people excited for a vow renewal, we had to do something that felt special and worth the trip. And of course we still wanted to celebrate. The biggest things we realized we wanted from an event were: photography and something that felt like a unique event to cherish time with friends and family. Good food isn't a bad idea either.
We did some research and came up with an alternative plan that of what our event fund could cover:
We wanted to capture some special photos. We thought an in-park "engagement style" shoot would be really fun. We also wanted to prioritize nice family portraits for everyone attending. We were able to book a photographer to capture a shoot earlier in the week with just the two of us and then come back again to capture portraits and candids the night of our anniversary.
We were trying to find a solution that felt like a special private experience. While researching we came across "The Walk in Walt's Footsteps" tour. We discovered we had the perfect amount of people to book out a an entire group and essentially get a private experience. Plus we figured this would be unique and memorable for our guests.
And what celebration is complete without a party. We wanted to book a reception with good food and drink. Also while we didn't need an official Vow Renewal ceremony we did want somewhere private to be able to exchange some heartfelt moments and speeches. We found out that Steakhouse 55 had a private "Oak Room" that was available for parties up to 20. Perfect.
We got to work getting the invites officially out and letting everyone know the updated plan.
1-5 Months Before
During this time we locked in more details as the date approached:
Received RSVP cards and confirmed guest count
Continued to update website with information for our guests
Designed additional event collateral such as menu cards, place cards, favors, etc.
We worked with the photographer on a shot list and mood board
We continued to plan small details like outfit accessories and writing poems/speeches
We were officially able to put a deposit on the private dining room 60 days out
We were able to pay for the group tour 30 days out
The Last 30 Days
This is when all details needed wrapping up before go time:
Julie altered the ball gown to tea length to be more appropriate for the event
Design collateral was finalized, printed and picked up
Table decor plan was finalized. Everything needed to be light and fit in a carryon so we utilized some fabric for a table runner, a 3D castle puzzle for centerpiece, 2 vases for flowers, and some frames from the dollar store
We sent communications to our guests to coordinate travel plans
Paid deposit to photographer
Booked a hair/makeup person for the in-park shoot day
Purchased any items needed for trip (clothes, toiletries, etc.)
Packing was quite the challenge to accommodate event items, Disneyland items and Hawaii items, but we successfully did it and luckily a friend offered to take one suitcase with our formal wear back home!
The End Result
So how did everything turn out? Absolutely amazing! The change of plans actually ended up feeling more like us and it was nice to not be too formal wedding feeling. In addition to the specific Anniversary activities we also planned general park days and dining reservations together for a full multi-day trip. We had a magical time with important people in our lives and have great pictures and memories. There were four people who had planned on attending but life events came up. We missed you Chris, Kelly, Krissy and Bill, but know you were there in spirit! Keep reading for more details on each part of our 10th Anniversary celebration: