Raise your hand if you’re a Disney fan (my hand is raised). Now, if you are, my next question is how many of you, if even for a brief moment, thought of having your wedding at Walt Disney World? I know that was the case for us…for about 5 minutes, until we decided it would be best to have our wedding closer to where all our friends and family live.
Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who felt that way. Teresa Marra from Poughkeepsie, who is also a Disney Travel Planner, had a very similar situation. She and her husband Peter got married in October of last year and says, “We were originally going to get married at Walt Disney World but what swayed us against it the most wasn’t the price tag but knowing that many of our friends and family wouldn’t be able to share our special day with us.”
While having a destination wedding, especially in Walt Disney World, sounds really nice, you also have to consider your budget and your guests. While WDW is not that far from the Hudson Valley (if you fly), for some, it can be too expensive, are just not feasible for your guests to travel long distances to be with you on your special day.
However, if you are a Disney fan, and a Disney wedding is not in your cards, you can have a Disney-inspired wedding right here in the Hudson Valley. Believe it or not, the Hudson Valley actually has several ties to Disney, some you may know of, others you may not. But one thing is certain, you will finish this article with tons of inspiration for your own Disney-inspired wedding. From your engagement to your honeymoon, this is the ultimate guide to having a Disney-inspired wedding in the Hudson Valley.
Let’s get “schooled” (pun intended…you’ll see why) on Disney inspiration for your engagement or engagement photos. Engagement photos are a great way to be a little more creative with your photos, and is a great way to incorporate Disney theming, since many times couples use photos from their engagement session on their Save the Dates.
REALTED: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR SAVE THE DATES
Bard College, Annondale-on-Hudson
Photo Courtesy Bard College
On the banks of the Hudson River, just north of Rhinebeck, lies the historic campus of Bard College that plays a key part in Disney legend. Brothers Richard Sherman (no, not the NFL player) and Robert Sherman graduated from Bard in 1949. Who are the Sherman Brothers, you ask? This brother duo went on to work for the Walt Disney Studios, wrote some of our culture’s most prolific and endearing songs, and wrote more motion-picture musical scores than any other songwriters in the history of film!
While you might not be familiar with their names, you definitely know their songs. Ever heard of “It’s a Small World (After All)”? Ever see “Mary Poppins”? How about “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”, “The Jungle Book”, or “The Aristocats”, just to name a few? They wrote all the song for those movies and many, many more. If your mom or dad ever told you as a kid that a spoonful of sugar will help your medicine go down, you have the Sherman Brothers to thank for that. To learn more about the Sherman brothers and their connection to Bard College, click here
Photo Courtesy Bard College
If you’d like to pay homage to the Sherman Brothers or that part of Disney history, how about getting your engagement (or wedding photos) taken on campus? However, there are a few things you need to know. First and foremost Bard is a college, and students and academic programs come first. Couples need to remember that at any given time throughout the year, events are going on all over campus. From classes to graduate programs, to conferences, festivals, and camp, there’s always some activity going on and your photo session will not be the only thing happening on campus.
Second, Susanna Armbruster, Coordinator of Summer Programs and Community Resources at Bard College, says, “People who want to have their pictures taken on Bard’s campus need to complete an event request form that I provide directly to them. Once it is determined that the photo shoot does not interfere with Bard’s scheduled activities, we talk about logistics to see if it can work out. Photographers are required to provide a certificate of insurability. Some locations require a fee.” To receive your event request form, or for more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
RELATED: HUDSON VALLEY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS SHARE 6 REASONS WHY YOU NEED ENGAGEMENT PHOTOS
YOUR WEDDING DAY
Photo Credit: The Ramsdens
Since Marra and her husband did not go to WDW for their wedding, they had a Disney-inspired wedding right here in the Hudson Valley, which was truly magical. Disney plays an important role in both their lives. Their first date was going to see Disney’s “Big Hero 6” movie and some of their earliest conversations revolved around Disney and WDW. And they, like yours truly, also got engaged at Disney World.
Marra’s wedding should give you some great inspiration for your own Disney-inspired wedding. I’m saying Disney-inspired instead of Disney-themed for a reason. A Disney-themed wedding, to me, conjures up visions of Disney napkins, paper plates and party hats. A Disney-inspired wedding, which is what Marra had, is very different. Inspired weddings have touches and elements linked to a certain theme without it being overly obvious.
Because of their love of classic WDW attractions and Halloween, their wedding was inspired by the WDW Haunted Mansion attraction (not the movie). “Most of the wedding was heavily influenced by the black and purple wallpaper…the graveyard part of the ride,” says Marra.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Haunted Mansion attraction, it’s one of WDW’s first and most beloved attractions, being there since the gates of WDW opened in 1971. It’s a fun, not too scary attraction, which really has two distinct themes and takes you through 15 very different, fun, and funny rooms. It really has a fantastic back story, but that’s another blog post all on its own.
Marra incorporated elements of this classic attraction into other parts of her her day. “Before everyone walked down the aisle,” she said, “the opening narration when you first entered the ride played and then we walked down the aisle to the song that plays at the beginning of the ride and in the ballroom part (of the attraction).”
Disney wedding dresses
While Marra had a custom-made dress inspired by a vignette in the Haunted Mansion attraction where there are dancing Victorian ghosts in a ballroom, you can purchase your own Disney Princess-inspired wedding dress from designer Alfred Angelo. They are not sold at every store, so you want to make sure you call your local shop to see if they carry that designer label. These princess-inspired dresses, while they embody the spirit of so many Disney princesses, are gorgeous gowns and are in no way costume-y. Princesses featured include Pocahontas, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine, Ariel, Elsa, Snow White, Tiana, Mulan, Belle, and of course, Cinderella.
RELATED: WHAT YOU NEED TO LOOK FOR IN A QUALITY BRIDAL GOWN
Photo Credit: The Ramsdens
Nestled behind Cinderella’s Castle in the Fantasyland section of the Magic Kingdom is the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, another one of WDWs iconic and beloved attractions. If you want that same nostalgic feel, Bear Mountain Inn at Bear Mountain State Park has a classic indoor merry-go-round, with 42 finely detailed hand-carved animals. The Merry-go-round Pavilion, as it’s called, can accommodate up to 100 guests for a seated dinner or 150 for a cocktail reception and is where Marra and her husband had their reception.
They also had another unique Haunted Mansion-inspired twist to their reception. “When we were announced during the reception we came out to ‘999 Happy Haunts’ (the grim grinning ghosts song),” she says. That song is one that’s played during a portion of the attraction.
Photo Credit: The Ramsdens
It’s no secret that the Hudson Valley is home to some amazing bakeries and confectioneries. Your wedding cake is the perfect place to show a little creativity and your love for Disney. A wedding cake, or groom’s cake, is the perfect canvas to have a little fun. You can have everything from a full-on Cinderella’s castle cake, to a Darth Vader groom’s cake or a subtle hint to your love of Disney with a few Mickey’s thrown in there.
Check out Marra’s cake with little Mickey pumpkins all over it.
You and your guests are going to need some place to spend the night. Did you know that the Residence Inn/Springhill Suites (formerly the Residence Inn) in Fishkill is connected to a very famous Disney movie in a very enchanted way?
All the music for Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”, the 1991 animated movie and one of Disney’s most beloved films, was written in a conference room (with a rented piano) at the Residence Inn! While the original building is no longer there, the legend lives on. As the story goes, the film’s lyricist, Howard Ashman, who was suffering from AIDS and in severely failing health, needed to stay close to home (which was near Fishkill) while the music for the film was being created. So the rest of his team, which also included composer Alan Menken, flew into town, and went to work creating some of the most beloved and most recognizable Disney music. Isn’t that neat? To learn more click here.
Now, if you were fascinated by that tidbit, wait until you hear this one! I hope you’re sitting down for this. The team was so impressed by the level of customer service they all received at the hotel that they wrote the song “Be Our Guest” in honor of that! Is your mind blown yet? I know mine is!
Photo Courtesy of Residence Inn/SpringHill Suites
Jerry Culkin, who is the Vice President of Operation for True North Hotel Group, the group that currently manages the Residence Inn/Springhill Suites (and the group that also managed the old Residence Inn) says he heard about the legend of the “Beauty and the Beast” music long before he joined the True North Group at various Marriott meetings and conferences (True North Hotel Group is a franchisee of Marriott, Hilton and others).
“As the story goes,” Culkin says, “the cast and crew were so impressed they wrote a song about the service and hospitality they received that made it into the movie (“Be Our Guest”). This was per a letter the cast and crew wrote to the hotel saying the song was a tribute to the service and hospitality that was extended to them. This letter was kept in an awards curio in the gatehouse area which I did see when I first arrived.” Unfortunately, over the years, the hotel changed hands, went under renovation, and the letter sadly disappeared.
However, if you’d like to pay homage to this little piece of Disney legend, and book rooms there for you and/or your guests, Cathy Johnson Sales Manager of the Residence Inn/Springhill Suites, will gladly help. “We are a dual property,” she says, “so typically our wedding blocks are in our SpringHill Suites part of the property.” As for room blocks, “we start blocks at 10 suites and as those suites book we can check availability and add accordingly up to 25 suites total,” says Johnson.
Last, but not least, you need a vacation after your wedding. If having a wedding at WDW isn’t a reality, a WDW honeymoon (otherwise known as a Disneymoon) can be. I can vouch for this since we took a Disneymoon. So, while I know WDW is not Hudson Valley related, you can book your trip with certified WDW vacation planners based in the Hudson Valley.
Why is Walt Disney World a great place for Hudson Valley couples to honeymoon at?
Photo Credit: WCHV
Marra, not only had a Disney-inspired wedding, but like I mentioned earlier, is a Travel Planner for It’s All About The Mouse Travel, LLC., and says WDW is the perfect place to go for Hudson Valley residents. “Going to Disney is a fantastic option for Hudson Valley couples,” Marra says. “Florida is a pretty cheap flight from all of our surrounding airports and that doesn’t just mean you’re stuck going to Walt Disney World, many Disney Cruise options disembark from Florida as well.” Actually, some Dinsey cruises even disembark from New York City, if you’re not into the whole flying thing.
“What Hudson Valley residents will really appreciate about Disney is their level of customer service,” Marra says. “So much of the Hudson Valley revolves around tourism that our bar for hospitality is already pretty high and Disney really goes above and beyond when it comes to hospitality.”
Sara Fredericks, travel planner and owner of Dreaming of the Mouse in Kingston, agrees. “I think Disney could be a great way to have a honeymoon from the Hudson Valley,” she says. “Whether you’re flying from Albany, Westchester or Newburgh, the flight is about two hours and 45 minutes, our convenient airports are easy to park at, easy to get through security, and then once you’re at Disney you can have your entire vacation there or it’s a great way, after a few days, to move on to a different vacation.” She says from there, “You could take a quick flight to the Bahamas, you could go to Port Canaveral to board a cruise, you could take a drive to the (Florida) Keys or Miami.”
Walt Disney World is NOT just for kids
Kimberly Elias (who has the perfect name, since Elias was Walt Disney’s middle name), is a Disney Vacation Planner for Endless Travel in Wappingers Falls. She says, “Unlike popular belief that Disney is just for kids, it offers so much for adults to enjoy as well such as excellent restaurants, superb golf courses and even spa services.”
Fredericks says, “For Walt Disney World, there’s lots of activities that you couldn’t even bring kids to: There’s golf (regular golf, not miniature golf), there’s signature dining – now children are welcome but most people don’t bring children because of the cost – signature dining with dress code even,” and let’s not forget about the spas too!
Expert tips on what you need to know before you go…
Photo Credit: WCHV
Elias says, “Planning a Disney trip requires a lot of advanced planning and can be very overwhelming. Disney can become the most magical honeymoon, with the help of a Disney Vacation Planner.” Booking through a vacation planner is critical, she says. “If you are interested in a Disney vacation, it is very important to book with an agent who specializes in Disney. Most agents like myself, have a deep love for Disney and love to help others experience the magic of Disney.”
She also says that visiting WDW when school is IN session is a big help. “Try to avoid school vacations such as Christmas and spring break. The parks will be very crowded and without proper planning, will be very difficult to work through.”
Fredericks has some last bits of advice too. “My best advice is the second that you’re even thinking about Disney is to start getting the process started. There’s certain things that need to be booked at certain timelines to ensure availability, such as certain meals, character experiences…at least six months in advance.” She also warns about trying to cram too much into your trip. “Spread it out,” she says. “The (park) tickets gets cheaper, more affordable the more dates you add to them, and you need to schedule rest and relaxation in your days. Going into the parks from open to close for three straight days is a quick way to need a vacation after your vacation.”
Marra has some final thoughts, and one is to treat yourself. “When my husband and I went on our Disneymoon to Walt Disney World we made sure to splurge on stuff we’ve always wanted to do but never could justify spending money on before (at WDW) like a fireworks cruise.” She also agrees with Elias: Having someone else plan your trip is best. “It doesn’t cost any extra to use a Travel Planner,” says Marra, “and they take so much of the burden and stress off of you so why wouldn’t you?”
So, there you have it! The ULTIMATE guide to planning your Disney-inspired Disney wedding, from engagement to honeymoon. Are you having a Disney-inspired wedding? We’d love to know all about it! Are you “Disneymooning?” We’d love to know what you have planned.
To view more of Teresa and Peter’s Disney’s Haunted Mansion inspired wedding at Bear Mountain Inn, check out the gallery below.
Featured Photo credit and to all gallery photos: The Ramsdens
Venue: Merry Go Round Pavilion at Bear Mountain Inn (Bear Mountain)
Dress: handmade for me by Wedding Dress Fantasy (Teaneck, NJ)
Flowers (including flower crown): Dark + Diamond (Beacon)
Photographer: The Ramsdens (Poughkeepsie)
Jewelry: Copper Fern Designs (Hudson Valley Etsy Shop)
Hair & Make-up: Hair by Jamie Boo (Newburgh)