Fantasies Come True

By Valerie Lemke

December 19, 2008 5 min read


Alternative weddings span the globe and surprise guests

Valerie Lemke

Creators News Service

There was a time when getting married was a formal, by-the-rules rite of passage. The wedding was in a church, synagogue or courthouse. The reception in the church hall, banquet room or family home featured white wedding cake, punch, mints and mixed nuts.

No more. Now weddings may take place in a vineyard or on a mountaintop, out-of-state or out of the country. Vows are made underwater, in a hot air balloon or while roller skating. The bride can be a princess and the groom can be in kilts. Some weddings are a surprise to the guests or even to the bride.

"Today's couples are well-traveled. They're savvy and they want something unique," said Korri McFann, media and business development director for Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings and Honeymoons. Headquartered in Florida's Disney World, her duties extend to California's Disneyland. The two venues combined coordinate 1,700 weddings annually.

"All of our weddings are destination weddings," McFann said of the Florida venue. "We work with couples from around the world and from every state in the country."

Disney World's Wedding Pavilion on an island overlooking Cinderella's Castle is a popular site. Marriage in an Italian courtyard in Epcot Center followed by an Italian feast and an evening fireworks display is another.

Also offered are Bermuda cruises with a stop at Castaway Cay, a private Disney island. Here bride, groom and guests participate in a wedding complete with cake and a champagne toast.

Equally romantic weddings occur on the West Coast.

"At Disneyland couples marry in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle after the park closes," McFann said. "It's a magical, fairy tale place, made for a bride who wants to be a princess."

Newlyweds on both coasts often request Mickey and Minnie Mouse. The mice will greet guests at the reception. "They're always a hit," she said.

Fairy tale weddings for 100 guests average $28,000 at each theme park and include the ceremony, reception, music, entertainment, photography, videography and flowers.

With all the details, one-stop shopping is a definite draw, particularly for the bride. "It takes a team to get you married and keep the bride happy," she said.

Kate Owens, sales and marketing head of Barbara Llewellyn Catering and Event Planning in Oakland, Calif. (, also works to keep the bride happy.

A recent example of Llewellyn at work was "East Meets West" the summer themed wedding for a California bride and her Nantucket groom. Coordinated by the firm, the East Coast-West Coast emphasis was everywhere. Gift baskets of local goodies welcomed parents and family from the East. Sonoma sparkling wines and Cape Cod cocktails were featured in toasts to the bride and groom. Reception and dinner included East and West food fare.

"It was important to the bride and groom that his parents and family feel very involved," Owens said.

A theme wedding in Mexico last year also emphasizes the event company's attention to detail.

"My fiancée and I fell in love with Cabo San Lucas," said Lauren Perez, an events specialist with the firm. Eighty guests attended the weeklong festivities in the resort town.

"Saturday was the wedding at a wonderful resort, followed by a cocktail reception on a pirate ship in the middle of a swimming pool and a surf and turf dinner," she said. The Mexican theme was carried out with colors of turquoise and orange. Favors were miniature bottles of Cabot Waco Tequila.

Vendors are also available to coordinate exotic weddings. Check the Internet if you yearn to marry in a hot air balloon, say your vows while skydiving or exchange rings in an underwater ceremony.

There are also weddings that are a surprise to either the bride or guests. For Christopher Roth, a Long Beach, Calif. resident, attorney, notary public and officiant (, performing these impromptu ceremonies in the Los Angeles and Orange county areas is his primary profession.

One of his latest was a purported going-away party given by a man moving to Europe. "During the party the man and his longtime girlfriend told the guests they had an announcement to make," Roth said. "I walked up and began the ceremony."

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