One of the things many Disney brides rave over are something called "Dessert Parties," which usually take place at Epcot. Essentially, a dessert buffet is set out for your guests to enjoy while you watch fireworks. What's not to love?
I loved this idea, but didn't want my in-laws to break the bank. Also, while I felt completely comfortable offering only dessert, my father-in-law insisted on dinner, which definitely increased the cost of such an event.
We thought (and my in-laws agreed) that to actually be inside Epcot and have an up-close-and-personal view of Illuminations (the daily fireworks show), it was worth it to spend a little bit more. So we moved forward with an Epcot dinner party, located in the Italy section, and we're so glad we did!
We got very lucky! The rehearsal itself (prior to the dinner) was supposed to take place at the ceremony gazebo, but because it was spitting rain at the time, we got moved inside.
So we got moved from here...
So after the rehearsal, we took the walkway into Epcot's side entrance, called International Gateway (about 5-10 minute walk)
I didn't feel too bad about making them walk, since I had warned everyone to wear comfortable shoes, the only person who would truly have a difficult time making it (Mr. L's grandfather) had a scooter, and this gave many of our guests the opportunity to walk through Epcot, which was nice because many of them did not make it to all the parks.
I wish I had taken a picture of the food! It was a buffet with a goat cheese & cherry stuffed chicken, penne a la vodka (recipe courtesy of my in-laws' catering hall - it's their specialty!), grilled veggies, salad, bread (which was - randomly - REALLY good) and then pistachio and chocolate gelato for dessert. It was all delicious!
Additionally, my father-in-law hired an accordionist to play during dinner. Mr. L's grandparents in particular were truly charmed by this - he played all their favorite songs, which they sang along to, and I think kept guests' minds off the heat.
One nice surprise was that Disney allowed us to include some additional friends who happened to be at the park once it was time for fireworks! We probably had an additional 10-12 people who got to take advantage of our roped-off section.
Ways we saved money:
-No floral arrangements.
-No fancy linens.
-No fancy chairs or chair covers.
-No paper invitations for the rehearsal dinner - just word of mouth and e-mail!
-No transportation. Most dessert parties at the theme parks kind of dictate that you bus your guests to the location - but because we were already at the Boardwalk Resort area, this wasn't necessary! In fact, we actually COULDN'T have provided transportation if we wanted to - we were too close! But that was the point - we didn't consider a catered event at any of the other theme parks, because we didn't want to have to shell out extra money for transport.
-No professional photography.
-We didn't go super elaborate with dinner or dessert. Disney kind of assumes you want a cake with any of their celebrations - but it was totally okay NOT to have a cake. The gelato was perfect - it was REALLY good, and helped cool everyone down in the heat! It was very popular. Also, we didn't offer a huge number of selections - which was also okay. I think what we chose covered the bases of different dietary needs/wants.
If you ever have the opportunity to throw/attend one of these dinner/dessert parties, I highly recommend it! It definitely felt like a once-in-a-lifetime event, without being excessively expensive.
...Umm, I'm not sure. Depends on when our photographer has our photos ready :)