Grand Floridian DVC Construction forcing Weddings to Move

They said it wouldn’t happen. That weddings at the Fairy Tale Wedding Pavilion would not be affected by the neighboring construction for the, as yet, unofficial DVC tower being added to to the Grand Floridian, Disney’s most expensive hotel. Prospective wedding parties were told that construction would be handled so as not to interfere with actual wedding ceremonies, by scheduling only quiet construction during that time of day. When I heard this a little voice in the back of my head said, “sounds like they’re promising something they won’t be able to deliver.”

Indeed, the other glass slipper dropped this week when couples with weddings booked at Disney’s Fairy Tale Wedding Pavilion during the final two weeks of September have been told their weddings will have to be moved or rescheduled due to unavoidable construction noise (and likely some dredge boats in the water outside the pavilion’s window). That’s less than 30 days notice for some parties. Barring bankruptcy, force majeure, or unpredictable unsafe conditions at the pavilion, that’s totally unacceptable.

The news first came to light in a post on Disboard’s popular wedding discussion forum and then later when the same bride posted on Google+, Twitter, and other locations I may not have found. Her planner called only the groom to deliver the bad news and then offered a move to a roof top wedding on Bay Lake Tower. The bride was justifiably upset at not being told directly and not being offered even a comparable location. Hopefully she’ll get this resolved quickly and with the type of service Disney should be providing when dropping this additional stress on a wedding party just days before the big event.

Disney should be compensating these couples with everything that’s within Disney’s power to do with in-kind (ie, non-cash) upgrades. This list would include, but is not limited to: an upgraded in-park venue near Cinderella Castle, offering to provide vendors if the couple’s already approved vendors can’t change times (if a time change is required), upgraded reception package, an inclement weather location that retains a view of the castle, in-park photo shoot times (pre-opening, so the couple can be in their formal attire), upgraded rooms for their on property honeymoon, etc.

The conversation should have gone like this:

Hello Miss Bride, this is Mr Planner. I have Mr. Groom on the other line, hold on a second while we conference him in. I want you both to hear about this opportunity together.

Your wedding has been selected for an upgrade to a Magic Kingdom location near Cinderella Castle. There are a couple locations available at your current time depending on your preferences. If you’re able to get your guests and vendors to move times, we have a special early morning location for a pre-park opening event (NOTE: this would be offered to the wedding parties with the earliest signed contracts first).

We know this is a big moment for you with a lot of stress and that a last minute change, even an upgrade, can add additional unwanted stress. We do appreciate your understanding. As we mentioned in a previous conversation/email, construction at a location that neighbors the Wedding Pavilion, where your location is currently scheduled, may require certain accommodations. Unfortunately, we just learned that the week surrounding your happy event will include construction that means we’re unable to accommodate you inside the Wedding Pavilion. We understand if you have your heart set on the Wedding Pavilion and are willing to offer you a rescheduled date and/or an anniversary vow renewal ceremony in the Wedding Pavilion for you and a small party in the next 5 years.

I’m sending you an email right now with details on the Cinderella Castle adjacent locations and our new inclement weather location (inside BLT roof pavilion, which still provides a view of Cinderella Castle similar to the Wedding Pavilion). I’ve also included a few images and concept drawings from our decoration team on what each venue will look like when set up for your ceremony.

Please let me know if you have any questions, here’s my direct line and a mobile phone if you need to reach me out of office hours. Also, here is my supervisor’s direct line if I am not available. We want to make this transition as smooth as possible for you.

Once again, we apologize for asking you to change at such a late date, but we’re sure you and your guests will enjoy this new location with the classic Cinderella Castle prominently in the background.

I know Disney has a rule of no wedding dresses inside the park during park hours. But if they’re willing to inconvenience a wedding couple with less than 30 days notice, they should be willing to bend that rule for a week or so, even if it requires a guest relations host to stand guard. A rose garden setting for small parties and a swan boat dock location for larger parties will be an experience those parties could not have afforded otherwise.

By offering a new venue that is not an upgrade to the wedding pavilion Disney may have believed they were saving money, but the reality is once the word gets out that your wedding at the Fairy Tale Wedding Pavilion could be moved to a comparative hovel a Disney’s discretion, they’ll lose money when couples decide to go elsewhere. Add in a justifiably upset bride posting across all the forums and social media channels about how poorly she’s been treated, and the opportunity cost is huge.

Frankly, none of that should be a motivating factor. Disney should have just done the right thing from the start. I hope they decide to do it now.

Photo credit: Flickr CC-Licensed by Maedi.

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36 Responses to Grand Floridian DVC Construction forcing Weddings to Move

  1. Jenn says:

    I wonder what they really did say to fix this.. That’s pretty bad business, especially for a company like Disney!

    • Kelly says:

      The bride mentioned here is a friend of mine. I highly recommend reading her thread (via the link). What took place and continues to go on is absolutely nauseating. As this blog stated, she’s not the only one. Another bride’s sister posted that her sister was also given just 8 days notice that she has to reschedule. How you like them apples?

      My friend has not received any calls back from her planner or anyone at DFTWs. She left multiple messages and sent many emails. Tonight there is supposed to be a big conference call with the bride, groom, father-of-the-bride, and DFTWs representatives. I hope & pray they finally buck-up and make this right. This isn’t just another wedding. This is this bride’s life-long dream! I suspect it’s the same for all the brides who are now the victims of the poor planning on DVC’s project managers’ parts and DFTWs poor handling of the situation.

      It may be more cost-effective to push the construction schedule off until whatever dredging must be done can be sufficiently planned around the existing schedules of the wedding pavilion’s operations. That’s how it should’ve been handled from the very start.

      Love this blogger’s perspective and suggested verbage for contacting brides who will be affected. That certainly would’ve been the way to go from the very start!

  2. Rob Stevens says:

    Unfortunately, Disney Weddings was put in a no-win situation here, simply by allowing the pavilion to be booked during construction. If there was even a hint that things were going to be impacted (like the construction walls and new windows that have already gone up!), they should have simply told the brides that the venue would be unavailable at the outset, before papers were signed and money changed hands.

    I feel incredibly bad for the bride, and I really hope that she gets offered something like you suggest. But with under a month to go, that’s likely impossible. There are other brides impacted as well, and other venues have bookings too. The Wedding Pavilion alone can be booked for up to six weddings A DAY. That’s potentially a lot of rebookings. And they’re all competing for the venues that are left. Of course those brides will want MK weddings now, which is also likely already booked by someone who already paid for it. This woman was offered the top floor of Bay Lake Tower, likely because … it’s all that was left.

    I really just can’t believe Disney let themselves get backed into a corner like this. Trying to keep the DVC construction a secret, and likely financial pressure to accept bookings on the Weddings side led to a terrible outcome for their BRIDES, and they should have known better.

  3. John Frost says:

    Regardless of what venues are ‘left’ for that day, a new venue with a magical view of the castle could be created in either of the locations I mentioned. Those are not used for weddings during park hours (due to the no wedding dress rule). Disney has made win-win situations out of crappy deals before. Why they offered these wedding couples such an awful selection this time is beyond me.

    • Wendela says:

      Disney does offer weddings at Swan Boat Landing in the MK before park opening, so it is possible that that location has already been booked, although doubtful, as park management is notoriously difficult with making dates available. And, I’d imagine that the Fantasyland construction and the fact that the Christmas lights usually go up in September would make any dates in September unavailable for MK weddings. DFTW has to work with park management for any theme park events…they can’t just give away those locations without approval. I do think that the bride should get some serious upgrades…just not sure if the castle ceremony can be worked out with park management at this time.

  4. Kristi says:

    With only a months notice, to change a wedding venue is HUGE. I hope Disney offered some major perks to take the sting off of the wet blanket that many brides may feel is now cast over their wedding day. For example, The Cinderella Castle Suite should be offered to one Bride for each of those nights. I think I would happily trade venues if it meant I got to spend my wedding night in the castle.

  5. Mindy says:

    This whole situation STINKS and I feel SO BAD for the bride and any other couples this is affecting. The way the planner contacted the groom is a total cop out and only added fuel to the fire. What were they thinking?!?!?!?!? I agree, an upgrade to a castle ceremony is the only way to resolve this mess.

  6. Amanda says:

    I am getting married at the Wedding Pavilion in December. I have to say that I have already had something come up where my planner had to change our reception location. I got a phone call from my wedding planner who told me of the change (basically they just wanted to move us to a bigger ballroom at the Grand Floridian because another group wanted the smaller ballroom) and said it was up to me whether I wanted to make this move. She also told me that if I accepted she would ask the other group to pay for upgraded room decorations. So now we will be in a bigger ballroom, but we will have a lighted fabric canopy over the dance floor.

    I feel really bad for this bride that her situation was handled in the way it was. I just wanted to write to let people know that Disney Weddings does try and do a the best job possible to accommodate everyone. I know this is probably just as hard for Disney Weddings to deal with as the brides. Sometimes they have weddings back to back, and they can’t offer the 5 weddings in one day the one Magic Kingdom wedding that occurs before park open. I do hope they can compensate all these couples adequately! I am sure they will pull some sort of Disney magic out of their sleeves!

  7. Cami says:

    As a former wedding planner, I have to say that I am sincerely appalled by this development, which in my experience only happens when the venue/vendor is brand new to the game or is badly run. I would have thought that Disney was neither brand new nor badlly run, but I am now leaning towards believing that it is badly run. I am further appalled that Disney, who markets and prices itself upon the notion that they provide a “magical” experience is so willing to shoot itself in the foot with this behavior. Not only is the couple not receving the experience for which they contracted, they’re not even receiving decent service, plus everyone else in their wedding may be inconvenienced, lost money, or be unable to come . Absolutely unacceptable in every way.

    If I were in the business today, I’d rethink telling my customers to use Disney as I used to when I felt confident in saying, “Don’t worry. Disney will take care of you.” Those days are apparently over.

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  10. Estelle says:

    Ugh. This really fired me up. I got married six months ago, and I know I would have had a cow if this happened to me. I would have been even more brokenhearted if it was Disney. I just read the update from that bride, and she said that there was something in her contract about the GF construction but no one pointed it out to her and she didn’t read it. Sigh, right? Disney is not even offering to give some of her money back if she moves to the other locations (only one of which has a Cinderella Castle view). So it seems Disney did cover themselves, even though they are getting a ton of negative publicity right now. It’s terrible because tons of brides save and save and save to have this dream fulfilled. It is a huge investment for the couple, the family, and all of the guests who make the trek to WDW to hang out. It’s not only a car ride, a wedding gift, and even a hotel – it’s a mini-vacation.

    Thanks for sharing the story. I’ve been reading up on it all day.

  11. Kasey says:

    I would agree that Disney shouldn’t have booked weddings for that week with the promise that the construction wouldn’t be a problem. But I really don’t see why it is a problem that they called the groom. It’s his wedding too. If you stick with it and read all the bride’s postings, you later learn that they did try to call her – apparently to an old number although she is adament about them having the new number. But, she was unreachable anyway as she was teaching a seminar in what she calls a strange foreign land that the rest of us call Canada (Vancouver). I think not at least talking to the groom would have been a bigger mistake. The bride started ranting and posting before she ever even talked to anyone as Disney. They have offered other days during the week she and her party are going to be there to have the wedding at the WP as this problem doesn’t affect all weddings on all days. Rather than see if she can change the other appointments (hair/make-up, steaming of dress) she has said it is not possible. They offered other locations too. They have also said they could see if they can stop construction that day. So, at some point she has gone hysterical and blown this way out of proportion, and is making demands that are unreasonable in comparison to the problem (everything for the whole group free and upgraded, lifetime park passes, complete refund, and a MK wedding). I understand it’s a stressful time and all but, to me, it’s not quite as bad as it has been made out to be. I’m not saying Disney shouldn’t make more effort to mollify what was a bad decision on their part and throw a couple of upgrades their way but I also think a mountain is being made out of a molehill. Personally, if I had been told there was going to be construction, I wouldn’t have chosen those times even if they did say there *shouldn’t* be any problems with the weddings. Has anyone known a construction project to ever go the way it should?

    • Liz says:

      Whoa, why is there such a distaste toward this bride? Remember to always put your self in someone else’s shoes. I have personally been follwing this very excited woman in her journey in fulfilling her dream. ‘Ranting’? really? Hardly. I am completly appauled with the way in which Disney has handled this situation, albeit in the contract or not. DFTW should have stepped up long long ago and cared for this molehill before it became a mountain. Disney caused the drama, they need to correct their wrong doings, and do it the “Disney way”. How would you feel if you were told less than a month before your very well planned out wedding that it had to be changed? Imagine the money this woman & man have worked for to put toward this event. And not to mention their families that have taken valuable time out of their schedules and hard earned money put toward this also to share in their special day. I’m just saying, look at both sides of the story. Yes, some requests made by the bride were extreme, but so is requesting/telling someone to completely change their wedding with less than 30 days notice. Planning a Disney vacation is a lot of work by itself, add in the stress of a wedding and imagine how that has to feel. Would you want to purchase something and only actually be given a portion of what you bought?

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  14. Lee Harper says:

    Yes … additional stress and horrific timing, but I don’t understand why a switch to an in-park location is warranted. The bride in question didn’t have an in-park site to start with — she was in a wedding pavilion at a resort well outside the park. A rooftop wedding at the new Bay Lake Towers IS comparable, if what you’re looking for is a private venue with a castle view. And I’m thinking that some brides would not consider an in-park wedding to be an upgrade, particularly if your mid-day or early evening wedding would now have to be held either before or after normal MK operating hours. Who wants to get up at 3am to get married in front of the castle before 8, when the original plan was the Wedding pavilion at dusk? Plus … have you SEEN the rooftop and rooftop lounge at Bay Lake? It’s not like Disney is asking people to get married on a concrete slab on top of a half-finished building. It’s a beautiful venue that has a far more unique and fashionable reception area than Grand Floridian, IMO. I fault Disney for not giving the brides more advanced notice, but I think the venue they’re offering is comparable.

  15. Shelley Bowman says:

    Thank you everyone for your support during this wedding debacle. I am the bride who posted the story on the DIS and I am so overwhelmed with the support I have gotten from the Disney Online Community. This is a horrible circumstance and my family and I are appalled at how Disney Fairytale Weddings has handled this situation. We will keep you posted but all we want in the world is to get married as planned and have magical memories. Please continue to spread the word and share my story. I am not only fighting for myself and Jason but for all Disney Brides and Grooms that this is affecting.

  16. Mike says:

    I feel bad for the bride and groom, but if there was something in the contract about GF construction and she simply chose not to read it, I’m not sure it is entirely Disney’s fault. This should remind everyone of the importance of reading a contract FULLY.

    I also have to say (as someone who will be staying at BLT the last week of September) that i’m not thrilled to learn that Top of the World might be unavailable to DVC guests because of a problem like this. I sincerely hope that isn’t the case.

    Regardless, this is really unfortunate for everyone involved. Disney can and should do better. Hopefully, for most, a wedding is a once in a life experience, and the cost associated with a Disney wedding can be quite expensive. Let’s hope that something can be worked out for all involved.

  17. chris says:

    You told it like it is. I would be really mad if I were a bride.

  18. Darcy says:

    From what I read on the bride’s blog not only did Disney want to change the venue to a cheaper one than what she booked, they refused to give her a refund on the price difference, never mind any kind of upgrade! Shame on you Disney.

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  21. Shelley Bowman says:

    I ended up having my forum thread deleted. It was going viral and people were just being ridiculous and rude to me. Better to just nip it in the bud so that’s what I did. Thanks for everyone who has supported me through this terrible time. I’ll keep you posted but we are hoping for a resolution tomorrow!

    • venessa says:

      Shelly!

      Good Luck and do keep us posted!! Where will you keep us posted anyhow if not disboards?

      • Tink says:

        Good luck Shelly! Having just recently been married, I can only imagine the tailspin you went in when they dropped this on you! Regardless of what’s written in the contract, they know what a big dream this is and should be compensating you in a fair manner. I hope it all works out for you, and remember, no matter what happens, at the end of your wedding day magic will have happened, because you will have married your prince charming

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  24. Rebecca says:

    The sad thing is Disney have been pulling stunts like this for quite some time. We had a Magic Kingdom photo shoot booked and then were told they were all cancelled due to the FantasyLand Expansion. They should have a schedule in place for all construction and if in doubt NOT take any bookings. I really feel for this bride and hope she can find a resolution that she is happy with.

  25. Kim says:

    This is very disappointing. But as a previous Disney bride and after going through their planning process, I’m not at all surprised. They just don’t communicate very well and don’t seem to have spines. I was lucky my wedding turned out so well, but there was a lot of unneccessary conversations with them.

    It is surprising that Disney isn’t stepping up properly and fixing this. Even a beach wedding at the poly sounds better that the windy tower and a view downward!

    And for those of you who don’t know, a Disney wedding is booked a year in advance. There is no way they knew the construction would affect these 2 particular weeks of weddings. If they delayed the construction, it would just affect other weddings. The Disney team need to work more hours to get other locations ready for some weddings.

    Good luck to all the brides!

  26. Shirley says:

    I think what Disney have done is disgraceful and you can sugar coat it with upgrades but if a bride wants to get married at the WP nothing else is going to ‘make up’ for their mistakes. I’m sure Disney have known about this for a very long time and to only just start to contact brides is a joke.

    Did you hear about the UK bride? She is flying with her family in 8 days and only just found out that the WP is unavailable on the date she has paid for and the other days are unsuitable due to other family flying in on those dates for the wedding. That’s not even mentioning that her sister posted that she has had all her favours done with the date on them. It’s just sickening. As if brides don’t have enough to worry about a week before leaving for their wedding.

    Disney owe these brides big time.

  27. David says:

    I’m not taking sides, but I find it amusing that people say “if you read the bride’s blog, you’ll see how Disney was wrong with x, y, and z.” Well, call me crazy but when you read the bride’s blog you’re only getting one side of the story. That doesn’t mean it’s fact. If she didn’t read the contract then she set herself up for failure. Granted, I’d be insanely ticked if I were in the situation. I can’t exactly read her story, all I can see is her tweets.

    • John Frost says:

      I’m sure the right to make a venue change is in the contract. But it should be for a better location, not worse. Also, Disney screwed up, not just by making last minute changes, but by not talking to both bride and groom together.

  28. Tink says:

    Just a note of observation, but it seems that the majority of negative comments toward the bride are coming from males.

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