- Jess Collins has been photographing weddings professionally since 2011, her main focus being destination weddings.
- More specifically, Collins has been capturing Disney cruise weddings.
- “They make dreams come true,” Collins told INSIDER of how Disney does weddings.
- Visit INSIDER.com for more stories.
In 2011, Ontario-based photographer Jess Collins took her first professional wedding gig shooting her sister-in-law’s wedding in Cambridge, Canada. It was then she realised just how much she loved photographing weddings, soon carving out a niche for herself shooting destination weddings, specifically. Her couples have taken her everywhere from Scotland to Jamaica.
A longtime Disney lover, among her favourite destination weddings to shoot are those taking place on Disney cruise ships. Her first Disney cruise wedding was on the Disney Dream in December 2016. She’s since photographed two more, with at least four more lined up for 2019, she told INSIDER.
“They make dreams come true, let me tell you,” Collins told INSIDER about how Disney does weddings.
Here are three Disney cruise weddings Collins has shot, proving just how magical they really are.
Collins grew up loving the Disney brand herself. “It’s a real part of who I am,” she told INSIDER.
Today, she visits Disney World with her husband and two kids every year, and is even an annual pass holder.
Her first Disney cruise wedding as a photographer was Danusia Rogacki and Brendan Riordan’s aboard the Disney Dream cruise in December 2016.
Collins and Rogacki shared a mutual friend, and when they met and quickly bonded over their mutual love of Disney, Collins was hired.
The cruise was four nights altogether, and Collins brought her family.
When Collins shoots a destination wedding, the couple covers all of her travel costs (including airfare, room and board, travel insurance, etc.) plus a photo package fee for the wedding itself. Pricing can really range, she told INSIDER, but a basic photo package on her website starts at $US3,000 (plus the aforementioned travel expenses).
Rogacki and Riordan had their wedding on the second day of the cruise on the island of Castaway Cay.
The Disney Dream’s four-night cruises include a stop at Castaway Cay and a stop at Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas.
“They had their wedding right on the beach overlooking the water,” Collins said.
Castaway Cay is Disney’s 1,000-acre private island in the Bahamas. The couple got married at the Pelican Point overlook.
The couple had a morning ceremony with a small reception to follow.
“I think they had about 30 or 40 [guests],” Collins told INSIDER. According to Destination Weddings Travel Group, which planned more than 3,000 destination weddings in 2018, the average size of their destination wedding guest list is 28 people.
After the reception, Rogacki and Riordan changed for more formal photos taken throughout the ship.
The Disney Dream has a crew of nearly 1,458 and a capacity of 4,000 passengers, according to Disney.
Naturally, Rogacki and Riordan are huge Disney fans.
For the couples who choose to have their wedding on Castaway Cay, reception takes place onboard the ship directly after the ceremony.
Generally, the couples who choose to have Disney weddings “live, breathe, or eat Disney” Collins said.
“Most couples that I’ve worked with choose Disney weddings either because that’s how they met their significant other, or that’s where they had their first date, or maybe that’s where they had their proposal,” she said. For them, Disney is “definitely a lifestyle choice.”
“This by far was the most laid back couple I have had,” said Collins on her website about Rogacki and Riordan.
Collins said that generally speaking couples who choose to wed on Disney cruises are “just very laid back, really looking to enjoy the wedding day and the wedding experience, and OK kind of handing most things off to other people.”
Collins’ second Disney couple was Brittany and Danny Capote, who got married aboard the Disney Wonder in February 2019.
The Disney Wonder is smaller than the Disney Dream, with a crew of 950 and a capacity of 2,713 passengers, according to its website.
The Capotes met working at Disney themselves, per Collins.
Meeting while working at Disney is a common theme among Collins’ couples, both those who get married on the cruise ships and those who get married at Disney’s land-locked parks.
Like Rogacki and Riordan’s wedding, the Capotes’ was on a four-night cruise.
“Most weddings are between three and four nights because they are quite costly,” said Collins. “A lot of couples don’t want their guests to have to spend too much.”
The couple had their ceremony in the ship’s atrium.
The Wonder’s atrium is on the third deck of the ship and spans three decks altogether, according to Disney.
They had somewhere between 40 and 60 guests, said Collins.
Many of the guests who came were Disney cast members themselves. According to a study by the Wedding Wire based on 18,000 couples who got married in 2018, one in four couples considers their wedding to be a destination wedding.
Among the many custom elements a couple can choose to include in their Disney wedding package is a visit from the characters themselves.
The Capotes had Minnie and Mickey pop in their reception.
“The character experiences are fabulous,” Collins told INSIDER, “guests absolutely lose their minds.”
“When Minnie and Mickey come walking into a room, it’s so much fun,” said Collins. “They danced and they took photos and the kids loved it.”
After the ceremony, Collins and the Capotes spent time walking around the ship and taking photos.
Since the ship was docked, many passengers were off exploring Nassau, giving them ample room to roam around the ship.
According to Disney, the company was granted special permission by the US Coast Guard to paint its lifeboats yellow.
This was instead of “the traditional regulation colour of orange, to preserve the Mickey Mouse colour palette of red, yellow, and black,” according to Disney’s website.
Among Collins’ favourite parts of shooting Disney weddings is “the element of surprise” — you never know what character will come walking around the corner.
“With Disney weddings there’s always fresh inspiration. Like, there’s Pluto walking down the hallway – let’s get a photo with Pluto!” Collins said.
The most recent Disney cruise wedding Collins shot was that of Timaira Magnaye and Dennis Garcia, aboard the Disney Dream in March 2019, on a three-night cruise.
The two met 11 years ago working in the airline industry, Garcia for Southwest Airlines and Magnaye for American Airlines. As both share a love for Disney, Garcia had proposed at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in front of the Once Upon a Time Shop.
The two got married in the atrium of the Disney Dream during its stop in Nassau.
Disney weddings are pretty quick affairs, said Collins, as they last around three to four hours, including both the ceremony and the reception.
Magnaye and Garcia had about 60 guests.
The couple currently lives in Arizona with their son. Together with their friends and family, they flew down to Florida for their wedding.
They chose a cruise because they wanted to create an experience in which their guests could vacation and relax even as they celebrated their special day.
“Cruise weddings are a great option for people who don’t want to settle for just one wedding location,” said Destination Weddings Travel Group vice president of marketing Jen Avey, “and want to get the best of (the entire) world. Cruise weddings also give couples the option to include those loved ones who can’t make it to a traditional destination wedding, by hosting a celebration at port before jetting off to sea.”
A wedding on a Disney cruise can be a lot cheaper than a regular destination wedding.
According to Wedding Wire, the average cost of a destination wedding in 2018 was $US32,000.
According to Disney Fairy Tale Weddings and Honeymoons, the most basic wedding cruise package starts at $US3,500 (though that’s not including the cost of the actual cruise, that is room and board). All Disney cruise line ceremonies include an officiant for the wedding, cake and Champagne following the ceremony, and a solo musician.
Depending on the time of year and chosen accommodations, a three-night cruise on the Disney Dream can cost anywhere from $US1,500 to over $US10,000.
According to a 2016 study done by The Knot, travel expenses for guests attending international weddings were as much as $US2,623 on average per guest.
When it comes to the cake, the basic cruise ship package includes a two-tier, white fondant cake with a selection of fillings and flavours.
Basic flavours include chocolate, vanilla, or marble, and basic fillings include lemon cream cheese, strawberries and cream, French vanilla, espresso chocolate, and raspberry chocolate.
There’s also a wedding coordinator on site to guide the wedding party through the entire process.
“It’s very well oiled,” said Collins, as the coordinator ensures that everyone is in the right place at the right time.
Even better, the Disney cruise wedding package includes some perks for the bride and groom.
Perks include dinner for two at Palo, an Italian restaurant aboard the ship, a Disney Cruise Line commemorative ceremony certificate, and $US100 of onboard stateroom credit that may be used towards merchandise, spa treatments, or other onboard activities and port adventures.
“I’m not gonna lie,” said Collins, “I cry at every wedding I go to.”
She remembers one Disney wedding in particular in which, upon seeing his bride walking down the aisle, the groom started crying. His grandmother got up to wipe his tears away.
“Thank goodness for autofocus,” she said, “my eyes were so watered.”
“Disney people are just young at heart,” she said.
“They’re playful, they’re fun … they have this zest for life – sometimes my friends will be like, ‘aren’t you a little old for Disney?’ and I’m like, ‘man, nobody’s too old for Disney.'”
- Read more:
- 73 magical photos that show what getting married at Disney parks is really like
- 17 Disney-inspired wedding ideas that fans will love
- These Disney princess wedding dresses will turn your big day into an actual fairy-tale
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.