The Little Mermaid (Screenshot: YouTube)

Landing a husband, preferably a handsome prince, has been a priority for Disney heroines since 1937. More than any other movie studio, Walt Disney has defined what a wedding ceremony is, could be, and should be. Lavish nuptials are a third-act staple of the company’s animated productions, so it’s only natural that people want to have their own, nonanimated weddings at a genuine Disney theme park. Upwards of 5,000 couples do this every year at Walt Disney World in Florida. Over at Racked, writer Carlye Wisel tells their story in an article entitled “Princess For A Day, Disney Bride For Life.” As that name indicates, a Disney wedding is not something to be entered into lightly. Couples exchanging vows at The Happiest Place On Earth are entering into an entire complicated subculture, complete with its own guidebooks, podcasts, and Facebook support groups. The brides even refer to themselves as “DisBrides.” In short, it’s a whole thing.

So what should Disney couples expect? Well, the events are expensive, costing anywhere from $25,000 to $75,000, with innumerable options and add-ons. Even though the events are endlessly customizable, make no mistake: Disney runs the show. That means that lead times are shorter than couples might want, usually 12 months or less, and the events might go down at oddball times, like before the park opens or after it closes. And the photo shoots might take place long after the ceremony is over, necessitating getting the wedding party back together again. That inconveniences the marrying couple as well as the invited guests, sure, but that’s the price for tying the knot in the vicinity of the Cinderella Castle.

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But the advantages are many. The weddings are, by all accounts, lovely and memorable. The staff couldn’t be nicer. Should couples wish, Disney handles everything from cakes to dresses. No outside vendors necessary. Disney goes out of its way to accommodate the needs of its customers. They’ve been booking same-sex weddings since 1997, way before the momentous Supreme Court decision. And, for a certain fee, Darth Vader will show up at the reception. How cool is that? There’s a little bit of snark and skepticism in “Princess For A Day, Disney Princess For Life,” but Wisel is largely swept up in the romance and grandeur of it all. In the process of researching the article, she even chokes back tears at the wedding of a couple she does not know. That is the power of the Magic Kingdom.

[via Racked]