Walt Disney Parks and Resorts changed its policy to allow same-sex couples to buy Fairy Tale Wedding packages and have weddings or commitment ceremonies at all of its parks and on its cruise ships.
Previously, Disney had allowed gay couples to organize their own wedding or commitment ceremonies at ballrooms or other venues at its resort hotels.
The change allows them to buy packages and hold the events at Disney World's Cinderella's Castle or other locations that are available for such ceremonies, and with options such as attendance by Mickey and Minnie Mouse in formal attire. The packages, which include the services of a planner, dining, flowers and other features, start at $8,000.
"It's the right thing to do," said Donn Walker, a company spokesman. "We had received an inquiry from a gay couple, and they were told they didn't have access to the Fairy Tale Weddings. We debated about it internally and decided it was time to make the program more inclusive."
In the first four days after the change, Disney received e-mail supporting and opposing the move, Walker said. "The bottom line is that our business is all about hospitality, and we want to make sure that everyone feels welcomed and respected."
Disney will gain business by opening Fairy Tale Weddings to gays and lesbians, said David Paisley, senior project director at Community Marketing, a San Francisco-based firm specializing in gay and lesbian travel marketing.
"The concept is appealing to the gay community because it is a lot of fun. Disney has always been popular in the gay and lesbian community, and these packages will do well," he said.
Disney has long been a staunchly gay-friendly travel supplier, allowing "gay days" events organized by outside groups. It stuck with that policy despite a years-long boycott by Southern Baptists, who condemned the events but later lifted the boycott, Paisley said.
However, Canada will remain the No. 1 destination for gays and lesbians tying the knot, simply because same-sex marriages are legal north of the U.S. border. "You can do a ceremony at Disneyland or Walt Disney World, but you can't get legally married in California or Florida. So Canada will be the No. 1 place, and that's where most of the travel dollars will go," Paisley said.
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