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Wedding at Disney is no Mickey Mouse affair

You are the brains behind the Disney money machine. You have found almost every way imaginable to help people part with their money _ and feel good about it.

People keep asking about getting married at Disney World. It would be a dream come true, they say. It would be, it would be . . . magical.

Hmm. A special place at Disney for weddings. Guests staying in Disney resorts, the happy couple honeymooning there, or maybe even aboard the planned Disney cruise line.

Disney Does Weddings . . . or maybe, Wedding World.

No, no, keep it simple:

The Wedding Pavilion at Disney.

When you wish upon a star . . .

Sparkling like a many-faceted diamond, the crystal coach arrives, drawn by six small, perfectly matched ponies, snow white colored, of course.

Two footmen, costumed in creamy white and gold satin, bounce from the rear platform to open the door. A beautiful young woman all but floats down the coach steps. For the moment, 18-year-old Susanne Mackey is Cinderella.

She is about to wed her Prince Charming, 23-year-old David Cobb.

They're in from Cookeville, Tenn. (population 25,000), the first couple to marry in the new Disney Wedding Pavilion.

The only thing Mickey Mouse about the event is the brief appearance of the royal rodent in white tails, escorting his perennial lady love Minnie. The guest list includes a few couples you wouldn't find at, well, at most weddings:

Cinderella and Prince Charming. Belle and the Beast. Aurora, the Sleeping Beauty, and Prince Phillip. Ariel, the Little Mermaid, and her Prince Eric. (You know the type. Flashy. Animated.)

The Victorian-style pavilion is across an ivy- and rose-covered bridge on a private island in the Seven Seas Lagoon. The building is enclosed with Tiffany-like leaded glass etched in pastel pink and blue flowers, but still allowing enough clear panes to give guests a panoramic view of the wonders beyond.

To the left, the elegant Grand Floridian Beach Resort. To the right, beyond the lagoon, Cinderella's Castle in the Magic Kingdom.

While all couples who come to marry at Disney must have a warm spot for Cinderella or at least Mickey Mouse, few could love Disney more than the wedding pavilion's first bridegroom.

Growing up in Tennessee, David, whose parents own and operate a hardware store, lived for family vacations when his mom, dad and big sister would come here. When his Sigma Chi fraternity brothers at Tennessee Tech would head to Daytona Beach, he would go to Disney.

He met his Cinderella in a restaurant after church. Susanne is the youngest of four daughters in a family that owns a wholesale food business in Cookeville. She was in high school; he was an engineering student at Tech.

Last August, David brought his sweetheart to his "favorite place in the whole, wide world."

You gotta get a load of how he popped the question.

David was gone. He had left Susanne three items at the foot of her bed: a gift, a Cinderella storybook and an envelope that said, "Read this first."

"In it I told her tonight was the night that a fairy tale was going to come true," David recalls. "I instructed her to pick up the book, which I sealed into three sections, break the seal and read the story in which the King decided to throw a ball for the Prince. She found that I had placed another letter in the book.

"In this second letter I informed her that tonight she was Cinderella and that she had been invited to a very special ball. I instructed her to go ahead and open the package in which there was a new dress for her to wear to the ball."

In her new dress, she was instructed to board a bus for the Magic Kingdom. On the ride, she was to break the second seal in the book and read until she reached the part where Cinderella first meets the prince. Then David joined her, they switched to the monorail and dined at the Grand Floridian.

After dinner David disappeared again and their server instructed her to open the final letter, which told her to meet David in front of Cinderella's Castle.

"As I followed her up Main Street, I realized that it was time for the nightly parade," David says. "Crowds had lined the streets and they all seemed to be watching me since I was the only person still walking in the middle of the street.

"As I came to the castle I saw Susanne searching for me. I called out her name and she turned in my direction. We started running toward one another and met right atop the star which is placed in the sidewalk in front of the castle."

David presented Susanne with a glass slipper filled with creamy white rose petals. Atop the petals was a brilliant diamond ring.

"I don't know if the slipper will fit, but I sure hope the ring does," he told her, dropping to his knee.

"She responded with a resounding "yes,' " he recalls. "To our surprise the crowd which had gathered to watch the parade near the castle began cheering and applauding. We took our bows and went on our way."

Are these people magical, or what?

So there they were, all freshly engaged, and planning to marry in Tennessee in December. But then they heard about Disney's new wedding thing.

David wrote to Joanne Rahill of Walt Disney World Weddings telling her how he and Susanne dreamed of marrying at Disney but how quite simply their families couldn't afford to grant them their wish. He did a recap of their engagement. If there were a chance they could be considered as part of the promotional campaign for the Wedding Pavilion, well, they would very much be available.

And here they are.

The groom, who could well be actor Sam Waterson's kid brother, paces up and down a side aisle.

Recording artist Peabo Bryson, who received a Grammy for Beauty and the Beast and who sang A Whole New World in Aladdin, comes in and out of the pavilion. He will be a soloist.

In the back of the church, Randy Fenoli is tossing his shining long locks from side to side as he nervously awaits the arrival of the bride in the gown he designed for her from his Diamond Collection.

Guests are gathered in the washed-white oak pews, which have stencils of pink and blue flowers repeating the motif in the stained glass windows. Heart-shaped cut-outs are carved into each pew. The design in the pink and blue tapestry upholstery is repeated in the carpeting in the main aisle.

Trumpets herald the start of the procession. The groom, his best man and two ushers rush into place. Here come the bridesmaids, the maid of honor, the flower girl. Here comes the bride. And now the minister presents them:

Mr. and Mrs. David Cobb.

As they leave the pavilion, hundreds of white doves are released into the sky, where the first stars are just beginning to twinkle. After all, When you wish upon a star . . .

This was the deluxe model, for sure, with Disney pulling out all the promotional stops. There even was a quickie but flashy fireworks display, in which pink and red hearts rocketed into the heavens.

The pavilion officially opens July 15. Some 200 weekends already have been booked through the end of the year. The pavilion is geared to handle six ceremonies a day on weekends. Couples have to agree to spend at least $5,000, which can be used for anything from the pavilion to the wedding fare. Roomsare not factored into the amount.

Disney World Weddings asks a minimum of 25 room nights at Disney properties for wedding parties of 16 to 40 guests, and at least 50 room nights for parties with more than 40 guests. (Special deal: discounts for guests staying at the All Star Resort, Dixie Landings, Caribbean and Port Orleans).

Rent on the pavilion for Friday through Sunday weddings runs $1,000 if you have more than 150 guests (capacity is 250). Lower rates for smaller parties.

The extras are, magically, extra.

To arrive as Susanne did in Cinderella's glass coach with the white ponies and costumed footmen costs $1,500. To be photographed sans the ponies, that will run you only $750.

Wedding luncheons begin at $50 a person, and dinner at $65 (begin at). There is also the matter of 18 percent gratuity and 6 percent Florida sales tax.

Disney will provide everything from a four-piece rock band ($1,775) to a classical string duo ($375). For invitations, you can pick from four themes: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid and Snow White. Those run $12.50 each (plus set-up fee and printing charge). Susanne and David chose (guess?) Cinderella.

Oh, if you want Mickey, Minnie or any other of your Disney favorites to attend, they'd be simply delighted. They cost $400 each.

Dreams can come true . . . but that doesn't mean they come cheap.

To learn more

For more information on Disney World Weddings, call (407) 828-3400