Guest Review: Private Mother’s Day IllumiNations Dessert Party

Welcome to guest author Mark Diehl with an illuminating ;-) review of an Epcot dessert party he created to honor the “mothers” in his life! He also inspired our upcoming WDW Foodie Fest Snack Attack dessert and fireworks event on October 4th — stay tuned as tickets will be going on sale today!

This was the second Mother’s Day we spent in Disney World, so I did some research and finally settled on an event we all could enjoy: a private IllumiNations Dessert Party.

It was not cheap, and while it was successful enough that I would want to do it every year, it was expensive enough that it was probably once in a lifetime for us. I got all of the information from Disney World private dining and once my contact Chris Ware (highly recommended, he was fantastic) sent me the sample dessert menus, I decided I needed to make my own custom dessert menu.

Decisions, Decisions

After bouncing around a number of ideas, I was able to narrow it down to 2, and ended up going with…neither of them.

Party of 6

The first idea was a dessert menu from the countries of Epcot. Each country was to be represented with a dessert item.  The following was my menu proposal:

School Bread from Norway, Apple Strudel from Germany, Napoleons from France, Churros from Mexico, Sticky Toffee Pudding from UK, Tiramisu from Italy, Kaki Gori from Japan, Baklava from Morocco, Caramel Ginger Ice Cream from China, Campfire S’mores from Canada, Funnel Cake from USA.

The price for this menu came back at $95 per person.  That may not sound bad, but when you consider that this was only for food and did not include the location rental, table set-up fee, or drinks, you can see it adds up fast.

Desserts in Epcot

The second idea was a dessert menu based on the popular Disney Food Blog. This menu consisted of DFB favorites including:

Mickey Ice Cream Bars, Pineapple Dole Whip, School Bread, Ghiradelli Ice Cream Sundae, Popcorn, Cinnamon Roll, Funnel Cake, Churros, Carrot Cake Cookie, Butterfinger Cupcake, Zebra Dome, Mickey Rice Crispy Treats, Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Sandwich, Mickey Soft Pretzels, Turkey Legs, Grand Marnier Slushie, Yak Attack, Lapu Lapu

This one came back at $135 per person.  Even more expensive than the first, so now I had to do some compromising.

And that is when it hit me. This party was supposed to be for the Mothers, not for me. So I went down both lists and picked out the favorites of everyone who was going to be there. My Mom loves carrot cake. My wife must have the Popcorn every time she goes to WDW. My grandmother often orders Tiramisu when we go out for dessert.

Add in some ice cream for the kids and a treat for me.

The final menu:
Mickey Bars
School Bread
Carrot Cake Cookie
Butterfinger Cupcake
Coffee, Tea, Water
Soda available for $4 per person

$35 per person! So, I added a bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate.


I chose a spot in Morocco, which was appropriate for our small party.

Morrocco from dessert table

When we finally arrived in the Morocco pavilion that night, we were all blown away by the setup.

Desserts and Beverages

I could not have anticipated how great it would look. Chris was even there to meet me as we walked in to make sure everything was just how I wanted it.

private table

Finally, what you have all been waiting for……the food!


While it did not appear that the food was actually from the locations that I requested (Editor’s Note: At private events, Disney’s catering departments will often re-create the menu items), it was all delicious. All of the adults agreed that the carrot cake “cookie” was amazing, and I don’t even really like carrot cake. My youngest child, the chocolate lover, dove right into the Butterfinger cupcake while my oldest child and my wife just kept eating the popcorn. Of course, we also enjoyed some Mickey Bars and the bubbly.

Carrot Cake Cookie, Popcorn, Tiramisu

School Bread, Butterfinger Cupcakes, Tiramisu

Mickey ice cream bars

Before we knew it the fireworks began and we really did have an amazing view.

Memorable view

When the fireworks ended we hung around for a while just eating and talking before heading out to catch the last monorail back to the TTC. It really was a magical evening for everyone.

Thanks to Mark for this great idea, and for the inspiration for our upcoming WDW Foodie Fest Snack Attack event! We hope you all can join us! We’ll be announcing ticket information today.


  1. Heather says

    Just curious as to what the space rental was? It sounds like you planned a great event!

  2. Jessica says

    Yes, how much was the total final cost of everything – rental, food, etc? Can WDW do this for smaller parties, too?

  3. Wendy says

    Did they wrap up any leftovers for you? Unless you really ate a dozen Mickey bars…..congratulations if you did!

  4. says

    Heather – The location itself was $250. It was nervous about it but it really was a fantastic location to watch the show.

    Jessica – Our party was only for 6 so they can do it for any size. However, there is a minimum amount you must spend which is based on 10 people. They also charge a $50 small party fee if you have less than 10. The total came in close to $700 (ouch), but for 6 people I just considered it a very expensive dinner. Like I said, probably once in a lifetime for us.

    Wendy – We did not manage to eat all of those Mickey bars. I can tell you this much, we were told they were not supposed to let you take the leftovers home. I don’t want to get any employees in trouble so that is all I will say.

  5. says

    Wow, I had no idea they could do a special event for a group that small. How cool! As you said, it’s not something you could do very often, but for a very special celebration, it’s an amazing idea. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Colleen Schmitt says

    Very interesting idea! Looks like a lot of fun. Thanks for posting the total, expensive but not totally out of reach. Thanks for the delicious report, it made me drool. :)

  7. says

    Diane and Colleen – Thanks, we had a really great time and I am still hoping I will figure out a way to join the DFB version.

  8. DisneyMommy says

    Thank you for sharing this neat experience. It all looks wonderful!!! I would love to do this when our kids get a little older.

    How long could you have the reserved location available to you? Did you have time to relax before Illuminations and could you stay a little after while the crowds thinned out?

    Can you include dinner options instead of only desserts? Are they really even able to make Dole Whips available (based on one of your draft menus)?

    What email/phone number did you use to get started with the process? How far in advance did you have to plan?

    Thanks again so much for sharing! It makes me hungry for all the WDW desserts we love!

  9. says

    DisneyMommy: Dessert parties in Epcot are scheduled to be for one hour, and food service lasts for one hour. You can extend the time to 90 minutes free of charge, but if you want to extend food service, there is a pro-rated charge per person based on the menu price. That said, we have had several of these parties and never felt we were being rushed out of the location at the end of the night. Also, they are not supposed to let you take leftovers, but they always do. Some people even bring bags/boxes!

    Some locations are available for dinner, but the food and beverage minimum goes way up. For example, the Rue de Paris (the long, narrow terrace in France) has a dessert party food and beverage minimum of only $460 but a dinner minimum of $2,255. The availability of Dole Whips may vary by location, as certain spots are too far from the kitchen to allow for frozen desserts.

    To get started, contact Disney Catered Events at 321-939-7278. You can also call Private Dining at your resort, eventually you will end up working with Disney Catered Events.

    Sorry to be a know-it-all, but I wrote up a complete tutorial on planning private dessert parties in Epcot, so I wanted to share the info!

  10. says

    Well, I was going to respond, but not only has Carrie answered everything, but crazy enough I actually used the blog post she linked to get an idea of what was involved before I started.

    As far as getting a Dole Whip or whatever you want for your party. They will try and work anything for the right price. We even discussed at one point renting a Kaki Gori machine just for the party.

  11. luvmychaos says

    It seems odd that they would even say you can’t bring leftovers “home”. You paid for it and it would just end up getting thrown away anyways. If I paid $700 for an event you better believe I would be taking home stray popcorn kernels & half eaten cupcakes! Thanks for sharing,seems like a magical experience!

  12. andrea says

    Did you $35 per person apply to your six guests or to the guest minimum of ten people? I’m in the process of planning my own party and was quotes $39 a head. That is fine for meeting minimums if I’m only being charged for five, but will be too pricey if it is the cost for ten.

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