Funerals and memorial services are deeply personal events. They’re an opportunity for the family to say their final goodbyes, and they also pay tribute to someone’s legacy and life. It’s only natural to want to have such an event at a location that was meaningful to the deceased.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How Can You Plan a Funeral at Disney?
- Can You Be Buried at Disney?
- Other Ways to Incorporate Disney Into Your Funeral or Memorial Service
With millions of guests visiting Disney World and other Disney parks each year, it’s no surprise that Disney is a large part of people’s lives. From the timeless films to the theme parks themselves, Disney cornered the market on happiness, nostalgia, and memories.
However, can you have a funeral or memorial at Disney World? How can you honor someone’s funeral wishes if they were a lover of Disney magic? In this guide, we’ll break down Disney’s rules about funerals or memorials in the park. We’ll also share unique memorial service ideas to honor the Disney lover in your life.
How Can You Plan a Funeral at Disney?
To Disney lovers, it’s possible to find magic in everything. Yes, even a funeral. With Disney being such a source of joy and happiness, it’s not surprising that many wish to include Disney and the theme parks in their funeral service.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to plan a funeral on Disney property. There are strict rules (not to mention the local laws) about spreading ashes at Disney. While many events like weddings, reunions, and so on are welcome on Disney theme park property, funerals are not permitted.
Why is this? A funeral generally opposes Disney’s mission as being the Happiest Place on Earth. While you are welcome to gather with your family, host a memorial dinner, or celebrate someone’s life at Disney World, there is no way to have a full-blown funeral service in a traditional sense.
Virtual funeral tip: You may not be able to have a full funeral service at Disney World, but you can still host a Disney-themed funeral. And a virtual Disney funeral means your attendees don't have to travel to show their support. A service like GatheringUs can help you incorporate details like Disney music and images of your loved one at Disney World, and ensure that the event runs smoothly.
Can You Be Buried at Disney?
Similar to the sentiment above, you cannot be buried at Disney World. While it’s rumored that Disney World and Disneyland are full of ashes of loved ones, this is nothing but an urban legend.
Disney has strict rules about scattering ashes, and burials aren’t permitted. It’s important to remember that Disney is a hospitality business, not a cemetery. Though many families wish to honor loved one’s memories with a final burial in the most magical place, this isn’t a practical option.
Can you be buried nearby?
One alternative to being buried in Disney for someone who cherished Florida or California vacations is to be buried nearby. While Disney World and Disneyland own their own property, their surrounding cities are equally impressive and beautiful.
If being buried near Disney is important to you or your loved one, there are many local cemeteries to choose from. These are located within driving distance of the theme parks, and they have all of the services and grounds crew needed to maintain a clean, safe cemetery.
Can you place a memorial marker at the parks?
Another common misconception is that it’s possible to place your own memorial marker at the parks. From flowers to a rest in peace plaque, it’s against the rules to leave anything in the park that doesn’t belong there.
There’s no way to place a commemorative marker in honor of a loved one in the parks. Anything left in the parks will go to the lost and found or be disposed of after the park closes.
While there have been commemorative programs, like the Walk Around the World bricks and the Leave a Legacy markers, these were discontinued over a decade ago. They might return in the future, but they’re not an option at this time.
Other Ways to Incorporate Disney Into Your Funeral or Memorial Service
There are so many ways to incorporate Disney into a funeral or memorial service. With a little bit of faith, trust, and pixie dust, it’s easy to honor someone’s love for the magic and nostalgia without infringing on any of the theme park’s rules.
The first way to incorporate Disney into a memorial is to make a family trip to the parks. For many, Disney is one of the few things in life that stays the same. The world is a rapidly changing place, but the Disney parks have remained mostly the same. They’re a safe place for revisiting beloved memories, making new connections, and remembering loved ones.
If you’re saying goodbye to someone who loved these parks, honoring their passion with a trip yourself is often the best way to feel close to their memory. You can walk in their footsteps, ride their favorite rides, and commemorate their life.
Another way to honor someone’s love for Disney is with a memorial dinner. Both Disney World and Disneyland have a long list of impressive dining options.
Sometimes, it’s possible to reserve a private room. Hosting a dinner with friends and families to celebrate the life of someone you love is a touching tribute.
Donation or volunteering
Many find peace in volunteering or donating money to a cause that matters to them. Disney is involved in a number of charities that fund research, protect wildlife, and give the gift of magic to people around the world.
Here are some great Disney-affiliated charities to choose from:
- Give Kids the World: This Kissimmee-based charity provides support for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. It makes it possible for these children to experience an escape through the magic of Disney.
- runDisney: Another Disney-based charity is the many charity teams that host events through runDisney. Sign up to run an event in the charity’s honor or make a donation and cheer your team on.
- Make a Wish: The Make a Wish foundation frequently helps children with life-threatening illnesses visit Disney World and have their dreams come true.
- Disney Conservation Fund: Last but not least, the Disney Conservation Fund supports sustainability and conservation efforts across the globe and in Disney parks.
It’s also possible to create magical moments in the parks. You could purchase a balloon for a child, buy another family’s dinner, or just thank a cast member for everything they do. These small acts help bring meaning to someone’s memory.
If you visit the parks in honor of a loved one, be sure to ask a cast member for a celebration pin.
These are given for free, and there are a number of pins to honor special events like a first visit, birthdays, anniversaries, and so on. You can find these pins at merchandise stores, hotel check-in desks, and guest relations.
There’s one pin that’s specifically for celebrations. You could write that you’re celebrating your grandma’s life, your dad’s legacy, and so on. Not only will this help cast members recognize your special visit, but it’s a unique way to honor your loved one through funeral attire.
If your loved one had a favorite character, honor their legacy by meeting this character during a trip. You can bring a photo of your lost loved one and ask the favorite character to pose for it. This makes a touching tribute, and it’s sure to become a cherished memory.
Another idea is to get a journal, funeral program, or signature book and have different characters sign it for your loved one. Some might even have a special message for them. This memory book of messages and signatures is a beautiful way to honor a life of magic.
Even if you can’t visit the parks in-person, you can still honor your loved one’s passion with Disney memorabilia. From matching Disney shirts to a Christmas ornament honoring the year, there are so many ways to use Disney to remind yourself of your loved one.
While you can choose anything that reminds you of your loved one, here are some ideas:
- Photo frame
- Holiday ornament
- Seasonal decorations
- Favorite stuffed animal
- Matching family t-shirts
- Books and movies
Use Magic to Say Goodbye
There are so many ways to say goodbye to a loved one with the help of Disney World. For those who experienced the magic and nostalgia, there’s no better way to honor their legacy and memory.
While it’s not possible to have a traditional funeral or memorial at Disney World or any of the Disney theme parks, that doesn’t mean you can’t still use this magic in your own tribute. As Walt Disney himself once said of his theme park, “Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.”