When it comes to booking great value weddings abroad, Malta has it covered, says Karl Cushing
Weddings can be an expensive business. Add in vagaries such as the British weather and it’s no surprise many of us marry abroad – nearly one in five (18%), according to a recent report by analysts Mintel.
For value and convenience, few destinations can compete with Malta. In addition to its pleasant year-round Med climate, and great choice of wedding venues and accommodation catering to parties of all sizes, it’s a doddle to get to as it’s a three-hour flight from the UK, with many cheap options from regional airports.
Thanks to its diminutive size there are no lengthy transfers either. As Planet Holidays managing director Mathilde Robert says, this means time-strapped wedding guests can easily join the party for just a few days.
Getting hitched in Malta is also relatively straightforward. Fanoulla Spyrou, weddings executive at Olympic Holidays, points out that locals speak English and a lot of the paperwork can be prepared from the UK.
This must be completed and submitted to the Malta Registry Office in Valletta a minimum of six weeks – and not more than three months – ahead of the wedding day. For a list of what’s required see olympicweddings.com.
Couples then need only to arrive at least three working days before their wedding day and visit the Registry Office at 197 Merchants Street, Valletta, to finalise their paperwork (they will need their passports). Moreover, many operators such as Olympic and Belleair Holidays have experienced in-house wedding co-ordinators, as do venues such as the five-star Phoenicia, Ta’ Cenc & Spa and Radisson Blu hotels. This makes it easy for agents booking everything from religious and civil ceremonies to blessings.
For couples who don’t fancy a church or hotel venue, many historical properties, such as the Palazzo Falson in Mdina and the Inquisitor’s Palace in Valletta, host weddings.
Two of Malta’s grander venues good for larger groups are Palazzo Parisio (pictured below), a 19th-century former palace in Naxxar, complete with 24-carat gilded ballroom, and Villa Arrigo, in the village of San Pawl Tat-Targa, which has a large marquee in the grounds. These are the top options in First Choice’s latest Weddings & Renewal of Vows brochure (packages from £915 and £759 respectively).
First Choice’s cheaper options include the all-inclusive four-star Hotel Seabank, near Mellieha Bay, where couples can tie the knot in a flower-strewn wooden gazebo (from £425). Its lead-in offering at Valletta’s registry office is priced £225 and includes items such as buttonholes, wedding cake and registrar fees. Clients can then pose for pics in the nearby Upper Barraka Gardens, against the backdrop of Valletta’s Grand Harbour.
Belleair Holidays’ Malta wedding packages are split between gold, silver and bronze, with civil ceremonies in Valletta registry office from £399 and church packages from £769. Bronze clients typically arrive in a Mercedes, while gold ones arrive in a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud, but all options can be customised to suit clients’ needs. When combining a holiday with one of its wedding packages, the couple receives a free room upgrade, and wine and fruit in their room on arrival.
Other standout Belleair venues include Castello Zamitello, a castle near Mgarr, while church options include Santa Barbara in Valletta and the Carmelite Church in Mdina, whose picturesque citadel is home to the intimate Xara Palace hotel, which offers ceremonies in its lovely courtyard. A supplement is payable for its Gozo options. These include Ta’ Frenc, Gozo’s premier restaurant, which is free to hire if the reception is also held there.
Planet’s Robert says quieter Gozo is “an excellent venue for those that wish to combine their wedding with outstanding cuisine”, while her top hotel pick is Malta’s five-star Westin Dragonara in St Julian’s, whose wedding locations include the beach, the elegant Quadro terrace, a Bedouin tent and its grand ballroom.
Alongside hotel venues such as the five-star InterContinental, Grand Hotel Excelsior and Fortina Spa Resort, Olympic has added some interesting Malta options in its 2013 Weddings, Honeymoons & Renewal of Vows brochure. These include Razzet L Abjad, a 200-year-old farmhouse; the 18th-century Villa Bologna, with its orange groves and fountains; and Sacra Infermeria, a former hospital in Valletta. Spyrou also recommends the Notre Dame Gate, historic gateway to the town of Cottonera.
On the big day, aside from arriving in a vintage car or limo, options include everything from traditional Dghajsa boats on Valletta’s Grand Harbour to horse-drawn Karrozzin carriages. At Hola Beach, featured by Planet, the bride and groom can arrive at the pier by boat before getting married beneath the palm trees.
Because Malta offers such variety, Robert advises agents to ask lots of questions and listen to what the couples want, building up a comprehensive wish-list before making any recommendations. Then it’s a case of thinking outside the box to ensure it’s a day to remember.
“Celebrations can be minimal and low-key, or grand and amazing with fireworks, yachts and opera-singing waiters,” she says. “Anything is possible, so don’t shy away from difficult requests.”
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