Majestic Mdina WeddingsThe stunning walled city of Mdina represents the perfect marriage between medieval mystique and Mediterranean charm. Great city gates and towering bastions nurture an internal haven of winding cobbled streets and baroque-inspired buildings, while crimson bougainvillea line honey-coloured, ancient stone walls. Mdina really is one of the most beautiful and tranquil spots in which to hold a wedding in the Maltese Islands. Malta Beach Wedding talked to one happy couple, originally hailing from Australia, who chose this unique setting in Malta for their big day; here’s what they had to say…
Why did you decide on Malta for your wedding location?
We decided to have our wedding in Malta for two reasons. One; we always wanted to get married at a ‘destination wedding’ location and two; my fiancée was just recently re-located to Malta for work. So with these two reasons combined, we thought it would be great for our friends to see our new home and, with Malta being an island in the sun, it satisfied the destination wedding aspect with those fabulous Mediterranean sea views.
Did you have a dream wedding scenario that you were looking to create?
My ideal dream scenario was to get married on a sandy beach, but unfortunately due to the laws in Malta this was not allowed. Therefore I was on the look out for a venue that was small and intimate, and that could cater for all my other personal wants. The choice of location was very important as a lot of wedding venues in Malta are for weddings that cater for hundreds of guest (in Malta it is commonplace to have weddings of 400 people or more). Our guest list was only 28 people, so a small and intimate setting was needed.
Where did you start? How easy was it to find venue details?
After speaking to the personnel at the Maltese Marriage Registry Office about the rules and regulations of where one is allow to marry legally in Malta, I knew I could choose hotels, charter boats and private villas (reception houses) that specialise in weddings. The office staff have been to many of the venues in Malta performing Civil Ceremonies so it makes a good place to start if you don’t already have somewhere in mind.
What venues did you consider?
Since living in Malta for a few months, I was lucky I could personally go out and scout these venues. With the groom working, I had hired a car for a week and made appointments to see hotels and palaces (Maltese ‘palazzos which are similar to grand stately homes). I visited luxury 5-Star hotel chains and personally found many of these places to be devoid of any ambience for a small wedding. Some Palazzo’s had lovely views of the Mediterranean, but again were used to dealing with 200+ guests, not 28 guests. I then shortlisted two venues, Palazzo Parisio in Naxxar and Xara Palace in Mdina. Ultimately we decided on Xara Palace.
Why did you finally decide upon Xara Palace?Xara Palace fitted with all our wants, and I also had a sixth sense feeling when I first walked into the Atrium where the wedding ceremony was going to be held – I knew I had found the right place. But besides my sixth sense, after I had spoken to the Xara Palace’s representative, I felt reassured the setting was just right. The Atrium is an internal court yard that is covered by glass (perfect for the unpredictable November weather), and is the right size for a small and intimate wedding ceremony. There are four large mature trees that are in concrete pots on all four corners of the Atrium – these wind up the walls to create an indoor/outdoor ambiance. There are also well established bougainvillea plants climbing the walls of the Atrium and these were going to hopefully be in bloom in November.
The Xara Palace Restaurant
Xara Palace’s restaurant is De Mondion, which is the closest a restaurant in Malta gets towards a Michelin star. We decided to host the wedding dinner there as well, and due to the number of guests, the cost was not outrageous. Before dinner we had arranged to have drinks and canapés served on the terrace of De Mondion. This terrace overlooks the majority of Malta, allowing our guests to see the stunning vista of Malta, and being November the scenery was very green. Xara Palace also allowed us to host an after dinner drinks reception in the Atrium again, to continue the wedding celebrations and also to invite other friends who were not invited to the main ceremony to celebrate with us.
Being part of the Relais and Chateux hotel group, we also knew the rooms in the hotel would be fantastic and decided it was the best place to celebrate our wedding night by booking the honeymoon suite; a two-storey suite overlooking Malta with a Jacuzzi on the terrace, perfect!
How did you go about arranging your ceremony?We had a Civil Ceremony that was arranged by myself as the bride. Due to living in Malta, I was able to visit the marriage registry office in person to apply for our marriage licence. However when required, I was able to call the registry when questions arose. Obtaining our documents required by the registry was met with some difficulty, due to myself and the groom being Australians and having not lived in Australia for many years, there were calls to the NSW registry office in Australia to apply for copies of our birth certificates and single status certificates. These documents then had to be apostillated by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs. I was fortunate that my family in Australia were able to help out in the logistics of documents being authenticated and were able to forward these onto Malta via express post in time for the wedding.
How did you handle all your guests arriving from overseas?
With guests travelling from Australia and Britain for the wedding, the planning, entertaining and transport for the guests had to be arranged and well thought out in advance.
There are two popular ways to travel to Malta from Australia. Using Heathrow hub, we had guests fly from Sydney via a stopover in Asia to London, then transfer onto an Air Malta flight to Malta. Emirates airlines also flies into Malta from Dubai, with a non-stop daily flight to Dubai from Sydney, so this was another popular option. Guests travelling from Britain had a range of flight options to choose from. Most guests were travelling from London Gatwick or London Heathrow, with numerous daily flights connecting London to Malta. Two of our guests were arriving from Scotland and they flew out of Glasgow airport.
With guests arriving on different days and times, there was obviously going to be a logistics problem. Some guests hired cars from the airport and were more than happy to help with logistics for family and friends who were arriving later.
On the actual wedding day itself, the only transport that was required was for the wedding guests themselves as I was able to secure the honeymoon suite earlier than normal, so I could get dressed at Xara Palace. We had arranged for all ceremony guests to be picked up in a bus, and we had chosen three pick up points around St Juilan’s and Sliema where the majority were staying. Guests had to be at their allocated pick-up point at a certain time. After the wedding, ceremony guests were driven back to their pick-up points. Drinks guests (being resident in Malta) made their own way to and from Xara Palace.
In regards to guest accommodation, most guests arranged their own hotels. Being at the end of the tourist shoulder season, it was cheaper for the guests to use various booking websites, as when I initially enquired with hotels directly, I was offered the rack rate and I knew from research, November would be less expensive than August.
Entertaining the guests before the big day fell into two categories. Family members were on hand to help out with any last minute organising before the wedding so after the wedding we took some time in our schedules to show Malta and Gozo to them over a few days. For friends who were making our wedding a holiday, we spent some time with them before the wedding by hosting meals.
How did the big day go?The big day went off with only one hitch, but in regards to the overall day we were both very happy. Since we were getting married on a late November afternoon, there was a lack of light in Mdina which meant that our photos had to be taken before the marriage ceremony to ensure they were of a good quality. However, as my fiancee and I were not having a traditional wedding ceremony, the issue of seeing each other before the wedding was not a concern. What mattered to us more, was that our photos turned out great.
Dinner on the day
Since our guests were remaining in Mdina from after the marriage ceremony, we arranged canapés and drinks on the terrace that overlooks the Maltese countryside, and the event manager was on hand before the wedding day to help me decide on which canapés to be served at the afternoon drinks session on the terrace. This worked out really well as our guests got to watch the sunset over Malta while enjoying refreshments from high up in the bastions of the Xara Palace which make up part of the great city wall of Mdina.
For the drinks for the whole event, we took advantage of the ability in Malta to be able to supply your own alcohol (wine, champagne and spirits only) at a function venue. Thus bringing the cost down of the wedding dramatically, as we did not have to pay hotel prices for alcohol. Xara Palace just charged us a corkage fee for each bottle opened. We sourced our wine from two sources in Malta; Charles Grech and Farson’s where, due to the quantity we were buying, we obtained more of a discount.
There was a bit of a mix up with the flowers I had ordered for my bouquet in that the local florist had had to order my particular magenta coloured flowers from Holland – however, the wrong colour was sent back and there wasn’t enough time to rectify. The bouquet was still lovely and it didn’t impact our day – it was just one of those things we had to take in our stride on the day… and you can guarantee there will always be one thing when organising a wedding!
Overall the day went really well and I was enjoying myself so much I forgot to throw the bouquet anyway!