It’s worth having a rough idea from the very start as to how big your event will be. You’ll need to know this in order to make informed choices on your venue. The fact that you are planning an overseas wedding will also cull a few guests due to the perceived expense or difficulties with travelling. If there is anyone that you can’t imagine not being there for your big day, it’s a good idea to speak to them and check they’re happy to make the trip.
This is clearly one of your first and most obvious tasks. Venues get booked up early in Malta as a rule. Locals tend to hold very big weddings (min 400 people) in the months of April to June and September to October. International marriages are popular in the main summer months and Malta is fast becoming a sought after wedding location. Check out Malta’s most popular wedding venues here.
If you are holding your venue abroad, it is essential that you set the date and inform your guests as early as possible. A ‘save the date’ communication will be enough to allow them to look into flights and hotels at the earliest opportunity. Flights and hotel prices increase quite steeply the closer it gets to the summer season, so if you want a full house, get in there quick!
Make sure you leave enough time to visit your shortlisted venues. You can’t always get a feel for a Maltese venue from the images supplied and visiting them in person usually surpasses your expectations on certain venues. If you are looking for a hotel to organise your day, they should offer you discounted accommodation to come over and view the venue. You should also consider the surrounding area; take note of hotels, restaurants, beaches and things to do for your guests while they are over celebrating with you.
It’s more work for you but it’s worth doing a bit of research into the cheapest hotel and flight options for your guests. You could approach a particular hotel and request a group booking discount or keep an eye on prices on Expedia and the main budget airlines for flights. Anything that makes it a little easier for your guests will ensure more of them make the trip.
You may not be in a position to send official invitations out while you are confirming your venue so you could develop a simple wedding website to impart any information you do have, like the above, to your guests. It’s a useful way of updating friends and family and encouraging comments, questions and comradery on the build up to the day.
As soon as you’re ready, send them out. Whether you are doing them traditionally from the bride’s father or a modern-day email, make sure you’ve considered everyone but also remember you can’t always keep everyone happy! If you are asking people to travel abroad, don’t be surprised by a few drop-outs at this stage; the reality of money and inconvenience will kick in when an official answer is required.
When planning a wedding in Malta, make sure you understand whether it is your responsibility to book the registrar or your venue’s. In some cases the venue will confirm the date for your wedding but not have checked whether a registrar is free to marry you. Most venues will give you all the forms you need to fill in and put you in touch with Malta’s Registry Office where you will be allocated a registrar and helped through the process. Find out more information on the legal process of marrying in Malta here.
If you’re having a best man, maid of honour, bridesmaids and ushers, let them know as soon as possible. You’ll need to make sure they’ll be able to make the trip and if they can, they’ll be valuable support as you plan your wedding overseas.
The wedding dress in particular will have a long lead time depending on its level of complexity, and the bridesmaids dresses won’t be far behind once you factor in all the fittings. However, if you are marrying in Malta in the summer months, it will be extremely hot so a big dress may not be appropriate. Make sure you get a feel for your venue and good idea of the temperature before selecting your styles. You will also need to think about how it will fit in your luggage and plan accordingly. There are a number of bridal shops in Malta if you were to leave it very last minute but be advised that the styles are slightly more flamboyant or ‘bling’ than those in the UK, as a rule.
Visit a jewelers and order your rings, bearing in mind that any bespoke designs or materials will require a few month’s lead time including approving samples and so on. If you are ordering rings in Malta, be aware they do not have platinum suppliers on the island so your order will take longer if you want platinum rings.
Decide upon the colour scheme and overall ‘look’ you want for your wedding. If you have a specific theme in mind, this will need to be very clearly portrayed to your venue. In most cases the venues will have their own standard set-ups and it will be up to you to personalise it either through the use of florists or outside events companies who can work with you flexibly to create the exact look you want.
Check out caterers, select your food options and attend a sample tasting. In Malta, the venues will generally lay on the food; this usually replaces a venue hire fee assuming you are catering for a good number of people. Check that the food is of a high standard and research other caterers if you are not happy with it or if you are having your reception in a non-catered location i.e. a beach. Check out Malta’s trusted caterers here.
If you are having a seated dinner, deciding on a seating plan will be one of your bigger headaches but it will reduce confusion and dithering come the event. You may also want to consider seating at the ceremony itself. Reserved signs on the front rows can ensure your family and any witnesses have an appropriate place if they are delayed due to helping out and so on.
Your venue will usually offer an international bar and have wines, champagnes and spirits available at extra cost. If you want to reduce costs, it is possible, and often recommended by the venue, that you get the latter ordered in from a wine merchants. There are a number of good merchants in Malta who operate on a sale or return basis which can save you significant amounts on alcohol, especially if you are planning to offer a free bar.
Tell your caterer about your cake early on and be sure to have some images or designs on hand to explain what you want. Your idea of a wedding cake may be slightly different to the local caterers so unless you want a traditional Maltese wedding cake you’ll need to dictate otherwise. Also be aware of the heat if you are having a summer wedding in Malta – chocolate, cream, ice-cream and so on will have a very short shelf-life!
Plan the kind of entertainment you want in enough time to scope it out. Whether it is a band, DJ, fireworks, dancers or whatever, you’ll need to work to a budget and check out your suppliers to make sure they’re good. Many hotels will offer music duos or entertainers that may be great locally but less appropriate for your party. Have a clear idea of what you want and research your options early. Check out some entertainment providers here.
From ensuring your guests know how to get from the airport to their hotels, to the bridal transport to taxis home on the night of the wedding, make sure you have considered how you and your guests will be getting about. It’s a good idea to think about how far away your venues are if you are having separate ceremony and reception venues as a long journey can kill a party atmosphere. Fortunately no-where is very far away in Malta but you may want to do it in style. Traditional horse-drawn carriages, vintage cars, luzzu boats or old style buses are all the rage in Malta.
Think about anything that will take the stress off you as you start your celebrations. Your guests will be coming to a country they don’t know and have lots of questions on how to get about. The more information you can provide upfront, the better. Consider an information pack left in your guests hotel including information on the programme for the day, pick up times, taxi numbers, other guests numbers and even things to do and places to go while your guests are left to their own devices. Here’s an example that may help.
Think about whether you want wedding favours and what those might be. A summer wedding in Malta will be hot so you could consider fans, ice pops, small personalised bottles of water or such like. All will act as a nice surprise and make your guests more comfortable at the same time. Check out some ideas here.
Your venue contact will most likely recommend a florist they work with if not deal with the flowers themselves using a third party. When choosing your flowers or table decorations, remember factors such as the heat and seek advice from the florist as to the best types of flowers to use. You may need to include local flowers or flowers from hot origins such as orchids so that your bouquet doesn’t droop half way through the ceremony!
Think about what music you want to walk up the aisle to and back down it again with your new husband. This will often be overlooked by your venue unless you have a wedding planner. Also consider any ‘down-time’ such as welcome drinks or any periods while your guests are milling about. You may want some background music to create a mood. The venue will be able to supply a sound system or you could take an ipod deck but you’ll need to spend some time creating your perfect playlist.
This should be easy if you have a special song that the two of you share but just check your band or DJ can actually play it in advance.
When you have all your gang together, make sure you’ve allocated tasks and told everyone what they need to do to help the day run smoothly. From directing guests to seats, to playing the entrance music or carrying your presents to the hotel, your ushers and bridesmaids will help the day run like a freshly oiled wheel!
In addition to the running order of the arrivals, actual ceremony and reception, consider the timings of the wedding morning itself including any deliveries that may be due i.e. fresh flowers. Ensure there are people on hand to combat any issues or chase any suppliers so you can enjoy getting ready.
The civil ceremonies in Malta are very short so it is recommended that you include two readings to personalise your ceremony. The registrar can provide standard readings but you may want to put some thought into who could read for you and what type of thing you want them to say. Ask them early so they have time to prepare!
Find yourself a reliable photographer and explain the type of shots you want. If you opt against a local Maltese photographer, make sure you are aware of costs involved in flying a UK photographer and their equipment out with you. Make sure you are supplied a portfolio of any local photographer’s work if they are recommended by the hotels or wedding planners in Malta, standards can vary. Also be sure to have a list of all the photos you want and get one of the ushers or bridesmaids to help you collect your guests with minimum fuss.
Do you want somewhere for your guests to be able to leave you a message of congratulations to keep for prosperity? Think about organising a book or message board that can be passed around for people to write on during the reception.
It goes without saying, but make sure you have your immediate family looked after. They will view themselves as the most important people to your day yet you may have so many tasks to do and people to catch up with that they feel neglected. Talk to them, plan how they can help out and factor some family time into your celebrations.
Think about what presents you want. People will want to give you something even if you feel it is enough for them to be flying out to your wedding. Give them options at a range of prices and think about transport issues – if they can’t fit it in their luggage you’ll need to meet them another time at home. Also make sure you have someone who can look after the presents and cards for you on the day – you won’t remember to collect them all up and take them to your hotel on the night!
Definitely something you can worry about once the day is over, but just remember to make a note of who got you what when you open the presents!
Wedding planning can seem pretty stressful but when it is all over, you’ll forget the endless conversations about guest invites and flowers and the whole thing will be one big happy memory. So try to relish every moment – hopefully you’ll only do it once!
TIP: When making a list, think about the flow of the day itself and when and where everything will need to happen for each stage. Visualise everything; the evening before, the morning of, the ceremony, the reception, transport inbetween, right up to the wedding night and make a list of everything that will happen at each place. You’ll soon pick up anything you may have missed in the chain of events!