Would you trust a man to organise your wedding? Apparently if he is called Neal Debono and organises weddings at the Grand Hotel Excelsior, then you should. Personally, I was quite surprised to meet a man in this job which we have learnt to traditionally associate with a woman, perhaps also due to such romanticised movie themes as The Wedding Planner (2001).
Interview with the Grand Hotel Excelsior’s Wedding Specialist
Whilst a wedding is usually fundamentally a female affair, Neal’s acumen in this field has achieved quite a good reputation over the past years as he works as the Grand Hotel Excelsior Malta Weddings Specialist, offering not merely the service of organising a wedding, but also offering augmented services to booth. In his own words, “I absorb the pressure.” And as anybody who has gone through an own wedding knows full well, wedding preparations bring along quite a handful of pressures from different sources.
Neal was born in a family immersed in the catering business and started working on local events at the Grand Hotel Excelsior some three years ago. He believes that selling a wedding is not merely about selling the venue, but much more….. “You become part of the life and emotions of the couple at a very delicate point in time, when there are a lot of expectations to be lived up to. The largest wedding I have organised so far welcomed 1200 guests, whilst the smallest included only the bride and groom. The latter combination was a foreign couple and incidentally, foreign weddings in Malta are picking up pretty well within the local market and bringing in good custom.”
On average he dedicates a minimum of 16 – 20 hours to each couple prior to the wedding and it all starts with the viewing of the venue. Once the decision has been made to go ahead and book the wedding, he starts helping the couple work around their budget, meeting suppliers, discussing also such routine tasks as booking the church and choosing the decorations if need be. On the day he can spend up to 10 hours at a stretch including prior and post wedding.
“For the bride and possibly the groom as well, this is a lifetime dream. For the parents this is also a very special moment and some parents save up a lifetime’s savings to make their children’s weddings that much special. My responsibility is to spend that hard-earned money carefully, wisely and successfully.”
Has he experienced any surprises along the way? Neal ticks off a list – a wedding cake decorated with skeletons …. “the wedding had a rock music theme”; a wedding with 15 food stations … “they wanted to splash out”; weddings with boats sailing in/out of the hotel’s marina; fireworks. “There was even a request for a helicopter landing to deliver the bride but the permission for that was not granted.”
Where foreigners are concerned, civil ceremonies are the norm and for Neal this type of wedding is even more of a challenge. “With local couples you get to meet them and experience a first hand experience of their characters, what they want, their tastes and expectations. But with foreigners, the most you can get is an online conversation, otherwise it is all via email. I have to organise a civil ceremony, get the Registrar organised, the wedding organised, the guests organised and strive to make it as close as the bride and groom requested, without having them available to provide their personal go-ahead – sometimes they only see the hotel from the website….”
Although the Grand Hotel Excelsior is a Grand Luxury Malta Hotel with multiple venue sites wherein weddings can be held, the hotel limits the number of weddings it accepts every year so that individual attention is given to each wedding and to allow appropriate noise control within the hotel so as not to disturb other ongoing events. Having said that, Neal confirms that most Saturdays, and the peak season of May, June and July 2-12 are already booked up. On average we get some 20 requests every week but most have to be turned down although we’ve had cases where the couple decided to change the wedding date just to be able to have the event here.”
The Grand Hotel Excelsior has a number of beautiful venues in-house and out of doors to accommodate varied kinds of weddings. Indoors there is the Admiral’s Landing and the Grand Ballroom and the more intimate Executive Lounge. Outdoors the hotel boasts the Bastion Terrace, the Pool Deck and the smaller Rotunda Garden and Tiki Restaurant. It all depends on the number of guests and the type of eating and seating arrangements requirements.
For Maltese weddings, food is a very important factor. “There are varied options – food can be served in buffet-style, plated, semi-plated and accompanied by an open bar. We can create tailor-made menus to suit budgets, diets, preferences. All food items are produced in-house on the day and not earlier than 12 hours before the event. This means that food is handmade and perishable, whichever of our standard five menus are selected. For instance, we are very particular as to the freshness of our food and will not serve sushi in the hotter summer season. We have very strict guidelines where our fresh food policy is concerned and this has paid off as people appreciate our cuisine every time.”
Having married off couples as young as 21 and as old as 50-something, Neal feels very proud of his achievements in this field, but the biggest satisfaction is seeing each bride’s shining face on the day. “I’ve learnt that if the bride-to-be does not like the venue from the very first moment, then it’s a no-go. But if she does, then you’re trusted and you’d better live up to her expectations. When the bride has been married and the party’s over, the best thank you is a big hug and the joy in her face. I guess that just makes my day.”
Our experienced Weddings specialist at this Luxury Malta Hotel will help you plan your dream Malta Wedding. Should you wish to tailor make your special day contact Our Malta wedding planner on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 21250520.