Malta Diary Not Bollywood in Malta but the Real McCoy – Indian wedding that cost €2 million!
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These are small islands, indeed minute and to boot vastly over-populated. A careless whisper in the most southern part becomes a booming echo on the most northern of crags within a matter of minutes.
Hence the story that spread like wildfire on Saturday, 7th October was that Bollywood had come to Malta and an Indian film-set had started shooting a film on the island.
Bollywood may be a magnet that creates artistic and colourful fantasies, but this turned out to be an artistic and colourful fantasy come true because a couple from India and Pakistan (no enmity or rivalry here because love conquers all!) held their marriage and tied the knot in Malta.
However, there was a forerunner – in fact two – to this because the couple had already held similar celebrations in India and Pakistan and Malta was the third and final leg.
Recent years has seen an increase in couples who choose Malta as the place to tie the knot either in a formal religious marriage or as a civil union, some from as far off as India. Since 2013 there has been a steady increase with 634 ceremonies in that year increasing to 913 last year, and probably more this year.
Why Malta one may ask? There may be various factors. The generally fine weather off-summer is one; Malta is centrally located in the Mediterranean and many take the opportunity to bring over guests and their families to attend the ceremony and simultaneously spend a few days holidaying here too. Above all, the cost-factor is a great attraction, enabling an extravagance that in other European countries may cost four or five times as much.
This however was a wedding to beat all weddings, a multi-millionaire wedding that spread over three days in four different localities in Malta and an extravaganza that is estimated to have cost over €2 million.
The ball was set rolling at 12 noon on the Saturday when limousines made their way to a leading hotel in Dragonara Point in St Julian’s and unloaded a chain of guests, many wearing beautifully elegant and colourful Indian and Pakistani robes and some in more conventional western clothing. Those who stood and stared may be forgiven for jumping to the Bollywood conclusion and spreading the word like wildfire.
This however was just the start of the celebration at the hotel with a Saturday lunch. In the evening the train of extravagance was back at the same hotel, this time for an evening dinner full of colourful display and entertainment.
Sunday dawned with a change in venue as the whole troupe headed for the Mdina Ditch, that is the old capital of Malta, brilliantly decorated, for a sumptuous dinner with an abundance of food using organic materials and traditional herbs and spices. Besides continually ongoing entertainment there was even a massage service for the guests who hailed from all over the world.
Monday 9th October dawned as Budget Day in Malta – normally associated with austerity and belt-tightening although this turned out to be a generous Budget with no fresh taxation, indeed a people-oriented Budget.
Again, casual passers-by stared in astonishment as a fleet of limousines made its way up Valletta’s Ġlormu Cassar Avenue that leads to Castille Place which houses the Maltese Prime Minister’s office and thence to the Upper Barrakka Gardens with its splendid and panoramic views of Malta’s majestic Grand Harbour, one of the largest natural harbours not only in Europe but throughout the world.
Their destination was the Saluting Battery just below the gardens and this was the final spot where the official marriage ceremony took place amongst an abundance of flower decorations, an abundance of food and an abundance of entertainment including a bagpipe and drum band as the Battery did its honours and fired gun salutes over the harbour.
Florist Alistair Fenech said he had never seen anything like it before – and would probably not see another such extravaganza again. In all, he had used 8,000 orchids and over 4,000 roses for his magnificent displays, using 20,000 flowers in total.
One may imagine a guest list of several hundred but in fact there were only 350 guests. Malta and the Maltese are used to lavish weddings and some couples invite hundreds of guests, the largest I know of having an invitation list of 3,000 guests while 400 or 500 is quite normal.
Local wedding organisers estimated that this wedding cost over 150 times as much as an average Maltese wedding and thus was the most extravagant wedding celebration ever held in Malta all-time.
After all this expenditure and magnificence one can only augur a life-time of bliss and contentment for the happy couple, but things being what they are nowadays … who knows!
Pictures courtesy of Television Malta (TVM).
On a weekly basis I am inserting a Maltese saying, expression or proverb and where possible English equivalents that will help give insight into the Maltese psyche.
“It’s so good it plays the bagpipes”
Denotes a particular excellence; a phrase used to denote excellence, mainly used for the praise of a cooked food i.e. “this soup is so good it can play the bagpipes” – the inference being that to be able to play bagpipes one has to be excellent at it.