Ask the Experts


Inside Scoop from the Experts 

The gloss and glamour of Indian weddings is unparalleled; the sheer size, length and variety of the celebrations exponentially increase the grandeur. For guests, it is akin to stepping into a fairytale and having their reality suspended for a few precious days. However, the behind-the-scenes planning and effort required to execute such large-scale events flawlessly is immense. The families require support to realise their nuptial dreams, and so Shruti Kothari explores the wheels and cogs that bring visions to life with seven seasoned hoteliers. 


Simon Bell 

General Manager of Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park 

A highly experienced hospitality professional, Simon Bell has spent the last 26 years with Marriott International. He started at Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa in Australia, and worked his way through the leadership ranks. His first General Manager (GM) role came in 2009 at Courtyard by Marriott Seoul Times Square, which he successfully opened and led to the title of the 2010 ‘Hotel of the Year.’ He then served as GM at Renaissance Seoul Hotel, and Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, before being appointed the GM of Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park, the only Marriott Marquis in the Asia Pacific region. 

"A wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion and it is very important for us to execute every event seamlessly." 

Which aspect of Indian weddings surprised you the most?

It has to be the baraat – it is serious! For our most recent procession, we had to close the entire street of Sukhumvit Soi 22. So this becomes about more than just handling the event – you have to manage your neighbours as well. The baraat also inspires some unique requests. In one event, the wedding procession featured a full-size Batmobile. 

What has been the biggest Indian wedding you’ve hosted so far?

Our biggest Indian wedding to date catered to approximately 700 guests. It was a spectacular event which our team managed to execute seamlessly. 

What gives Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park the edge when it comes to hosting Indian weddings?

First and foremost, it is the size of our hotel and our extensive inventory and event space. As the largest hotel in the city, Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park is the only option for large weddings of over 300 rooms, all under one roof. We have three large ballrooms, meaning that we can organise back-to-back functions. In addition, we have three outdoor venues for rooftop receptions, pool parties and al fresco events. No other hotel in Bangkok can offer this variety of venues and facilities. On average, each wedding has approximately eight different functions which need eight different venues. 

The second factor is our location; we are in downtown Sukhumvit and have direct access to a BTS Skytrain station, while the MRT underground train is only five minutes’ walk away. For destination weddings, our hotel has easy access to both airports (Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi) making it easy for all guests to arrive at the hotel in a comfortable manner, and we are close to many attractions, including popular retail malls. Also, our hotel is a destination in itself. We have 10 different restaurants, bars and extensive leisure facilities. 

Last but not least is our team of experts; our team has hosted approximately 100 weddings per year since we opened in 2016, giving us the expertise and experience to exceed every couple’s expectations. A wedding is a once-in- a-lifetime occasion and it is very important for us to execute every event seamlessly. 



Michal Zitek 

Area General Manager for Angsana Laguna Phuket 

Michal Zitek’s 25-year career in the hospitality industry started with part-time catering work in high school in Sydney. From this humble beginning, he has worked at the Park Royal Hotel in New Zealand, the Holiday Inn on the vastly popular Phi Phi Island, the luxurious Regent Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Pan Pacific Singapore, Crowne Plaza Bangkok and Laguna Lăng Cô in Vietnam. He was appointed by Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts as the Area General Manager for Angsana Laguna Phuket in 2017, which includes overseeing Angsana Villas Resort Phuket and Angsana Vacation Club.

"Because our experience curve is high and our commitment is strong, we are able to deliver exceptional memories and experiences."

What types of wedding groups have you hosted so far?

The wedding groups which we have hosted are about 70 percent Non-resident Indians (NRI), with 200 to 300 guests hailing from various parts of the world. The major countries of residence are Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, England, Kenya, Tanzania and the USA. 

How does your team manage all of the demands that come with Indian weddings?

It is all about the right attitude and mindset. The team of Angsana Laguna Phuket has had a wealth of experience with the successful preparation, management and delivery of Indian weddings. Because our experience curve is high and our commitment is strong, we are able to deliver exceptional memories and experiences. Our familiarity with Indian weddings therefore transforms the ‘demands’ into opportunities to excel and deliver to the highest possible standards. We do understand that the wedding is a once-in- a-lifetime experience for the couple. Our team shares the same perspective as the couple and pairs it with experience to turn their dream wedding into a reality. 

What makes Angsana Laguna Phuket a desirable wedding destination?

Location, food and people. We have venues in the beautiful garden and beachfront area with a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces for the sangeet, mehendi, pool party, sundowner, and most important of all, a stunning wedding ceremony, where we can offer couples an East-facing mandap with a sunset background. The choice of spaces include our variety of restaurants and bars which truly sets Angsana Laguna Phuket apart from other competitors and even other destinations. Having the Xana Beach Club with a capacity of up to 1,100 people for an event is also an advantage. By October 2019, we will launch our new 1,400 sqm air-conditioned, soundproof convention space which will make us the perfect venue for destination Indian weddings of all sizes, from 100 guests to 1,500 guests.

How important are Indian weddings to your hotel?

The Indian wedding sector is an important segment for Angsana Laguna Phuket’s overall business planning. We already have a specialised wedding team in place to manage the many venues within the resort, especially for weddings on the beach. The wedding industry has shown tremendous growth in the hospitality market, averaging 25 to 30 percent a year. The contribution of the wedding sector has enabled the hospitality industry to focus more towards this area, which will continue to fl ourish in Phuket and at Angsana Laguna Phuket.



Oliver Schnatz 

General Manager of Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit 

Oliver Schnatz began his career in the hospitality industry in 1994 with the Steigenberger Hotels near Frankfurt. After five years, he shifted to Hôtel Plaza Athénée New York, followed by the renowned Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London, the Mandarin Oriental Munich and The Peninsula Hong Kong. This illustrious record brought him to serve in leadership positions at some of Thailand’s finest establishments, including the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok, Sri Panwa Phuket, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, and the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok. In 2017, he was elected General Manager of Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit, the flagship property for Sofitel Luxury Hotels in Southeast Asia. 

"A knowledgeable and truly caring team can drive the          couple’s experience beyond their expectation."

How important are Indian weddings to your hotel?

Indian weddings are very important to us. We used to focus mainly on Thai weddings, but have shifted now and focus equally on Indian nuptials. They are usually rather large affairs, which is exactly what we would like to see in our hotel. Moreover, a lot of guests who attend an Indian   wedding in our hotel go on to become regular guests at   our properties. 

How do you handle these larger-than-life events?

To manage a successful Indian wedding involves a combination of facilities. First and foremost, you need to have the right team, who understand the requirements and have the knowledge and experience so that you can deliver. Secondly, you need the right venue, which in our case is perfect for a medium-sized wedding party. 

What surprised you most the first time you hosted an Indian wedding? The timeline of the set-up. Decorations for Indian weddings are some of the most beautiful and intricate set-ups, and they do take time to complete. The first time we experienced a wedding, our team planned it very well with the organiser’s team and it was well managed, but it did take a while. 

What draws Indian couples and families planning weddings to Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit?

I believe when we talk about hotel facilities, most five-star properties offer similar features – a pillarless ballroom, technology, food and special offers. What make us different are our people. A knowledgeable and truly caring team can drive the couple’s experience beyond their expectation. 

Do you have any absolute no-nos at your hotel regarding Indian weddings?

So far, we don’t have any absolute no-nos in our dictionary. Different couples have different requirements, and we are flexible, so we work on the inquiry and suggest what we believe will work best for the couple based on our facilities. 



David Cumming

Vice President & Area General Manager Bangkok ONYX Hospitality Group, General Manager of Amari Watergate Bangkok

David Cummings oversees the operations of not only Amari Watergate Bangkok, but 14 cluster hotels in addition. An industry veteran, he is uniquely qualified for this position. Earning his first managerial role in 1988 at the Britannia InterContinental Hotel in London, he continued on to work across the world, at George InterContinental Hotel in Edinburgh, and InterContinental properties in Egypt, Abu Dhabi and Oman. He moved to Bangkok to join the Imperial Hotel Group. In 2004, he became the Resident Manager of Amari Watergate Bangkok, after which he became the General Manager of Amari Pattaya, and his success in this position earned him the role of Vice President of the ONYX Hospitality Group, and then in addition, the Area General Manager.

"Indian weddings inspire our team, and although they can bring pressure, and long days and nights, they are rewarding if you deliver the dream."

How do you feel about hosting Indian weddings at the Amari Watergate Bangkok?

Indian weddings excite our team as they are not everyday business. They are a challenge and for a MICE hotel such as ourselves, it is a new dimension of driving creativity, being different, and catering to the demands of the family. Indian weddings inspire our team, and although they can bring pressure, and long days and nights, they are rewarding if you deliver the dream. 

What are some of the most difficult challenges you’ve had to deal with?

The main challenge is making the next event even better than previous celebrations, as the guests were probably at the last one. It is the creativity that brings the key challenge. Indian weddings inspire many unusual requests: white horses, elephants, bands over the pool surrounded by synchronised swimmers, and wedding initials on the building. These are just some that we have delivered on! 

What are some more of the most unusual requests you’ve had from the wedding couple? We had a bride and groom who, on the wedding night, requested us to book them a room at another hotel so they could escape their guests and the non-stop party, as they needed to get away!

While in Pattaya, I had a bride and groom who wanted a quiet dinner for two on a boat when they were supposed to be at one of the ceremonies – yes, they were two hours late for their own event!

What surprised you most the first time you hosted an Indian wedding?

Personally, the first time I experienced an Indian wedding, what struck me was the sheer energy of the attendees to go for three days eating, drinking and enjoying themselves. They start late and go all night!

Do you have any absolute no-nos at your hotel regarding Indian weddings?

We have very few, if any – we are an extremely flexible hotel, working in sync with the guests needs, and focussing on delivering the dream wedding. Our only major no-no is the music level in the garden after midnight (we would the rather get them indoors to continue the party!)



Deborah Haines 

Area General Manager of Amari Pattaya for Eastern Thailand 

Deborah Haines started her career in hospitality over three decades ago, with her first General Manager (GM) stint at the Park Inn Hyde Park in London. She joined the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, working as the GM at Radisson Blu hotels in Sochi, Russia; Sofia, Bulgaria and Durham, UK. She became District Director for the group’s Russian operations, responsible for nine properties. After that, she led Radisson Blu Plaza, Bangkok. She moved to the ONYX Hospitality Group, and was appointed as Area GM for Eastern Thailand, based at Amari Pattaya, early this year. Her responsibilities include overseeing nine establishments in Pattaya, including the upcoming OZO property to be opened in 2020. 

"Challenges take us from our comfort zones and ask us to be creative and innovative in how we can take the guest through the journey which they desire." 

How important are Indian weddings to your hotel?

All weddings are important, as are all guests who come into the hotel. The Indian community is extensive across Thailand, and for that reason has a large network for us to provide for. Our hotel embraces the needs of the Indian community by providing a ballroom which leads to an outside area that can accommodate for set-ups like table service, cocktail, casual, and many more. We also provide a lawn area, The Beach Lawn, which can be brought into the venue, and gives the wedding party room to socialise and have quality family time. 

Have you had any difficulties catering to Indian weddings?

Difficult is not a word that I use, as this leads to a negative perspective and begins to restrict our process of thought and limit our approach in how we may manage something. As for challenges, there have been many across all aspects of the hotel, but through meeting some of them came the most successful events and satisfied guests. Challenges take us from our comfort zones and ask us to be creative and innovative in how we can take the guest through the journey which they desire. 

Do you have any absolute no-nos at your hotel regarding Indian weddings?

Each event is unique, as is each guest. Starting a partnership with a list of nos does not bring the desire to work together, and the need to create that memorable day. Therefore, dependent upon requests, there may be a need to decline, but we address each request as they are presented to us. 

How have the renovations at Amari Pattaya better equipped you to handle Indian weddings?

Amari Pattaya returns to the market in a completely fresh format. We are now looking to host our first Indian wedding in the newly refurbished Amari Tower, and offer our new and expansive ballroom. Moreover, we have created an extensive Aqua Park zone, replete with a beautiful infinity pool. We also have facilities designed just for children, like our Treehouse Kids Club, and outdoor social spaces like The Beach Lawn to serve as event venues. The new build of Amari Suites consists of one and two-bedroom suites with stunning views, and all the facilities you need for that luxe five-star experience. 



John O’Shea

Managing Director of Cordis Resort and Villas and Splash Beach Resort, Mai Khao.  

John O’Shea started his career in the hospitality industry in 1984 in a managerial position at the Sheraton Brisbane Hotel. He went on to work in leading positions at Sheraton properties around the world, including places like Fiji, Alice Springs, Labuan, Wuxi, Phuket, Tokyo and Shanghai. Due to his excellent performance, he was promoted to Asia Pacific Sheraton Brand Committee Leader, Brand Champion, and was eventually appointed as the General Manager of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Shanghai Pudong Property. In 2012, he was given charge of Langham Hospitality Group's flagship property in China. He now works in Phuket as the Managing Director of Cordis Resort and Villas and Splash Beach Resort, Mai Khao. 

"It’s vital to listen, truly listen to the wedding couple, their families and their guests to ensure maximum satisfaction." 

How does your team ensure a successful Indian wedding?

Flexibility is the key to having a great wedding. It’s vital to listen, truly listen to the wedding couple, their families and their guests to ensure maximum satisfaction. However, it’s also important to lead the dance – we try to make decisions and suggestions that are impressive and memorable. 

What is the most difficult aspect of an Indian wedding? How do you cope with it?

Often, we receive multiple and simultaneous requests from many sides of the family. To deal with this politely and efficiently, we usually suggest that the wedding planner be the main point of contact, so that conflicting ideas can be settled with ease.  

What was the biggest Indian wedding you accommodated? 

We hosted the largest Indian wedding in Thailand’s history this last December, which involved 1,300 guests! Needless to say, our 615 rooms were fully booked. While we have had these big fat Bollywood weddings, we have also accommodated beautiful medium-sized ceremonies. 

Have you ever had any unusual requests from the wedding couple?

Once, we were asked to plant 20 trees to replace every tree we needed to cut or trim for the events. 


What attracts Indian couples to Splash Beach Resort?

A variety of things. We are located very close to the Phuket airport, enabling a convenient and easy transfer experience for guests. We are situated directly on the beachfront on Mai Khao, which offers magnificent sunsets. We have no noise restrictions, so the party can continue through the night. We provide a huge variety of indoor and outdoor spaces, ensuring that the wedding stays fresh and exciting as the days go on; one of our most popular features is our in-house Splash Jungle Water Park, providing a thrilling setting for pool parties. Most of all, our staff are flexible and dedicated, so guests are sure to have a bespoke experience that exceeds expectations. 

Do you have any absolute no-nos at your hotel regarding Indian weddings?

Anything goes! 



Joseph Sampermans 

General Manager of The Peninsula Bangkok 

Joseph Sampermans started his career in 1995 in a managerial position at the Mandarin Oriental Phuket Yacht Club. He then served in F&B leadership positions at the Raffles Hotels in Hamburg, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Osaka. He continued to move across the globe with The Peninsula Hotels, from their luxurious property in Bangkok as F&B Manager, to Tokyo as Resident Manager, Hong Kong as Hotel Manager and Beijing as General Manager. Finally, he returned to Bangkok in late 2016. He now helms The Peninsula Bangkok as the General Manager. 


"In fact, we learnt that other guests at the hotel also became interested and excited when they saw or observed the traditions, and how Indian couples and families celebrated their weddings." 

How does your team manage all the demands that come with Indian weddings?

Every enquiry about Indian weddings is managed by our dedicated Indian wedding specialist, who is on-site and has experience in organising these celebrations. Our specialist truly understands the desires of Indian couples and the necessary requirements in catering for bespoke Indian weddings. Thus, couples always have a key and dedicated wedding coordinator at the hotel who ensures that every single detail is taken care of. This helps ease their worries, as couples know that our specialist will work to meet their wishes and expectations from day one until the big day. 

In addition, these special wedding events allow the rest of the hotel team to showcase The Peninsula hospitality and impeccable service through various elements, from accommodation to dining experiences, catering, and even spa services in order to create one of life’s greatest events, not only for couples, but also their family members and guests. Thus, we at The Peninsula Bangkok find that Indian weddings are meaningful for us as service providers as well as event organisers. 

What is the biggest challenge you face when hosting an Indian wedding?

To accommodate an Indian wedding group, we understand that a number of accommodations are always required. Our challenge is that the hotel always has a good mix of clientele, including leisure guests, family travellers and business travellers throughout the year. Thus, oftentimes, the hotel has limited availability to accommodate the entire group of wedding guests. To address this challenge and to provide convenience, The Peninsula Bangkok can assist in reaching out to neighbouring hotels for additional rooms, and this makes the hotel a one-stop service for wedding couples. The hotel also provides shuttle boat services to guests of wedding events who stay at neighbouring hotels, creating a seamless process for them to participate in any ceremonies that take place at The Peninsula Bangkok. 

Did you ever have issues with Indian weddings being disruptive to other guests?

In fact, we learnt that other guests at the hotel also became interested and excited when they saw or observed the traditions, and how Indian couples and families celebrated their weddings. Certainly, we are delighted that the ceremonies have brought some great vibes to the hotel, and provided some valuable cultural exchange experiences for other hotel guests. 

What is one surprising request you’ve had from the bride or groom?

A marriage proposal on a helicopter! 


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October 24, 2020

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