Gabriella Gullotti works well under pressure – and that’s an important attribute when your job is to ensure that a couple’s wedding day runs smoothly. It is equally important when company executives are organizing a corporate event to celebrate a successful year. Regardless of the event, there are pressures coming from all sides, all of which have expectations to be met, managed and exceeded.  And just when Gabriella, more commonly known as Gaby, and her staff think they can catch their collective breath after sending everyone home – there’s another party tomorrow!

Gaby got her start in the ‘people’ business working in the reservations department of Canadian Airlines when she was just nineteen. Her mother Laura was already working in the airline industry at Delta Airlines as Director of Canada for Sales, Marketing & Reservations, and Gaby was attracted to that business. In 1997, Gaby moved on to Rider Travel located in downtown Montreal, a company that specialized in corporate travel. Management quickly recognized her ability to work under pressure while always providing exceptional customer service to the clients. As a result of her tremendous people skills, Gaby was assigned to the Bell Canada V.I.P. desk, among other important corporate clients including RBC Royal Bank.

Maison Principale ballroom

The Maison Principale ballroom can accommodate 450 guests in a banquet setting that includes a dance floor

“At the time, I was just happy to be working a day shift and to have weekends off. I didn’t realize that I was learning a transferable skillset that I could apply to my future endeavours, like managing elaborate weddings and corporate events here at Maison Principale.”

Gaby’s role involved making complicated travel arrangements for the company’s President and his executive management team. As she continued to rise through the ranks, Rider Travel (then BTI Canada) offered her an in-house position as an on-site travel agent at Merck Frosst in 2003, where Gaby continued to shine as she made travel arrangements for researchers and executives.  Merck Frosst in Kirkland had started downsizing their operations and closed their on-site travel department in 2005, but BTI Canada offered Gaby to open her own home office, where she continued working and catering to her loyal clientele through to 2015.

Later that year, Gaby decided to leave the travel industry and try her hand at real estate, where she spent most of the year studying for her real estate license.

“My brother was working in real estate, and he started an agency with a very innovative concept where he charged a flat fee for selling a property, instead of the old commission-based model. It was like the Costco of the real estate business.”

With her impressive people skills, Gaby accepted her brother’s offer to sell new town homes in LaSalle.  During that time, one of the stakeholders in one of the real estate development projects became involved with the Maison Principale property. Impressed with Gaby’s professional performance and interpersonal skills, the owners of Maison Principale offered her the job of working at their event space.

“In January 2022, I was invited to have dinner with Barry Lorenzetti in Palm Beach, Florida. We hit it off at the outset and really liked one another. He made it clear that he would not proceed with the purchase of Maison Principale unless I stayed on as Head of Operations. I was so flattered by his offer that I couldn’t say no! In February 2022, ownership of Maison Principale changed hands and the rest is history ….”

A family history in the neighbourhood

In 1953, Gaby’s paternal grandparents emigrated from Sicily and settled in the St. Henri area, close to the old St. Thomas Aquinas Church, which today is the property that houses Maison Principale.

“When I told my dad that I would be working here, he said that the only buildings from his old neighbourhood that meant anything to him were the old St. Thomas Aquinas school and church, both of which he attended with his twin brother Giuseppe who sadly passed away at 9 years of age.  They studied catechism together to prepare them for their first communion at the church. Someday, he’ll come for a visit, but I know that it will be an emotional experience for him.  It’s funny how life goes full circle – and here I am working in this space!”

The clientèle – the heart and soul of Maison Principale

For couples preparing to wed, along with their families and guests, the couple’s wedding day is a very special event and expectations are understandably high. Gaby’s warm and nurturing nature lays the foundation for a trusting relationship with the couple and their family from the very first call or email request for information.  As the wedding day approaches, the pressure mounts, as do expectations.

Maison Principale

Sophisticated style and grace at Maison Principale

“I’m good under pressure, but I also have the support of terrific suppliers and stakeholders across the spectrum, including our catering and bar service providers. We’ve aligned Maison Principale with the best in the city, and together we provide our clientèle with unparalleled service. With all the details involved in planning the perfect wedding day, the couple and their family can rest assured that all the logistics are taken care of and that the event will be seamless.”

Maison Principale is a sophisticated venue that features Le Mignon, a large foyer that doubles as a reception area, ideal for cocktails and photo shoots.  From Le Mignon, you walk down through a small hallway and enter a different dimension; an elegant ballroom that could rival the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship. Soaring cathedral ceilings, glittering crystal chandeliers, white walls and domed ceilings enhance the sense of spaciousness. Tucked away behind the scenes is a modern kitchen, bar facilities and state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment.

“It’s like a Jenga block tower – we have to work seamlessly with one another as we’re interdependent, with the ultimate goal of meeting and exceeding the expectations of the couple and their family.  Every stakeholder, starting from our cleaning crew at 2am the morning of the event through to the catering and bar service during the actual reception, look after their expertise as an integral part of the event. We all understand the importance of this day for the couple getting married, and we all work together to ensure that it is indeed a day to remember!”

With its high ceilings and ornate chandeliers, the grandeur of Le Grand Salon reminds those that walk within its walls of old European architecture, one that promotes grace and elegance, and allows one to reminisce of a time long ago, providing Maison Principale with a unique advantage.

“Our relationship with the couple and their family start with their first call, usually at least a year prior to the wedding.  At the outset, we provide our information package, and if they like what we offer and our rates are within their budget, we schedule a visit.  I should add that the same process applies for our corporate clients.”

Gaby explains that the wedding ‘season’ starts in May and continues well into October.

“There are only 40 Saturdays during the wedding season, and we’ve been able to develop more business on Fridays and Sundays. Maison Principale is also Kosher Certified, which has helped us with our Sunday and weekday receptions. As we expand our business, I’ve been able to witness weddings of different cultures. We’ve hosted weddings for Indian, Muslim, Jewish, Middle Eastern, Asian, and Indigenous families – each with their unique traditions. It’s been a wonderful learning experience for me!”

Once the wedding season winds down, Maison Principale becomes the go-to place for Christmas and Holiday parties in the November/December timeframe.

A day in the life of Gabriella Gullotti

Wedding days start very early for Gabriella Gullotti and her staff.  They actually begin at 2am, when the cleaning crew arrive to prepare the space for the wedding reception. They set out the tables, chairs and all the elements of the floorplan that have been agreed to with the wedding party and their planner. Shortly after 8am, the florist arrives with the flowers, table arrangements and the candles, as well as other various suppliers/vendors including the DJ and/or band, who will arrive throughout the course of the day to set up their equipment. Most of the time, wedding planners are hired by the couple and are on-site to help coordinate all aspects of the event.

“I arrive by 10am and usually leave when the main course is served, all depending on the event, but I’m usually gone by about 11pm.  Our night manager arrives at 5pm and stays on until the event is over and all the guests have left the building. The two of us are on the floor during the busiest part of the reception. My phone is by my side constantly, because if there’s an issue – it’s this phone that’s ringing.”

Even as she gets older, Gaby still remembers the importance of her special day, when she married Mario Rossi, the love of her life in June 2000.

“My favourite part of the day is when I assist the planner in guiding the wedding procession down the aisle. That’s a special moment for me, as I was once a bride too!”

Running a venue of this magnitude is a challenge at the best of times, especially during high season, but Gaby does it with grace and an amazing support system at home.

“I love this job – but I couldn’t do it without the support of my husband Mario and my 3 amazing children, who range from 9 to 20 years of age. This is not a 9 to 5 job, and during high season, it is more like a race, a lifestyle on a 24-hour cycle.  It’s so rewarding to share in the couple’s happiness, and to know that we have given them a memorable day to cherish for a lifetime.  We strive for excellence in our offering, and when we accomplish that, then it’s a job well done.”

For more information or photos of the venue, please visit Instagram (maison.principale) or the website at: Maison Principale is at 872, rue du Couvent, Montreal, Québec, Canada H4C 2R6. Email: Gabriella Gullotti at [email protected] or call: (514) 424-4430

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