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weddings & homes

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issue no. 40

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WIN T E R 2 0 1 9

bl ss

€7.50

Married inMalta

WEDDING TRENDS | REAL COUPLES’ STORIES | MODERN LIVING IN ZURRIEQ


contents

ISSUE 40 | WINTER 2019 Issue 40 | WINTER 2019 Bliss Magazine is Malta’s leading weddings and homes magazine. Bliss is distributed exclusively to each and every couple attending the Cana Wedding Courses, and is available from a select list of bridal and wedding-related outlets in Malta. The publication is also found in all leading hairdressers, beauty salons, cafés, dental clinics, hospitals and medical clinics across the island, as part of our premier distribution network. Bliss is also sold at leading stationers in Malta. Editor Sarah Micallef

contents page 22 REAL WEDDING

page 119 HONEYMOON

FASHION & BEAUTY

Publisher

Content House Group, Mallia Buildings, 3, Level 2, Triq in-Negozju, Zone 3, Central Business District Birkirkara CBD3010 Tel: 2132 0713 info@contenthouse.com.mt www.contenthouse.com.mt Design Box Design – Antoinette Micallef ant@box-design.net Contributors Caroline Curmi; Cassi Camilleri; Emma Mattei; Francesca Scerri Rizzo; Jillian Mallia, Jo Caruana; Lorraine Cilia; Mariella Camilleri; Martina Said; Rebecca Anastasi Photography Alan Carville; Brian Grech; Katerina Vella Ryabkova; Kris Micallef; Matthew Mirabelli; Matthew B Spiteri; Tonio Lombardi

20 BRIDAL TRENDS 88 DARK ROMANCE

WEDDINGS & HONEYMOONS 22 WHEN FAIRY TALES BECOME REALITY 34 A DREAM COME TRUE 46 AN ENCHANTING GARDEN WEDDING 60 WHEN LOVE FLIES HIGH 72 THE EFFORTLESS ONE 119 OF COLOUR, LIFE AND LOVE

INTERVIEW 106 WEARING THE FRUIT OF TALENT 143 A KIND OF MAGIC

HOMES 126 A NEW LEASE ON LIFE 139 IT’S ALL ABOUT COMFORT

Advertising Content House Ltd – Tel: 2132 0713 Deputy head of sales Jessica Spiteri Catania Operations & Client relationship manager Elena Dimech All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written authorisation of Content House Ltd. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information contained in the magazine, the publishers cannot be held responsible for any errors it may contain.

Wedding shoot page 88

wedding trends page 116

real home page 126

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editorial

Win Participate in our competition and you may win a Nina Ricci Les Sorbet de Luna courtesy of Ta’ Xbiex Perfumery Ltd, worth €62.50. To enter the competition all you have to do is answer the following question:

WHICH ARTICLE OR FEATURE DID YOU MOST ENJOY IN THIS ISSUE, AND WHY? Send your answers, as well as your telephone number, to media@contenthouse.com.mt or in writing to Bliss Magazine, Content House Group, Mallia Buildings, 3, Level 2, Triq in-Negozju, Zone 3, Central Business District Birkirkara CBD3010 Competition closes 31st December 2019. One entry per person. Terms and conditions apply. Last issue Lara Camilleri won a Les Sorbets de Nina by Nina Ricci, courtesy of Ta’ Xbiex Perfumery Ltd.

Editor’s letter

T

he temperature is shifting, the days are getting shorter and the smell of winter is in the air – there couldn’t be a more perfect time to curl up with a cuppa and enjoy the latest issue of Bliss Weddings & Homes. And there’s plenty to look through in this packed edition too! From the latest bridal styles to all the trends to look out for when planning a wedding or doing up your home, you’ll find it all here, and that’s not to mention our wonderful real couples. Check out the stunning nuptials of five local couples, our very own Martina’s incredible wedding dress story, and the inimitable love story of local favourite magician, Vanni Pule. Allow yourself to fall in love with our dark and romantic bridal shoot and the gorgeous Gabriela, shot by Matthew B Spiteri – we certainly did! And for the house bunnies among you, flip on through to the incredible home transformation by lawyer and design enthusiast Thomas Bugeja. Whatever you fancy, there’s something for everyone, so go ahead and put the kettle on! Enjoy the issue.

Sarah

our cover

DRESS: Glamorous and glitzy are definitely the perfect description for this one-of-a-kind bridal gown. Designed by internationally renowned brand Millanova, this dress will undeniably turn heads. Exclusively available at WEDDINGBELLS. HEADPIECE: This bridal tiara radiates brilliance with two layers of hand-wired Swarovski crystals in a classic design. It measures approximately two inches tall at the centre peak. Exclusively at SC Bridal Designs. BOUQUET: Autumnal floral bouquet utilising red-hued flowers with a combination of neutral tones to ensure the wedding feel is kept throughout. Featuring a complex combination of premium flowers and fillers including roses, spray roses, berzelia and more, by Alistair Floral Design. Location: Rosselli – AX Privilege, Valletta Photographer: Matthew B Spiteri Photo Shoot Coordinator: Sarah Micallef Hair & Make-up: Francesca & Lorraine, Alfie’s Hair & Beauty Model: Gabriela, Models M.

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BRIDAL TRENDS

BRIDAL TRENDS

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words by

Jillian Mallia Barcelona Bridal Week

catwalk shots courtesy of

Subtle Blue Hues

Hidden Pockets

Grecian Vibes

Blue hues have already made their way into the wedding department, but these subtle tones can accentuate your dress even further, even doubling up as your ‘something blue.’ Subtle blue tones can be added on sleeves, skirt or bodice and can really make your ensemble pop.

Hidden pockets in wedding dresses are stylish and practical to boot. Many designers are adding this chic trend to their dresses, and it has become a feature loved by brides all over the world.

If you’ve ever dreamed of having a ‘Big Fat Greek Wedding’ theme, you’re in luck! Grecian patterns and styles are trending in the world of weddings, and they’re simply gorgeous. With detailed tops and plain, flowy skirts or tunic-style dresses, this style could be the way to go.

DESIGNER

DESIGNER

DESIGNER

beba’s

rosa clara

Aire Barcelona

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BRIDAL TRENDS

Plunging Necklines Detailed Sleeves

Floral Shoulders

If you’d like to show off a little extra skin in a sophisticated way on your big day, a plunging neckline is a perfect option. From lace bodices to intricate details around the bust, this neckline is highly versatile.

This year, designers are taking the more elegant route when it comes to detailing on wedding dress sleeves. Whether it’s off-the-shoulder, sheer or sleek long sleeves, dainty details have made their way into the wedding world, and are proving to be quite the hit.

Gorgeous sleeveless, flowy dresses have become a big trend lately. One way to jazz up your dress for your big day is adding little touches of floral pieces to the shoulder. This detail is subtle but noticeable enough.

DESIGNER

DESIGNER

DESIGNER

marchesa

beba’s

beba’s

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real wedding

When fairy tales become reality

From an award-worthy proposal to a stunning wedding on a warm July day, Nicole and Robert Galea chat with Martina Said about how they met, and what went into planning their magical wedding. P hotos b y www.weddingphotograph y malta . com

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icole and Robert Galea had a very clear vision of what they wanted their wedding to look like – and they pulled it off with exceptional flair, down to the smallest details. Prior to two years of planning, however, there was a fairy tale proposal and an almost decade-long friendship, until the stars aligned for them to be together. “Robert and I met around 10 years ago, when we both used to model, and we instantly hit it off. We remained friends for many years until, around five years ago, we started dating,” says Nicole, 27. “However, it didn’t last. We were in different places in our lives and weren’t ready to settle down, so we parted ways but still remained good friends.” Two years later, as fate would have it, Nicole and a friend met for a coffee, which led to a bottle of wine, which unexpectedly led them to a club in the middle of the week on the eve of a public holiday. “The last thing I expected was to bump into someone I knew, but Robert was at the same club, and I hadn’t seen him in a few years. That night was the start of our relationship – I’d never have guessed that I would end up meeting my future husband at a club, and that my future husband would be Robert!”

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Nicole

and

Robert ceremony venue

Burmarrad Parish Church

reception venue

Villa Bighi, Kalkara

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With many years of friendship under their belts, Nicole and Robert, 32, already knew each other quite well, and this time around, they focused on building their relationship, knowing they were in it for the long haul. In fact, merely eight months in, Robert set a plan in motion which would eventually lead to an unforgettable proposal at Le Jules Verne, the famed fine-dining restaurant on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. He gifted Nicole with a Christmas present – a handbag that contained tickets to watch her favourite band, Coldplay, the following July in Paris. “Before we left, Robert had mentioned that he wanted to have dinner at the Eiffel Tower and how difficult it was

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to book a table, but he had booked somewhere just as nice,” says Nicole. That night, dressed to the nines for a fancy dinner in Paris, Nicole and Robert arrived outside the Eiffel Tower, where they met a security person who escorted them to the restaurant. “I couldn’t believe we were about to have dinner there – we felt like celebrities, arriving all dressed up, escorted by security and skipping a long queue of people waiting outside. It was quite dramatic, but Robert was enjoying every minute!” The couple eventually settled at their table at Le Jules Verne, where they enjoyed what Nicole describes as “the most romantic dinner of my life – the food, the view, the sunset; it was the real Paris experience.” Just before dessert,


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DETAILS Time to party For the after party, Nicole changed into a custom tutu-style dress designed by her close friend, Drew & Crew. The dress was short, playful and the right kind of dress to party the night away.

“I told the florist I didn’t want any greenery in the arrangements, just white!” Nicole headed to the restroom, and when she returned, Robert got down on one knee in front of a restaurant packed with people, to ask Nicole to marry him. “It took a while for the words to come out – everyone was looking at us and waiting for me to answer – when I said yes, everyone started clapping. It was quite an experience and the ultimate proposal. Robert planned it all so well.” When the couple returned from their whirlwind trip, they instantly began planning their wedding. They set their sights on 2019, giving them two years to plan, but they reached their first stumbling block when trying to find a date. “We wanted Versatile as our wedding band but they were booked on most of the dates we wanted – their only availability was 20th July 2019, so that became our wedding date.” Other than the band, they were both set on the venue too: they opted for Villa Bighi in Kalkara due to its stunning views of the Grand Harbour, and because it was a relatively new venue for weddings. “Initially, I had reservations about the venue – although it is stunning, and I have no regrets, we had to plan and coordinate the set-up of the venue from scratch, while working with what was already there,” says Nicole. “It required a lot of coordination among different suppliers for lights, power, furniture and the lot. We had a large wedding too – around 950 guests – so there was a lot to do, and getting the set-up right was very important to us,” but indeed, persistence paid off.

A picture-perfect confection Nicole and Robert entrusted the catering of their wedding to Busy Bee, who they said was their only choice. Besides a fabulous menu, they also made the cake, which was simple, elegant, and equally picture-perfect

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“I broke down during the vows, and made everyone in church cry too.”

The couple planned their big day around a white wedding theme, which they committed to all the way. “I even told the florist I didn’t want any greenery in the arrangements, just white! Only the groomsmen and the bridal party weren’t in white – Robert wore a white tux and the groomsmen wore black, while the bridal party wore champagne dresses, which added a shimmering touch to the whole wedding ensemble.”

Nicole adds that both she and Robert were after a luxurious ambiance on their wedding day, but with a ‘less is more’ approach. “For instance, we only had one bar, but it was a large, 360-degree bar set up with nothing more than some flower arrangements for decoration. We didn’t want to use furniture to fill up the space, and this arrangement made quite an impact.”

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The couple had an equal hand in wedding preparations, and Nicole says the only thing that Robert wasn’t involved in was choosing her wedding dress. “Robert is a perfectionist, and so am I, so together we made a good team. In fact, there were some things I didn’t get involved in, such as the men’s suits. Robert has modelled for Bortex and Gagliardi, so I trusted him completely to make a great choice.” Despite having a sizeable team of 12 groomsmen, Nicole and Robert opted to rope in wedding planner Katia Gatt who was involved throughout the wedding planning stages, and who was also present on the day of the wedding to take the load off the wedding party, as well as to ensure that the whole day ran as smoothly as possible. On 20th July this year, Nicole woke up feeling cool and calm, and with mass at 5pm at the Parish Church of Burmarrad, there was ample time to get ready with her family and bridal party. The beauty team, including make-up artist Jennifer Dimech, arrived at Nicole’s family home in Mellieha, and the bride spent the day sipping tea and having a good time. “Robert’s morning, on the other hand, was hectic.

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“Robert is a perfectionist, and so am I, so together we made a good team.”


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“I know that Robert would never have expected me to wear a mermaid dress, and neither did I for that matter!”

There were some lastminute things he needed to sort out that morning, but otherwise he was completely relaxed. He was at the hairdresser cutting his hair five hours before the wedding!” The wedding ceremony was celebrated by Nicole’s uncle, Fr Joe Saliba, who she jokes was the only person who couldn’t tell her no. “It was what I was looking forward to most, also knowing it’s the most intimate part of the wedding. My father and I arrived at the church 15 minutes early, and the first thing I realised when we got there was that they hadn’t placed the carpet outside the church. That brief time before entering the church felt a little stressful, but it was also very emotional, knowing my father was about to give me away.” Walking up the aisle, Nicole kept her eyes on Robert, who was beaming at the other end, at the sight of his stunning bride. “I held it together while walking to the altar and made it a point to walk slowly, because I wanted the train of my dress and the veil – both of which were really long – to remain in place,” she laughs. “But I broke down during the vows, and made everyone in church cry too.”

Speaking of a long train, Nicole’s journey to finding her dream dress was quite an unforgettable experience. She was due to travel to New York with her family, and her mother insisted she wait until then to buy her dress, but Nicole visited a local bridal shop to satisfy her curiosity, which threw her into a spin. “I tried on various styles of dresses, including a big ball gown, which is what I was after initially, but I changed my mind when I saw it on me. I tried on this fitted fishtail gown and fell in love – it was completely different to what I had in mind, but I loved the drama of the skirt. It fit like a glove and I was ready to buy it – but my mother convinced me to wait until we went to New York, which I did.” Nicole booked an appointment at Kleinfeld Bridal, the Manhattan-based bridal salon where the popular TV series Say Yes to the Dress is filmed. “The place itself is impressive, it’s like a lavish wedding venue! I knew they had dresses by designer Randy Fenoli, the man behind the popular series, so at the back of my mind I knew that Kleinfeld would probably have the dress that I tried on in Malta because it was by the same designer.”

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“The feeling was incredible, and from start to finish, the whole day was a dream come true.”

Sure enough, Nicole asked to try it on, and although the size was bigger than the one she tried on locally, she and her mum agreed that it was the one. “The dress was a perfect mix of what I love and what I knew Robert would too – although I wanted a ball gown, this dress had all the elements of a sexy, fitted dress, but with a big, mermaid bottom, combining both our tastes. I know that Robert would never have expected me to wear a mermaid dress, and neither did I for that matter!” The gorgeous dress featured narrow straps, a fitted bodice and skirt with floral applique and beading, which opened into a dramatic, ruffled fishtail complete with a four-metre train. For the mass, Nicole wore a white corset under the bodice, which she then removed for the reception, showing off some skin. The newlyweds partied the night away after sharing their first dance to the Coldplay hit, A Sky Full of Stars. And although a power cut occurred right as the party was warming up, Nicole says they had such a good vibe going that it didn’t make a difference. “Even without sound and light, guests continued singing and dancing, then when the lights came back on, they went wild! The feeling was incredible, and from start to finish, the whole day was a dream come true.”

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DaniKa

and

Chris ceremony location Our Lady of Victory Church, Valletta

reception venue the Phoenicia, Floriana

A dream come true Young Danika dreamt of wedding gowns and a rain of golden confetti. Here, she and her husband Chris Magro talk to Mariella Camilleri about turning a dream into reality. P hotos b y www.weddingphotograph y malta . com

“I

often dreamt of my wedding day – that precious moment when I would walk down the aisle and marry the one that I love,” begins Danika. It’s Saturday afternoon and Danika and her husband Chris greet me with a smile, eager to tell me about their magical wedding. The couple, who tied the knot on 18th May 2019 begin by saying that they have finally settled down, following months of hasty preparations. “When Chris and I started planning the wedding, we decided right away to enjoy every moment. The initial stages were hectic, but as the wedding got closer I felt calmer and calmer.” Despite being together for 10 years, Danika and Chris only decided to marry 18 months ago.“Most people thought we were crazy to leave so little time when there was so much to be done. However we had decided a while back that we didn’t fancy a long engagement.” Chris was only 19 when he first set his eyes on Danika. “I had seen her in Paceville and thought she was pretty. Soon after that, we started chatting on Facebook. At the time we were still students and we often met with friends, but things got more serious as the years went by.” Danika recalls how Chris had surprised her with a holiday to Ayia Napa to celebrate their third anniversary. “That was an exciting moment as I had no idea where we were going. I have always loved Chris’ surprises as he can be rather romantic. Marriage was not discussed in the early years, but I think we both took it for granted that we would marry one day.”

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The couple hoped to live together before marriage, but works on their new home took “forever” and this plan never materialised. By then Chris was living with Danika at her parents’ house, and marriage seemed like the most natural step. “Suddenly living together was not enough.” Keen to make his proposal as exciting as possible, Chris waited until he and Danika took a trip to Dubai. “She was looking at rings at the airport when I hastily asked her to pick one. Once again, I knew this surprise would please her.” Danika blushes at the memory. “Choosing my own engagement ring was fun, however my fairy tale wedding now stood before me.” A few weeks later at Danika’s surprise birthday party, Chris got down on one knee and asked Danika to marry him. From that moment on, things happened in swift motion. While Danika had lots of wedding requests, Chris only had one – to marry at Our Lady of Victory Church in Valletta. Sadly, upon a visit to the sanctuary, the couple learnt that it had been booked. “I was disappointed but we had to move on, even though I was in love with the church and its beautiful frescos.”

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DETAILS Dancing shoes “When he got down on one knee, Chris gave me a pair of Jimmy Choos which I wore on my wedding day. It’s a nice feeling when someone knows you inside out. Naturally, I said yes,” says Danika.

“I often dreamt of my wedding day – that precious moment when I would walk down the aisle and marry the one that I love.”

Evening entertainment Ira Losco and band entertained guests at The Phoenicia’s Bastion Area during the reception, under twinkling stars.

Having chosen The Phoenicia for their wedding venue, the couple looked for another church in the capital. “We finally settled on Ta’ Giezu as this made it possible for our guests to walk from the church to the reception.” Gold and white themed floral arrangements were chosen for both the venue and the church. Danika explains how no wedding planner was involved in the process. “I had dreamt about my wedding for so long, I was adamant to do everything myself.” Meanwhile, choosing her wedding dress came easy. “One day I was shopping with my mother and we popped into Wedding Bells, just to take a look. I tried on a slinky dress, however it didn’t feel right. Instead I opted for a full skirted Mila Nova gown. When I opened the curtain and saw my mother’s face, I knew it was the one.”

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“The initial stages were hectic, but as the wedding got closer I felt calmer and calmer.”

Months rolled by and soon, the pristine invitations were set to be posted. “Suddenly, the priest from Our Lady of Victory Church called, telling us the previous booking had been cancelled. We decided there and then to move our wedding mass venue and have our invitations reprinted. Chris is very fond of the church and it felt like the right thing to do.” Luckily, a friend who works in graphic design saved the day.

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On the eve of the wedding, Danika and her bridal party settled into a suite at The Phoenicia, in preparation for the big day. “It was a very emotional night. My maid of honour prepared an album of letters from all my friends with lots of heartfelt messages, and this brought tears to my eyes.”

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In the morning, after a scrumptious breakfast, wedding preparations began to take shape. “I was strangely calm and took in all the experiences as though in slow motion. First we had our hair done and then the make-up artist arrived. By the time the photographer began to take our pictures, I was in heaven.”


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“I opted for a full skirted Mila Nova gown. When I opened the curtain and saw my mother’s face, I knew it was the one.”

The bride arrived at Our Lady of Victory Church in a 1960s Mustang provided by eCabs. “I sat there determined not to cry, trying to relish every moment before I walked down the aisle. However seeing my father so moved broke my heart.” Smartly dressed in a suit provided by The Groom, Chris also experienced an extremely poignant moment. “I am not usually emotional, but seeing Danika walk down the aisle looking so beautiful was unforgettable. I cried that day.” After taking their vows in front of numerous guests, the couple made their way to The Phoenicia. “None of our friends had married inside that church or at the venue, and this made everything feel fresh and new.” The afternoon wedding followed a rather unusual pattern. “We had prosecco first and then moved on to the cake table – we wanted to get this part out of the way so that guests could enjoy the wedding without the usual pressures that come with cake cutting.” The wedding then proceeded as usual.

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“I am not usually emotional, but seeing Danika walk down the aisle looking so beautiful was unforgettable.”

Danika looks back on the couple’s first dance. “We were dancing to John Legend’s All of Me when Chris asked me to look up. Suddenly, I saw beautiful fireworks burst through the sky.” “It’s an amazing feeling when things go as planned. We feared it would rain and had plans to move the wedding indoors, but thankfully the weather was kind to us.” Looking back, they both agree that their wedding day will remain etched in their memory forever. “Months later we still look back on that day with a smile. There’s nothing better than watching your dreams come true.”

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Rebecca

and

James ceremony location

The Holy Family Church, Sghajtar, Naxxar

reception venue

Villa Bologna, Attard

An enchanting garden wedding Lush surroundings, floral accents and a botanical theme framed Rebecca Bonaci and James Farrugia’s wedding with blooming beauty. Here, they tell Rebecca Anastasi all about their big day. P hotos b y K aterina V ella Ryabkova

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ebecca, 27, and James, 32, have been inseparable since they met at a party more than six years ago. “We were introduced by a mutual friend, and, although we had never met each other before, we connected straight away,” Rebecca smiles as she looks back to those first days of their heady relationship. And, while their first date was simple – a coffee and a walk on the promenade in Sliema – their instant bond cemented the deep foundations of their relationship from the get-go. “We just enjoyed each other’s company and had fun together, and we also noticed that we had common life goals and interests,” Rebecca explains. Indeed, after five years, the couple decided to make things more permanent and set up a home together. “We decided to buy a house, which we fixed up – this took around a year – and we moved in straight afterwards,” Rebecca says. On their first night in their new home, James had something very special lined up. “On that evening, after cooking a delicious dinner, he proposed! He’s not really a get-down-on-one-knee kind of guy so, after eating, he placed the ring on the dinner table. He had written ‘will you marry me?’ on the box and he left it there until I saw it! But it was very unexpected, so it took me a while to do so, though when I did, I got very emotional,” Rebecca recalls, adding that the moment was “perfect and intimate.”

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“On that evening, after cooking a delicious dinner, he proposed!”

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“We knew we wanted an intimate wedding with our close family and friends in a garden venue.”

Both Rebecca and James were clear on what they wanted for their big day from the beginning. “We knew we wanted an intimate wedding with our close family and friends in a garden venue, and that my uncle, who works at Corinthia Caterers, just had to do the cake,” Rebecca explains. With their starting point so clearly defined, the couple took care of all the wedding preparations, aided by their family and friends.

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Their first port of call were the bucolic surroundings of Villa Bologna, which they describe as “ideal.” To make the most of the location, the pair were very specific about the time of day they wanted to tie the knot. “We chose to get married at 5pm so that by 6.30pm we would be at the reception. We wanted to enjoy some daylight, and we also decorated the trees with fairy lights so the garden would look magical at night.


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DETAILS Sweet confection The cake, by Corinthia Caterers, took pride of place at the reception venue, where Rebecca and James danced the night away with their loved ones.

Most importantly, we wanted a relaxed atmosphere at our wedding,” Rebecca describes, as she outlines their priorities. The bride’s wedding dress was also chosen with an eye on the overall design. “Initially, I tried on a couple of dresses which were beautiful, but I felt that these did not go well with the garden themed wedding,” she says, looking back on the journey to find the gown. And while it took some scouting, Rebecca eventually found what she was looking for. “It was ivory and had a deep V-neckline, with a soft skirt that had floral embroidery on it. I immediately fell in love with the pattern on my wedding dress!” Things were not immediately plain sailing, however. “The dress was a couple of sizes too big and I was concerned that it wouldn’t look good on me, since it needed substantial alterations. Pearl perfect The bride’s shoes and accessories were also chosen with an eye to detail. “I wore vintage inspired green heels which I found when I was on holiday in Barcelona, and marcasite and pearl jewellery,” she explains.

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“I immediately fell in love with the pattern on my wedding dress!”

However, when they were done, I felt very comfortable in it, so I was very happy with my decision. My sister and mum were also with me when I decided to buy the dress – and I wouldn’t have bought it without their approval,” she laughs. The invites were also designed to be on theme. “I drew a botanical illustration for the invites, and, with the help of my cousin Rachel, who is a graphic designer, we created the layout,” Rebecca explains. The souvenirs reinforced the pastoral look of the day. “We decided to donate the money we would have spent on souvenirs to Inspire, and my mother

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patiently sewed tiny pouches and filled them with pot pourri to give out with the Inspire bookmarks,” she describes. After months of preparation, all the pieces were in place for Rebecca and James’ traditional wedding, which they celebrated with two bridesmaids, Rebecca’s sister and cousin, Sarah and Marsha, as well as the couple’s good friends Martin and Glen, who were James’ best men. And the pair’s brothers – Daniel and Kevin – were their witnesses, as the two said their ‘I dos’ in front of their 150 guests on 9th June this year.


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The wedding day passed swiftly for the couple as they tied the knot in The Holy Family Church, in Sghajtar in Naxxar, before heading to Villa Bologna for a celebration surrounded by their nearest and dearest. And there were no hiccups, which meant the pair could sit back and relish the special moments. “Everything went smoothly, although we were prepared for every eventuality. But we also relied on

our family and friends to organise and manage things, and everyone did such a great job,” Rebecca recalls. So, what is the couple’s favourite memory of their big ‘I dos’? “It’s very hard to choose but for us the happiest moment was when we exited the church. This is the moment when it hit us: we actually did it. We got married!” Rebecca enthuses.

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“We were lucky. It was such a beautiful day filled with positive energy. We would honestly not change a thing.”

In fact, both bride and groom would not change anything about their stunning ceremony and lush reception. “We were lucky. It was such a beautiful day filled with positive energy. We would honestly not change a thing. Our only regret is that the day passed so quickly that it felt like a dream,” Rebecca reminisces.

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Indeed, Rebecca would advise all prospective spouses to plan ahead if they want to secure the wedding of their dreams. “Think ahead and be well organised. And enjoy the process, even though it can be stressful sometimes. But. most importantly, enjoy your day because it goes by so fast,” Rebecca smiles.


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Lisa

and

Byron ceremony location

Sacred Heart College Chapel, St Julian’s

reception venue

villa Corinthia, Attard

When love flies high For pilots Lisa Losco and Byron Fenech, love blossomed at 30,000 feet over the course of seven years, leading to a stunning wedding in July. Here they talk Jo Caruana through their sky-high romance. P hotos b y M atthew M irabelli

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s Lisa Losco and Byron Fenech look back on their wedding photos, so many happy memories jump off the pages. From Lisa and her sisters – singer Ira Losco and model Jacqui Losco – getting ready together in the morning at their family home in Sliema, to the couple dancing the night away surrounded by hundreds of their beloved guests in the Villa Corinthia, theirs was the kind of wedding that people dream about. But let’s backtrack a bit – to 2010, when the couple first met at work, as pilots. “We spent the summer with a particular group of colleagues and became very close over the next couple of years. According to Byron, I then bullied him into going out with me! But that isn’t quite how I remember it,” Lisa grins. They were together for seven years, three of which were spent long distance when Lisa worked in Brussels. “We commuted every week, which was challenging of course, but also the making of us,” the bride explains. Byron planned the perfect proposal for Lisa at the end of January last year. “He had booked a lovely restaurant on the day of the X-Factor final – which my sister Ira was judging – and, although both of my sisters knew he was going to propose, it slipped Ira’s mind the night before, and she invited me to the live show,” Lisa recalls. “And I accepted! When Byron objected, I was a little annoyed and said we could eat out any night of week. I even asked him not to make a big deal out of it.” “He quickly messaged Ira to remind her what was going on and she immediately came up with an excuse about not being able to get tickets for the show after all. So on the night, it was all very unexpected – especially as I’d never thought he wanted to get married. When the dessert arrived with a diamond ring beside it, there were quite a few tears of joy!”

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“When the dessert arrived with a diamond ring beside it, there were quite a few tears of joy!” Initially, Lisa says she wanted a Capri-style wedding outdoors – complete with lemons in her bouquet. “However, my mother kept reminding me that July – our chosen month – would be extremely hot. So, after some persuasion, I opted for an indoor venue so that we could make use of having air-conditioning.” Lisa and Byron ended up choosing the Sacred Heart College Chapel for their ceremony, followed by Villa Corinthia at the Corinthia Palace in Attard for their reception. “I was a student at the Sacred Heart, and have always loved the chapel and the quadrangle leading up to it,” Lisa smiles. “I would even have moved the date to guarantee we could get married there, so I guess that was the only element that my heart was completely set on.” Asked about their choice for the reception, Lisa explains that her parents had actually had their wedding party at the Villa Corinthia, and she loved the idea of getting married in the same place they did.

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“It was perfect,” she says, adding that she was guided by Corinthia Palace wedding planner Johanna Ward every step of the way. “I just loved the interior and art deco style. We ended up being so inspired by the art deco elements that we used it as a feature across our invitations, booklet, and ‘thank you’ cards, with gold lettering and an art deco font.”

The couple chose to keep things very classic for much of their choices, with dinner jackets for Byron and the groomsmen, and almond-flavouring for their wedding and witness cakes. “That said, we did go a little wild on other elements, like the Rickshaw-themed table that we chose to reflect our love of Asian food.

“I was a student at the Sacred Heart, and have always loved the chapel and the quadrangle leading up to it.”

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DETAILS Something blue “I loved the colour of the bridesmaid dresses (which were made and designed by Rosemarie Abela), and the fact that we incorporated their hue into the flower arrangements at the venue,” says Lisa.

That’s what I love most about the wedding when I look back on it – even though many things were very traditional, the whole day was totally ‘us’.” Lisa has many favourite memories of both the run-up to the wedding and the big day. Choosing her dress from Wedding Bells in Valletta was a highlight of course, and it was actually her first purchase – long before the date was set or the venues booked. “My sister Jacqui had modelled some dresses from Wedding Bells, so when I showed her the sort of thing I was after, she forwarded the pictures to Marquita there and then, and I was pleased to learn that she had quite a few dresses in that style.

Star performance “Our entertainment was good fun. The singers and DJ Mykill, from Good Ear Promotions, kept our guests on their feet, and Ira sang for our first dance and performed ‘Hey Now’ with Owen Leuellen. We had a great time!”

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“Even though many things were very traditional, the whole day was totally ‘us’.”

I made an appointment and tried on six dresses. They were all beautiful, but I instantly knew the one I wanted when I put it on. “But that’s also when something rather funny happened: my mum took a photo of me in my chosen dress and, in all the excitement, uploaded it to a WhatsApp chat that Byron is part of ! Thankfully, he claims he never saw it, but I can’t be sure…”

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Of course, getting ready with her sisters, best friend and family on the day is also a cherished memory, as was seeing Byron’s smile as she walked up the aisle. “It was a magical moment,” she recalls fondly. “Unfortunately, I was sobbing uncontrollably, so I don’t even have one good photo of me at that crucial time!” Looking back now, the couple can celebrate the fact that the whole day was imbued with a certain elegance.


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“There were so many special little touches that all came together.” “There were so many special little touches that all came together,” Lisa says. “The venue was beautifully lit and fabulously set up. It was also fun to see the whiskey room and gin bar come to life as the night went on, as the guests really seemed to enjoy them.” All in all, Lisa and Byron really do look back on their wedding as the most special day, and they say they loved every minute of it. “It was a great start to us hopefully spending our whole lives together,” the bride adds with a smile.

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The effortless one

St Julian’s girl meets Mellieha boy. Almost a decade to the day, they exchanged their vows and danced the night away at their perfect white wedding. Lara and William Camilleri share their journey with Cassi Camilleri. P hotos b y B rian G rech

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efore the days of Tinder and sliding into people’s DMs on Insta, bars and clubs were the standard backdrop for most couples’ first meetings. Lara and William Camilleri were no different when it all began. “It was 2009 and it was on a Wednesday night out in Havana,” Lara smiles, halfembarrassed. “I was with my friends and William was with his, when his friend pulled me aside to introduce us. The rest is history,” she beams. While Lara refrains from describing the moment as ‘love at first sight’, “there was definitely something ‘different’ about William. There was an immediate spark,” she remembers fondly. “He wasn’t like the other boys you met and forgot about the next day. We got along really well, right from the start.” What followed were nine years of friendship, fun and travel. But even with all those years under their belt, William still managed to construct the elaborate production that was the couple’s proposal. It happened last year, when Lara and William were putting the final touches on the apartment that would become their marital home. “We were so tired. It was the last day. The workers had just left and the place was a mess,” Lara recalls. Cleaning was the last thing she wanted to do, so when her mother Gladys and sister Janelle called with plans to go to Sliema for some shopping and girl time, Lara leapt at the opportunity. Then, at around 7pm, her phone rang. It was William.

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Lara

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William ceremony location

St Edward’s Chapel, Birgu

reception venue

Villa Bighi, Kalkara


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“His voice was urgent and panicked. ‘Lar, I have a problem in the apartment,’ he said. ‘There’s a leak in the toilet, and I don’t know what to do. You have to come’,” Lara recalls. Upon arriving, she realised what was happening almost immediately. “The apartment was clean. He brought a maid in to clean the place for us in the afternoon, while my mother and sister distracted me. It was all planned. There were candles and rose petals everywhere. He really went out

of his way,” she gushes, adding, “he’s not usually a romantic so I was really impressed. I didn’t expect it.” And with that, a year of intense wedding planning kicked off. “We didn’t want to waste two years planning and I wasn’t very fussy about the date, so we moved quickly,” Lara quips. It also helped that the couple knew what they wanted, especially when it came to venue, food and entertainment.

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“There was definitely something different about William. There was an immediate spark.”

“We live in Malta and we have all these beautiful backdrops. I didn’t want the usual indoor, cooped-upinside-thing. I wanted a view,” Lara explains. After some sightseeing, they landed at Villa Bighi. For food, Osborne Caterers were the only choice Lara even considered: “we love their food and we didn’t consider other caterers,” she says. The Big Band Brothers were the cherry on the pristine white almond-flavoured wedding cake. “I wanted a lively and fun wedding. I didn’t want people to sit down at all.”  When the fateful day finally arrived – June 28th, marking 10 years almost to the day since that first encouter in Paceville – Lara was

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surprisingly cool. “I consider myself a very stressed person, I get very nervous, but on the day I was rather calm.” It also helped that wedding planner Sarah Young was there to take the reins at that point, and all Lara had to focus on was herself. “It was a chilled day,” she says, listing the day’s events in the most pragmatic fashion. “I woke up at 7:30am at my parent’s. My brother actually woke me up with a bridal theme song on his phone – it was quite funny! Then, makeup and hair started at 10am. Once we were ready, the cars we hired from eCabs were waiting outside, and we set off to the chapel, a bit early because we didn’t want to hit traffic.”


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DETAILS Delightful décor The mix of traditional and contemporary elements created the perfect vibe, all of it topped off with gorgeous flowers from Alistair Floral Design.

“We live in Malta and we have all these beautiful backdrops. I didn’t want the usual indoor, cooped-upinside-thing. I wanted a view.”

Dress of dreams Lara wore a beautiful A-line gown with delicate embroidered flowers and long sleeves, which was completed by the talented team at camilleriparismode, much to her grandmother’s approval. “My grandmother loved the dress, even though it was unfinished when we first saw it, but I originally chose a different one. Then, when we went home, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The next day I called them back and went in again to change the order,” Lara recalls.

Probing a little bit deeper, it doesn’t take long to get to the good stuff. While Lara may have had her emotions under control during the ceremony at St Edward’s Chapel in Birgu, unlike William and everyone else in attendance, the bride cried her eyes out when her father Roger saw her in her dress for the very first time. Walking into the reception, Lara was blown away by the results of all their preparations. Her vision for a pristine white wedding had come to life. “It was more than I could have expected,” Lara sighs. Even the nerves she and William had about being the centre of attention flew right out the window when they stepped onto the dancefloor for their first dance. “We’re not dancers; we didn’t do choreography, so we had planned for all our friends to join us after 30 seconds. But that didn’t happen,” she says. “We were just in the moment, me and him, and it was so much fun. We’ll remember it forever.”

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“During our first dance, we had planned for all our friends to join us after 30 seconds. But that didn’t happen. We were just in the moment, me and him, and it was so much fun. We’ll remember it forever.”

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The party went off without a hitch, and the couple danced the night away surrounded by all their friends and family. The party went off without a hitch, and the couple danced the night away surrounded by all their friends and family. In the end, the day turned into a most fitting microcosm of their life as a married couple, full of joy, music and love. “I would change nothing about the day. Nothing at all,� Lara concludes. And there is no doubt about that.

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venues

A versatile villa with a unique past

At 130 years old, Villa Arrigo is an enduring building with a distinguished character, and since opening its doors to the public for events and weddings, its popularity has never been greater. Martina Said meets owner Veronica Zammit Tabona to find out all about it. P hotos b y A lan C arville

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ou’d be pressed to meet someone who hasn’t attended a wedding at Villa Arrigo, especially in recent years, following a series of investments in the stunning 19th century villa that, along with a stellar reputation built over many years, further helped project this boutique venue to the top, where it sits comfortably among the best wedding venues on the island. But it isn’t just the venue itself that enamours potential clients. A big part of the venue’s success is that Veronica Zammit Tabona has been at the helm of its operation ever since she and her sisters purchased the villa over three decades ago. I met Veronica at Villa Arrigo on a glorious autumn day. Natural light floods the marquee, and illuminates everything it touches – the draping overhead, the round tables covered in white linens, the contemporary white bars on either side of the room. The venue is perfectly prepped for the imminent arrival of guests attending a lunch, and workers outside are busy trimming and readying the lovely gardens for upcoming events. But before it looked as it does today, Villa Arrigo was an imposing residential home of the Garcin family. “Originally called Villa Garcin, the summer home was built in 1887 in the neo-classical style, by Cesare Garcin.” Many generations later, the villa was sold to the Agius family, who were merchants, and in 1986, rented the property to Veronica’s father, Ralph Arrigo, who went on to change the name of the property from Villa Agius to Villa Arrigo. “The family later bought the villa and transformed

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it into a venue for events and weddings. This was 34 years ago, and it’s still a beautiful venue all these years later.” Back in the 1980s however, the set-up was rather different. “When we first got started in the industry, I remember the marquee we had was a red and yellow tent with green poles – something you’re likelier to see in a circus than at a wedding!” Veronica laughs. “Set-ups were far less innovative at the time. Years later, we replaced it with a more modern white marquee, with zips on the sides, which was quite original and upmarket back then. As the years went on, we always sought to improve the set-up with more advanced equipment in line with industry standards and demands. Very recently, we implemented more changes to the venue and made it completely soundproof.” Soundproofing the marquee was a significant investment aimed at keeping Villa Arrigo a step ahead of all competition, while respecting any future sound polution regulation. “We know that there will be changes in the law to this effect, and rather than being forced to implement a costly and sudden change all at once, we started investing in a new set-up at our own pace.” And no matter how small or big, new changes and developments are never too far away. “We’re always evolving – today, for instance, a lunch is being held here, and the set-up had to be adapted to suit the client’s needs,” says Veronica. “Nowadays, I’m proud to say that we appeal to everybody, and the villa’s style combined with its plain


venues

“The villa’s style combined with its plain and elegant marquee is a blank canvas that allows people to portray their own character in it.”

and elegant marquee is a blank canvas that allows people to portray their own character in it.” After more than three decades in business, it’s clear that it’s not just the villa that’s changed and evolved – so have clients’ expectations. “Nowadays, couples pay an incredible amount of attention to detail, especially when compared to weddings of the past. Also, back in the day, weddings were much shorter, and it wasn’t unusual to host two weddings in

one day. That would never happen today, as weddings often start in the morning and end late at night,” says Veronica. “Catering too has evolved – people are far more health conscious than they were in the past, and couples take into consideration guests’ food intolerances and lifestyles, such as those who are vegetarian. In the past, there was a bigger emphasis on pastries too – and people used to eat everything!”

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“Originally called Villa Garcin, the summer home was built in 1887 in the neo-classical style by Cesare Carcin.”

With a capacity to fit up to 1,200 people inside, and up to 600 people in the marquee alone, Villa Arrigo can be adapted to weddings of all sizes. “If you count the gardens, it can even take up to 2,000 people – but being completely weather dependent, the gardens are an added bonus for guests to use rather than the primary focus of the venue,” says Veronica. “The venue alone has everything a couple needs to host their wedding, and we make sure to provide them with everything.” Synonymous with the venue’s outstanding set-up and service is the in-house catering by Osborne Caterers, which was established in 1978 and has served several distinguished guests over the years, including popes, foreign and Maltese dignitaries, ministers, prime ministers and presidents. The catering company has also made a lasting impression with countless couples as well as their guests, with its innovative delicacies, the quality of the food and the professional presentation. Veronica says that all clients who book the venue are given a taster of the food, usually by way of inviting them

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to visit prior to events, rather than a planned food tasting without the pressure of catering for a large-scale event. “We guide clients to help them achieve the best results in the time of year they want to host their wedding in. Seasonality plays a big part on the product, and we aim to use fresh produce in our food preparation as much as possible.” Among the most popular catering requests are Osborne’s Tavola Toscana, which continues to be immensely sought after, as well as the much-loved shabby chic tea. “This is probably our top-seller, and I don’t think anyone has matched us yet with this offering,” she teases. “The table has an Alice in Wonderland theme – it’s so pretty and has a delicious selection of cakes, savoury items, Prosecco, strawberries and much more. On the beverages side, the gin bar is extremely popular.” Always one to keep an eye on the future, Veronica says there are plans in the pipeline for Villa Arrigo, but she can’t give anything away just yet. “We’re still in the planning stage, but what I can say is that we have a few interesting years ahead.”


FASHION

Dress: An elegant yet

light, flowy gown with an embroidered beaded lace top and a soft chiffon skirt, Camilleri Paris Mode.

Headpiece: Exquisitely

handcrafted pearl headband bursting with sprays of crisp ivory Swarovski pearls and finished off with ivory ribbon. Created using flexible, hand wired silver, this gorgeous and memorable headpiece is sure to make an impression. Exclusively at SC Bridal Designs.

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FASHION

Dark Romance Location: Rosselli – AX Privilege, Valletta Photographer: Matthew B Spiteri Photo Shoot Coordinator: Sarah Micallef Hair & make-up: Francesca & Lorraine, Alfie's Hair & Beauty ModelS: Gabriela - Models M, Krista and Zac Flowers: Autumnal floral bouquets utilising red-hued flowers with a combination of neutral tones to ensure the wedding feel is kept throughout. Featuring a complex combination of premium flowers and fillers including roses, spray roses, berzelia and more, by Alistair Floral Design.

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FASHION

Dress: Outstanding, fairy tale Liliana bridal gown. Tender and delicate, it is a true beauty that never fades away. Exclusively available in ArtBridal boutique.

Headpiece

: This glorious handmade crystal headband has numerous sprays of Swarovski and Czech crystals and beads. Created using flexible, hand wired silver, it is finished with ribbons for a custom fit. This piece is perfect for both traditional and modern brides. Exclusively at SC Bridal Designs.

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FASHION

Dress: Lia is the perfect

dress for a bride that dresses to impress, with its feathered embellishments running down from waistline to the floor, Victorian neckline and open back. It is ideal for a superstar bride with a daring and extravagant style! Dress exclusively available at EVA MARIEE.

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MY DRESS

Dress: Delicate lace, plunging neckline and a glorious full skirt place this wonderful dress in a class of its own. Designed by French brand Eglantine, this gown will undoubtedly make you feel like a princess on your special day. Exclusively available at WEDDINGBELLS.

Headpiece

: Exquisitely handcrafted pearl headband bursting with sprays of crisp ivory Swarovski pearls and finished off with ivory ribbon. Created using flexible, hand wired silver, this gorgeous and memorable headpiece is sure to make an impression. Exclusively at SC Bridal Designs.

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FASHION

Dress: Lia is the perfect

dress for a bride that dresses to impress, with its feathered embellishments running down from waistline to the floor, Victorian neckline and open back. It is ideal for a superstar bride with a daring and extravagant style! Dress exclusively available at EVA MARIEE.

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FASHION

Dress: This stunning A-line dress with matching veil is a perfect combination for any bride looking for a fashion forward look with a classical twist. Dress and veil designed by Daria Karlozi, exclusively available at WEDDINGBELLS.

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FASHION

Dress: Glamourous and glitzy are definitely the perfect description for this oneof-a-kind bridal gown. Designed by internationally renowned brand Millanova, this dress will undeniably turn heads. Exclusively available at WEDDINGBELLS.

Headpiece

: This bridal tiara radiates brilliance with two layers of handwired Swarovski crystals in a classic design. It measures approximately two inches tall at the centre peak. Exclusively at SC Bridal Designs.

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FASHION

Dress: An elegant yet

light, flowy gown with an embroidered beaded lace top and a soft chiffon skirt, Camilleri Paris Mode.

Headpiece: Exquisitely

handcrafted pearl headband bursting with sprays of crisp ivory Swarovski pearls and finished off with ivory ribbon. Created using flexible, hand wired silver, this gorgeous and memorable headpiece is sure to make an impression. Exclusively at SC Bridal Designs.

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FASHION

Krista wears: Truth Spot Storm dress, featuring a stunningly sparkly bodice covered with shimmering sequins, above a multi-layered and foil-printed full skirt with a high-low hemline.

Zac wears: Thomas four-piece tuxedo suit comprising a jacket, trousers, crisp cotton-blend shirt and bow tie. Both available at Monsoon Children, Sliema, Valletta, Pavi and The Duke, Gozo.

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Dress: Rosanna embellished balloon sleeve midi dress from Monsoon’s ARTISAN collection, which is handembellished with beautifully ornate sequined decorations, finished with a velour belt and wrap neckline. Available at Monsoon, Bisazza and Tigne Street, Sliema.

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interview

Saying it with flowers

Every couple aspires for their wedding day to have that intimate touch, and choosing the right flowers for the occasion is intrinsic to shaping the event to reflect their personal style. Florist Alistair Fenech shares his passion, knowledge and insight with Emma Mattei.

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he to-do list for any couple getting married, particularly at the start of the journey towards tying the knot, can appear endless, and somewhat daunting. One might ask: just when is the right time to start thinking about flowers? That crucial transformation of church and venue into the stuff of dreams is done almost exclusively with floristry; so thinking about how to dress the locations cannot start soon enough. “Conversations between the couple and myself can start as early as two years prior to the event,” says Alistair Fenech, of Alistair Floral Design. “In this industry it’s all about trust

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and establishing a rapport with your clients, and that takes time.” As big decisions are taken, items are crossed off the list and the identity of the event starts to take shape, the couple begin to develop a relationship with those entrusted to deliver on the various components of the event. An ongoing dialogue ensues, in which desires and dreams are fine-tuned and finally, brought to fruition by the planning experts, who are able to understand, interpret and deliver, striving to exceed expectations.


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“Realising their vision and going that step further takes involvement every step of the way,” says Alistair solemnly, and then his eyes light up from behind his stylish frames, “but I just love it! I’ve been doing this work for 22 years, and I continue to love what I do.” No doubt the secret behind Alistair’s success is going that extra mile. With weddings, he works closely with the theme of the occasion, and likes to have a complete understanding of how it will come together; studying the location, the planned layout and the menu in detail, so that he is able to hit just the right note with his creations. “Perhaps I was lucky to be able to absorb all the skills I would need for this job without pressure,” says Alistair, referring to his early understanding of the 16-hour work days and dedication that go into preparing for events that resonate long after they’re over. Alistair’s father is a professional pastry chef and his mother is a hairdresser and seamstress, and as a boy, Alistair would help his father at the bakery, preparing ribbons for the specially prepared cakes. Then, when he was starting his business, Alistair first occupied a corner of the bakery with his flowers.

“I’ve been doing this work for 22 years, and I continue to love what I do.” Alistair began to dabble in floristry at the age of 14, when a family friend, Joseph Ciancio, who ran a small milliner’s studio while also overseeing the floral decorations at the Lija parish church, asked Alistair to assist him, perhaps learn the art of millinery. “I was a little too young then,” he says, “but the interest was there.” Starting out doing what he called ‘donkey work’ – cleaning leaves, washing buckets, conditioning flowers, carrying foam – taught Alistair the importance of tending to all aspects of his trade. “Donkey work is very important, it’s crucial, because it means you know your profession throughout, starting with the most basic elements, which are extremely important.” At 18 years old, he met a lady from the village of Lija called Rita Testaferrata Bonnici, who quickly became his mentor. Now retired, they remain good friends. “She had access to various mature gardens across Malta, and I was able to learn how to work with local flora,” he says. Rita was responsible for overseeing the displays at the Office of the Prime Minister at the Auberge de Castille in Valletta, and Alistair recalls creating spirals out of local oranges for a banquet being held in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s second visit to Malta.

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interview

“At the age of 18, I was entrusted to oversee the flower arrangements for two family weddings, so I just did them!” “Then, also at the age of 18, I was entrusted to oversee the flower arrangements for two family weddings, so I just did them!” he continues. This might have phased most, but Alistair’s cool, calm manner implies a determined will and a confidence of vision. The main turning point in his career came in February 1999, when Alistair, then 19, travelled to London for a fiveweek stint, to attend the renowned Mary Adams Flower Design Studio, located in Belgravia. From there, he never looked back. We walk into the cold storage room crammed with bucketfuls of glorious, white hydrangeas. “These are for the cathedral,” he says, referring to a wedding ceremony taking place that coming weekend. “I’m going to be working these in with those pampas over there,” he says, pointing to long stems of gorgeous, feathery plumes, adding, “you need to make a statement in that space!” The desire to engulf myself in a frenzy of these sumptuous, bouncy clusters takes over, but there’s no time

to daydream, as Alistair talks about the various destinations set for the flora surrounding him, just biding time in the dark, cool of the storage room until the time comes for them to be displayed accordingly. “These orchids are for a hotel lobby… these types of greens, the eucalyptus, are very popular at the moment… and those there are anthuriums…” he says, pointing to a line of exotic purplered, lily-like shiny stems being stored on a cool, dark shelf. It’s clear that this is where Alistair is happiest, surrounded by nature’s wonder, and his passion is contagious. Now 40 years old, Alistair is synonymous with flowers. They have enabled him to meet and work with a variety of people from all walks of life, and they have seen him involved in many special events, some of them historic. No matter how large or small the task, be it a State banquet or intimate nuptial gathering in a private residence, his commitment is absolute, and his sense of satisfaction upon successful completion of an event is as strong as the day he put his first bouquet together.

Photo courtesy of the Mediterranean Conference Centre

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MY DRESS

Wearing the fruit of talent When Martina Bartolo Parnis got engaged, little did she expect to put her passion for dress-making to good use. But, with the support of family, and her sewing course teacher, she took the plunge and created her own gown. Here, she tells Rebecca Anastasi all about what went into the making of her stunning wedding dress. P h otos b y Tonio Lom b ardi

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MY DRESS

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t around the time she got engaged – and like many busy young women – Martina Bartolo Parnis’s life was a flurry of work, socialising with friends, and time with her fiancé, though once a week, she did manage to step away from the rush and take some time for herself by attending a tailoring course. “Although I knew how to sew, the course taught me pattern-making and a whole set of skills that I didn’t have before,” she smiles, looking back. But, despite this, she had never considered making her own wedding dress. “I’ve never been the kind of person to dream about my wedding day, even less so my wedding dress, and I instantly assumed it would involve too much work which I didn’t have time for. But friends and family, who knew I love designing and sewing clothes for myself, would ask me whether I’m making my own gown, planting the seed in my mind, which I couldn’t ignore,” she recalls. With time pressing on, the bride-to-be decided to give herself a deadline to make the decision. “My brilliant course teacher, Lilian Zammit, who is an incredible seamstress herself, told me I shouldn’t consider any option other than making it, so I had to explore the idea seriously. In order to do so, I decided I had to have made up my mind and thought of a design and style by one year before the wedding,” Martina explains. Martina figured that “shopping around” would be a good way of making the choice, trying on a few gowns to get an idea of what she would want. And with her mother and sister egging her on to buy a ready-to-wear piece, and her father and future spouse encouraging her to create a bespoke gown, Martina was left with only one choice – to follow her intuition. “In the end I decided to go with my gut and make my own, and I’m glad I did,” she laughs. The first step was choosing the fabric, since this determined the silhouette and style of the dress, Martina explains. “Although I already had a design in mind, I knew

that if I didn’t find the exact fabric I wanted, I wouldn’t be able to execute it,” she says. Indeed, having decided to forego lace and opt for a rich brocade, the bride-to-be had her work cut out for her, but after investing plenty of time and effort – unsuccessfully – Martina decided to adapt her design. “Shopping around for fabric and conceiving the design of the dress went hand in hand so, after a lot of unsuccessful searching, I decided to tweak the original idea to work with a softer and lighter fabric, which had a lovely draping quality, and which also turned out to be more suitable for a May wedding,” she explains. The design of the gown was inspired by the dresses Martina initially tried on, as well as on visual research. “I’m a very undecided person – it takes me ages to choose something off a menu let alone something like this!” she says. “And since I was the one making it, I did feel some pressure. I wasn’t after creating a dress that had never been done before or to reinvent the wheel – I simply wanted to wear a dress that felt like me, with the added satisfaction of having created it myself,” she describes. Indeed, she was looking to create a dress which fit like a glove yet felt comfortable to wear. “Of course, it’s a wedding dress and not jeans and a t-shirt, but I didn’t want to wear something that left me feeling self-conscious, restricted or uncomfortable,” she explains. And after eliminating styles she was sure didn’t work for her – “namely anything too fitted or a ball gown,” she says – she tried to combine elements she loved. “I like a high neckline and low back cut, which is what I opted for. For the skirt, I wanted a full skirt that had volume, but without the puffiness of a princess-style dress. Achieving a great fit for the bodice was also crucial,” she describes. At camilleriparismode, she found a lovely crepe satin which formed the main body of the dress, with eight metres alone forming a full circle skirt with a long train.

“My dress-making experience had its ups and downs. Initially, there was a lot of excitement and a strong sense of ‘I’ve got this, I can do it’.”

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MY DRESS

She then used embroidered tulle with a detailed floral design for the bodice, which Martina sourced from abroad. “Motifs cut from the same embroidered tulle were then hand-stitched onto the skirt, and the waist was completed with a narrow, crepe satin belt,” she explains. The gown took approximately nine months to make, including drafting the pattern, cutting the material, multiple fittings and a lot of hand-stitching, Martina says. This included spending several hours on it on weekends, public holidays and during her work shutdown periods which were, she says, a “golden opportunity” to catch up and work on it for days at a stretch. “Not every weekend was free obviously – weeks would pass where I wouldn’t touch it at all! And that is when panic would typically set in. Besides day-to-day commitments, social life and work, there was also the wedding to plan, and that generally happened on weekends too.” Apart from the time required, there were other challenges Martina encountered throughout the process. “My dress-making experience had its ups and downs. Initially, there was a lot of excitement and a strong sense of ‘I’ve got this, I can do it’. But being my first dress of that kind of intricacy, I really wanted to make sure that it was as perfect as it could be, so if something wasn’t looking or fitting as well as it should, I’d undo weeks of work to start all over again. Those kinds of setbacks would be the cause of lots of frustration and mini-meltdowns,” she says. And indeed, one of the most arduous tasks, according to the bride-to-be, was the hand-stitching of the gown’s detailing. “Besides using embroidered tulle on the bodice, I hand-cut floral motifs from the tulle and stitched them by hand onto the skirt. bliss 109

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MY DRESS

“Besides using embroidered tulle on the bodice, I hand-cut floral motifs from the tulle and stitched them by hand onto the skirt.” Being quite a full-bodied skirt, what I initially thought would be enough hand-stitched motifs to make an impact actually got lost in the folds of the skirt, so I had to repeat the process time and again, until it looked right,” she recalls. This required plenty of patience and support from her future husband Chris, who “kept reminding me that it would be worth it, even though he had no idea what I was concocting or what it involved,” she laughs. Apart from her fiancé, Martina was lucky enough to have immense support from her tailoring teacher Lilian, who was reliably on hand to help by fine-tuning the design and execution, as well as problem-solving any hiccup which came up. “She was always so willing to help, and I simply wouldn’t have managed to do it without her – for that I’m really grateful! And then there was the moral support, which was also priceless – my family was full of encouragement when time constraints and obstacles started to get to me. My husband, Chris, was immensely patient, supportive and encouraging. We moved in roughly six months before the wedding and, although he couldn’t do much to help, he always knew how to calm me down and encourage me to keep going, which I’m very grateful for,” she explains. In February 2019, the dress was finally ready, and although Martina had already had multiple fittings throughout the entire process – and had an image of what to expect – nothing could have prepared her for the emotions she felt on the final try. “My mother joined me for the last fitting and we both sort of couldn’t believe it was done! I certainly couldn’t! I was quite emotional,” she recalls. Following that final fitting, Martina completed the last finishing touches and took it for a professional steaming. On the day itself – dressed up to the nines – the bride could finally reap the rewards of her months of hard graft. “Wearing it on the day, complete with hair and make-up, I felt that super excited feeling of ‘I’m getting married today!’” she reminisces fondly. And after six months of marriage, where is Martina’s dress now? “It’s currently stored away safely at my parents’ house. If I fulfil my dream of having my own tailoring studio someday, I might bring it out of storage and display it. Other than being a reminder of a very gratifying project, it will also be a regular reminder of an unforgettable day,” she smiles.

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A word from

the groom As Martina walked down the aisle in a dress she designed and created from scratch, her fiancé Chris was stunned and moved. “At first, I couldn’t believe it – finally, after all that time, I could see the dress! I was an explosion of emotions. I felt everything, from excitement to anxiety. I was wiping away the tears. I remember I was so proud. She looked beautiful – more so than I could imagine. I recall telling her there and then that she looked amazing. I choked on my words too, if I recall, but she got the gist,” he says.


BEAUTY

Plain perfection A wedding date presents the perfect opportunity for a makeover. Mariella Camilleri talks to aesthetician Denise Marston about the bridal beauty journey, and the quest for healthy skin.

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here is something special about gorgeous gowns, floral bouquets and a radiant-looking bride. Perhaps it’s the ‘princess’ moment when a girl walks down the aisle looking flawless. For most brides-to-be, following a proposal, looking exquisite becomes a foremost priority – after all, those wedding photos will live to tell tales! Although using plush products helps to achieve the desired look, having healthy skin plays a vital role. Denise Marston, owner of DEA Aesthetic And Wellness in B’Kara, says that achieving perfect skin before the big day requires time, dedication

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and care. “Preparing for a wedding often puts a bride under severe pressure, and this sometimes leads to acne and other skin problems that will require specialised treatment.” Covering up acne-prone skin is no easy task. I have personally always suffered from breakouts and at times even high-end cosmetics fail to hide the redness of inflammation. Denise, who recently won Best Emerging Entrepreneur at the 2019 Malta Business Awards, says that although makeup can hide a multitude of sins, it will not give you a healthy complexion.


BEAUTY

“If skin is acne-prone or dry, the make-up application will not be smooth. Some brides come to us with oily or scarred skin; others suffer from eczema that leaves dry scaling. We treat these issues by restoring the skin’s PH balance through facials and peels, followed by a good homecare routine. Usually it takes around six months to achieve healthy skin.” Pigmentation most commonly found above the lips and dark under-eye circles are also issues that require attention. “Pigmentation sometimes occurs due to hormones, however excessive sun exposure tends to be the main culprit. We usually recommend peels in winter and facials in the summer time – sunblock worn throughout the year also helps to keep pigmentation at bay,” she says. Thankfully, treatments help to shed dead skin cells and reveal healthier looking skin. “Certain facials draw out impurities, leaving the skin cleaner and healthier. They also help to tighten the pores and improve circulation. When chemical peels are used, fresher and more radiant skin is achieved after a few sessions.” Sometimes, though, the prospect of undergoing a chemical peel can be daunting, particularly when dealing with inflamed skin, Denise admits. In such instances brides can opt for a herbal peel, where only natural products

are used. “Such peels act as skin polishing and require no recovery time. We get brides coming in during their lunch hour for this kind of facial. Unlike other peels, this treatment leaves no redness and can even be done two days before the wedding,” she says. Having worked in the beauty industry for decades, Denise reveals that the demand for treatments has increased, even since DEA opened its doors in 2018. “Life has become rushed and stressful, and this is evident in the skin problems we encounter. Environmental factors and pollution cause skin damage, and many times home care is not enough.” Luckily, due to extended opening hours, clients can also have treatments after a day’s work – perfect for busy brides-to-be. DEA also caters for different ages, and offers tailored treatments for women in their 40s, 50s and 60s. “Many times brides come to the salon with their mother, and they choose facials together. Looking good on the big day is important, particularly for women,” Denise explains. “Older women tend to suffer from dehydrated skin, pigmentation and skin that has lost its elasticity. Thankfully, we have invested in machines that work on the deeper levels of the skin, and this makes our facials more effective,” she continues. Radio frequency, thermage and HIFU are just some of the facials offered by DEA.

“Life has become rushed and stressful, and this is evident in the skin problems we encounter.”

Photo by Alan Carville

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Micro needling, the Derma Pen used for scarring, pigmentation, and open pores, and the famous Red Carpet facial using an aqua gold needle to channel vitamins into the skin, are also popular. Severely blemished or sagging skin, however, sometimes requires stronger intervention. Dr Giovanni Scornavacca, an aesthetic specialist from Italy, visits DEA every fortnight to perform more focused treatments. “Sometimes stronger peels are recommended: these help to remove acne scarring and to diminish fine wrinkles. Once completed, the skin looks clearer and more youthful,” says Denise. Botox is another treatment performed by the aesthetic doctor at DEA. “We have performed this treatment on women as young as 30 to treat hereditary wrinkles. Botox is also used as prevention against wrinkles which haven’t yet appeared, while lip fillers and other filler treatments are in high demand.” Meanwhile, thread lifting is a treatment performed under local anaesthetic, and is ideal for the mother of the bride. Ideally this is done three months before the wedding, as time allows the skin to replenish and heal. Regenerative therapy, also known as Biofiller, is a treatment where the facial contours are filed using one’s natural body fat. This gives volume, plumps up wrinkles and brightens the complexion. When it comes to aesthetics, DEA leaves no stone unturned. Hair loss, another issue which affects older

“The months leading to the wedding present the perfect opportunity to achieve the body and complexion one has always dreamed of.”

women, can now be treated through PRP and Stamina Cells; a procedure that gives thinning hair the necessary boost to regenerate and regrow. Last but not least, the aesthetic doctor also performs treatment to help weight loss, for brides looking to shed a few pounds before their big day. Wedding gowns and evening dresses tend to look more alluring on a healthy-looking physique, explains Denise, and DEA offers slimming packages that promote weight loss, remove cellulite and help to tighten the skin. “We usually start off with a consultation where one’s target is discussed. Most of the time we combine different technologies such as lipolaser, ultrasound cavitation, radio frequency, vacuum, pressotherapy, infra Red, HIFU and EMS.” Weight loss treatments initially take place twice a week – these are narrowed down to weekly visits until one reaches the desired weight. “In more challenging cases, our aesthetic doctor might perform microlipocavitation. This one-time treatment, performed under local anaesthetic, removes fat directly. Finally, the Mesotherapy injection is another fat loss method used at DEA.” Apart from this, DEA also offers laser hair removal, massages for relaxation and other treatments which help brides-to-be to look and feel better. “Weddings require planning, particularly when dealing with weight loss problems and skin issues. Other treatments can be enjoyed days before the wedding to promote wellness and achieve a healthier glow.” Any woman who has walked down the aisle knows that bridal preparations bring a mixture of stressful and joyful emotions, yet every bride wants to look stunning, serene and self-confident as she steps towards her husband-to-be. “The months leading to the wedding present the perfect opportunity to achieve the body and complexion one has always dreamed of. On this occasion, relying on make-up is not enough. Our treatments ensure that neither the bride nor the mother of the bride will require heavy make-up on that special day. Instead, we will ensure that their skin glows in the healthiest and most natural way,” Denise concludes.

Photos by Alan Carville

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WEDDING TRENDS

wedding TRENDS

A fashion statement

Vivienne Westwood

2020 is expected to be a big year for weddings, and so are the trends that are coming with it. From eco-conscious choices to towering cakes and next-level photography, Martina Said picks out her favourites.

Although clean lines and plainer fabrics are gaining popularity in bridal wear, it doesn’t mean that wedding dresses are becoming understated. On the contrary, a statement wedding dress is the way to make an impact at your wedding in 2020, whether with an extra-long train or a sculptured design.

Sustainable weddings

The importance of sustainability is being highlighted in everything we do, including wedding planning. Last year, Princess Eugenie announced her wedding will be plastic free, and while few might have her budget to work with, small and sustainable choices still go a long way, such as using recycled paper for stationery or e-invites, and biodegradable options for confetti.

Maria Elena Headpieces

Tiaras www.notonthehighstreet.com

Beautiful lighting

www.marthastewartweddings.com

ÛWedding dresses may be getting simpler, but we’re not sure the same can be said for accessories. Possibly inspired by the grand royal weddings of 2018, tiaras are in demand, and we can’t think of a more regal accessory to complete a princess-inspired ensemble.

Wildflower bouquets

In 2020, mood lighting will have its turn to shine, transforming even the simplest of venues into magical settings. Whether you’re after a soft glow at sunset or a magical sparkle under the stars, the right lighting will set your wedding apart.

Even your choice of bouquet can be eco-friendly! More couples are choosing to opt for locally-grown and seasonal blooms, wildflowers or dried flowers for their wedding day arrangements. And if you’ve got green fingers, why not grow your own?

www.avenuelifestyle.com

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WEDDING TRENDS

Towering works of art

The wedding cake is one tradition that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere fast. In fact, it’s only becoming more elaborate as it goes. From the traditional almond cake to these towering works of art, the new crop of wedding cakes includes anything from edible flowers and alcoholic flavours to next-level designs and even multiple cakes for cutting and serving. www.english-wedding.com >

Blouson sleeves Monique Lhuillier

Sleeves for a winter wedding are almost a given, but they needn’t be traditional. Many fashion designers have been adopting volume in their designs for 2020 collections, and this is one such way, through 80s-inspired blouson sleeves that are supersized yet also provide the necessary coverage.

Individual bridesmaids

ÜEmbracing individuality is key in 2020 weddings, even in the choices of bridesmaids’ dresses. If you’ve got more than one bridesmaid, allow them to have a say in the style of dress, ensuring they’re happy with the look, and so are you.

www.marthastewartweddings

.com

Stunning tablescapes

ÛTable décor is expected to become increasingly luxurious, by way of patterned fabric, varying textures, metallic details and thematic accessories, such as fruit and flowers used to adorn all manners of tables – from banquet set-ups for seated weddings to elaborate food stations.

www.bergeronmedia.com

Drone photography ÛWhether to capture the crowd at your wedding or a magical moment alone with your new spouse, drone wedding photography is in demand, and can provide you with some stunning aerial images that on-the-ground photography can’t. It comes at an extra cost, but it’s worth it.

www.instylemag.com.au

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honeymoon

Of colour, life and love Following months of hectic wedding preparations, most couples are eager to dive into a luxurious and relaxing honeymoon. However, the rising popularity of adventure travel has seen it merge into honeymoon trends to add a whole new flavour to postwedding celebrations. Angela and James Tabone speak to Caroline Curmi to reveal how Royal Travel fused indulgence, romance and travel together to form an unforgettable start to their wedded life.

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ngela and James tied the knot just over five months ago and their bond clearly displays the heart-warming aura and energy of a fresh union. Both husband and wife look back fondly on their recent honeymoon experience and agree that their time in Latin America was the perfect tonic to the start of their marriage. The couple embarked on their honeymoon five days after their 7th June wedding and split the following three weeks equally between two countries: Cuba and Mexico. In Cuba, they went on a road trip that saw them visit most of the island’s Western coast, starting off at the capital Havana, and continuing with rural tobacco town Viñales, pearl of the South Cienfuegos, quaint colonial town Trinidad and Cuba’s version of Comino, Cayo Santa

Maria, before returning to Havana for their final night. Angela credits her husband as the sole driver throughout the trip and admits that she wouldn’t have felt comfortable sitting behind the wheel. “Not only do you have to get used to driving on the other side of the road, but some road conditions were not wholly unreminiscent of Malta,” Angela recalls. James stifles a smile but agrees that some stretches of road were indeed quite unforgiving. “Distances in the Americas are far longer than what we are used to here, and most highways are never-ending stretches of road with no pit-stops along the way – popping a tyre in the middle of nowhere would definitely have caused a dent, and I’m not only referring to vehicular damage.” bliss

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“Havana is very rich culturally and the buildings are not only beautiful but a rare treat to an eye which is accustomed to more Western styles of architecture.”

The road conditions might have left a lot to be desired, but their proximity to such a warm, lively, unique and laidback culture compensated for the multiple bumps along the way. Part of their lodging arrangements across Havana, Viñales, Trinidad and Cayo Santa Maria took the form of casas particulares – a system where Cuban people open their own living quarters to travellers, with their estate doubling as both a home and a guest house. Although James and Angela were keen on immersing

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themselves in the culture, they opted for a more private arrangement. “We didn’t want to spend our quality time with people we didn’t know, so we selected boutique-hotelstyle casas particulares that gave us the best of both worlds,” Angela explains. Both are hesitant to pick a favourite spot, and insist that all locations stood out with their undeniably charming and individual characteristics. But, after giving it some thought, Angela and James agree that Havana is the most vibrant of all.


honeymoon

“It was a mystical experience walking at night through music-filled streets jampacked with dancers and life.”

“It’s very rich culturally and the buildings are not only beautiful but a rare treat to an eye which is accustomed to more Western styles of architecture,” Angela asserts. James’s comments are equally enthusiastic as he recalls the warm, friendly and vivacious atmosphere prevalent throughout Cuba, but especially in the capital. “It was a mystical experience walking at night through music-filled streets jampacked with dancers and life,” James says. Both laugh when asked whether they joined in with the locals, and bashfully admit that they preferred absorbing the exuberance from afar, with a cocktail in hand. The couple were decidedly more eager to participate in activities during their time in Cayo Santa Maria, where they visited some of the best beaches they had ever seen. With its vast stretches of white sand and crystal-like water, the tiny island provided the perfect backdrop for both relaxed dips and seaside hikes. Trinidad, on the other hand, was the best-kept city they visited. Its cobbled roads, neo-baroque square and vast usage of horses and carriages was evocative of idyllic life in the early 20th century. Equally mystifying, with backdrops of mountains and beautiful valleys, tobacco capital Viñales was another highlight, with the pair able to witness the entire tobaccofarming and cigar-making process first-hand. James recalls that on the day they visited, a miscommunication with the accommodation receptionist in charge of organising the expedition resulted in the couple showing up at the tour

unannounced. Not only were they greeted warmly by the plantation owner, but the mishap was briskly laughed off and a tour guide was immediately dispatched to show them around. James admits that prior to visiting Cuba, he had mild reservations about the country due to its communist background, but this incident, among multiple other happy occurrences, served as an acknowledgment of Cuban society’s warmth and hospitality. It was soon time for the second country on their travel itinerary. A short flight from Havana to Cancun in Mexico transported them from exciting island to blissful paradise. Angela and James wanted a more relaxing ending to their honeymoon, and Royal Travel had the newlyweds set up in two different hotels, including an all-inclusive resort, for the ultimate comfort experience in Mexico. Although the extent of their sightseeing was comparatively limited, both comment that the Riviera Maya felt Americanised after their experiences in Cuba. “Perhaps it was the big green signs planted across the highways that acted as a link to American TV series,” Angela wonders.

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Their time at the resort was split between long tanning sessions by the pool sipping on cocktails and shopping around Playa del Carmen. Having gotten their sightseeing fix during their Cuban road trip, the couple opted for two day trips on their second leg of their honeymoon: one to Chichén Itzá and the other to Tulum. Both expeditions included visits to different Mayan structures, yet the couple agree that Chichén Itzá provided the more wondrous experience. A heritage site and one of the new seven wonders of the world, the ancient city shelters Mayan pyramids dating back almost three millennia. “I had an idea of the grandeur of the Mayan pyramids, but I certainly was not expecting them to be that big,” Angela laughs, and insists that the site is a must if you’re visiting the country. Tulum was a more subdued experience, with ruins stretched out to overlook the sea. “You see,” James explains, “the Mayans had the first seaside-resort!” Their last three nights were spent in a different but equally pleasurable and memorable resort. A more spirited and party-focused destination, their resort in Puerto Morelos offered the couple a chance to make up for the foregone dancing opportunities in Havana. Multiple DJs were spread across the hotel, with one even located in the reception. Staff members were universally friendly and exuded energy, with the poolside aerobics instructor confidently recruiting students from amongst the sunbathers – an activity which Angela happily dove into. Their inclusive efforts even resulted in most vacationers – previously strangers – bonding together and forming groups. Both express their gratitude to Royal Travel for arranging their honeymoon and harmonising such different travel experiences. “With the stress involved in wedding preparations, I doubt we would have opted for this style

of honeymoon without the assistance of the Royal Travel team, who took care of our every whim,” Angela admits. The couple sit back as they reach the end of their narration to look at each other, foreshadowing the next question: which country did they prefer? Both are reluctant to speak up, and when the silence eventually breaks, their answer is tainted by an underlying sense of betrayal. Angela attempts to balance out the scenario: “Cuba was more rural, happy and lively, while Mexico had overall better WIFI access,” she muses. In the end, James leans towards Mexico for its comfort and ease, while Angela settles for Cuba’s unique, quirky and laid-back aura as her final answer. Both decide that preference is ultimately a matter of opinion, as both countries cater for all types of travellers. “It is a completely different type of lifestyle on that side of the world, and total enjoyment boils down to one’s ability and willingness to forego European social norms and immerse oneself in it,” James concludes.

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real home

A new lease on life Young lawyer Thomas Bugeja is new to the property game, but that didn’t hold him back from the ambitious conversion of this Zurrieq house, which he project managed and designed himself. Sarah Micallef takes a look at his newly finished home, which confidently marries old and new in a bright and tasteful hybrid. photos b y A lan C arville

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s you walk through the front door of this modern and airy home in Zurrieq, the first thing you’re met with is an elegant hallway with vaulted ceilings, which belies a very different past life. An intricately painted coat of arms adorns one of the arches framing the courtyard beyond, which offers a clue into its interesting history. This, owner Thomas Bugeja tells me, is the Zammit coat of arms, and it belonged to the priest who built this part of the house as part of his summer residence. “This is the oldest part of the property,” Thomas explains, “which was originally part of a much larger house, and is now divided into about five different homes.” The sunny courtyard is part of the original garden, which has also since been split into four parts. As you walk through the hall, a study greets you on the right, followed by a traditional staircase leading upstairs and a small bathroom on the left. “The bathroom is actually stolen from the courtyard,” Thomas smiles, explaining that when he first bought the place, it formed part of a very small kitchen. Further on, a couple of newly placed steps lead down to a bright splitlevel space, with a kitchen and dining area below and a living area on top. Upstairs, one finds the main bedroom

on the right and main bathroom on the left, with a second bedroom and roof terrace making up the floor above. But, as I soon discover, the house was in a very different state when Thomas bought it, in January 2016. “I was looking for an old house to restore, and I liked the area as my father is from Zurrieq, so there was always a connection there,” he explains. Apart from the prices of properties in the area being affordable, Thomas loved the fact that it remains relatively unspoilt, and is close to natural beauties like Wied iz-Zurrieq and Ghar Lapsi. “The house was owned by four sisters who had inherited it, but it was in a terrible state. It was actually lived in, but I’m not sure how, as all of the plumbing and electricity was from the 1900s or thereabouts, with copper pipes and old switches,” he reveals. There were also patterned tiles in each room, which Thomas sadly admits being unable to save in some areas due to the fitting of new plumbing systems beneath the floors. “The tiles in the hallway were engraved and really unique, and I was told they dated back to the 20th century. I tried to save them, but it was impossible,” he laments, though original tiles do remain in several rooms, including the study and bedroom.

“This was originally part of a much larger house, which is now divided into about five different homes.” bliss 126 WINTER 2019


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The old kitchen was tiny, he continues, comprising of an extension to where the downstairs bathroom is today, eating into the courtyard. Meanwhile, what is now an impressive split-level space was originally a bedroom, and the accompanying dining space was an unused area under the main staircase. Upstairs, the first floor consisted of just two bedrooms.

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“We destroyed the bedroom floor and filled part of the cellar with the debris, lowering the floor level of the room, which won us a lot of space.”

The structural changes, Thomas reveals, were quite substantial, starting with knocking down the small kitchen to extend the courtyard, and building a second bedroom on the roof, which allowed him to convert one of the original bedrooms on the first floor into the main bathroom and laundry area. He also added a skylight above the stairs, which are now bathed in light. The pièce de résistance however, has got to be the transformation of the kitchen area and loft. Here, the first item on the agenda was opening up the space by replacing the wall between the bedroom and staircase area with a beam. “It was really dark as it was all closed off,” says Thomas.

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A cellar lay beneath the bedroom, accessed by a small staircase from the courtyard, which gave the architects, David and Gaston Camilleri from TBA Periti, an idea. “We destroyed the bedroom floor and filled part of the cellar with the debris, lowering the floor level of the room, which won us a lot of space,” explains Thomas, who admits that the cellar itself was too small and humid to use in its original state. But they hit a snag. “Since there were no plans of the

place, the architects thought that the cellar stretched beneath both the bedroom and the staircase area, but it didn’t – it stopped beneath the bedroom. So we started digging and found not one, but two wells which we didn’t know about! That caused a few issues,” he smiles. Undeterred, they cleaned out the wells and incorporated them into the plans. “We then waterproofed the area with an IGLÙ system, which connects to the walls to condense the humidity,” he explains, before adding the mezzanine.

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“I found an antique bedroom set and had it painted.”

“There’s a funny story there,” Thomas laughs as he looks back on its installation. “The staircase to the mezzanine is one piece, and it’s very heavy. The plan was to bring it in through the window to the courtyard, which was previously a door, but this is where my lack of project planning skills let me down! We planned to replace the door with a fixed window, because it would be too big and heavy to open. Well, the window was made and installed on a Friday, and the next day, they brought the staircase to install!

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real home

We ended up having to get a three-storey crane to pass through a back street – because obviously, this was during the village festa and the road was blocked – and brought the staircase down vertically through the skylight. I had to leave because I couldn’t watch,” he laughs. The renovation took two years to complete, with the lengthy structural and finishing works complemented by tasteful furnishings. “The architects were very involved in the structural elements and permits for the skylight and bedroom. The kitchen and loft area conversion was also their idea, and in fact, I was a bit sceptical at first! I wasn’t sure it would be worth the extra cost, but eventually decided to go for it because it would give me something different, and I’m glad I did,” he says.

Other than that, the design of the interiors of the space was all down to Thomas himself, who documented the journey on social media. “I like Scandinavian, minimal and white interiors. I used Pinterest a lot for inspiration – it helped me boil things down and figure out what I like,” he explains, adding that the majority of the furniture is mostly affordable, with the addition of some pricier pieces and antiques. “I splashed out a bit on the kitchen, sofa, and a Moroccan rug which I just had to have, but I found it difficult to find affordable bedroom furniture I liked, so instead I found an antique bedroom set in great condition belonging to a house which was set to be demolished. I roped in some help from family members to transport it and had it painted. All in all, I loved the process and would gladly do it for a living!”

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It’s all about

COMFORT Caroline Curmi explores the interior design trends bound to leave a mark in 2020.

01. No colour quite like it

Blue may already be a staple in interior design, but it’s set to reign supreme in 2020. The colour – specifically a shade called bleached coral – is being hinted as one of the top contenders for hue of the year. While trends do tend to come and go, a great way of incorporating the colour would be through the addition of table settings or home accessories such as cushions, mats and rugs.

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A Beautiful Mess

02. Every room is a living room

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Laurel Bern Interiors

Following the recent obsession with ‘70s and ‘80s revivals, 2020 looks like it will be comparatively demurer. Priority is given to intimate and welcoming spaces with an emphasis on nature. This can be reflected through incorporating live greenery, a slight lean towards minimalism and the inclusion of neutral, sober tones. 2020 begs for comfort and familiarity, and personalising your space accordingly is your best bet. Elle Decor

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03. 50 shades of bone

Neutral tones are always in vogue, and while they still remain so, this year, they are shifting from grey to bone. A delicate grey with a greenish pink hue, it accentuates both the world’s and interior design’s focus on nature, and provides a subtle transition from 2019 to 2020. In keeping with the trend, the shade is easy to incorporate, be it through décor, wall colours, home accessories or furniture.

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Pinterest

04. Back to our roots

Wood is always a safe option for home, but with an added focus on warm and relaxed environments, wooden furniture and décor is scaling up in the interior design ranks. Dark woods such as mahogany, in conjunction with leather, make for a very fashionable option. Lighter options such as oak and pine also make the cut, and would pair nicely with pastel pink-green décor – a colour combination that is set to be very popular next year. Linking back to nature, the trend also celebrates untreated wood such as bamboo, wicker and cork.

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Smitten Studio

The Khaz

Metal ornaments formed a central role in this year’s interior design trends, and it doesn’t look like it will be any different in 2020! Their versatility is precisely what makes them so easy to fit into a pre-existing space. It doesn’t matter if you have a modern, classic, eclectic, minimalist or vintage background, the right metal piece can create an eclectic setting in the right environment.

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05. Make a statement with metal

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vintage wedding

A kind of magic After 43 years of marriage, MaryAnne and Vanni Pule remain inseparable. Mariella Camilleri meets the couple to discover the secret to their wedded bliss.

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match made in heaven and still in love, MaryAnne and Vanni Pule greet me warmly when we meet for coffee at Carolina’s Petit Cafe in Balzan. Their faces are familiar: I grew up watching Vanni perform magic on television – always accompanied by his beautiful wife. We begin chatting right away, and soon it feels like a meeting with old friends. “Vanni and I have always done everything together. He’s my husband and my best friend, and I like spending time with him. Assisting him in his performances came naturally, and it was never regarded as a chore. Today, so many years later, I still love his company,” says Mary Anne. Her husband, a former English lecturer and renowned entertainer says that throughout his career, his wife has been a pillar of strength and an ideal partner. “MaryAnne has always been very supportive. There was something special

about her from the start. She was unlike any other girl I had known,” Vanni smiles. The couple met in 1970 through the Teens & Twenties Talent Trust – a national group for young people, encouraging social, artistic, civic and environmental interests, however, Mary Anne had admired Vanni since she was 11. “I remember seeing him on television and thinking he was talented, and then one day I was watching him perform live, and he called me out to assist him on stage.” At the time, Vanni was studying Divinity at the seminary and was very shy around girls. “A friend of mine had begged me to join the Talent Trust, and once again MaryAnne was there,” he says. The couple recall how Vanni had sent his wife a letter asking her out. “Landlines were rare in those days, and this was the only way we could make contact.”

“There were no wedding planners back then. We discussed and booked as we went along.” bliss

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“Most of our friends were also from the industry. Many of them had formed bands and they all took turns playing until the crack of dawn. It was an unforgettable night.”

MaryAnne and Vanni soon discovered they had lots in common and seemed to click. “We came from similar backgrounds and held the same principles. Luckily, we also loved show business – I think having common interests has been beneficial to our relationship,” they say. MaryAnne was barely 16 when she began assisting Vanni in his performances. And it wasn’t just magic. The couple often sang together on stage as a dazzling duo. Vanni recalls how things progressed when the couple began to search for a future home. “MaryAnne found a home in St Julian’s and asked me to go see it. It was a charming house and I fell in love with it right away. We got engaged then, and started planning our wedding soon after.” Weddings in 1976 differed greatly from the present, the

couple reveal. “We planned everything in a short time span. There were no wedding planners back then. We discussed and booked as we went along.” The evening of 25th July was a balmy one. MaryAnne wore a kaftan over a fitted dress, and a headdress made out of silk. She had her hair done by a hairdresser, but applied her own make-up. “Through television work I had learnt a lot about professional makeup and I knew exactly how I wanted to look,” she says. She recalls now the commotion that took place before she left for the church. “My father and brother had swapped their shirts and couldn’t understand how one was too big and the other too small. Thankfully, I realised in time, and managed to get to church nearly on time.” Cars for the bridal party were provided by Alpine Travel, where MaryAnne worked as Winston Zahra’s assistant. “I remember the drive to San Gwann Parish and Vanni’s face as he stood waiting at the door. The priest was in experimental mode and suggested we walk down the aisle together! These days I wish my father had walked me down the aisle, as I love traditions,” she reveals. Vanni and MaryAnne were the first couple to celebrate their wedding at Palazzo Parisio in Naxxar. “The gardens were even larger then, and the place looked spectacular that evening. Most of our friends were also from the industry. Many of them had formed bands and they all took turns playing until the crack of dawn. It was an unforgettable night.” Before embarking on the honeymoon, the couple spent their first night in their new home. “The house was barely furnished when we moved in. I remember Vanni having to dash out to buy a plug for our new kettle . It was all part of the fun and early day excitement,”

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MaryAnne smiles, adding that life changed when their children arrived. “I quit my day job when we started planning our first child. After that, I assisted Vanni until the fifth month of both my pregnancies.” Their children – Konrad, 41, and Davinia, 38 – grew up watching their parents prepare for shows. “When Vanni brought new equipment, the kids would peep through the staircase while we rehearsed.” Back in the day, the couple also sang together at the Preluna Cabaret. “The feeling of camaraderie with the other entertainers and hotel staff was wonderful. Sometimes, the children came along. They too loved all the excitement,” they beam. The couple agree that a functional routine is fundamental to family life. “We believed in early bedtimes as this allowed us to spend some quality time together.” And these days, they add, quality time is still essential. “When nine o’clock comes around, I shut my laptop and settle on the sofa next to MaryAnne for our nightly movie date,” says Vanni. Supporting one another is also vital, adds Vanni, who in 2012 was appointed President of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. “MaryAnne’s presence has been instrumental throughout my career. Oftentimes she accompanies me to overseas conferences and I love having her around. There were a few occasions when she couldn’t make a trip due to family obligations and it just wasn’t the same without her.” Despite their compatibility however, the couple still have their differences. MaryAnne says she likes to resolve any issues quickly whilst Vanni likes to let the dust settle before moving on. “It gets easier as the years roll by. I have learnt to accept both his strengths and his weaknesses, and this helps keep conflict at bay,” she says. Learning to ride the waves of change is also important. Vanni says that different stages bring different challenges. “Life comes with many expectations but as we age, our hormones change, and clashes can become more common.

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“When Vanni brought new equipment, the kids would peep through the staircase while we rehearsed.” I believe that handling these issues with kindness and forgiveness helps greatly.” Now that retirement is here, the couple plan to travel and continue enjoying each other’s company. Time with their four grandchildren is also on the agenda. Vanni says that watching the children grow has been an astounding experience. “When I see our children with their own kids I realise how swiftly time goes by. Sometimes, we look back and wonder where the time went, but we are thankful for the beautiful life that we have shared, both professionally and personally. We have been truly blessed.”


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Bliss Weddings & Homes - Winter 2019  

Bliss Weddings & Homes - Winter 2019  

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