Tom and I met at our mutual friends’ engagement party 11 years ago; Tom was friends with the groom-to-be and I was friends with the bride-to-be. Unfortunately, the night was coming to an end before we actually got talking but Tom wasn’t letting me go without getting my phone number. I got a text the next day asking if I was free for a drink! Despite his enthusiasm, almost a month passed before our first date. On a Monday night in November we went to “Christmas on Ice” in the RDS; we both learned that we were equally bad at ice-skating that evening and decided we needed to have that drink afterwards.
Fast forward eight years and Tom was down on one knee in Central Park holding my grandmother’s engagement ring while I was sitting on a park bench eating a red velvet cupcake! Of course there was no hesitation and the words “yes, absolutely yes” were out of my mouth without a second thought.
So then the fun started; we had a wedding to plan. I had always liked the idea of a destination wedding and when I mentioned it to Tom, he was completely on board. We had been to Malta a few years previously and really loved the island so decided we would start researching. Almost instantly we knew this was where we were going to get married. We sent some emails, arranged to visit some venues and off we went. The first day of our trip we viewed 6 venues but they were missing that spark. On the morning of our second day we met Chrystelle and Philip at The Phoenicia and everything changed. At that time, The Phoenicia was closed for renovations so Philip handed me and Tom a hard hat each and off we went with Chrystelle and Philip around the hotel and grounds. Chrystelle and Philip described a fairytale wedding and helped us envisage the hotel once the renovations were complete. We were hooked! After almost an hour we returned the hard hats and left the hotel. We ventured into Valletta to visit a church which Chrystelle had mentioned; it was just beautiful. We emailed Chrystelle a few days later to set the date.
The hunt for the dress took a bit longer. A number of Saturdays were spent with my Mam and sisters in bridal boutiques before I found my dress in O’Brien’s Bridal Couture, Rathnew. Once the choice of dress has been narrowed down, my Dad was called in for the final seal of approval! Tanya and her staff were fantastic throughout. Tanya altered the dress perfectly and when departure time came, she even folded the dress into my hand luggage for me! Tom’s suit came from Protocol for Men on Dawson Street who also kitted out the groomsmen and both Dads.
The lead up the wedding was pretty stress free. Chrystelle guided us through the paperwork for the civil marriage registry and the Archdiocese of Malta, and arranged everything from the photographer, to hair and make-up, music, the flowers, the menu and the cake. Everything was going smoothly until the Maltese government scheduled a general election for two days before our wedding! As we learned, in Malta, the celebrations following an election block the streets! The Prime Minister would be sworn in just hours before our wedding, next door to our church and huge crowds were expected. I think it’s fair to say there was a weekend of panic when the news broke but Chrystelle was on hand and working hard so we need not have worried.
On the morning of 5th June, while I had breakfast on the hotel terrace with my parents and friends, Tom went on a run with his friends. After breakfast, the bridal party had our hair and make up done in our room. Our beautiful bouquets arrived and at 3.45 we left The Phoenicia to walk to the church with Chrystelle leading the way. The roads were closed following the election and the hotel manager had already walked ahead with our guests and the flower arrangements as the florist could not get to the church. The crowds leaving Valletta clapped as we walked past in our dresses. With the sound of the Celtic Harp playing in the church, my Dad walked me up the aisle.
Fr Charles Carabott performed a beautiful ceremony in the Church of St Catherine of Italy, after which our guests returned to The Phoenicia for drinks and canapes while Joseph Muscat of M&J Photo Studio took stunning photographs of us for our wedding album. Tom and I returned to The Phoenicia, cut the cake, red velvet and vanilla, and sat down for dinner. It was only then that we fully took in our surroundings: the décor of the Rotunda in the hotel gardens, the beautiful centre pieces on the tables, the vintage guest book table, the lanterns and chalk board. The attention to detail by Chrystelle and all the staff at The Phoenicia was just breath taking. Chrystelle had delivered the fairytale.
The food was suburb; we opted for a semi buffet to give our guests three choices for main course. And just as dessert was served, there was an unexpected rain shower! It rained for three minutes, literally, but in those three minutes, Tom and I ran for shelter under the canape over the outdoor bar and watched our guests run inside. One of my bridesmaids ran to us with a plate of dessert and two spoons and simply said that it was too good to leave behind!
The rain stopped, our guests came back to the Rotunda and Tom and I had our first dance with the lights of the “love sign” reflecting in the wet tiles of the dance floor and fireworks overhead. Following a few hours of dancing we propped up the residents’ bar with our guests until the small hours. We had so much fun and our guests raved about the wedding and The Phoenicia when we met again the following night.
We spent a few more days in Malta before heading to Italy for our mini moon in Milan, Verona and Venice. We returned to The Phoenicia this year for our first wedding anniversary and spent a lovely evening catching up with Chrystelle while having a drink on the terrace overlooking the Rotunda.