It was some 20 years ago when Designer and Creative Director Carla Grima, 33, and Management Consultant Sebastian Ripard, 34, met for the first time as young teens.
“Seb was camping with some of our mutual friends, and it all happened over a game of spin the bottle,” Carla laughs, recalling their first encounter. “I knew there was something special about her from the beginning,” admits Seb, though it would be several years before the two got together to make a proper go of it.
In 2010, Carla was based in London working for a fashion designer, while Seb was travelling around Europe on an Olympic sailing campaign. “He needed a place to stay in London, so he crashed at my place, which I shared with my housemate, who ended up being my maid of honour at the wedding,” Carla recalls.
The next day, she explains, Seb mentioned that he had to drive to Spain to deliver some sails and asked if Carla wanted to join the adventure – one that would turn out to be the first of many. “He picked me up in an old Royal Mail van that he had converted into a makeshift caravan. It was full of sails, so the only way we could both sleep in it was if we held onto each other,” she laughs, revealing “it totally felt like he had planned it all.”
By the time the pair reached their destination, a relationship had started to form, and they would go on to make it work long-distance for a few years, before moving back to Malta. And, while it would be more than 10 years before the couple tied the knot, they say that it was clear from early on that it was the real deal.
“I remember thinking, about two years in, that it was really what I had hoped and imagined a good relationship would be. I felt very comfortable with her and felt like we complemented each other. I knew this could be the person that I build the rest of my life with,” reveals Seb, sweetly.
For Carla, it was in 2016, when the pair had survived starting up a business together, which Seb eventually left to found his own delivery company, that cemented the relationship. “It was a big thing – starting the business, having arguments as anyone would and overcoming them, and then Seb leaving, without the relationship going sour,” she says.
The proposal eventually happened on Christmas Eve in 2017. “I had come to the conclusion that I wanted to marry Carla a couple of years before I proposed, but I kept waiting until the time was right. At a point, I felt like that would never actually come, so I might as well just propose,” says Seb, explaining that since Carla would always tease him for missing family events because he was away sailing, he came up with the idea to propose at a family occasion.
“We were meant to give each other one present on Christmas Eve with her family, so I wrapped the ring box in 10 different boxes, starting off from a really big box, which eventually got smaller and smaller until it came to the ring. I also put a message for her in each box,” Seb recalls, as Carla chuckles, “I still have the messages!”
As Carla opened box after box, her sister quickly picked up on what was about to happen, exclaiming ‘oh, he’s proposing!’
“Looking back, it was really sweet, but at that moment I remember feeling really awkward,” laughs Carla. “I felt like I couldn’t show my real emotions since we were in front of so many people, but the build-up was hilarious, with my sister shouting to open the champagne! I was bright red by the time the ring box came out.”
From then on, Carla would take care of most of the wedding prep, with the help of her mother. “I enjoy organising events and enjoyed going into all the little details, but when we had to cut out so much stuff because of COVID restrictions, it did get stressful,” she admits, though the pair overcame this with regular trips to the beach to keep the stress away. “There’s no point in getting too stressed over one day in your life – it’s not about everything going 100 per cent right, but about being united and taking in all the special moments,” she says.
Indeed, this outlook would come in handy, as the pair would face a few setbacks before eventually tying the knot in June 2021.
“We had actually planned to get married before the pandemic and changed that when we found out we were expecting a child. Then, we planned to get married in 2020, which was impacted by COVID,” reveals Carla.
The couple chose Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel in Ghajnsielem for the ceremony – an obvious decision for both. “The chapel is really beautiful. It’s tiny, but has a view of Mgarr, Comino and Malta. I love it because you can look directly out to sea, but it also has a special meaning for Carla, because her nannu used to have a vineyard right next to it,” explains Seb. “It was really meaningful for my family, especially because my nannu had passed away the year before Seb proposed,” Carla adds.
And while COVID restrictions were quite tight as their wedding day rolled around – and they had to forgo a traditional wedding reception for a meal at a restaurant – they admit, “it turned out to be quite a positive thing, as it was nice to have the small wedding we always wanted, at the venue we wanted. One of the biggest disappointments towards the end was not being able to have a live band, but we got over it!”
Explaining the change of plans, Carla says, “we always wished to have the reception at Kantra Lido, on Ta’ Cenc Cliffs. We love the view, and the feeling of being on the cliffs. We’re there quite a lot in summer and love it.” However, since the pair was planning to have around 250 guests originally, the restaurant couldn’t accommodate them. “So, we selected Palazzo Palina, connected to Ta’ Cenc, which we were happy with, but always wanted to find a way to use Kantra for our wedding weekend. In the end, because we had to downsize the wedding, we luckily got to use Kantra. It really worked out!”
When planning it out, the pair says they wanted the overall feel of the day to be effortless. “I wanted everyone to feel involved, to make the event feel more connected to family and friends. We didn’t have a wedding planner, which I quite liked, as I enjoyed being involved and involving bridesmaids, parents and friends,” Carla maintains.
As for a theme, Carla says they applied a loose Sicilian theme, featuring ceramic souvenirs made by her family’s business, Mediterranean Ceramics. They also added olive leaves and rusco flowers to the décor for a wild, minimal Mediterranean feel.
Ultimately, despite the restrictions, what the couple wanted most out of their wedding became reality. “We wanted a day filled with love and unity, and for family and friends to come together and share our love for each other,” says Carla, to which Seb adds, “I wanted to celebrate our commitment to each other with friends and family… drinking too much alcohol and enjoying good food. That’s all I wanted!”
As the big day finally arrived, all was set for the ceremony, to which Carla was driven by Seb’s 93-year-old grandfather in his classic blue and white Dollie. “He was so eager to get me there and right in front of the church that he drove into some of the outdoor seating,” laughs Carla as she recalls the special memory.
And as it turns out, the laughs didn’t end there. Describing the proceedings as “like a scene out of Fawlty Towers”, the pair admit to having a couple of hilarious mishaps, including a candle that wouldn’t light, Carla’s veil getting pulled off, and the bride dropping a candle holder. “There were a lot of giggles,” they say, and it all contributed to making it morememorable.
Their celebrant, Father John Muscat, was also a big part of that. “His words were really special and meaningful, and he let us add a few extra parts to the ceremony that aren’t typically included in a Catholic wedding.” Their grandparents were also involved, writing a message and reading it out as a bidding prayer. The newlyweds also took the time to read a vow of promise to their daughter, who was at the church, along with their dog, who also formed a special part of the ceremony.
Meanwhile, The New Victorians – with whom Carla has collaborated many times – filled the chapel with their beautiful voices. “It meant so much to us having them there. We gave them a list of songs – some religious and some not, but still with meaningful lyrics that summed up the spiritual union of marriage – having them sing them was so emotional,” she says.
Being the Creative Director of her own brand, it’s no surprise that Carla not only designed her own dress for the day, but also her bridesmaids’ outfits.
Looking back on the process, she reveals, “I was set on a few ideas from the start of my design research, including opting for silk so that it could be dyed to another colour if I ever got the opportunity to wear it again.” Carla also wanted her dress to have a simple draped element, forming part of a construction which would be minimal and comfortable.
The stunning result featured a draped cowl back, and a detachable knot which sat low on the spine. “When I started my research and sketches, the idea was a lot simpler than what was designed, but I’m glad because I would have probably regretted wearing something so simple – I’m glad it had a bit more design and elegance to it,” Carla admits, adding that her fabric choice also changed. “I was going to go for a silk crepe de chine, which is a very luxurious well-woven silk, but I felt that I would miss out on the shine of a silk satin, and I’m glad I chose it because it did make me feel more elegant and dressed up on the day.”
Her veil was another labour of love, which she has fond memories of working on with her mother. “We spent several afternoons hand stitching silk flowers, which Seb’s sister-in-law and myself hand cut from the remnants of my wedding dress fabric.”
The bridesmaids also wore bespoke looks by Carla Grima Atelier. Here, Carla created a leaf print inspired by the garden at Palazzo Palina, which was printed onto elegant kaftans. “I felt like a version of a kaftan was important for me,” says Carla, who is known for the style. “I played around with different ideas and made it a little more glamorous than the resort-wear kaftans I usually create, and mixed that with a more contemporary base, which ended up being a satin cropped jumpsuit.”
Through her work, Carla explains that she’s collaborated with many incredible creatives on different projects, and was excited to have them on board for her big day too. Among them, she lists Nicole Gera from Dean Gera, who did the hair. “We are childhood friends and has helped me out from when I started out. It was really fun to have her there. She just knew what I would go for,” Carla says.
Meanwhile, makeup was entrusted to Alexia Kind, who the designer has worked with on quite a few shoots. “She knows how much I love to create makeup looks but how much I hate wearing makeup myself, so it was great that she understood that and didn’t try to overdo it. It creates a really relaxed atmosphere having a team that you’ve worked with before, and a team that knows your family and friends,” she affirms.
Other special mentions include photographer David Zammit, who is soon to be Seb’s brother-in-law, and who’s lifestyle brand of photography the couple love; seamstress Olga, who Carla speaks highly of and who she entrusted with the construction of her wedding dress; and florist Charmaine from Sherries in Gozo, who “totally got” her vision and executed it perfectly.
In the end, the newlyweds enjoyed a magical wedding weekend in Gozo, with 80 of their closest family and friends. “We had something planned for each day to make the most out of it,” they say, and while they admit that it would have been nice to have more of their friends over from abroad, it was special nonetheless.
Looking back on it all, Seb highlights the mass as his favourite part, sharing, “when Carla walked down the aisle, it felt like it was really happening.”
Carla’s favourite bit was also the ceremony, mainly because “it wasn’t just about us getting married and the emotions we felt for each other but hearing people’s comments after and how much they enjoyed it and their involvement in it – I thought it was really beautiful.”
Most importantly, she adds, "I'm so glad that we didn't postpone it again. On the day, I really understood why people tell you to enjoy it because it passes so quickly - I just wanted to bottle up every moment and feeling and memory. I'm so glad for the photos.
David Zammit, Kurt Arrigo