Have you ever wanted to know what the nuptials of a wedding and homes magazine editor would be like? Well, you’ve come to the right place! This summer, on 4th September, Bliss’ long-standing editor, Sarah Micallef – now Muscat Azzopardi – married her soulmate, Richard, after eight happy years together.
Their first encounter was in 2009, atypically, during a job interview, and the pair ended up working together for a few years. “My first impressions of Rik were that he seemed nice, and friendly, but there was not, at that stage, anything more since I wanted to impress him on a professional level,” Sarah recalls, smiling, looking to Richard who responds: “well, at the time, I had never met anyone so passionate about one thing, in your case, fashion. You were so focused and determined.”
The pair lost touch after Richard left the company, but, two years later, in 2013, they reconnected when Richard needed to collect an embroidered frame – created by Sarah herself. “We got talking again,” Sarah explains, “we were both single at that point, which we weren’t before, and he asked me out for a drink… well, a coffee which turned into drinks.”
Early on in their blossoming relationship, the couple felt they were deeply compatible. “It’s a value match,” Richard states, adding “we are very different, personality-wise, but we have many common interests.” Sarah explains further: “it’s a feeling you get when you have certain conversations which tell you that you both have a similar outlook on life, and value the same things.”
Three months in, they decided to buy a house together. “Everyone thought we were crazy,” Sarah says. “But we knew this was a relationship which was going to last. And, six months later, we found an old house which needed a lot of renovation. That took two years so, by the time we moved in together, the people around us thought it was ‘safer’, so to speak.”
In July 2019, after living together for almost 18 months, Richard took Sarah out for dinner at a Japanese restaurant. “Halfway through the meal, I asked Sarah if she wanted to join me on a honeymoon to Japan,” Richard remembers. “She proceeded to cry through dinner, so I ate the rest of the sushi myself. I did manage to give her the engagement ring though!”
Preparations got quickly underway. Of course, after years of styling wedding shoots, and research into bridal trends, Sarah knew exactly what she wanted. “I mainly took care of the design and concept of the wedding,” the bride explains. “We knew we wanted a smaller, intimate wedding. The location was actually our point of departure, since we wanted it to be outdoors and we were looking for a farm or a field which would allow for a more relaxed atmosphere, and we wanted to create a festival-type vibe.”
The couple found Ta’ Skorba Farmhouse at Vincent’s Eco-Farm pretty quickly, and they booked the celebration for May 2020, although they were – like many others last year – forced to change the dates twice due to the pandemic. “The venue was absolutely amazing; they gave us no trouble at all to move dates and they were very accommodating. They had not had many weddings there before us, having catered mainly to smaller foreign celebrations, so they really went all out for us,” Sarah explains.
And Sarah also knew what she wanted when it came to the wedding dress. “It actually started when I was doing some research for a Bliss trends feature a few years ago, and I had come across this photo on Instagram, in which the model was wearing a dress I thought was stunning. I bookmarked it at the time – since I loved the shot itself – and when I got engaged, I decided to look the designer up, who turned out to be the founder of a celebrated boho design house in New Zealand called Rue de Siene. I found they had stockists in the UK and there was actually a shop close to where my family lives in Manchester, so we engineered a trip to visit when that store had their trunk show, that is when they showcase all the dresses from this specific brand over two days,” Sarah describes.
While in the UK, to make sure she covered all bases, Sarah, together with members from her family, also booked appointments with other suppliers before they headed to the Rue de Siene stockists. “There were some really nice dresses but none of them gave me the ‘wow’ factor. On the last day, we went to the trunk show. I tried on about eight gowns, and we loved them all. There wasn’t a dress which didn’t come out and my family didn’t gasp,” she laughs.
“But I had left my personal favourite to the end. I had seen it online before and thought this might be it – and as soon as I tried it on, and opened the curtain, my father and aunt started crying. The decision was made. I still love that dress so much – I feel like the best version of myself in it.”
With the dress sorted, attention turned to the wedding details. “Due to the change in dates, there was much more time to work on the theme of the wedding, to source the décor, to gather the props that I wanted,” Sarah says, going into the immense amount of research which went into creating the gorgeous detailing in the use of boho cane furniture; vintage glass bottle centrepieces; crochet place mats for all the guests – which were handmade by Sarah’s mother and aunts – and a ‘chill out’ area. “Our florist, Alistair, was also invaluable throughout the whole process. I created a detailed mood board for him, and, since I’m very visual by nature, my expectations were high. And he totally exceeded them,” Sarah says.
Key to the process was the help of family and friends. “There was a real community created around the organisation of our wedding,” Sarah beams. “From the people who were involved directly, such as the bridal party, to our suppliers, and family and friends who helped out in any way they could, it was such a celebration of love and connection. Everyone lent a hand and made us feel really special.”
In the meantime, Richard was entrusted with the music and the drinks, which the couple got from Farsons Direct. “Farsons Direct were incredibly helpful throughout the entire process, from organising a selection of wines to taste, based on the items on the menu, to the collection of returns the day after the wedding. The process was plain sailing, smooth from beginning to end,” says Richard.
As for the music, “I got a band together that was basically built around the wedding,” he explains. “My brother, Adrian, used to play with them, and he actually sang a bit on the day – unplanned and unpractised – but the band were able to play the kind of music we had asked for specifically,” he continues. “That was Rik’s baby,” Sarah acknowledges, “even though music is something we really consider a shared interest. The way a wedding sounds is just as important as the way it looks, and the celebration really came together with the sound selected,” she asserts.
The few days before the wedding were frantic, as the bride and groom set up the location themselves, with all the props and design items they had planned. The hard work paid off and, on the morning of the big day itself, all the couple had to look forward to was celebrating the special event with their closest family and friends.
“At 11am on the big day, I messaged Sarah from the barber’s shop and said ‘finally, I’m going to have some peace and quiet’,” Richard recalls. But suddenly, his phone went off with calls and messages. “There was a downpour, a freak storm. My brother, Ed, had noticed and had raced to the venue, to put the speakers inside, and try and save as much as he could. In the meantime, I got there with my friend and witness, Clint, and we called for reinforcements.”
While this was going on, Sarah was busy getting ready at home. “Ryan, my brother and bridesman, as well as Emma, my cousin and bridesmaid, were intent on making me relax that morning, so I got my makeup and hair done knowing that we will just have to deal with whatever came our way. I had to make peace with the situation and, thankfully, the sun came out again at noon.”
By this time, however, a lot had gotten soaked, pushing the groom, his brother and friends to set everything up again… from scratch. “I had so many people call me to ask if we needed a hand and many really came through for us in our time of need. So, we worked from 12.15pm to 4pm – that was when some of the 87 wedding guests started to arrive! My aunt and uncle wondered why I wasn’t ready yet,” Richard laughs.
Yet, by the time Sarah pulled up with her bridal party, in a vintage Lancia Fulvia driven by Richard’s brother, the venue was back in place, ready for the celebration to begin. “It’s hard to separate the emotion of the whole event from the moment I first saw Sarah that day. She looked stunning. It was a real emotional kick,” the groom gushes.
The ceremony, presided over by a humanist celebrant, was filled with personal moments, as Adrian, Richard’s brother, and two of Sarah’s friends, wrote heartfelt speeches, instead of reciting pre-written readings. “They brought us to tears,” Sarah recalls. “They were so touching and beautiful, exceeding my expectations completely,” as Richard admits to “bawling”.
Following the ‘I dos’, the party sat down to a five-course dinner, crafted by Corinthia Caterers. “They were real champions,” the bride says. “They were our first choice since we believe in their food and the service they offer. Richard and I are big foodies, and this is one of the things which really connects us, so we wanted the meal to be memorable for our guests – and it was. The food was beautifully presented, and the cake was delicious – a semi-naked affair, decorated with flowers and consisting of two flavours: lemon poppy seed and white chocolate and raspberry.”
Indeed, all the hard work in the run-up to the big day, and, later, the rain, could not dampen the joy of the day. "I loved if from start to finish," Sarah says, and Richard adds: "It was a real celebration of love, and not just our love, but that of our family and friends."