Theatre and television stalwarts Mario and Nathalie Micallef have been familiar faces for decades, treading the boards in many a local production and sharing the small screen, telling stories of love, ambition and intrigue. And this year, the couple – who got married on 16th August 1970 – celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, with much aplomb. Here, they share their story which was featured in Bliss Magazine’s November edition.
Where it all began
Their first date had not exactly gone according to plan, Mario shares. “It so happened that both Nathalie and I used to work at the same agency at the time and, although we did not work on the same floor, I used to get glimpses of Nathalie and her sister during our lunch breaks. At one point, I approached their cousin, who incidentally, also worked in my office, and I revealed that I had a soft spot for his cousin – Nathalie’s sister – and wondered whether he could fix us up for a date,” he continues.
Nathalie’s cousin, keen to help, obliged. “After about two days he turned up with the good news that his cousin had accepted, and that we were to meet the following day by the Savoy Cinema in Valletta,” Mario recalls. However, in an auspicious twist to the event, Nathalie showed up, instead of her sister. “Although I was lost for words, I didn’t mention anything. We grabbed a quick coffee in Valletta and that was it. When I went back to the office the next day, I reproached their cousin – my colleague – for the embarrassing mix up. He replied that her sister was already engaged to someone else and he thought Nathalie would be better suited anyway,” Mario laughs.
And it seems Nathalie’s cousin was right! The pair started to go steady and, over time, their relationship deepened, even though they were still young and just venturing into adulthood. “Our love grew into something more solid and we both realised that we would like to spend the rest of our lives together,” Mario remembers, adding that, in those days, it was customary to have an official engagement a year before the wedding. And to make things even simpler, he did not have to ask Nathalie’s parents for approval since the families already knew each other well – being very well acquainted “from the neighbourhood” – having lived in Valletta for decades.
Preparations for the big day started immediately following the engagement. “We got started a year before the wedding and the logistics were stressful – in that one is always anxious that things will turn out well on the big day – but the stress we felt was not comparable to today’s anxiety levels,” Nathalie says.
Sourcing the wedding dress was, however, one of the easier tasks. “Nathalie has a very keen eye for impeccably sewn clothes and particularly loves haberdashery,” Mario says, praising his wife’s talent for tailoring. Indeed, Nathalie’s abilities proved instrumental in sourcing the right seamstress – a family member – for the job, which could be a source of great stress in a time when brides would have their gowns created from scratch. “She designed and sewed the dress to fit in with the fashion of the time, in true 1970s style. It had a simple cut but was extremely elegant,” Nathalie says.
The big day
So it was, that three years after that first (accidental) date, Mario and Nathalie got hitched on 16th August 1970, just a day after Malta’s peak summer public holiday, Santa Marija. Mario was only 22, while Nathalie had just turned 20. “We both wished to get married in summer and the Feast of the Ascension is very dear to Nathalie, so the day after the feast was the ideal day for us to tie the knot,” Mario explains. Moreover, the celebrations were kept close to home, with the wedding ceremony taking place at the Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck, followed by a reception at the Civil Service Centre, also in the capital.
That morning, the couple woke up “thrilled and excited”, they recall. “We had an evening wedding, so I spent much of the morning at home,” Mario explains. In the meantime, Nathalie spent the morning getting ready, with her hairdresser and makeup artist ensuring she was picture-perfect. And as is still customary today, the couple’s wedding photographer showed up at both bride and groom’s childhood homes to take pictures for posterity.
The couple’s nerves started to get the better of them as they said their vows, surrounded by their closest family and friends. “We both felt overwhelmed. We were suddenly fearful, as the reality of what we had just committed to suddenly dawned on us,” Mario says, recalling how young the couple were for such a big step. “We were still very young, and unlike today’s couples, we had little experience of the world. I particularly recall that, as we exchanged our rings, Nathalie sniggered shyly as she could not put my wedding ring on me properly, so I had to arrange it myself,” he laughs.
The big day passed by swiftly, with Nathalie and Mario heading to the reception to talk, dance and celebrate until the early hours. “It was a memorable day, like everyone else’s, I’m guessing,” Mario smiles. “We were surrounded by our loved ones, our family and friends, and we were also excited over our first night together!”
A roller coaster ride
Over the years, that sense of excitement permeated into their shared experiences, and their friendship continued to grow stronger. But, as Nathalie reminds us, marriage takes work, and life will never be as smooth as you think it should. “Married life is like a roller coaster ride: it’s thrilling at times, but it has its difficulties too. Yet, we both strongly believe that a complete understanding of the other person’s needs – as well as respect for your partner – are key to overcoming all sorts of obstacles,” she explains.
And after 50 years, what advice does the couple have for those tying the knot today? “Well, 50 years ago, life was very different and possibly less stressful and demanding than it is today,” Mario says. “Although this sounds obvious, marriage cannot be based on some whimsical infatuation, but must be built on true and honest love,” he continues. Nathalie agrees, adding that “the couple has to be ready to bow to the other’s needs at times and both have to understand that marriage is not a power struggle. They have to share time together, have fruitful conversations and discuss difficulties as they arise.”
Looking ahead, the couple have much to look forward to. “We are both elderly citizens now and, in truth, we want for nothing much. We were blessed with two children – a son and a daughter – and a grandson who is our greatest gift. God willing, we hope to keep on enjoying good health and our family for as long as we can,” Nathalie smiles.