Liz and Josef Cassar would have never imagined, back in mid-2019 when they settled on July of the following year for their big day, what it would take for them to finally make it to the altar. Loads of patience, support and understanding, among other things – which, as it turned out, proved to be a golden recipe for a strong start to married life.
The couple, who met through a mutual friend, knew from early on that they had found something special in each other. Liz, 30, jokes that she knew she wanted to marry Jo, as she affectionately calls him, one week into dating him.
“It didn’t take very long for me to realise he was the one. I was surprised when we started dating by how easy he was to get along with and I always felt comfortable and secure around him,” says Liz. “He is such a positive and easy-going person, and very easy to love, so it was a no brainer for me.”
As for her hubby, he had a strong hunch that Liz was the woman he wanted to spend his life with after an impromptu outing along with her niece and nephew. “There was this one day in our first year of dating when we spent a day out with my niece and nephew. He took a photo of the three of us sitting together on a large deckchair and, in his words, ‘I saw the mother in you that day’,” which pretty much sealed the deal.
Not too long after, the couple got engaged with the blessing of their adorable Labrador, Billy, and immediately set about planning their big day for the following summer, July 2020. Like many couples, however, they’ve had to deal with the disappointment, stress and uncertainty of getting married in the year of COVID-19, and after setting their original date for 18th July, were forced to move it to August of the following year when the pandemic persisted well into May.
“I feel like I planned multiple weddings in one year!” says Liz. “When we decided to change the date to 21st August 2021, admittedly I wasn’t too happy about it, but I slowly came to terms with it. Then, for the sake of still celebrating our wedding date, we decided to plan a small civil wedding for 15 people at Villa Arrigo. This was going to be an intimate ceremony and a seated dinner with just our families.”
As restrictions gradually lifted towards the end of June, the couple started discussing the possibility of keeping their original date and downsizing their 600-strong guestlist to 75 people, in the hope that, by then, gatherings would be able to increase to at least 150 people. Then, exactly four weeks before their original wedding date, all restrictions on event gatherings were lifted. In no time, the couple reshuffled their plans and, by and large, went ahead with what they originally had in mind.
“It is the date we had originally set our hearts on and moving the wedding to next year felt as if we were losing out on an entire year, leaving us in a strange sense of limbo,” Liz explains. “We wanted to get married, and I was especially looking forward to starting a family. So once restrictions were lifted, it felt like this would be our year after all. In the end, we got our wedding and I am currently pregnant with twins, so I truly believe everything works out as it should!”
While there were many details of the wedding that Liz had originally been set on, the circumstances gave her a different perspective, and a newfound appreciation for what really mattered. “We ultimately planned our wedding in four weeks, and I felt so lucky to be having a wedding in the first place that I let go of all control. Whatever could be done in the time we had, we made it possible.”
She adds, “I think it taught me a lot in a way. Everyone wants their wedding day to be perfect and for things to be a specific way, but I realised that none of it really mattered. Compromising on things here and there allowed it all to come together.”
For the souvenirs, Liz made what seemed like a never-ending batch of sugar cookies. “It was a crazy idea as I was making them two days before the wedding with my mother. But it was fun too – we put on music and spent the day baking and decorating together. She does a fantastic job of cleaning up after too, so that was a bonus,” she laughs.
The easiest choices for their wedding day, Liz admits, were the venue and caterers. Although she had looked into a few options – also to avoid getting married at the same venue as her sister’s wedding two years prior – she simply couldn’t see herself hosting their reception anywhere other than Villa Arrigo, with food and drinks by Osborne Caterers. Along with a selection of finger foods and micro plates served to guests, they also selected three main tables: an American table, a chip cart – the bride’s personal favourite – and a Tuscan table.
On the day, Liz explains that she woke up feeling incredibly excited for what was to come, tinged with a layer of disbelief about the fact that her wedding day had really arrived. “I felt like it was a dream and I couldn’t believe it was happening. I kept expecting something to stop the wedding from going ahead! However, once I got to the church, I felt a mix of calm, happiness and excitement, and nothing mattered from that point onwards.”
The bride rolled up outside the church in a traditional Maltese bus from Malta Bus Coop. Besides adding a fun and colourful element to the ceremony run-up, it also proved to be the perfect carriage for herself, her bridal party of six bridesmaids, a maid of honour, a page boy and a flower girl, as well as her parents to arrive in.
For the ceremony, Liz and Jo opted for the MSSP Oratory in Birkirkara, where they attend mass on Sunday and feel part of the community, making this modern and intimate church a homely choice for them. “Fr Cilia led our mass, and he never fails to deliver a truly meaningful celebration,” says Liz.
When it came to choosing her wedding dress, the then-bride-to-be knew and found exactly what she wanted, having already chosen her style back when her sister got married and the two travelled to Rome for fittings. She visited the brand’s website and found the perfect one. “I then learnt that Ivory & Co. retail Pronovias dresses in Malta, so I contacted them to see if they would bring it or if I should fly to Rome for it. Sure enough, they were due to receive it in a few months,” says Liz.
“About two months later, I received a call to say the dress arrived and I went to try it on that same afternoon. I walked into the changing room, tried it on, it fit (more or less) perfectly, and I bought it. I never even tried on another dress or considered anything else.” Liz’s stunning blush gown comprised a light and flowy skirt with a low front and back neckline, complete with an elegant front slit. The dress had a matching veil decorated with floral applique, and just as she did with her dress, she bought the first and only one she tried on. “I felt like it complemented the dress perfectly and it was such a beautiful veil.”
The newlyweds shared their first dance to Barry White’s Just the Way You Are, chosen by the groom for its meaningful lyrics, and enjoyed burning up the dancefloor for the rest of the evening, powered on by their band, family and friends.
Pressed to pick a favourite part of the day, Liz says that her expectations were fulfilled beyond what she could have ever imagined, and she would do it all again exactly as they did. “The entire day was beautiful, but I have to say when I was walking down the aisle towards him, I remember feeling like I need to grab onto my dad because my legs had gone all jelly on me. I was so ready to be standing by his side at that point, and he had this massive smile on his face, which was sweet.”
Despite having to ditch their US honeymoon for a short stint in Gozo, Liz and Jo learned that getting married during such an extraordinary time had its own valuable and meaningful lessons. “It’s okay for original plans to go astray, or to alter them as you go. In the end, you get to marry one another and begin a future together. And that is the most beautiful thing that you take away from your wedding day anyway.”