Growing up in a small community made it perhaps inevitable that Charlene Grima and Chris Gatt should one day meet.
“We’re Gozitan, and Chris is only 15 days older than I am, so you tend to know the kids your age, given how small Gozo is,” explains Charlene. “Also, our brothers have been friends since childhood, so we first met and got to know each other through their friendship.”
But that this meeting would become a romance that would lead to marriage was something that neither could have known when Charlene and Chris ventured out on their first date together eight years ago.
Charlene confides that she believes their strength as a couple is based on their communication and that, despite having incredibly busy schedules at times, they always make time for one another.
“As we got to know each other, travelled together and basically grew older together, we realised that we were always there for each other; not only for the good but also the less fun times. So, we figured that getting married was the next natural step in our relationship and we wanted to celebrate our love for each other with our close family and friends,” she says, revealing that Chris was keen to take things to the next level and proposed on Christmas Eve 2017.
“It was during a casual sunset picnic at one of our favourite go-to sunset spots in Gozo – probably my love for sunsets made him do it!” laughs Charlene.
Despite being intent on a summer ceremony in 2020, the onset of COVID-19 restrictions thwarted the couple’s immediate plans, leaving them no option but to postpone until the following year. Their patience was to pay off, however, as their wedding on 25th June this year proved to be everything they hoped it would be.
The venue for the reception was the first to be finalised, with the Marsovin Vineyards near Ramla Bay selected as the location. It is a place that holds a special significance for the couple as every year, Chris and his The Travellers band mates play at an intimate event there. “The special memories from this yearly event helped us opt for this venue, with the idea of turning it into a little paradise for a day,” explains Charlene.
However, their choice of location brought with it certain practical and logistical challenges that took a great deal of pre-planning and teamwork to resolve. “Although we decided to do a lot of the set-up and decorations ourselves, we couldn’t manage without the help of our family members and a number of vendors working together to make sure the vineyards were properly equipped to host a wedding. The set-up included the installation of a portable kitchen and portable bathrooms close enough to the wedding venue, a lighting system as well as a sound system, and all the soft furnishings and stations,” they reveal.
When it came to the dress, Charlene knew exactly what she wanted. “Given that we planned a summer wedding, I’d always wanted a simple, effortless yet different wedding dress – not the usual white dress. After a discussion with fashion designer Luke Azzopardi, we agreed on an ivory two-piece gown. The top layer of the dress featured a corseted waist and embroidered tulle, while the bottom layer was a simple heavyweight slip dress in pure silk crepe in dark ivory. I wore both for most of the evening, only changing to the silk slip dress after the first dance,” she shares.
Charlene adds that Luke Azzopardi Studio also designed a headpiece to match the embroidered leaves on the dress, which was custom-made in gold by a Gozitan goldsmith, Lukas Farrugia. To complete the look, Charlene wore her late grandmother’s gold earrings.
“I had four bridesmaids in total, all of whom were dressed in Luke Azzopardi, each with a completely different dress, material and style – all reflecting their unique characters. Their look was finished off with different dried flower crowns by The Secret Rose,” Charlene continues.
The eve of the wedding remains a special memory for Charlene, as a time spent with close family and friends, and she recounts the group going for a sunset swim before dining together, with one friend conducting a yoga class to help relax the future bride.
As the day of the wedding dawned, Charlene’s makeup was done by beautician Adriana whilst her hair was styled by Hair and Co, as was that of the groom. Transport to the church came in the form of a vintage Mercedes that was offered by a fellow Gozitan from his private classic car collection, whilst the memories of their special day were immortalised by well-known video artist Mauro D’Amato “who managed to capture our forever memories with our loved ones.”
The flowers, meanwhile, were left in the capable hands of George Sacco Xerri, who Charlene describes as professional and talented. “George made our mood board come to life,” she gushes.
The wedding ceremony took place at the Gozo Cathedral, in the heart of the Cittadella in Victoria, Gozo. It was conducted by Father Mario Mercieca, a young priest who is also Charlene’s cousin, who flew down specially from Rome to administer the sacrament of marriage to the couple, in an emotional ceremony.
At the altar, all five of Chris’s band members stood beside him as his bride walked down the aisle in a touching gesture of their unity. Charlene reveals that The Travellers later played a short set at the wedding reception, with Chris singing a few of their hits during the set.
“Our first dance was a new song written by The Travellers, Hdejja, which is about to be released. It has a special significance as it includes the lyrics ‘ersaq ejja ħdejja nieħu ħsiebek jien, inwiegħdek li ser nikbru mmutu t-tnejn flimkien,’ which means ‘come closer, I promise to take care of you, we’ll grow old and die together’. This will be included in their new album which is being launched in late October,” reveals Charlene.
Meanwhile, catering at the al fresco vineyard reception was entrusted entirely to esteemed Gozitan caterers Ta’ Frenc, with the exception of the cake. “Ta’ Frenc made themselves available throughout the whole journey, topping their service off with a delicious food feast on the night of the wedding,” explains Charlene, describing them as “the best caterer one could have.”
As summer now turns to autumn, the couple are left with precious memories of the joyous occasion as they reveal that, despite having to postpone by a year, they had earlier made a promise to one another.
"That promise was that no matter what went wrong or not as originally planned, we would smile about it and move on to focus on enjoying the moment and make the day as memorable as possible. The most important thing, after all, was to celebrate us and our love, and to have fun with our closest friends and family. The mindset was also transmitted to those around us, and we will always remember it as being one of the happiest days of our lives," says Chris.
Shane P Watts