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Claire and David’s Wedding in Malta

Malta photos

My 3 month backpacking trip through Europe was briefly interrupted by a rather more sophisticated endeavour: my attendance at a wedding in a Maltese castle. No doubt readers are pondering the identity of my Maltese friends or relatives, but contrary to logical assumption, I have absolutely no Maltese associations. Nor do the bride and groom actually, Irish Claire and British David, both of whom are Australian residents and now citizens. Consequently, the exact reason why the wedding occurred in Malta was a somewhat mysterious discussion point for invitees. Informants advised me that Claire decided to minimise the stress of wedding planning and effectively mimic the Maltese wedding of an Irish friend – also someone with no Maltese connections. So in early September, the bride and groom and over 50 other guests from throughout the Anglophile World journeyed to an infinitesimal Mediterranean island nation, somewhere between Libya and Sicily, to partake in the sacred celebration. Not that I complained about the slight inconvenience of travelling 15,000km for the event. The invitation provided me with a unique opportunity to bag yet another new country for my ever increasing tally… I mean to explore a fascinating new frontier and culture I had limited knowledge or experience of (country #65 for the statistically inclined). And it was quite appropriate for our relationship that I attended her wedding in a totally random locale; Claire and I have travelled in 8 countries on 3 continents together since meeting nearly 6 years ago on the Southern Africa tour.

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Prior to the wedding day, Claire and David arranged for the guests to enjoy a scenic cruise from Sliema to the Blue Lagoon. The all-day excursion was an excellent way for the potpourri of attendees to become acquainted. Yet the boat quickly divided into three distinct and nationalistic groupings. The Brits, predictably struggling with the adventurism, sought refuge at the boat’s rear to fend off seasickness, eventually abandoning the trip altogether by catching a speed boat home. The Irish flocked to the boat’s open deck to enjoy the novelty of sunlight, with some even taking a dip in the crystalline water – though never too far from the comfort and convenience of the boat. The Australians, meanwhile, spent the duration of the voyage near the bow of the boat to be fully immersed in the bumpiness of the ride, and were the first to bomb into the water at the Blue Lagoon.

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Malta’s Blue Lagoon (doesn’t every coastal country have one?) is located between the small islands of Comino and Cominotto, which are themselves between the islands of Malta and Gozo. As the name denotes, the water is indeed a sublime turquoise blue colour, contrasting with the barrenness of the desert island landscape. The scenery is somewhat blighted by the hordes of European tourists, who failed to demonstrate a propensity for physical activity – such as swimming. But an easy 2km swim circumnavigating Cominotto allowed me to totally escape the crowds and marvel at the sheer ochre cliffs plunging into the Mediterranean. I spotted numerous monochromatic fish, including a handful of jellyfish, one of which decided to wrap its tentacles around my shoulders and leave a lasting and painful impression. When I returned to the boat, I decided that my swim was sufficient justification to offset the ignominy of being the only person onboard to return to the lunch buffet for a second enormous serving. In the blazing afternoon heat, I ventured onto Comino with Australian Matt, a former colleague of Claire, and his husband British Chris. We scrambled across the rocky terrain for a spectacular view of a medieval fortress about 100m above the turquoise water. After returning to the boat, our voyage back to Sliema was characterised by a degree of tipsiness and a dance party orchestrated by Claire’s cute three nieces.

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Deciding upon a wedding outfit is an incredibly stressful ordeal in normal circumstances, but attempting to do so while backpacking for several months is an absolute nightmare. In the weeks preceding my arrival in Malta, I must have visited over 100 shops in Europe to find garments that would satisfy the event’s formal dress code and be suitable to stuff into a rucksack. I acquired my shirt and pants in Hamburg, but regrettably thought it would easier to purchase my shoes in Malta. While I was correct in assuming a limited range of international brands would exist, I failed to consider the typical stature of Maltese men. In store after store, shop assistants could barely contain their bemusement when I requested the equivalent of Australian size 12 shoes, as though I were some gargantuan freak. On the morning of the wedding, I was resigned to the probability I would have to wear my decrepit and very dusty grey Nikes. Thankfully, with only a few hours to spare, I located a pair of white Ralph Lauren sneakers - slightly too small, but tolerable with minimal walking.

In the mid-afternoon, guests carefully avoided the production of excessive sweat on their respective journeys to the departure point for the wedding. We congregated at a hotel in St. Julian’s and were shocked by everyone’s transformative appearances from the general unkemptness of the boat trip on the previous day. We were transported to the wedding venue in the Maltese village of Mgarr by coach, with Irish Louise and Sharon, childhood friends of Claire, successfully living up to their country’s reputation by smuggling traveller glasses of wine onboard. Half an hour later, we were greeted by David and his parents at a stout sandstone castle, which very much resembled the corresponding chessboard piece. The wedding ceremony and reception areas were set up in a stunning rear patio space replete with Mediterranean landscaping. After pouncing for the bar, guests waited in suspense for the bride to arrive…

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Claire arrived at the castle’s terrace and descended the stairwell in her magnificent dress, as if from a fairytale. After the paparazzi concluded their requisite photography capturing the tearful procession, the secular ceremony commenced. The celebrant focused surprisingly heavily on Maltese legal jargon (according to Act XXX…), which was thankfully lightened by a poetic reading by Claire’s siblings Irish Helena and Stephen. Claire and David then exchanged the internationally standardised vowels, confirming their matrimony and allowing guests to promptly return to the bar.

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The reception was a formal four-course sit-down dinner, with interluding speeches and performances. I was seated with Sharon, Louise, Australian Marnie (another friend from Claire’s travels), Irish Barbara (Claire’s friend she met in Australia) and her partner, and Australian Rodney (David’s work friend). My position was advantageous from a culinary perspective, as I scored second helpings of elements too eclectic for the Irish diners. For appetiser, we had a pasta dish similar to a ricotta ravioli. For entrée, we sampled beef two ways, including a delectable portion (or in my case, portions) of steak tartare. For main, we had a roasted chicken dish and dessert was something with chocolate, although my mind was more focused on alcohol at that point. The entertainment took on a slightly androcentric tone in the conspicuous absence of female presenters. Both fathers and David provided heartfelt speeches, while Matt performed a lovely rendition of Michael Bublé’s Dream a Little Dream of Me. David’s father recounted an intriguingly coincidental story from his wedding day decades earlier, of how the car that was supposed to transport the newlyweds away after the ceremony broke down – which is exactly what occurred for Claire and David. An extraordinary firework display concluded the formal component of the reception, signalling to guests it was the opportune time to engage in drunken dancing (cheekily captured by Claire’s bemused nieces).

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After Claire and David departed from the night’s festivities, guests returned to St Julian’s on a noticeably less sedate coach journey than the arrival. Guests dropped all decorum and sang rousing, if not pleasant, renditions of international classics or national favourites. Thanks to excessive self-promotion, at the stroke of midnight guests immediately forgot the wedding had even transpired and focused on the next event – my 27th birthday! Several happy birthday tunes, which I certainly had no part in instigating, were sung with gusto as the night continued at a beachside bar in St Julian’s.

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Since most guests stayed in Malta for the week and made a holiday out of the event (or in my case a 3 month trip), we rendezvoused in subsequent days for further celebrations. However, differences again emerged between nationalities in terms of chosen activities and preferred venues. While Matt, Chris and I admired Maltese architectural history (Mdina and Valetta), explored a natural wonder of the island (Blue Grotto), attended a cultural event (Gay Pride), sampled traditional food (rabbit and quail) and frequented a suave cocktail bar, the Irish demonstrated utter intransigence at delving beyond the comfortable confines of St Julian’s. In fact, once an Irish pub was discovered on the rather hideous main strip of touristy bars and clubs, they virtually became immovable objects. The Irish are an incredibly resourceful nationality in their openness to migrate to all corners of the globe in the pursuit of opportunities, yet they still exhibit a befuddling lack of adventurism in other pursuits.

Claire and David’s wedding was a truly beautiful and unique experience for everyone in attendance, which successfully revealed the virtues of having a “destination wedding”. So thank you Claire and David for including me in your special day… and providing me with an unmissable opportunity to travel to a new country!

That’s all for now,

Liam

Malta photos

Posted by Liamps 03:02 Archived in Malta

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Comments

Liam, that sounds amazing! What a great experience. However, I'm curious about the internationally standardized vowels they exchanged. Were the flat sounding Aussie vowels & plummy Brit's exchanged for a mid-atlantic neutrality a la Nicole Kidman? Btw when traveling I was told by a local in France I had a Nicole Kidman accent. Sadly that was the only similarity.
Aunt Jo

by Jo

Liam, that sounds amazing! What a great experience. However, I'm curious about the internationally standardized vowels they exchanged. Were the flat sounding Aussie vowels & plummy Brit's exchanged for a mid-atlantic neutrality a la Nicole Kidman? Btw when traveling I was told by a local in France I had a Nicole Kidman accent. Sadly that was the only similarity.
Aunt Jo

by Jo

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