30th April 2018
How One Dance Can Change Your Life – Charles And Marion Saliba
Veteran broadcaster Charles Saliba and his wife Marion share memories of their courtship and wedding day.
It was a typical evening at the Teens and Twenties Talent Trust (4Ts) dance in St Joseph School in Blata l-Bajda in 1970. Prospects seemed dim, and 18-year-old Charles Saliba and his friends were getting ready to go to another party, when suddenly, a dazzling girl in a white tunic caught Charles’s eye. “I told my friends to wait for me, I just want one dance with that girl. Marion and I started talking, and soon enough, I told them to go on without me.”
Charles and Marion agreed to meet the following Saturday at the Ferries in Sliema, at six o’clock. Fifteen minutes, then half an hour passed, and Marion was nowhere to be seen. “I thought I had been stood up, and I was about to leave. But then I bumped into my friend John Critien (now the Knight Resident at Fort St Angelo), and we stopped to chat. A few minutes later, I saw her coming.” “I had missed the bus,” Marion grins sheepishly.
The pair dated for four years before getting engaged in 1974 – they married two years later on 17th June 1976. They were married in Charles’ hometown parish of Marsa, on the feast of Corpus Christi, so the church was decked out in full splendour.
The bride wore a gown of her own design. “I designed a Victorian-style dress, and Charles’ mother sewed it for me,” says Marion. Although she looked radiant, the bride had been beset by a series of minor disasters – not only had she hated the way the hairdresser had styled her hair, and had to have it washed and re-done at home, but the zip on her dress broke and she had to be quickly sewn into the dress. At the church, once she was out of the car, her veil caught on the car door and nearly slipped off. On the other hand, the groom was the picture of calm. “An hour before the wedding, I was still watching the UEFA Euro play-off between Yugoslavia and West Germany!” says Charles, who is still an avid football fan.
The wedding reception was held at The Palms in St Julian’s; it wasn’t their first choice, but it turned out to be a fortuitous one. “We had initially wanted to book Villa Rosa for the 5th June, but since the beauty of that venue lies in its outdoor gardens, one of our witnesses, Vanni Ganado, pointed out that it might be windy,” says Charles. “It was something that hadn’t even occurred to us, but I worried about it, so we decided to move the date and book another venue. Wouldn’t you know it – on the 5th, the heavens broke – I had never seen a flood like it in my life.”
The wedding was attended by hundreds of guests – Charles was already broadcasting on the radio, as well as the only television station at the time, Xandir Malta – including future President Ugo Mifsud Bonnici. “There were so many people to greet, we didn’t have time to eat anything,” says Marion. “After the wedding, the caterers gave us a packed bag full of food, and we just sat on the bed at the hotel and stuffed our faces,” adds Charles, smiling. “Luckily, back then, a wedding would be over by 11pm – today they last an eternity!”
After 42 years of marriage, two children and four grandchildren, the two know that one of the fundamentals to a lasting marriage is loving your partner unconditionally, despite their shortcomings. “You have a long time to get used to your partner’s character,” says Marion. “Be patient and bear with each other.”