24th September 2018
That electric moment – Inigo Taylor & Stefania Bonello
From a chance meeting at a boat party to happily ever after.
Inigo Taylor and Stefania Bonello met five years ago in an exceptionally Maltese way – at a boat party. “I’d been rock-climbing in Malta during the day with a friend,” Inigo says. “I lived in Gozo at the time, and I was meant to be going back home, but he persuaded me to go to the boat party instead. That’s where I met Stef. Since she lived in Malta, and I lived in Gozo, we like to say that we met in the middle.”
Inigo observes that in England, engagements often last longer than they do in Malta. “My best friend has been engaged for about 10 years,” he says. “Whereas in Malta, when people get engaged, it means they set a wedding date.” But after three years together, the time was right. “He proposed to me at a restaurant in Marsaxlokk,” Stef smiles. “It was my 31st birthday, and we had just had lunch, and ordered coffee. There was nobody else in the restaurant. All of a sudden, he just slid down on one knee and didn’t get up!” To add to the memorable day, Inigo had told Stef’s best friend (and later, maid of honour) Daniela to organise a surprise engagement party. Helped by two other friends, what Stef expected to be a birthday party turned out to be a surprise engagement party, complete with cake and balloons.
Photo: Darryl Cauchi
The engagement party was held on a piece of land belonging to Stef’s family in the Fawwara area of Siggiewi, an open field with stunning countryside views, as well as a direct view of Filfla. “We used to organise birthday parties and barbeques there for family members,” says Stef. “I grew up there, playing with cousins – it’s a family place. Most of the guests there knew it as home. The first time Inigo ever saw it he knew he wanted us to get married there. In fact he gave me an ultimatum – it had to be Fawwara or nothing!” The Fawwara field is so special to the couple that it even featured on the invitations, prints of a watercolour by artist Doranne Alden.
“I’ve seen lots of different kinds of Maltese weddings,” says Inigo, who works as a wedding photographer. “They’re all special in their own way, but some of the venues feel like they could be anywhere. I wanted my wedding to feel Maltese, and for me the thing I love about Malta the most is the countryside. There’s also that connection with Stef and her family – her dad’s side of the family are all from Siggiewi.” Every single member of Stef’s family put in the effort to get the place ready. “The ground had to be cleaned, we had to make sure it was flat, we had to prepare tables, some parts of the rubble walls had to be rebuilt,” says Stef. “My parents would go there every Sunday for about a year, just adding plants to make it look beautiful. In fact, all the family members found little ways to help.”
Wedding planner Alexia Azzopardi was tasked with helping the couple make sure their big day was just what they wanted. “I never would have pictured myself as someone who would use a wedding planner, but we didn’t want our closest friends to have to work too hard, and Alexia is just exemplary at what she does,” Inigo says warmly. Alexia helped them navigate all the twists and turns of planning their lovely, quirky wedding, even finding a replacement wedding singer when the one they had book had to cancel the very week of the wedding – although thankfully, family friend and X-Factor Malta judge Alex Alden was on hand to step in and save the day.
Stef bought her dress from Wedding Bells in Valletta, which she had chosen during an impromptu fitting. “I wasn’t sure about it at first, but as soon as she put the skirt on – wow! I definitely had that magical moment,” she says. Meanwhile, Inigo had a waistcoat made by a local seamstress, from floral fabric chosen in New York, which he says had ‘hobbit vibes’. “It perplexes me when people are in a three-piece suit in August,” he says.
Since Stef and Inigo were getting married in a civil ceremony, they had to sign the papers before the day itself, with her brother and his sister as witnesses. “We went to the registrar’s office in Valletta to sign the papers, and we told each other we wouldn’t do the rings or the first kiss,” says Inigo (“We did it anyway,” says Stef in a mock-stage whisper). They then went for a celebratory drink at The Pub, together with a group of their friends, including some of Inigo’s guests from the UK. “It was just a small group of us and we had a right laugh. We had so much, unexpected fun, and we were so relaxed…we hoped the next day would be as good! But they were both lovely days.”
The wedding celebration at Fawwara took place the next day just before sunset, and it bore all the hallmarks of the couple’s distinctive taste. The field was decked out beautifully, and the setting sun cast a golden glow over the whole gathering. “I was worried I would be desensitised to it because of my job, but it’s different when it’s your own,” Inigo says. “The moment I saw Stef coming down the aisle, it was electric.” The officiant was a college tutor whom Inigo had remained close to, who cut quite a striking figure with a bright pink Mohawk. Meanwhile, Stef’s friends read a hilarious and heart-warming poem, wishing the couple well (“We do it every time one of us gets married – it’s become a tradition,” says Stef.) As the couple walked together back down the aisle, the music that played was a theme from Star Wars, while the DJ from the boat party where they met was the one who provided the music on the day. The photographer who captured all those magical moments was an old friend of the couple, Steven Jon Haddock.
“I wanted to make sure I enjoyed each and every moment of the wedding – we didn’t have a lot of must-dos, we were so relaxed. We just wanted to enjoy the guests and each other,” Stef says. “Whenever there was anything that we disagreed on, we’d tell each other, what matters is that we’re getting married – that was the final statement at the end of each argument.” “People pay so much attention to expectations, to what people are going to think, and of course you want people to enjoy it,” Inigo says. “But while I’m a very picky person, Stef is very accommodating, so there wasn’t a lot of pressure.”
One figure who was missing from the celebration was Inigo’s father, who sadly passed away just a couple of months before the wedding. “Because of what happened, we needed that day to be the best it could be, and it was,” Inigo says. “The timing was cruel, but it is what it is. It couldn’t have been a better day.” “We’re not especially spiritual people, but I like to believe he was there with us,” Stef adds. The couple’s second dance, after opening with Dolly Parton’s Islands in the Stream, was David Bowie’s Let’s Dance – a tribute to the groom’s father, who was a tremendous Bowie fan.
The party kept going long into the early hours, and the merriment didn’t let up, with fish and chips in newsprint cones being served to the revellers to keep energy levels high. I ask them if they would do anything differently, if they had to do it all over again. “I would probably invite more people,” Inigo says. “I had wanted fewer but in fact, the number of guests made the party. Stef was proved right on the numbers.” (Stef just smirks at this). The couple had a mini-moon in Amsterdam right after the wedding, and will be taking off for a longer holiday in Asia next year, where, once again, they plan to do things their way.