Saturday, 19 July 2014

Sunday Circle: Here come the Brides: Inside Malta's First Civil Union
July 16, 2014 by Philip Leone-Ganado

With the introduction of Civil Unions in Malta last April, same-sex couples can for the first time have their relationships legally recognised. Philip Leone-Ganado meets the very first couple to tie the knot

Kristina Galea Cavallazzi and Clara Borg first met ten years ago, when Clara’s mother, a colleague of Kristina’s, asked her whether she could find summer work for Clara and a friend at the café’ Kristina owned in Attard. Clara, then a law student, started work during the European Championships of 2004 (as Kristina, a self-confessed football fanatic, remembers it) and continued until she finished University – over which time the two grew increasingly close. Eight years later, on Clara’s 30th birthday, the couple exchanged rings, and on June 13 this year they tied the knot during a ceremony at Ta’ Cenc Hotel in Gozo, surrounded by their family and friends.

So far, nothing unusual – except that with their exchange of vows, Kristina and Clara became the very first same-sex couple to enter into a civil union in Malta since the law came into effect last April. “To be honest, it’s not something we thought would ever be possible in our lifetimes,” says Kristina. “But we always said that if the law ever went through, we’d just go for it.”

“We were in Germany on holiday with both our families when the news came through,” says Clara, “and our parents brought champagne over to the table to celebrate. We thought: why wait? At this point in our relationship, there was nothing to think about.” As soon as they could, the couple got in touch with Clara’s cousin, Sarah Young, a wedding planner, and asked for her next availability – which happened to be Friday 13. “That’s a bit…you know,” Clara laughs. “But I said let’s go for it. We always did things slightly differently, so even that was fitting for our relationship.”

Although the couple were aware from the moment they registered that they were making history, they were adamant that their wedding should be no different to that of any other couple: a celebration, first and foremost, of their love. Thanks to Sarah they managed to organise their dream celebration in just six weeks. “Without her it would definitely not have been possible,” Kristina says.

The ceremony at Mgarr ix-Xini (Photography: Ben Camille)

The ceremony took place in the beautiful surroundings of Kantra, overlooking Mġarr ix-Xini. Kristina and Clara both arrived with their parents, and after their parents had taken their seats, the couple walked down the aisle together. The words spoken were similar to those of any other civil ceremony, and after an exchange of rings and vows, the newly-weds joined their friends and family in celebrating the occasion.

“We each danced with our fathers first, then we had a short dance together, and then we called the rest to join in,” Kristina recalls. Clara is quick to add: “Spending two minutes with the spotlight just on us was a bit nerve-wracking, so we tried to make it as short as possible.”

There were, of course, a few personal touches to the evening. The cake-topper, for example, featuring two women, had to be custom-made and flown in from the US. And Kristina had a pair of rainbow-coloured shoes made for the occasion. “Which I wore after we cut the cake, of course,” she cuts in as Clara tells the story.

But as for their aim of ensuring that the evening was first and foremost about their love, that was never in question. “Throughout the whole evening there was this feeling of happiness and love,” says Clara. “Everyone was having a good time and showing their love for us. That was very important to me.”

“I think the magical part of the actual exchange of vows is what will stay with me the most,” Kristina adds. “Remember, people in our situation would not have thought this would be possible. So being able to stand there and say those words and exchange rings in front of our families will remain with me. The party was great, but it could have been any party. That moment will stay with me.”

Both Kristina and Clara admit that they were surprised at how matter-of-fact everyone they encountered in the run-up to the wedding was about the whole affair. And yet in some regards it was a new experience for everyone involved.

“Well, the make-up artists and hair dressers had double the work,” Clara laughs. “They actually commented that usually when they’re doing the bride, they’re wondering whether the groom will like it, whereas since we were both in the room together, we could give feedback as we went along. We also went to the dressmaker together: we chose each other’s dresses and had them done in a way that they would complement each other’s.”

So what does marriage – and the fact of having been able to get married – mean to the newly-weds? “It puts a seal on a relationship that we’ve always lived as a couple,” says Kristina. “We’ve been living together for 4 or 5 years, but if something had happened – if I were in hospital and Clara needed to visit, she shouldn’t need to ask for permission. These things make a difference. As far as our relationship is concerned, nothing really changes. But now we’re recognised as a couple.”

“The process of organising the Civil Union has itself actually brought the families closer,” says Clara. “And to a certain extent, it gave us a feeling of authenticity. For our parents, seeing guests coming over and showing their love was a reassurance that their kids are loved… irrespective of anything else. That helps us, it helps them, and it’s brought us all closer.”

“This wasn’t just a couple getting married,” says Kristina. “It was a couple being able to do so – finally – in their own country. It was a sense of belonging to your roots and being accepted by them, rather than having to run away from them to achieve your dream.”

No comments:

Post a Comment