Today is supposed to be the best day of his life, but Noel Cassar cannot wait for his wedding to be over thanks to “exaggerated” COVID-19 restrictions that have stressed him out to the last minute.

“I am a disaster right now,” the groom-to-be admitted, as he grappled with seating restrictions that came into force mere hours before his big day.

Reluctantly, the couple had to change their “normal Maltese” stand-up reception to a four-course gala dinner that has pumped up the costs and been a logistical nightmare.

Two years of wedding planning fizzled out as they found themselves going back to the drawing board – or rather, the table – over the last two weeks, as COVID-19 cases spiked.

The original June date of his marriage to Czech fiancée Dominika Capkova was postponed to August in the hope that the situation would improve, with another fallback for July 2021.

But they just had to proceed because the bride’s relatives, 20 guests, who had already booked flights and hotels, would otherwise lose their money. Then came the icing on the cake: on Tuesday, the Czech Republic landed on Malta’s amber travel list. From last night, the few guests still to arrive would have to provide a negative swab test, which is not as easy to do there, Cassar noted.

Overhauling the layout at Fort St Angelo in Vittoriosa at the 11th hour to incorporate 35 huge tables was a headache, the stunning fort being hard to work around and not designed to cater for seated weddings.

A crane was already required to set up a kitchen to warm the finger food. Now, the equipment to cook the whole meal had to be hauled up, Cassar said, adding that costs have spiked and even caterers had warned against it.

A fortnight ago, Cassar also woke up to the news that the guest list had to be shaved down to 300 from 520.

“Luckily, we did not have to ask anyone not to attend and the numbers reduced to 260 as some dropped out.”

The couple will have to forgo an open bar, which they can live without, and the gala dinner should be fun for guests, Cassar says about the changes to their traditional wedding.

€3,000 fine if someone speaks to guest on another table

But he knows he will have to deal with the pressure of health inspections, remind guests about social distancing and risk a €3,000 fine if someone goes to speak to a guest on another table.

Customised hand sanitizer - a new staple in the novel coronavirus way of wedding it? Photo: Albert CamilleriCustomised hand sanitizer - a new staple in the novel coronavirus way of wedding it? Photo: Albert Camilleri

Cassar says he forged ahead against the odds thanks to his stubborn character, especially in the face of suppliers, who told him he was “crazy”. Some even said it was impossible to pull off the seated dinner at the fort.

“But I wanted to do it and I wanted to do it now!

“I figured it would be better to stress once than to prolong the pain and then stress again,” Cassar said.

The way things stand, a wedding today is safer than eating at a restaurant, or entertaining at home, he maintained, believing initial measures were sufficient.

“I agree with closures and that we were too late on some, but union lobbying led to an extreme scenario. We tend to go from black to white.”

If all goes well tonight, the couple will at least be able to say they had the “courage” to face and beat the virus.

“COVID-19 already destroyed my first wedding, but I would have got my revenge!”

Groom Fabian Demicoli checking his temperature… to see if he can attend his own wedding. Photo: Albert CamilleriGroom Fabian Demicoli checking his temperature… to see if he can attend his own wedding. Photo: Albert Camilleri

Not your typical Maltese wedding

Fabian Demicoli had a “COVID wedding” and he would not change a thing, even though he and his bride Sarah were faced with restrictions on the number of guests on the eve.

At 2am the day before, they learnt their 850 guests had to be whittled down to 300. ‘Past’ friends gave way to new mates and colleagues; many were in quarantine; others popped in briefly and the numbers dwindled.

The couple had decided to stick to their original August 8 date in July, when the virus was at bay, but two weeks before, they were on tenterhooks as pressure mounted to stop mass events.

“We started getting cold feet, but I did not give up. I wanted to get over this and get on with my life,” Demicoli said.

A week before, new restrictions called for one person every four square metres, which was doable using the whole of Fort St Elmo.

It was still your typical Maltese wedding – with some twists.

Sarah Demicoli checks for fever on her big day. Photo: Albert CamilleriSarah Demicoli checks for fever on her big day. Photo: Albert Camilleri

The couple did not shake hands and hug most guests, but they were accompanied by someone with sanitiser for when they could not resist. Waiters served drinks to groups of 10 around bistro tables two metres apart, while each tray carried fewer items to avoid touching food.

Costs spiralled as security was employed to check temperatures and others took down guests’ details 100 metres away to avoid queues.

The couple can now safely say it was a COVID-free wedding, despite a peak of around 60 cases that day.

Most weddings are being cancelled, Demicoli acknowledged, but couples should forget the typical Maltese wedding and make it their own.

Fabian and Sarah Demicoli accept that they had the “perfect COVID wedding”. Photo: Albert CamilleriFabian and Sarah Demicoli accept that they had the “perfect COVID wedding”. Photo: Albert Camilleri

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