Chris and Sal met in the nineties, when Nirvana and Boyz II Men ruled the music charts and the Macarena made its way into traditional wedding reception dance lists. Back then Sal owned a magnificent collection of hair scrunchies, mostly made in textiles classes, and was a Collingwood Football Club tragic (she wore a Darren Millane badge for weeks after his passing). Chris, on the other hand, clearly demonstrated his preference for Stussy pants and 10-up Doc Martens and for modeling his hairstyle on 90210's Brandon Walsh.
Though the teenagers attended the same high school, their interaction was limited. In fact, Sal can hardly remember it. It wasn’t that Sal was rude (ignore Chris’ description of her posse as the “Moll Patrol”), it’s just that girls tend not to focus their attention on boys in years below them. And, even if someone was looking to make her acquaintance, they’d have to spend their lunchtimes away from the basketball courts and treading the boards in the school theatre, singing Gilbert & Sullivan, Cole Porter or Lerner & Loewe.
Back then, Sal was the leading lady of Warrandyte High. The soprano with the blonde hair, courtesy of a cheap pump action bottle of Sun-In, lived for the annual school musical. Chris eased his way into the scene, taking to the bio box and the role of follow spot operator. He trained his spotlight on Sal for a season of Anything Goes, attended a few cast parties and realised how much fun was to be had. The following year, Chris’ rock tenor voice earned him a place on stage as Samuel to Sal’s Mabel and the year after that, as Kenickie to her Sandy.
The pair parted ways with perhaps only a handful of teenaged conversations shared, including a rather awkward episode at the Warrandyte Festival (Sal didn’t expect Chris to take her hand to his lips while reintroducing himself on the dusty slopes of Stiggants Reserve).
It wasn’t until early 1999, after their university studies were completed and their hairstyles proved less offensive, that the pair met again. Not surprisingly, it was during a production of Oklahoma! Sal recalls rushing to call her bestie Ness on her brick Nokia (with protective case and handy belt clip!) to inform her that Chris Hughes from high school was rather cute. Fortunately Chris, then more commonly known as “Hughesy”, felt the same way about her.
Shortly after, Chris invited Sal to lunch at the Hideout Cafe. Together in his cobalt blue Ford Laser, and to the soundtrack of a Pot-Pourri cabaret demo, they made their way to the popular Brunswick Street haunt. Sal ordered the chicken salad and Chris… decided he wasn’t hungry. Sal takes great pleasure in reminding Chris of this ridiculous first-date-at-a-RESTAURANT behaviour whenever they reminisce about their courtship. Not surprisingly, their second date was to see a musical - the original Australian production of Rent. It would be the first of countless others they’d enjoy together.
Shortly after, Sal moved enough of her possessions into Chris’ Warrandyte bungalow to qualify as a permanent tenant. She remembers the delight she felt when returning home from a Spirit of the Celts tour to find that he and his mother had given it a major spruce up. Never before had the bungalow housed a collection of Home Beautiful magazines. It must have been love.
A successful theatre website venture followed, as did several more shows, cast parties and new and long lasting thespian friendships. Chris eventually convinced Sal to give the renting scene a go, and with that came a move to a very spacious Caulfield North apartment. It proved to be one of the best joint decisions they would make. During that time, their pad became the venue for many a party and recovery session. Many a party and recovery session.
A Good Friday proposal in the white rose garden at Werribee Mansion followed in 2004, and on the 4th of February 2005, Chris and Sal became first time homeowners. Exactly one year later, Chris and Sal said ‘I Do’ at St James' Church in Gardenvale. Sal grinned and waved as she walked down the aisle to her friend James’ performance of ‘When You Say You Love Me’ and the pair were thrilled to have close friends Rich, Saira and Darky share their vocal talents as well.
Adopting a handsome golden Spanador named Hugo and holidays in Europe and South East Asia have been highlights, career successes too, however Chris and Sal’s greatest achievements have undoubtedly been the the births of their precious daughters Mia Mary and Harper Grace. Nights at Q-Bar, unhurried sessions at Genesis Richmond and weekend winery getaways were replaced by Saturday morning netball, diorama constructions, piano practice, ballet lessons and Bunnings sausage sizzles, however they agree that parenthood is their single greatest achievement and a role they consider themselves so fortunate to be able to enjoy.
And so, seventeen years after an Irish Mist-induced kiss at an Oklahoma! rehearsal camp in Bass, and ten years to the day they promised to accept one another for better or for worse, today Chris and Sal will no doubt catch themselves laughing with their funny, spirited, affectionate and talented girls, grinning at their beautiful new home and dreaming of the adventures yet to come.