Love in the time of Covid-19: 11 college marriage proposals to brighten up your day

We asked freshers to share their proposal stories

As springtime approaches, love is in the air and the season for college marriage is upon us, (or would be upon us if we weren’t living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland of academic rigour). Although about half the freshers we spoke to were college bachelors, in the spirit of a very belated Valentine’s day, we asked the married/engaged ones to submit their proposal stories.

These carefully curated, heart warming, hilarious, occasionally inebriated displays of institutionalised friendship will be sure to cheer you up and remind you that (college) love always prevails. Eagerly awaiting children in Michaelmas, the following couples (and throuples) fervently hope to raise them with love, attention, and Spoons trips (once everything reopens). Ahhh, the honeymoon phase…

1. To All the Red Wine I’ve Loved Before

Sarah Henderson and Stephen Beale (Trinity)

Stephen and Sarah, two choir members from Trinity, cemented their great love story over a red wine fuelled game of Mafia, on a 40-person surprise birthday Zoom for their friend. A drunken Stephen had just died in the game. Confronted with his own mortality, his impulse control left him, and he realised life was short.

In the game’s chat for “dead” people, he spontaneously proposed marriage to the woman he had spent enormous amounts of time with over Michaelmas, who he describes as the platonic love of his life. To quote Stephen: “Who says romance is dead?” Onlookers were touched, uplifted, and totally not miffed at the birthday thunder being stolen.

Early days: The happy couple at Revs in October 2020 (Photo credits: Sarah Henderson and Stephen Beale)

2. You’ve Got No Mail (Because of COVID)

 Miruna Tiberiu and Isabella Woolston (St. Catharine´s)

Miruna and Isabella, joint LGBT reps at St Catharine’s, are star-crossed (college) lovers. Their marriage was besieged by the pitfalls of 2020, but their love was strengthened by the COVID cancellations and smouldered on.

They met in a freshers´ chat months prior to arriving at Cambridge, and bonded intensely over lockdown. They had a drunken marriage agreement cemented by the second day of freshers (I’m starting to notice a theme amongst these stories…).

However, the official proposal still remained. It had to be elaborate, spectacular, and brilliantly executed. Miruna’s original plan was to carve “Will You Marry Me” into a pumpkin on Halloween. This failed because her household went into isolation.

As a stranded international, Miruna had arranged to spend New Year’s at Isabella’s. Crafty Miruna planned to turn up at Isabella’s door with a ring and a proposal. Due to COVID delays, the parcel arrived just in time for Valentine’s day. Although it is it too big for their finger, Isabella happily wears it around their neck.

The ultimate power couple (Photo credits: Miruna Tiberiu and Isabella Woolston)

3. Much Ado About Mince Pies

Sophie Ruthven and Dominic Thomas (Selwyn)

It was late at night in the middle of Week 7. Sophie and Dominic (my flatmates at Selwyn) were hanging out with the household and randomly texting on WhatsApp. Dominic texted suggesting they get college married, and Sophie replied with “I’m up for that! :)”.

The next day, as they were sat studying together, Dominic got up, grabbed a mince pie (which he proceeded to eat whole), cut a hole in the middle of the foil case, and passed it over to Sophie as a ring.

The 24-carat mince pie ring (Photo credits: Sophie Ruthven)

Although Sophie argues that the entire exercise was likely an excuse for Dominic to eat a mince pie, the couple is now happily married, preparing for college children that Dominic will bully and Sophie will nurture.

Love began to burgeon in freshers´ week (Photo credits: Dominic Thomas and Sophie Ruthven)

4. 10 Things I Forget About You

Rosie Smart-Knight, Oliver Walsh, Jack Lubner (Trinity Hall)

Rosie proposed to Jack in Life during Michaelmas and it was all sunshine in paradise until she was told by a mutual friend that he’d forgotten all about their engagement. She was too embarrassed to bring it up again, but about a month later decided he was the one and was going to re-propose.

Onto the scene appeared snake-in-the-grass Oliver. Oliver proceeded to propose to Jack and Jack accepted. Stunningly, yet again, Jack forgot about this second engagement by the morning (in Rosie’s words: “It’s a problem”). In a thrilling conclusion to the amnesia saga, Rosie proposed to them both.

Love (and Rosie) always triumphs (Photo credits: Rosie Smart-Knight, Oliver Walsh, Jack Lubner)

5. The Fault in Our Fireworks

Tara Khanna and Bramma Rammanohar (Jesus)

Wanting the occasion to be special, Tara proposed to Bramma on Diwali. In a cinematic coincidence, fireworks went off right as she got on one knee. For beautiful romantic moments to be perfect, it’s vital to use an impeccable turn of phrase– Tara proposed with the delicate words “will you do me the honour of making us the token brown parents next year?”.

This term, making it work over Zoom (Photo credits: Tara Khanna and Bramma Rammanohar)

6. Breakfast at Haribos

Holly Duke and Libby Cowan (Girton)

In Michaelmas, Holly and Libby’s flat went on a household walk into the city centre to see all the Christmas lights. Libby tried to get Holly to take a photo in front of the Christmas tree, while the other household members awkwardly hung back. Libby offered around Haribo candy, to which Holly (a vegetarian) said no. Libby retorted with “even if it’s my engagement ring?” and got down on one knee.

Ironically, the household had been joking around the night before about how absurd it would be to get engaged with a Haribo gummy ring (I personally disagree and am willing to die on the hill that candy is the optimal road to romance).

How sweet (Photo credits: Holly Duke and Libby Cowan)

Eternal Sunshine of the Selwyn Pond

Inika Murkumbi, Aman Vernekar, Beth Brewer (Selwyn)

My favourite engagement story– my own. Beth, Aman, and I formed an informal engagement in Michaelmas Week 5. Right at the end of term, the three of us were meant to go on a walk into town when Aman pretended to check his phone and frantically announced that his flatmate had fallen into the Selwyn pond and urgently needed our help.

Wondering how this happened, since December was too cold for a swim and it was too early in the day for inebriation to be the cause, we sprinted through the Selwyn gardens. Naively, we were not suspicious yet.

As we approached the pond, we began to grow confused. The gardens showed no sign of the shrieking, struggling flatmate, nor her distinctive golden coat. As we got near the pond, Beth and I spotted a giant, sparkly “Will You Marry Me?” sign in a tree.

Aman got down on one knee and offered us the rings (made out of plastic wire as he is an engineer). The flatmate was safe, sound, and un-drowned– ready to take pictures of us.

Sadly, December ran out of sunlight for this picture (Photo credits: Aman Vernekar, Beth Brewer, Inika Murkumbi)

8) When Origami Met Orgasm Bridge

Iola Chapman and Anna Carina (Selwyn)

Iola and Anna both do Natural Sciences at Selwyn and became close friends during Michaelmas. At the end of term, they went on a long, scenic walk through town, taking in the beautiful architecture and stunning views. At sunset, they arrived at Orgasm Bridge.

Nature seemed to be in cahoots with this burgeoning college romance– it began to softly rain. Iola got down on one knee at the top of Orgasm bridge, presenting a gorgeous ring handmade out of complex origami.

Can signets be romantic? (Photo credits: Iola Chapman)

The NatSci children they get assigned better be less awkward than the stereotype, or else they’ll never be able to live up to this Bridgerton-esque romance…

The rain, the sunset, the river, the ROMANCE (Photo credits: Sophie Ruthven)

9) Gone With the Bracelet

Kathryn Sheaf and Liberty Leonard-Shaw (Newnham)

Liberty, Kathryn and a couple of others met at someone’s house early in Christmas break. It was a cosy, wholesome gathering– they made pizzas, chatted, and bonded. As the night wrapped up, Liberty got ready to head home.

She said yes! (Photo credits: Kathryn Sheaf and Liberty Leonard-Shaw)

She was at the door and putting on her scarf when Kathryn got down on one knee and proposed. As an engagement gift, Kathryn offered a bracelet she’d made that had multiple pictures of Saint icons on it, a detail that Liberty found both very sweet and very funny.

Craftsmanship at its finest (Photo credits: Liberty Leonard-Shaw)

10) An Abundance of Quavers

Ted Kehoe, Charlotte Layfield, Guillaume Bastos Martin (Selwyn)

When it came to college marriage, Ted was a tradition-minded man. In the illustrious (college) family custom, he got very drunk and proposed to his flatmates Charlotte and Guillarme via all three of them throwing quavers into each other’s mouths (which is how Ted’s college dad proposed to his wife).

Ted then injured himself quite badly by falling into a wall. The happy throuple announced their engagement on the Selwyn freshers group-chat, inspiring a smattering of other marriages in the week to follow.

Throuples that quaver together stay together (Photo credits: Ted Kehoe, Guillaume Bastos Martin, Charlotte Layfield)

Charlotte later bought Ted and our Guillaume some vintage quavers badges to make the blessed union official.

The ceremonial quaver badge (colourised) (Photo credits: Ted Kehoe)

11) My Fair Geographer

Oliver Norman and Eva Mills-Thomas (Selwyn)

In the most performatively alluring, sensorial, stunningly pun-laden proposal of this collection, geographer Ollie proposed to his flatmate and fellow geographer Eva via a geography-themed TikTok in mid-February 2021.

Using sultry music and varied, alternating maps and pictures of various countries as the background, Oliver began his declaration with the words “You can be the roadmap to my heart”. Continuing on, this modern poet effortlessly deployed puns such as “I’m Russian to see you back at college”, and “I hope this friendship never Finnishs”.

In a strong finish, he popped the big question with the words “These jokes Leeds me to asking you…will you college marry me?” Oliver banned me from linking the TikTok in this article, as it referred to several supervisors. He was, however, successful at establishing a new genre of (college) romantic literature, a contemporary Cambridge-based form of the ballad and sonnet.

A screenshot from the masterpiece (Photo credits: Oliver Norman)

We hope that these snippets of affection, candy, TikToks,  bracelets, mince pies, pumpkins, and rings cast a smattering of sunshine over your day! If you’re an engaged fresher, treasure your college spouse(s) and make sure to keep the romance alive.

Feature Image Credit: Inika Murkumbi, Beth Brewer, Aman Vernekar, Sophie Ruthven, Dominic Thomas, Oliver Norman

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