By Jamima Westermann and Ella Catherall
In 2013, The Independent reported that Durham University is thought to have the highest rate of inter-student marriages in Britain. Roughly 72% of students will marry a fellow Durham alumnus, a third of couples starting a relationship only after graduation. This is by far the highest percentage of any UK university, with the national average typically standing at 18-20%.
What is it about the Durham bubble that so often leads to wedding bells? Do college marriage proposals soon lead to real ones? Are love potions secretly mixed into the Johnny Woodgates? With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, Palatinate spoke to eight happy couples who found love in the land of castles and Klute boots.
It was the second day of uni and I was approached by a tall, lanky boy in
Varsity Pub (now known as The Library). He introduced himself and we danced for a bit but it was clear to me that he was mostly interested in talking to my friend, who I’d come with that night.
Somehow, he ended up in my room but it was terribly innocent. I had no intention of getting involved with anyone who wasn’t Sri Lankan and I think he thought of me as his opportunity to have a token brown friend. We ended up talking the entire night and the only thing I remember is at one point, he looked at me and said: “I’ve never felt a connection like this before – I’ve never talked to someone like this”.
So started an epic friendship, that had several misunderstandings – he made me chase him, I had to break it to my parents, who then demanded we get married and move to Sri Lanka. It’s been 7 years and we’ve had to move from Durham to London to Colombo and have one crazy big South Asian wedding but we’re now finally settled in Sri Lanka. We were friends first and foremost and have survived long distance and visa complications and the sometimes awkwardness of an interracial marriage.
Now, he’s everyone’s token white friend – talk about reverse colonialism.
David and I met before our first lecture in 2012.
We were friends for a long time (including me telling him I liked him, and him saying no (at my college wedding!) then him coming to my house every Monday lunchtime in second year for free toasties) before we finally got together in second year after a romantic yet confusing kiss in Klute after a Choral Society concert.
Even better, we went away for six weeks on an archaeological project in second year, during which my tutor asked everyone else on the project if we were dating (which we weren’t) before coming up with his own dramatic story about how David had rejected me but I was planning my revenge…
He first proposed to me during a summer ball in 2015 by the side of a lake, before “officially” asking again (after he’d talked to my parents!) in the grounds of John’s.
He sent me on a treasure hunt with a map and multiple clues on how to find him. As we’re both archaeologists it was perfect!
Unfortunately for me, each clue contained a letter that was highlighted that combined to spell a word. It took me far too long to rearrange the letters into the word “blue”…
The final clue was “X marks the spot”, but I took him too literally, and dug a hole in the wrong place – he had to shout from his hiding place to get me to excavate in the right spot.
I eventually found my buried engagement ring and said yes, but we also managed to annoy a visitor to John’s by popping champagne – they looked out of their window towards us, huffed and forcefully closed the curtains.
We got married in September 2017 in York Minster and have enjoyed annoying each other ever since.
As much as we enjoy being a Durham statistic, we wouldn’t have met had it not been for Durham and it’s opportunities to meet in lectures, Klute and on field trips. #Cheese!
We met in 2011. Jack was the first person I met when I moved into halls (John Snow College I’m afraid…).
He came to my room to offer me tea or coffee and to let me know that a few others had arrived and were chatting in the kitchen.
Our relationship blossomed after the Freshers’ Ball and we made our relationship “official” after he came to stay with my family at Christmas. We stayed together throughout uni, weathering yearly Palatinalps trips, a university exchange to China and the dreaded dissertations.
After graduation, we moved straight to Clapham in London where I started working in a Special Needs school and he started working in Healthcare PR. After 2 years and a series of terrible landlords, we bought our first place in Richmond. He proposed to me during a romantic weekend in Bruges and
we married earlier this year (June 2nd) at The London Oratory in Knightsbridge.
We met at Durham in 2007 through BALADS (Ballroom and Latin American Dance Society).
We went to different colleges (Iain was at Chad’s and I was at Hild Bede) and studied different subjects (Politics and History/Education Studies respectively) so we probably wouldn’t have crossed paths if it wasn’t for dancing. We were first introduced by a friend at the society’s Christmas ball which sounds very romantic but as I was social secretary I was off busy dealing with logistics and it was another year or so before we would start spending a lot more time together, but it was definitely worth the wait.
We both graduated from Durham in 2010 and moved to London for our jobs. Today Iain is Political Director of the Conservative Party and I’m a Curator at Chartwell (Winston Churchill’s House) so there’s a lot of overlap in our worlds. We got married in July 2017 in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey, and have just bought our first house – a period cottage in Surrey which needs lots of work. We will be spending the foreseeable future renovating this alongside our careers as we enter the next chapter of our lives.
We were just friends for a while, but bonded over our mutual love of God (and cryptic crosswords). We started dating a year ago, and got engaged a month back, in a field in the valley down the road from my parent’s house. By the time we get married in August, we’ll have been long-distance for two years!
We write letters and see each other as often as we can, and we both are very much looking forward to when we get to say goodbye to each other at the train station for the last time. I can’t wait for many happy years loving Jesus together, he’s a wonderful man.
We met at the college boat club (a mutual friend introduced us on our first day at the club!), we were put on the same rowing team and I was his cox throughout our time at university. He had rowed before university but I was new to it, we competed in regattas a lot. We had the typical university
experience, lots of fun and nights out. He studied business and I did psychology.
Since university, we’ve moved around a lot, lived in America, now back in the UK.
So, we met at a Valentine’s Day formal dinner at Grey College – they joked at the dinner about the marriage statistic at Durham and that we might meet our spouses. The way it worked was that you ended up sitting next to two people of the opposite sex who you may or may not know- and you paid to move seats and the money went to charity. At the very last moment, I paid to sit opposite Lewis and his friend because my friend knew him from Frisbee.
We didn’t actually talk that much at dinner as he was more opposite my friend and he bought her a cactus as a gift – but after the formal, we went to the bar and got chatting & I spilled a Fanta Banta (Grey College drink) over his college gown and he bought me another one.
This was in my first year and his second year. We started dating and in my third year we moved in together at uni & got engaged just before graduation (2015), and we got married last year!
Nick and I met on my first full day at Durham in Loft on North Road on a night out (I stole his shirt and wore it back to college!) He’d been there for a year already as he was doing a Masters. We both went to Hatfield College and after successfully completing a psychology degree (me) and a Masters in Mechanical Engineering (Nick), we both graduated in 2009.
We bought our first house in 2011 and got engaged in Vegas in 2017. In August, we went back to our beloved Hatfield to get married. Anthony Bash conducted the ceremony in Hatfield Chapel, we had our wedding breakfast in the dining hall and our evening reception in the refurbished bar.
A real “Hatfield Ever After” story!