Your granny constantly asks whether you have met your own prince yet, you feel surrounded by deliriously happy couples strolling hand-in-hand on Market Street, and the media is forever reminding you that 10% of St Andrews graduates go on to marry someone they met here. It is hard to escape this town’s reputation for love.
However, actually saying “I do” during your degree here is quite rare. Most students find juggling the odd date with their studies enough to deal with. This is not the case for fourth year student, Rachel Brand (née Ropper), who married fellow final year student Simon Brand on 5th July in Broxburn, West Lothian.
“Getting married was actually the least stressful thing in my life this year,” says the English & History student. She explains, “I’m working as a Fiction Editor for a Christian reviews website, alongside university work and writing a romance novel, too.” In fact, marriage has given her the support she feels she needs to get through all the other stresses: “Simon has been really good in encouraging me. I mean, he’s my husband, he has to support me! We’re in it for the long run.”
Rachel and Simon’s relationship started off in the standard student style: adding each other on Facebook. “We met at a ceilidh in first year and bonded over being the only Scottish people there. Then we began talking on Facebook.” Things took an even more typical turn when they started hanging out and ended up “dating by accident,” a common conundrum many students will be familiar with. Soon Simon put that he was ‘in a relationship’ on his Facebook profile, and Rachel jokes that she thought, “I can’t really turn him down now.” Sounds like Facebook has a lot to answer for…
After that, their courtship veered off the well-trodden student path of ‘just dating’. After nine months together, they got engaged, later moving in together. “I’d hoped to meet someone at uni, but originally Simon and I planned to get married when we graduated. Then my parents said, ‘Hang on, do you really have to wait?'”
So the wedding began to be arranged, and the rest is history (or at least a story Simon and Rachel will tell to their grandchildren).
The couple have been spending their first few months of married life in a rented house in Anstruther. “There’s not as much of a social life as in St Andrews. I’m kind of glad that I don’t have to deal with all the drama that goes with it now, though. But we have a much nicer house in Anstruther than we could afford in St Andrews. As married students, we can get more funding, too.”
Rachel’s rejection of the mainstream makes me wonder if she is actually a more subversive than her wild-child contemporaries. “I want to be a mum in about two to five years time. That’s quite an unfeminist thing. Is it, though? It’s my choice,” she declares. As for her literary aspirations: “I like romance – you live through the stigma. My husband says, ‘My wife writes romance novels. So what?'” It is a confidence that many of her fellow fourth years must be envious of as they agonise over their own plans for the future. As we dare to be different and flout social convention, do we all end up the same? Once upon a time, rebellion was running away from the altar, but now it seems to be the rush you are in order to get to it.
Photos: Rachel Brand