Chemistry for Stanley Coutts and Chanel Ray has always been there – literally and figuratively.
The two former Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) BSc Chemistry students proved it when Stanley surprised Chanel in the “Chemistry Section” of the university’s South Campus library with a marriage proposal in the self-same spot as their very first kiss 14 years earlier.
“To say there were fireworks in 2000 would be an understatement. We were thrust so deeply in love that we spent every minute together,” recalled Coutts of the kiss that triggered the romance which lasted throughout their study years at the former University of Port Elizabeth.
And it was fireworks all over again on Saturday afternoon – despite a near-decade apart – when Stanley went down on bended knee to ask for Chanel’s hand in marriage.
“I asked her to make me the happiest man alive,” said Coutts, who had blindfolded Chanel after treating her to a picnic near the student residence of Xanadu for “old time’s sake”.
According to Coutts, the couple both studied BSc and were briefly engaged before mutually agreeing to part ways when Chanel’s family moved to East London shortly after she completed her honours degree and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education in 2006.
“We stayed in touch for a few years but then we lost touch and both had relationships with other people. Late last year we both found ourselves single again,” said Coutts, who is living in Johannesburg and working as an assistant reconciliations accountant.
The couple reconnected again while working through the Christian book A Purpose-Driven Life together early this year.
“In March I asked her to be my girlfriend again. Our families, most of whom still live in Port Elizabeth, were thrilled as they had all been praying for us reunite and get married.”
The long-distance relationship continued telephonically and via e-mail until the couple decided to visit Port Elizabeth during the Easter Holidays. Everything just seemed to fall into place after the initial awkward “first” date. After two visits to Johannesburg, during which Chanel had an interview for a teaching position at a private school, they decided to visit Port Elizabeth again. He decided to take her on a trip down memory lane. Unbeknown to Chanel, her old boyfriend had also visited East London to seek her family’s permission to marry her.
With the help of eager NMMU library staff and Stanley’s best friend, Juan Botha, 14 roses, one for each year since that first kiss, were used as pointers towards that self-same spot. Here a large heart-shaped floral arrangement – along with a ring – awaited the couple. The same “Chemistry Section” and Q row is still there.
After being led blindfolded to the library and with the harmonies of ‘N Sync’s This I Promise You in the background, Stanley asked for Chanel’s hand in marriage.
The couple has actually known each other since high school.
“It was at St Thomas’s prize-giving in 1995. Chanel was first in grade eight and I was second. We were classmates from grade 10 but only got together after that first kiss in 2000. Because we were so close, our high school class teacher actually quipped that we would be married one day… ”
“And now we’re getting married!”
Chanel has accepted a new teaching post in Johannesburg.
NMMU library staff had been thrilled to play cupid and happily closed off the first floor of the library to allow Stanley to propose in peace.
“We loved the positive romantic buzz,” said Senior Information Librarian Deidre Gerber. “We thought it was going to be happening during the day on Friday, and many of us were disappointed not to be working the late shift on Saturday”.
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