He wore Gucci, she wore Oh Polly - behold the union of two pretentious humanities studentsFaisal Majid with permission for Varsity

Most college marriages become official at the end of Lent term, but there's no harm in getting those proposals in early. Valentine’s Day is coming up and let's face it: for the majority of us, the closest thing to being in a relationship in Cambridge is being in a college marriage. The dating scene (unfortunately) leaves much to be desired. A fashionable proposal is a fantastic way to celebrate ‘Galentine’s’ or even ‘Palentine’s’ day. Your outfits will always correspond to how impromptu/planned your proposal is or how ‘extra’ you are as a duo. Using my first-hand experience of college proposal fashion, I’m here to introduce several options to get those perfect proposal pictures that you can show your future college, or maybe inter-college, children. 

Fancy & Formal

Formals appear to be the most common location for a college marriage proposal because of the novelty of formals for freshers, the usually stunning interiors for photos and the post-wine impulsivity. Here you’ll (hopefully) never be caught out in a lacklustre proposal outfit since you’ll be wearing your gown (unless you’re at a super modern college) and smart clothes like a cocktail dress, suit, or tuxedo. Of course, this is not always true. Some colleges supposedly allow jeans as regular formal attire. Still, wearing a college gown and black tie/evening wear fits in with the oddities of Oxbridge traditions, including college marriage.

Formal wine can sometimes hit a little too hard...Isabelle Flemming and Alice Frecheville with permission for Varsity

Keeping it Casual

I’ve seen people accept proposals on the literal streets. Personally, I wouldn’t be having that, but a spontaneous proposal can be sweet. Besides, casual outfits can normalise the unique Oxbridge tradition of college marriage. Please don’t get married in your matching Ryder and Amies puffers though.

"Please don’t get married in your matching Ryder and Amies puffers"

There are still ways to spice up those casual proposal outfits. If you decide to get married in jeans and a jumper, you could co-ordinate your clothes or incorporate more traditionally romantic colours and fabrics into your fit- I've heard college sweatshirts now come in burgundy! On the other hand, if you get married after a very drunken night out outside Gardies, I fully support that. It doesn’t matter what you wear as long as you get your picture displayed on the infamous wall. Marriage pictures in Urban Outfitters tops, miniskirts, Hawaiian garlands, rave glasses, and sports stash would go hard (but leave that rowing one-piece at home). I'm pretty surprised I've never seen a proposal in a club, and I regret not getting married in ArcSoc MASH, especially since the club is where me and my husband, like many others, bonded.

Pre-MASH shenanigansAlice Frecheville with permission for Varsity

Go Big or Go Home

Getting married in everyday clothes doesn’t do justice to the extravagance of the college marriage, however. With my husband being so pretentious that he wears tailcoats to libraries and Prada suits to MASH, our proposal outfits were always going to be ‘extra’. Your proposal outfits can signal your individuality as you leave the college single life and enter into your 3-year-long marriage. For instance, I went to a grammar school in South Manchester and he was head boy of an elite public school. Fittingly, the groom wore a tailcoat and a waistcoat with pinstripe trousers (from Aristocracy London) and Gucci loafers. I was too kind to force him to wear his old school hat. Meanwhile, you can take the girl out of Manchester… But she’ll still wear OhPolly corset dresses. In fairness, it was fitting that I wore a party dress considering we’d just completed a three-day bender (ArcSoc, super bop, and an impromptu Tuesday MASH), and I wanted to go traditional with a white dress. When going big with your proposal outfits, try to tailor it with your personal touch.

Surprise proposals

"He dressed up in a white tuxedo, whilst she was caught out in pyjamas from the night before"

My coursemate and floormate exposed the fashion risks of the surprise proposal. He dressed up in a white tuxedo, whilst she was caught out in pyjamas from the night before! It was still a cute proposal because lots of people got involved and he had a bouquet and a massive sign. Still, you wouldn’t want your college children seeing you all ready for bed! Other surprise proposals I’ve seen have been on tipsy nights out with ‘couples’ posing whilst shivering in tiny tops and big pants, huddling in their puffers around late-night food places. These can be fun, but not overly comfortable. A student at St Catharine's was unexpectedly proposed to onstage at the Catz Winter Ball last year. It’s fair to say they were dressed for the occasion, although if the Winter Ball was as freezing as last year’s Law Ball was I think I would rather marry in a Johns puffer than a slip dress! That said, if I’d married at the Law Ball we would’ve been in matching Venetian masks and coordinating colour schemes at my husband’s suggestion. So surprise proposals in similar circumstances can have huge potential. 


Mountain View

What we wore: CUCFS launch party

Proposals are usually planned by one-half of the college couple. If they have any decency they ought to give their future ‘spouse’ a heads up that they might wish to have a ‘special’ outfit planned. It doesn’t necessarily need to be fancy, just something meaningful (and ideally not nightclothes). Now go on and celebrate Valentine’s by making those friendships extra special!