Love was in the air amongst the caps and tassels that graduates tossed up after graduating from the University of Mississippi on Saturday, May 14, 2016.
As several Ole Miss graduates have announced their graduation day engagements across social media, one couple’s love story stood out, considering the lucky groom-to-be isn’t even from the same country as his soon-to-be wife.
Sara McDaniel, from Greenville, Mississippi, and Helmar Bruwer, from Kroonstad, Free State, South Africa, met at Lake Washington First Baptist Church in the small, Mississippi Delta town of Glen Allan. Helmar works for Bar Harvesting in Glen Allen, along with more friends from South Africa. Each year, he travels with Bar Harvesting to help harvest crops across the country. Of course, moving and working in a different country is a life changing event, but Helmar didn’t know just how life changing this job would be or that it would involve a school he had never heard of before.
The couple met about three years ago at church, and soon went to dinner together, where they shared an instant connection. “Our first date was supposed to be just dinner. We ended up going to the movies as well,” Sara said, “and we hung out every day after that for two weeks until he had to leave for the harvest.”
And the rest is history, as the saying goes. After two years of community college in the Delta, Sara started Ole Miss to finish her journey to be an elementary teacher. Though it meant the couple would have to spend time apart from each other while Sara attended school and Helmar worked for Bar Harvesting, the time apart made their hearts grow fonder. Helmar frequently traveled to Oxford to visit Sara and attend Ole Miss ballgames.
It was at Ole Miss that Helmar and Sara experienced so many “firsts” together. For instance, Helmar’s first “real” American football game was an Ole Miss game. In fact, Helmar experienced the infamous, field-rushing Ole Miss and Alabama game two years ago with Sara. Among firsts, is the first time the couple shared a kiss as a newly engaged couple on Saturday.
“I’ve never been more stressed out than I was on Saturday morning,” Sara laughed. “I was running late, didn’t have my [graduation] robe on, doing my hair on the way to graduation, and when I got there, my friends helped me put on my robe.”
While lining up for graduation, Sara was able to “calm down” after noticing one of her friends would be sitting right beside her throughout the ceremony. “I was then just worried about rolling my ankle or something while walking across the stage,” Sara said. “Thank goodness that didn’t happen.”
After the ceremony, Sara said it was a mad dash to find her friends and family, but nonetheless, she met up with them in the Grove. After taking a lot of photos in her graduation regalia in the Grove, Sara’s mom wanted a few more pictures of Sara in front of Guyton Hall, the education building at Ole Miss.
“It was a nice, chill walk over to Guyton,” Sara said. “Helmar and I got to walk alone together and take in the fact that I just graduated. We held hands and talked the whole way.”
After taking more pictures with family and friends, it was Helmar’s turn to take a picture with his unsuspecting finance-to-be. “After we had taken a picture, I thought someone else was going to take a picture with me, then he went down on one knee and said, ‘Sara Elizabeth McDaniel, will you marry me?'”
“I thought to myself, ‘Is this happening?'” Sara said. “The day started out rough, but it ended so great!”
Yes, it did happen. Sara got a diploma and a finance all in one day. What makes this couple’s story even sweeter is the fact that Sara’s engagement ring is made up of three special stones: one stone from her mother’s engagement ring, one stone from Helmar’s mother’s engagement ring and one stone from Helmar to Sara.
The couple plans to wed on November 12, 2016, in Glen Allan and live in Oxford after the wedding among other plans of furthering their education at Ole Miss.
Emily Newton is a staff writer for hottytoddy.com and the editor of Experience Oxford magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.