Three years ago, Lydia and Jon Peter Present had their first date and first kiss at the Clock Tower at the V&A Waterfront.
They realised this while they waited for the ferry to Robben Island, at Nelson Mandela Gateway, where they joined 10 other couples that said “I do” on the island on Valentine’s Day last week.
The annual event, held by Robben Island Museum and the Department of Home Affairs, has been running since 2000.
During this time, about 300 couples have been married on the island. People have to apply at Home Affairs a year prior to be considered.
“It’s like we have come full circle – we are back here where it all began,” said Ms Present.
The couple met after Lydia had gone through many hardships, including a divorce, and an illness where she was told she wouldn’t make it due to clots on her heart.
“I used to sit on Milnerton beach to think and cry. But years later, it became the spot of the happiest day of my life – when Jon asked me to marry him.”
The couple got engaged three weeks ago when they received confirmation from the Robben Island Museum that they made the list after trying for years.
Jon said he had been to Robben Island a few years ago and during the trip, they came across the church and he knew this was where he wanted to wed. “We are very excited and in love. She’s my best friend.”
This year, Robben Island also hosted the first same-sex couple to tie the knot. Rozeana Julius and Marcia Jumat, from Parklands, met 10 years ago.
“We started out as friends. She had someone and I fell in love with her,” said Ms Julius.
“We started dating four years ago, and I then proposed two years ago on Blouberg beach.” Ms Julius searched for a venue for her and Ms Jumat to get married, and came across Robben Island.
“I have never been on Robben Island so we decided to get married there.”
Karen Chapman May and Roger May, from Steenberg, were also among those who got married on the island. They met eight years ago as they both worked at the court.
“On my birthday in June two years ago, I thought Roger didn’t come to wish me, but then he showed up with roses and chocolates and asked me to marry him. I was so happy, and I said yes.”
Ms Chapman May said getting married on Robben Island was memorable because of its rich history. As the 11 couples waited, some nervous and some excited, Robben Island Museum’s Chief Heritage Officer, Pascall Taruvinga addressed them, saying that marriage was the beginning of a road to discovery.
“This is the beginning of the journey to discover yourselves, the road is not entirely easy, but it’s the two of you that have made vows to take this journey together, to coexist and learn from each other.”
The Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Siyabonga Cwele, said the couples could not have chosen a more storied place to cement their love than Robben Island.
“Robben Island was previously a symbol of suffering, but today it is recognised as a monument of love. Indeed it is a triumph of human spirit over adversity.”
He said South Africa was one of the first countries to recognise same-sex marriages under the Civil Union Act.
“(Same-sex) couples from all over the world come to our shores to get married. Today, we have a couple who will tie the knot under this act. We must recognise the growth of the LGBTI community.”
After the ceremony, the couples were treated to lunch and a tour of the island.
Robben Island spokesperson Morongoa Ramaboa said this event was the highlight of the calendar.
“Robben Island is a very unique location to get married. It is a place that is associated with the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, which is something marriage surely needs.”