But before they’d eventually marry, a long-distance relationship for seven years ensued– which meant they would see each other for just seven weeks of the year.
Hendri Dippenaar, a member of the Royal Marines in the UK, and Bianca Brandt, a medical doctor from Somerset West in the Western Cape, first met when they were 10 years old and in Grade 4 at Anton van Wouw primary school in Pretoria. Hendri had transferred there the previous year.
“We knew of each other but hadn’t really chatted when I asked my friends to ask her out for me,” Hendri tells us.
Bianca agreed and they became an item.
“But two weeks later she sent her friend to break up with me because apparently I was too boring,” he chuckles.
A few years later, when they were both in Grade 7, they got back together. “This time I asked her out myself,” Hendri recalls.
After going out for about six months, they decided in Grade 8 to break up because they were in different high schools. “In the next five years we didn’t speak or see each other.”
But at the end of their matric year in 2012, after the final exams, they bumped into each other at a popular pub in Pretoria.
“I was chatting to my friends and looked down for a moment. When I looked up again it was straight into Bianca’s eyes. She was chatting to friends.
“Both of us immediately broke off our conversations and went towards each other. For the rest of the night, into the early morning hours, we talked and caught up on the previous five years,” Hendri says.
“From that night on, I never stopped thinking and dreaming of her.”
Hendri and Bianca became a couple again in May 2013 but just a few months later, their careers separated them. It was the start of seven years of long-distance relationship.
Bianca was studying medicine at the University of Pretoria. Hendri had always dreamt of joining the Royal Marines in England and went over in July 2013 to start the selection process.
He was eventually accepted and as a result could visit South Africa only every three-and-a-half months. He would visit for about two weeks at a time, which meant that they spent about seven weeks a year together.
But the couple stuck it out because they believe they were meant for each other.
“We’ve always believed if you’re going through a tough time, you’ll be stronger on the other side. if we could weather this distance, there’s nothing we can’t come through together,” Bianca says.
In December 2017, Hendri surprised Bianca with an engagement ring at Muldersdrift, near Johannesburg.
But the couple’s long-distance relationship would end only in February, a week before they tied the knot in March. As Bianca walked down the aisle in her white, off-the-shoulder wedding gown, Hendri, dressed in formal military uniform, couldn’t help shedding a tear.
“She looked more beautiful than I could ever imagine,” Hendri says of their wedding day near Hermanus, Western Cape.
The couple are based in Somerset West now but plan to move to the UK next year. Hendri intends joining the Royal Marines reservists and to enrol for a psychology degree, while Bianca will work as a locum.
And their secret to a successful long-distance relationship?
“It’s really important to talk whenever something’s bothering you or you disagree about something. It’s important to listen to the other’s viewpoint because even if you’re arguing, it’s important that each person knows they’re being heard,” Hendri says.
Bianca says putting friendship first is key. “You can’t build a lasting relationship without that. After all, you’d never want to hurt you best friend.”