How we met: ‘Kärri suggested getting married. I just thought: yes! Let’s do it’

Mark Brewster, 42, and Kärri Brewster-Palts, 34, met at work in 2014. They got engaged before they started officially dating and now live in Estonia with their two-year-old daughter

In the summer of 2014, Mark Brewster started a new job at a clothing company in London. “I was on a tour of the office when I met Kärri for a couple of minutes. I thought: ‘Wow, she’s fit!’” Although she left an impression on him, Kärri admits she was too busy to notice Mark. “I was totally focused on work at the time,” she laughs.

Over the next few months, the pair met regularly for drinks and became friends. “We were both playing the field on Tinder,” says Mark. “There was an attraction, but I had a strict policy on not dating people I worked with, so it felt like we could be really open with each other.” Kärri had come out of a long-term relationship and wasn’t looking for anything serious. “I was making the most of the dating scene and my independence,” she explains. In spring 2015, she started a new adventure. “I loved sailing, so I decided I was going to take part in the Clipper Round the World yacht race.”

Kärri resigned from her job and packed her bags, ready to go back to her home country, Estonia, before she started training. “It was becoming clear that Mark and I would miss each other, and neither of us were sure if we’d see each other again,” she says. Shortly before she left, the two went for a final night out in central London, which ended in a goodnight kiss at Oxford Circus tube station. “It felt right,” says Mark. “Every time we’ve been through that station since, we always kiss in the same spot.”

When Kärri was in Estonia, she invited Mark to come to stay. “I didn’t think he would come. Mark has eaten the same breakfast of poached eggs every day since 2008 – he’s not someone who ventures out of his comfort zone,” she jokes. But he couldn’t wait to see her. “I really liked her, so I thought: ‘Why not?’” The trip was derailed when one of Kärri friend’s was hospitalised, but Mark supported her. “I think that was a defining moment for us. He waited for me outside the hospital.”

In July that year, Kärri returned to the UK for her training. “I asked whether I should stay with him and he admitted he had a date,” she laughs. Despite this, they met up a few days later, visiting a small town on the south coast together. “We’d been very casual, but for the first time we talked about where it was going,” explains Kärri. “I can’t remember the exact conversation now,” says Mark. “I think it was Kärri who suggested getting married. I just thought: yes! Let’s do it. I knew I had no interest in seeing anyone else. There wasn’t a flicker of doubt.”

When Kärri left for her sea trip, being apart was challenging. “One day I was on the tube and I read that a sailor had been killed in a clipper accident,” says Mark. He had to wait until the next stop to refresh the page on his phone. “I was in tears trying to get the wifi working to make sure it wasn’t Kärri.” The couple communicated daily via the satellite device on the boat. “It was meant to be for short messages, but we sent long emails,” admits Kärri. “We had the chance to change our minds, but we never did. Mark collected all the emails when I got home and put them in a book.”

They married in London when she returned in 2016 and Kärri got pregnant nine months later. “I was doing a job I loved, but we had to rethink our plans,” she says. After a visit to Estonia, they decided it would be the best place to raise their child.

In January 2018, they welcomed their little girl into the family. Now firmly established in Estonia, Mark works as a product manager for a media company, while Kärri works in marketing for a bank. At the moment, the country is in lockdown and the pair are juggling work with childcare. “I think at the start we thought we’d have to drink every day,” laughs Kärri. “Now we’re wondering when it will end.”

Despite the challenges, Mark says they are incredibly lucky. “I love that she always makes me think about what I am doing and why. I usually end up realising she’s right, too. She helps me to relax and encourages me to do the things I love.”

For Kärri, it is Mark’s accepting nature that makes the relationship work so well. “I never have to apologise for being myself, which makes me feel so safe,” she explains. “I’m able to give more back to the people I love as a result. He makes me the best person I can be.”