It Was Time. The Coast Didn’t Matter.


Sean Vanaman was living in San Francisco and planning a work trip to New York when he decided to change his location on Tinder with the hope that he’d have a great date on the other coast.

“I was very distinctly not looking for my life partner,” he said. “I had this very romantic idea: We’ll walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and go to the Statue of Liberty, and then I’ll get on a plane and won’t have to have a second date.”

Rachel Lauter, who was New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s appointments director when she and Mr. Vanaman met, had similar expectations. She later became the mayor’s deputy chief of staff too.

“I wasn’t looking for anything particularly serious,” she said. “And it was low stakes, because he lived in San Francisco.”

But when the two met at a bar near City Hall, they hit it off immediately. It was a cold night, in January 2017, so they didn’t do any of the things Mr. Vanaman had envisioned. Instead, the two went from bar to bar to restaurant to bar. By the time they parted, after a first kiss, it was 4 o’clock in the morning.

“It was a night where we kept finding excuses to stay out,” Mr. Vanaman said. “Looking backward, that was sort of what made our relationship happen. We kept looking for excuses to be together.”

Mr. Vanaman, a video game developer, graduated from the University of Southern California. Ms. Lauter is a graduate of Brown, and received a law degree from Harvard.

“We had so much fun together,” said Ms. Lauter, 36. “We spent every day talking to each other afterward, getting to know each other, falling in love.”

On their second date, in February, they drove up the California coast together. On the third date, they saw “Hamilton” on Broadway. By their fourth date, in London, they were in a “real” relationship, Ms. Lauter said.

A year later, Mr. Vanaman, also 36 , sold the company that he co-owned, which is known for the game Firewatch, to the Valve Corporation in Bellevue, Wash. He is now a writer at the company. His previous marriage ended in divorce.

The sale precipitated his move to Seattle, and the couple’s decision to start a life together there. She is now the executive director of Working Washington, an organization in Seattle that works to help low-wage workers in a variety of industries.

“She made me like the person I was, and I didn’t feel like I needed to be someone else to be with her, but I wanted to be better to be with her,” said Mr. Vanaman.

“We are serious people who don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Ms. Lauter said. “We just enjoy each other’s company.”

Last year, the couple began planning an August wedding in three parts — a celebration in Seattle with about 100 people, a small civil ceremony in New York with her family that was to have been officiated by the federal judge for whom she had clerked, and then a second celebration in Ireland, where the groom’s family is from — but their plans were dashed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, they drove to Cody, Wyo., where the groom grew up, and were married Aug. 20. Joe Drake, a friend of the Mr. Vanaman and the chairman of Lionsgate’s motion picture group, officiated at his ranch there, having become a Universal Life minister for the event. The wedding took place alongside the south fork of the Shoshone River, with 10 people attending in all.

The couple said it wasn’t what they had wanted, particularly as Ms. Lauter’s family was unable to participate, but their time had come.

“I set a little egg timer in my brain six months ago for August,” Mr. Vanaman said. “And it was just going off.”



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