Holding on Through Tragedy After Tragedy

When Rachel Seals matched with Elliott Averett on Bumble in October 2016, his profile referred to the rugged “Parks and Recreation” character Ron Swanson as a role model. “I told him it wasn’t very Ron Swanson-esque to be on a dating app,” Ms. Seals recalled.

But he was very much an outdoorsman. Mr. Averett, 29, grew up on a cattle ranch in Baker City, Ore., and spent his days hiking, camping and skiing. “He loves a good rodeo,” said Ms. Seals, 28, a native of Chino Hills, Calif., who said she “went to private school, played volleyball and worried about homecoming.”

Their first date happened a week after they matched on Bumble, at Oddfellows Café and Bar in Seattle, where both were living at the time. Ms. Seals, who earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Seattle University, was working as a nurse at Highline Medical Center, now St. Anne Hospital, in Burien, Wash. Mr. Averett, a graduate of Macalester College, was an officer with the Seattle Police Department.

That date was the first of three they had in three consecutive days. “We were feeling each other pretty quickly,” Ms. Seals said, and the two made time for one another despite their conflicting schedules. “I was working nights; Elliott was working days,” she said.

Said Mr. Averett, “I told Rachel I loved her a month into dating.” Less than a year into the relationship, a tragedy struck that led them to become even closer.

On Sept. 4, 2017, Mr. Averett’s mother, a former detective with the Seattle Police Department, suffered an accident on the family’s cattle ranch in Baker City, Ore. She was kicked by a cow, and the injury was fatal. “It was a freak kind of thing,” Mr. Averett said.

Afterward, Ms. Seals recalled him telling her over the phone, “My mom is dead.”

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“I honestly thought it was remarkable that Rachel didn’t bail on me,” Mr. Averett said. “I was a total wreck.” That same year, Mr. Averett and Ms. Seals each lost a grandmother; Ms. Seals’s family dog passed away, too. “It was like someone was dunking our heads under water and we just couldn’t get back up for air,” Ms. Seals said.

A bright spot came a couple of years later, on May 21, 2019, when Mr. Averett proposed on the back patio of the cafe where they had their first date. A few months later, the couple moved to Silver Spring, Md. Ms. Seals is now a labor and delivery nurse at George Washington University Hospital. Mr. Averett is finishing his third year at Georgetown University Law Center.

“I wanted to be a police officer because my mom had done it,” he said, but, “I’ve always wanted to go to law school.”

Their wedding on Jan. 8 took place at Padua Hills Theatre in Claremont, Calif. At the ceremony, which was held in an outdoor gazebo, Douglas Raguso-Hove, Mr. Averett’s former sergeant who was ordained by the Universal Life Church, officiated before about 125 vaccinated guests.

The indoor reception that followed included a fog machine, a smoke machine and glow sticks and headbands handed out by the D.J. — accessories the couple happened to be wearing for their impromptu cutting of the cake.

“When we set out planning, my one goal for our wedding was, ‘Let’s have a party,’” Ms. Seals said. “After dinner it was like, ‘Now it’s a party.’”

For Mr. Averett, the celebration had been a long time coming. He had been certain he wanted to marry Ms. Seals since late 2018, when Mr. Raguso-Hove had asked him if he thought he could live without her, and, he said, “I knew the answer was no.”