When they set out for San Diego from Denver in April 2016, Kate Googins and Tyler Tetreault were not a couple, just two people who had dated briefly six weeks earlier and continued to stay in touch afterward. A little more than halfway through their road trip, outside Sedona, Ariz., they recognized that at some point during their hours of driving they had fallen in love.
Despite their discovery, the remainder of the journey was tinged with melancholy. “I just remember feeling like, oh my god, I’m so in love with this person but our paths are just so different,” said Ms. Googins, a third-year law student at the University of Denver. At the time, she was living in San Diego and considering a move to the Bay Area and Mr. Tetreault was on the verge of beginning an orthopedic surgery residency at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Peering out from their bug splattered windshield at a largely desolate landscape, they realized that once they arrived at their destination and Mr. Tetreault returned home, the span of miles they had happily traversed could keep them apart.
Those fears, it turns out, were groundless. The momentum that Ms. Googins and Mr. Tetreault established on their trip only grew stronger. It carried them through a year of geographical separation, months of adjusting to living together in Denver, their engagement at Ice Lake in the San Juan Mountains, and Mr. Tetreault’s coming out as transgender, all the way to a small town on Maui’s northeastern coast, where they were married on Feb. 15.
“I felt like I was watching my life happen, in a really pleasant way,” Ms. Googins, 29, said of how her relationship with Mr. Tetreault developed. “Like the wheels were in motion and I was moving along with them.”
This itinerary was less of a surprise to Mr. Tetreault, 30, who described himself as “pretty lovesick” after he left San Diego to complete his medical school studies at Tufts University School of Medicine. He was the one who suggested to Ms. Googins that they travel together when he learned he’d be moving to Colorado for his residency. It was also he who raised the subject of making their relationship official after their road trip.
“I told her that I had been referring to her as my girlfriend to all of my friends because that’s what it felt like,” he said. “That’s how that conversation between us actually came about — she found out she was already in a relationship with me.”
The couple’s forward progress met only one obstacle it seriously struggled to surmount: the pandemic. Their decision to get married in Hawaii without any guests or family members in attendance came after they were forced to jettison three other sets of arrangements. A large seaside wedding in San Diego in August 2020 was the first idea they had to abandon; then a delayed version of their original plan; and finally, an intimate ceremony for only immediate family.
“By that point we were exhausted of wedding planning and the thought of our wedding was emotionally draining,” said Ms. Googins. But when Mr. Tetreault plaintively asked, “What are we going to do?” one day in January, she found that she had an answer: “Let’s get married in Hawaii and be done with this.”
With the help of Elope Maui, a company run by the photographer and events coordinator Ajja DeShayne, their plans were set within a few weeks. Kahu Kale Kaalekahi, who is a Universal Life minister, officiated on a stretch of lava rocks near the ocean.