Andrew MacRae fell for Kaitlin Green at the annual desert arts festival, but Ms. Green kept her distance until members of their camp met virtually when Covid-19 hit.
Andrew Joseph MacRae picked up a last-minute ticket to the Burning Man arts gathering in Black Rock City, Nev., in August 2019, and headed there without teaming up with a camp ahead of time, like most other attendees.
“I thought you could camp wherever,” he said, but the morning after he pitched his tent on the playa in a designated area for groups, someone read him the riot act. In a panic, he then approached a ranger, who suggested that he go “make some friends.”
After a couple of tries — one camp had no room, another was in party mode — the captain of Pickleback Mountain, with about 50 campers called Picklers, offered him a far-off corner on a trial basis (he passed muster in a couple of days) and on the condition that he help break down and clean up the site at the end of the nine-day festival.
“Who’s that tall guy with the beard?” Kaitlin Elinor Green, 38, recalled wondering as she watched Mr. MacRae, 41, wandering around the 20-by-40-foot shaded and carpeted common area of their makeshift campsite.
Ms. Green, who was at the festival with her father, greeted Mr. MacRae after he finished setting up. The next evening, they rode bicycles around the playa into the wee hours with a group of 15 others (her father stayed at camp).
“Thousands of pieces of art were lit up,” Mr. MacRae said. “It was sensory overload with all kinds of music all over the place.”
By sunrise, Mr. MacRae was already smitten with her, and when the group had dwindled, he made a move.
“I really want to kiss you,” he said, to which she replied: “Absolutely not.”
“I’m here with my dad,” she said. “I’m not here to meet someone.” She turned him down when he asked her out twice that week.
He took it in stride and often hung out with her father.
It did not help that they lived 10 hours apart — she had just moved to San Francisco, he to Portland, Ore., for new jobs.
Ms. Green worked as an account manager at Contentful, a software content management platform. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware and a master’s from the University of South Florida, both in environmental engineering, and an M.B.A. from N.Y.U.
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Mr. MacRae, who graduated from Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., with a bachelor’s in political science, was a product manager at Lithia, an automotive retailer, in Portland. Until last year, he was a product manager at UserTesting, a software research platform.
They parted ways without even exchanging numbers.
Three months after Burning Man, the pair went to a small reunion with camp members aboard a couple’s houseboat in Sausalito, Calif., and chatted for hours. The next day, they met in a group at a sports bar. Yet again, they left without exchanging numbers.
In March 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Ms. Green began weekly virtual get-togethers in the evenings with Picklers. One night, around 1 a.m., when she and Mr. MacRae were the only ones left, they finally traded numbers.
He asked her on a virtual dinner date for the next Friday — together, they prepared and ate jambalaya. A week later, for their second date, they prepared and ate steak with béarnaise sauce.
“I really wish that I could be there,” he told her the next day, to which she replied, “Why don’t you come down here?”
They exchanged their first kiss at hello, and Mr. MacRae, who had packed for a long weekend, ended up staying for six weeks. They biked around San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County, and visited Santa Cruz.
She accompanied him back to Portland along the scenic Highway 1, and during the next few weeks they spent a week in Rockport, Mass., near her family’s beach house.
At the end of September, when Mr. MacRae’s lease was up, he moved into Ms. Green’s 650-square-foot condo in San Francisco.
The week of July 4, 2021, they went camping with his friends outside Bend, Ore., and as they floated down the Deschutes River in inner tubes, they decided to look for a house in the area.
“It is a beautiful outdoorsy paradise,” she said. On Dec. 29, they moved into a contemporary house in Bend, and six months later, they adopted Lila, a miniature Australian shepherd puppy.
During a picnic along Todd Lake on July 20, 2022, Mr. MacRae suggested the couple pose for a photo with Broken Top, a mountainous region, in the background. As he bent over to set the timer, he swiftly got down on one knee.
They headed back to Pickleback Mountain at Burning Man together that summer.
On May 7, Mary Ellen Deckelmann, a Universal Life minister, officiated the couple’s wedding before 115 guests by the lake at Black Butte Ranch in Oregon.
At the reception, the bride’s mother toasted the couple in the Polish tradition with Jezynowka blackberry brandy and the celebratory song “Stolat!”
Installed for the celebration was “Fleur de Lux,” a 17-foot-high kinetic LED flower sculpture, which was at Burning Man last year and created by Kinsculpt, a nonprofit collective.
The newlyweds are now gearing up to join Pickleback Mountain at Burning Man once again this summer.
“We’re helping out the structure team to contribute to the place that’s given us so much,” Mr. MacRae said.