Finding Common Ground in Their Childhoods on Farms

Before they even met, Adam Gene Rouse had begun to master Sara Nicole Bunting’s love language.

The pair matched on a dating app in September 2020, and on a phone call before their first date, Dr. Rouse, who holds a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Washington University in St. Louis, mentioned that he had a prizewinning hog at the Iowa State Fair in 1999.

“I was like oh, he’s trying to impress me,” said Ms. Bunting, 40, who along with Dr. Rouse had grown up on a farm.

Two weeks after matching, they had a first date at District Pour House + Kitchen in Kansas City, Mo., where they bonded over their similar upbringings as well as their participation in the youth development program 4-H. “The conversation just kept going,” Dr. Rouse, 41, said.

More dates followed, including when Dr. Rouse invited Ms. Bunting to his place a few weeks later for homemade pumpkin pie.

“I was like ‘Hm, I might keep him around,’” she said.

He proved to be worth keeping that October, when Ms. Bunting was organizing a date that incorporated an online class on how to make a charcuterie board. While preparing for the evening, she was touched when Dr. Rouse offered to help pick up all the supplies needed.

That same week, the two went on a romantic walk across Old Red Bridge in Kansas City, where couples often attach a lock with their names on it to the bridge as a sign of their commitment to each other. Though they did not attach a lock of their own, it was around then when Ms. Bunting began to realize she was falling in love with Dr. Rouse.

“We just got closer from there, and it was just obvious to me that I never want to be without him,” she said.

The following month, in December, the couple spent a few days around Christmas visiting Ms. Bunting’s parents in Dwight, Ill., and Dr. Rouse’s parents in Huxley, Iowa. For both of them, the visits solidified the connection they had felt since their first date.

“Their farm felt so much like my parents’ farm,” Ms. Bunting said about visiting Dr. Rouse’s family. “It just felt like home right away, it was so warm and familiar.”

Ms. Bunting, who graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and earned a master’s degree in teaching from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., works remotely as a dealer-training-instructional-design lead at Kubota Tractor Corporation, in Grapevine, Texas. Dr. Rouse, who also received bachelor’s and medical degrees from Washington University in St. Louis, is the director of basic research in the department of neurosurgery at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

In May 2021, Ms. Bunting moved into Dr. Rouse’s house in Mission, Kan. The couple by then had begun to talk about marriage, and had even looked at engagement rings together. But in an effort to keep his proposal plans a secret, Dr. Rouse told Ms. Bunting that there was a diamond shortage, so she shouldn’t expect a ring any time soon.

“It definitely threw me off the trail,” Ms. Bunting said.

That summer, while they were out to dinner on the night before Fourth of July, Ms. Bunting started to become suspicious when Dr. Rouse ordered a nice bottle of wine and seemed to be a little nervous.

“I was like huh, is this it?” Ms. Bunting recalled thinking before reminding herself of what Dr. Rouse had falsely told her. “I was like no, there’s a diamond shortage!”

After dinner they took a walk across the Old Red Bridge in Kansas City, the site of one of their early dates. In the middle of the bridge, surrounded by the locks left by other couples, Dr. Rouse got down on one knee and asked Ms. Bunting to marry him. As the couple drove home, they watched nearby towns set off fireworks in anticipation of the holiday.

Before 220 guests, they were married Aug. 6 at the Colonial Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Mo. Kristofer Phan Coffman, the groom’s brother-in-law who holds a master’s in divinity degree from Luther Seminary, an Evangelical Lutheran seminary in Saint Paul, Minn., officiated.

“I love Adam’s compassion — it just radiates from him,” said Ms. Bunting, who plans to take her husband's name. “He’s just a kind soul.”

Dr. Rouse said, “She’s beautiful, and I really like her intuition and her ability to read people.”

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