Ugene Bynum knew he might not be able to fix Stacy Prather’s broken laptop, but when she and her godmother knocked on his Philadelphia front door asking for help in the fall of 2016, he didn’t turn them away.
“I immediately said yes, I can fix it, even though I hadn’t even looked at it,” he said. Mr. Bynum is a software engineer for Clarivate Analytics in Philadelphia; Ms. Prather’s godmother, Delores Brown, was a neighbor. His confidence about the repair was less an ego thing than a feint to impress Ms. Prather, an independent marketing and travel professional. An attempt that day to get her machine up and running would end up failing. But his bid to make a lasting impression on the woman who captivated him at first glance didn’t.
“He seemed really cool and calm, and that wasn’t something I was used to,” Ms. Prather said. A few days later, she drove to her godmother’s house from her own Philadelphia neighborhood and knocked on his door again, this time alone. “I said, ‘I just wanted to ask if you want to hang out sometime.’” Within days, Ms. Prather, 41, and Mr. Bynum, 45, were on a first date at Sullivan’s Steakhouse in nearby King of Prussia. Ms. Prather describes herself as outgoing. Mr. Bynum says he is the opposite. “But on the date, she really brought me out of my shell,” he said. “The chemistry was there.”
Two months later, they were a couple. “I said to Ugene, ‘Look, I’m getting older. I’m not just looking to kick it, I’m looking for something more serious.’” As it turned out, Mr. Bynum was, too. “I had two elderly parents at the time who were sickly,” he said. He wanted a relationship with someone who would understand his obligations as a caregiver. “I told her if she was OK with me having to change plans a lot, let’s seriously give it a shot.”
Within a year, they had moved to a place of their own in Philadelphia and established a couple’s rhythm. “At first I wasn’t used to watching the closet space shrink, and I’d get territorial,” he said. “But over time she learned that I like to unwind by watching football, and I learned that she likes to unwind by watching the Hallmark Channel.” The network’s Christmas movies, which she watches year-round, are her favorites.
When Mr. Bynum decided to surprise Ms. Prather with an engagement ring in 2019, he knew to time the proposal around the holidays. On a late-November cruise to Cozumel, Mexico, and Honduras, during the captain’s ball, he got down on one knee as the ship’s photographer was snapping photos and asked her to marry him. Ms. Prather was stunned silent. “I said, ‘Babe, you’ve got to say something,’” he said. “My knee is going to give out.” The answer was yes.
Months later, their plans for a Dec. 12 wedding for 100 at a Philadelphia venue were dashed when the mayor announced new restrictions on indoor gatherings. A last-minute change of venues to King of Prussia, still a favorite date-night destination, fell through when the facility there announced it was closing to the public.
Ms. Prather was despondent. But Mr. Bynum wasn’t out of ideas. “When I saw how down in the dumps she was, I said, ‘I’ve got to try something,’” he said. “As a Hail Mary I Googled ‘King of Prussia Town Center’ and sent an email thinking, this will probably go in their spam.” Instead, within 15 minutes, he heard from Alexandrea Amerine, a town representative who offered to rally a handful of local wedding professionals behind a free outdoor wedding.
“She was just as happy as we were that we wanted to get married there,” Mr. Bynum said.
On Dec. 12, Ms. Prather walked down a white carpeted aisle to the town center’s 20-foot Christmas tree, where she met Mr. Bynum and the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Lyde, a minister with the International Ministerial Fellowship of Jameson Evangelistic Association, who married them before 20 guests and clusters of passers-by who stopped to offer congratulations.
“It was absolutely a dream come true,” Ms. Prather said. “I hope people who saw it and wanted to postpone their weddings will say, ‘Why wait?’” For Mr. Bynum, the wedding was a mission accomplished. “I didn’t want to go into 2021 without her being my wife,” he said.