The Oxford Circle resident decided to go ahead and marry Odell Johnson, the 37-year-old computer technician she had dated for six years, instead of waiting for everything to be perfect.
“I was in the car with my boyfriend, and I said, ‘You know what? God forbid if something happened to you and I’m in the obituary listed as your special friend,’ ” she told him. “ ‘I’ve spent all of this time with you, dating you and never married you, and what if something happened to you? Or what if something happened to me and you never married me? I don’t want that.’ ”
Johnson readily agreed, and told her to select a date. Broaster, chief executive of the digital consulting firm Best Selling Year, chose March 19, the first day of spring, to symbolize their new beginning. The fact that the nation was in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic didn’t change things for the couple.
Instead, it added to the poignancy and solemnity of their nuptials. As the rest of Philadelphia raced around stocking up on toilet paper, food, and liquor in preparation to self-isolate, Broaster and Johnson faced each other in the midst of all of that chaos and vowed to love each other through everything.
There were just seven guests in attendance, three fewer than mandated for public gatherings by the White House. It would have been nine, but Broaster’s parents decided not to go, because her mother cares for an infirm elderly relative, and didn’t want to risk picking up COVID-19 and unwittingly transmitting it.
It took place at the Highway Temple of Love in North Philly. The bride wore a burnt orange jumpsuit. She hesitated when the minister asked the guests to join hands for a final prayer, remembering all the calls for people to maintain social distance. The moment passed quickly. A friend took cell phone pictures afterward.
“We got our licenses on March 9. Had we waited a week later, we wouldn’t have been able to get it, because City Hall shut down,” she told me. “Corona really did affect everything, but we were just so happy."
Since Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf had ordered restaurants to close to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the couple’s first meal was takeout — chicken cheesesteaks, buffalo wings, salad, and a mint chocolate milkshake from Philly Style at Broad and Diamond Streets.
“There were no tables, no chairs, you couldn’t even sit down. We literally had to get our food and go,” said Broaster, author of the 2013 book Fire All of Your Friends: A Woman’s Guide to Becoming Her Own Best Friend.
“I’m so glad that I didn’t have grand plans," she said. "If we did have honeymoon plans, it probably would have been canceled.”
In hindsight, they were right not to postpone things.
In this period when we’re been told to isolate within our homes and practice social distancing from our friends and neighbors, we become more acutely aware of what really matters, and that’s family, love, home, and good health.
I know I’ll never forget this time. I’ve had time to sit and reflect, and to do things around the house that I never would have bothered with had things continued on normally.
“The coronavirus is stripping away a lot of the fabric of our culture, and it’s making us rethink what’s really necessary and what’s not," Broaster reflected. “It’s making us strip all of that superficial stuff away and get to what’s really real.”
For her and Johnson, it’s love.