The Feelings Were There, Even When Words Were Not

Kobina Amani Johnson and Abrielle Kiana Moore had been talking for weeks by the time Mr. Johnson asked Ms. Moore for her phone number with the intention of inviting her on a date. But Mr. Johnson waited a week before sending his first text message to Ms. Moore at around 11 p.m. on a Saturday night in December 2017. At the advice of a friend who told him not to immediately suggest a get-together, he simply said, “hey.”

“I wanted to go on a date with her but was trying to figure out how to approach it given that a week had passed, and it might be a little awkward just reaching out of the blue,” Mr. Johnson, 24, said.

The timing and purpose of his text confused Ms. Moore, who had become friendly with Mr. Johnson after they met that October as participants in an annual pageant hosted by the Black Student Union at Brown.

After joining the pageant, now called the Black Excellence Showcase, the two discovered that they had things in common. Both were then sophomores at the university, where they had attended the same events for Black students and were each pursuing majors that included economics. They also identified as Christian and considered themselves introverts. And on the night he asked for her number, Mr. Johnson had walked Ms. Moore back to her dorm after she was crowned the pageant’s queen.

“I thought he was interested when he asked for my number,” Ms. Moore, 24, said. But after receiving his one-word text message, she wondered if Mr. Johnson was only interested in a physical relationship. She decided not to reply. Instead, she relayed her disappointment with his text to a mutual friend, who then followed up with Mr. Johnson.

Hours later, Mr. Johnson sent Ms. Moore what she called a “long apology text.”

Mr. Johnson said that, in hindsight, he realized he should have been more direct about his intentions from the start. So he also took the opportunity to ask Ms. Moore if she would join him for dinner at Baja’s Taqueria, a Mexican restaurant near campus. She agreed.

Thinking it was a date, Mr. Johnson arrived to the restaurant “relatively dressed up,” he said, in a button-down shirt and pants. But Ms. Moore, who came straight from a yoga class, “just thought we were catching up as friends,” she said. “I didn’t know it was a date.”

That was not the case when they met up again in late 2017, before the semester ended, to study together during finals. Both understood it was a date and, instead of discussing academics, they spent much of the evening chatting about their tastes in music (she recommended Kendrick Lamar, and he Kanye West, or Ye).

In January 2018, the two shared their first kiss after attending a basketball game together. The next month, they debuted as a couple at a dinner on campus for Black students.

Going into the second semester of their senior year, in 2020, the couple had already begun to talk, albeit lightheartedly, about marriage and children. Ms. Moore, a Brooklyn native, and Mr. Johnson, who grew up in Wake Forest, N.C., had plans to get jobs in New York City after college and save up for a wedding. Those plans were derailed by the pandemic, which forced both to leave campus that March and move back into their families’ homes.

After graduating, Ms. Moore remained in Brooklyn, where she started in her current role as a wealth management analyst at the financial services company Morgan Stanley. Mr. Johnson began his current job as a private wealth management analyst at the investment bank Goldman Sachs and, in August 2020, moved to Philadelphia. Once living closer, they began to regularly visit one another.

The couple became engaged in May 2021, at Longwood Gardens in Philadelphia, where Mr. Johnson had persuaded Ms. Moore to go for an impromptu photo shoot. As they posed for a self portrait, he got down on one knee and pulled out a ring.

Their Aug. 28 wedding at the Merrimon-Wynne House, an events space in Raleigh, N.C., followed an unofficial tradition in the bride’s family to marry in the month of August. The Rev. Paul Anderson, a pastor at the Fountain of Raleigh Fellowship church and Mr. Johnson’s childhood minister, officiated before 100 guests, all of whom were required to be vaccinated to attend.

Instead of reciting their vows in front of the crowd, the couple chose to recite them privately ahead of the ceremony, with only their photographer and videographer present.

“We’re both very introverted, very private people,” Mr. Johnson said. In their vows, “We made a lot of promises,” he added, namely, “to catch each other when we falter and to have each other’s backs at all times.”

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