The Progressive Penn Museum Wedding of Philly Mag Editor at Large Ernest Owens

The couple worked with vendors led by women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQIA community.

Penn Museum wedding

Ernest Owens (left) and Barry Johnson’s Penn Museum wedding was an homage to their progressive love story. Photography by Ronald Gray Photography and Derrick Dean Photography

Weddings are a celebration of your journey — the love story, the big moments, the quiet times together, even the challenges that come along. And the Penn Museum wedding of Philly Mag editor at large Ernest Owens and Barry Johnson is all that and more. The duo chose the venue thanks to its place in their relationship — and the resulting festivities brought together the family and friends they hold dear, and was pulled off with vendors led by women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQIA community. Ronald Gray and Derrick Dean photographed this particularly special occasion below.

Penn Museum wedding

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For Ernest Owens, Philadelphia magazine’s editor at large, and Barry Johnson, a communications specialist and business owner, the University of Pennsylvania isn’t simply an alma mater. The Ivy League institution is where the pair met, fell in love, and said “I do.” Their meet-cute happened in fall 2013. Ernest, then a senior at Penn, recalls his first impression of Barry, a freshman: “Damn, he’s fine and consistent,” says the media mogul. Barry’s take? “Wow, he’s bold.”

The pair went on their first date in January 2014 and became an official couple a month later — on Valentine’s Day eve. Barry’s proposal took place over another holiday — Christmas Eve 2019, in Ernest’s hometown of Houston, with Ernest’s parents on hand to witness the happy occasion.

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The couple set the date for October 16, 2021, at the Penn Museum — a fitting choice, given their history together. And it proved to be more than just a venue: It was an experience for all in attendance, flowing from a Pepper Hall ceremony (the couple kept the decor minimal, choosing to put the focus on the striking design and architecture) to a Sphinx Gallery cocktail hour to a reception in the Chinese Rotunda followed by an after-party in the Egypt Upper Gallery.

Ernest and Barry agree the biggest surprise of the day was the grand reveal of their bespoke champagne-colored jacquard tuxedos (custom-made by Leroy West of Xavi Row Bespoke) to their guests.

reception bar guestscouple newtoastscakeIt was important to the couple to work entirely with vendors led by women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQIA community for their elegant blue-and-gold soiree, aptly themed “A Barry Ernest Wedding.”


Jumping the broom, a symbolic Black marriage ritual that pays tribute to the ancestors of African Americans who couldn’t legally wed, was the most sentimental moment of Ernest and Barry’s special day. Says Ernest: “For us to be a Black queer couple and partake in this tradition meant the world to our friends and family.”

Photographer: Ronald Gray Photography and Derrick Dean Photography | Venue: Penn Museum | Event Design & Coordination: Two Little Birds Planning | Florals: Nature’s Gallery Florist | Catering: CxRA | Grooms’ Attire: Custom-made by Leroy West of Xavi Row Bespoke | Barber: First Decisions | Makeup: Tinisee’s Makeup Bar | Groomspeople’s Attire: Vera Wang and Calvin Klein | Entertainment & Lighting: DJ Joe Broscoe of Philly Star Events | Cake: Cake Life Bake Shop | Invitations: Zola | Transportation: Sterling Limousine & Transportation Services | Officiant: Michelle Fitzhugh-Craig of Universal Life Church | Rings: Custom-made by Golden Nugget Jewelers | Photo Booth: Celebrity Booth Inc. | Day-of Goods & Logo Branding: Lovehaus Events

Originally published as “Ernest & Barry” in the summer/fall 2022 issue of Philadelphia Wedding.

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