Wabi Sabi owners tie the knot in biggest, gayest wedding in Petersburg history
DJ Payne and Lance Harrison never thought they’d be able to tie the knot, even after 16 years of being together. But late last month, they not only got hitched, they did it in the grandest way imaginable with hundreds of friends neighbors.
The two first met through a mutual friend when they were both living in Arizona. The friend had a shrine of candy devoted to Harrison, who he jokingly compared to a higher being.
This wacky piece of decor is what first attracted Payne to Harrison.
“Who is this shrine for?” Payne would ask, looking at the candy and pictures of his future husband. “He’s such amazing person,” he was told. But the two were separated by a bit of a distance, Payne lived in Phenix and Harrison in Flagstaff. But the two did eventually meet and fell in love.
As to how they both ended up in Peteresburg, about 20 miles south of RVA, well their respective family members lived over on the East coast and they figured it would be best to be closer to kin.
“Lets just move,” Payne said before selling their house and moving to Petersburg about 10 years ago. A few years later, Payne bought Wabi Sabi, and turned it into a gay-owned and operated restaurant and hotspot in the constantly evolving town of Petersburg.
The two always made jokes about getting married, but on a vacation in Ft. Lauderdale last year, they discussed the possibility of actually getting married.
“If marriage became legal in Virginia, would you marry me?” Payne asked. Harrison responded “every day.”
Cue the waterfall joy-tears.
Sure enough, same-sex marriage became legal in Virginia and the two of them began planning the biggest, gayest wedding in Petersburg history.
Payne (left) and Harrison at the ceremony
They left a lot of the planning up to some of their employees after setting the ground work – all Payne wanted was a big brass band to play a processional. Sure enough, the venue space didn’t have parking, so they had the guests meet up on the other side of town and they marched, hundreds of them, with brass band in tow, through downtown Petersburg.
Payne pulled some strings to get everything ‘okayed,’ and sure enough the event went off without a hitch. The police blocked the street as the massive mob of party revelers made the rainbow-clad, drag queen-filled, journey through town.
“They were gonna roll out the red carpet, well, purple in our case, and they were amazing to work with,” said Payne about how the city helped them get everything cleared.
Payne said Petersburg was really coming around a corner, and when he thanked everyone for coming to their ceremony, he asked them to look to the left and right.
“Everybody’s so walled up around here… you don’t know a lot of these people around here, but our common denominator here is we’re not that different from each other.”
City Council members and employees, queens and kings, locals and visitors – all were in attendance.
“We are Petersburg, as a force. If we can just take this, we can come together for something – You’re here for a gay wedding in Petersburg for God sakes!” he joked.
“There’s things we don’t think we can get over, remember this day and think of who we are as a group and as a power.”
Payne said he found Petersburg by accident eight years ago and he’s been in love with the community there ever since. “[This town] is being built up,” he said. “One gay wedding at a time?” I asked.
“Well, there’ll never be another gay wedding like that here, honey.”
Check out a video of the wedding below:
Jim and Dan met when they were both working on a production of “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and it seemed only appropriate for the two to bring a bit of theatre into their vows.March 12, 2015
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