Two years ago — to this day — my now-husband Casey Handmer and I started dating. This month we got married in a conference celebration! In this post, I’ll share the what a conference wedding is and what we learned from holding one.
Casey, myself, and our community, are lifelong learners. We wanted our marriage celebration to focus on knowledge sharing and personal growth. The day of our wedding was planned as an open-topic conference: the morning consisted of talks in the pecha kucha format, the afternoon in an un-conference.
Pecha kucha format is a five-minute presentation of twenty slides. We encouraged guests to pick their own topics. We had sixteen presentations presentations on politics, art, science, archeology, medicine and more:
- Working at the White House
- Antarctic Peace Treaty
- An Uncommon Couple in Archeology
- Chemistry of Love
- Rethinking Musical Instrument Design
- Metals in Biology
- Eradicating Malaria
- Nutrition, Fitness and Misinformation
- Cybercrime Marketplaces
- Bengal Cats
- Pole Dancing
- Kidney Stones
- Magic in Science
- What Makes Art, Art?
- Breaking the Two Hour Marathon
Organizing a Pecha Kucha Session for a Wedding
When we sent out our wedding “save the date” cards, we told guests about the format and asked guests to suggest topics they might want to hear about. A few months later, we gave the guests this list and encouraged them to pick something off the list or construct their own topic for a presentation .
An unconference is an un-structured conference session. We had unconference sessions on: magic, learning languages, meditation, haka dance, cryptocurrency, hiking in the area, paper plane competition, and free time to socialize.
Organizing an Unconference Session for a Wedding
The day of the conference, we made a 3x3 grid on the white board for three parallel sessions of three options each and invited guests to sign up to lead a session. Each session was thirty minutes and we announced the change of the sessions.
Location and Photographer
Since we were hosting a conference and a wedding, it was important for us to choose a location that had experience with both, we went with Auckland’s Waitakere Estate in the New Zealand rainforest. We chose a photographer who specialized in conferences and parties vs. one who specialized in weddings.
The nods to tradition
We added a few elements to the conference format to make it double as a wedding.
We had a formal dinner the night before the conference which had speeches by family and close friends in between the courses. After dessert we went to a lounge to have hot chocolate, listen to a bit of music, and take some photos in the photo booth.
In between the pecha kucha and in-conference sessions we broke for a buffet lunch. During lunch I changed into my wedding dress and after lunch we had a short ceremony.
- We showed a few photos in a short presentation to tell the story of our relationship.
- We had four readings, from The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, Selected Poems 1965–1975 by Margaret Atwood and Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton.
- We read our vows, assisted by the maid of honor (my sister) and the best man (Casey’s brother).
- We exchanged rings.
- We sung a song, the madrigal from 1607 “Since First I saw your Face.”
- We cut the wedding cake and shared it with the guests.
It was worth having a wedding to get our families and closest friends together. We are delighted to have had such a successful event!
Check out more photos here:
- Wedding Roaming — https://photos.app.goo.gl/rHDBXdAUh314df8P2
- Wedding Bridal — https://photos.app.goo.gl/8skFT30Zy6olVA5A3
- Wedding Conference — https://photos.app.goo.gl/xLQn3LwHnVRZWjoN2
- Wedding Venue — https://photos.app.goo.gl/yCVqG8oeAFa1W01r1
- Wedding Dinner — https://photos.app.goo.gl/zbRV6dG2ZLgusF7i2
- Wedding Twilight — https://photos.app.goo.gl/oNrlj5BblnZkig8k2