Aotearoaconf 2017 — AKA Christine and Casey got married.

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.

a conference/wedding in the Auckland rainforest

Conference Wedding

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.

conference attendees

Pecha Kucha

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:

  1. Working at the White House
  2. Antarctic Peace Treaty
  3. Ballet
  4. An Uncommon Couple in Archeology
  5. Chemistry of Love
  6. Rethinking Musical Instrument Design
  7. Metals in Biology
  8. Eradicating Malaria
  9. Nutrition, Fitness and Misinformation
  10. Cybercrime Marketplaces
  11. Bengal Cats
  12. Pole Dancing
  13. Kidney Stones
  14. Magic in Science
  15. What Makes Art, Art?
  16. 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 .

magic in technology
the chemistry of love
doing ballet

Unconference

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.

haka dance
magic session, with performance and group learning how to disappear a small object

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.

Waitakere estate and rainforest, helipad

The nods to tradition

We added a few elements to the conference format to make it double as a wedding.

throwing the 3D printed flower bouquet, designed by Casey Handmer

Rehearsal dinner

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.

rehearsal dinner, family table
lounge hot chocolate and music
silly photo booth with Christine and friends

Ceremony

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.

  1. We showed a few photos in a short presentation to tell the story of our relationship.
  2. 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.
  3. We read our vows, assisted by the maid of honor (my sister) and the best man (Casey’s brother).
  4. We exchanged rings.
  5. We sung a song, the madrigal from 1607 “Since First I saw your Face.”
  6. We cut the wedding cake and shared it with the guests.
reading from The Amber Spyglass
after the ceremony
singing “Since First I saw your Face”

Conclusion

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:

parents and the bride and groom