Dragon Con — the annual pop culture and sci-fi convention held in downtown Atlanta on Labor Day Weekend — is a place where memories are made. For some, those memories include tying the knot.
The convention follows a strict schedule and is unable to host or conduct weddings, but that hasn’t stopped couples from getting married anyway.
In 2015, Ashley Paramore and Justin Robert Young put on a show in the Crystal Ballroom of the Hilton Atlanta, one of the five hotels where Dragon Con takes place. Their wedding ceremony at Dragon Con was actually the season finale of the couple’s JuryMore podcast about their journey to the altar. A video of the season finale was posed online months later.
The couple had been legally married in California days before, but they came down to Dragon Con that year to celebrate in the place where they met.
The bridal party was dressed in a style inspired by “Game of Thrones,” and the groom and groomsmen, “Battlestar Galactica.”
The flower girl was an alien, and the ring bearer was dressed like a medieval soldier.
“It was definitely a pop culture mashup,” Young said.
The couple exchanged vows, had their first dance and took a selfie with their audience. They sliced into a JuryMore-themed wedding cake while the audience members enjoyed mini cupcakes. A scripted gift-giving ceremony also took place.
The couple received a traditional toaster, or as they called it — a Cylon detector for detecting bad robots in “Battlestar Galactica,” and Paramore was given a vegan cake shaped like a horse’s heart alluding to “Game of Thrones.”
The last gift giver — a friend from England — walked onto the stage with toy sword.
“He was the bad guy,” Paramore said.
And he was a also Cylon who had escaped detection. He attacked the newly married couple with his sword, then other planted audience members ran up on the stage and “murdered” the entire wedding party — like in the notorious “Red Wedding” scene from “Game of Thrones.”
“That was the end of our wedding,” Paramore said.
Afterward, the very much alive and happy couple enjoyed a private dinner at a restaurant.
“We didn’t plan a reception like the same night, so, like, the best part was like knowing that it was completed and that we actually had made reservations for a one-on-one dinner after that,” Paramore said.
They were also thankful that they didn’t have to plan anymore weddings.
“Being married to your soulmate is a distant second to not having to plan a wedding anymore,” Young said.
Other couples have invited friends and officiants to Dragon Con and have tried to conduct weddings on the spot despite the convention’s policy of not being able to host weddings.
In 2017, Dragon Con attendees Emily and Chase Swiatek had planned their wedding to take place at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, a convention hotel, but they actually ended up at the Hilton Atlanta.
Their wedding party consisted of their daughter, an officiant dressed as burnt-faced Deadpool and a handful of friends. There were no bridesmaids or groomsmen. Chase dressed up as Link from “Zelda,” and Emily was Link’s shoulder fairy, the Navi.
For the Swiateks, a Dragon Con wedding seemed better than having to deal with the stress of planning a tradition wedding. At first, the couple tried planning many traditional weddings.
“We’d always come up with the plans, and they’d always be really expensive,” Chase said. “And it didn’t feel like us.”
The couple wanted it to be their day and didn’t want to worry about pleasing everyone else.
“It’s a combination of getting married in a way that you like — that you enjoy (and) in a theme that you like,” Emily said, “and it also is turned into a mini honeymoon.”
Dragon Con attendees Kevin and Laura Close are celebrating their one-year anniversary at Dragon Con this year. In 2017, the couple had a small gathering with friends on the steps outside the SunTrust Plaza located on the outskirts of Dragon Con’s festivities.
Kevin and Laura had already been married in New York, but they wanted to do something special at Dragon Con.
“We have friends that we go to see in Georgia every year,” Laura said. “We wanted to really celebrate with them, because they weren’t gonna be able to come to New York.”
They tried reaching out to the Georgia Aquarium and asked if they could reserve floor space but the aquarium couldn’t guarantee it.
So, to save money and avoid uncertainty, Kevin and Laura took the wedding outside. Kevin was dressed in a bright blue suit like the Wyndham Hotels Wyzard, and Laura was Sophie from “Howl’s Moving Castle.” Kevin had also worn his suit for the ceremony in New York.
“We were trying to decide on budget and what our colors should be and everything else,” Laura said. “I told him that he should get that suit for our wedding so that it doubled as a cosplay.”
Kevin posted a photo of his costume online and was later contacted by Wyndham Hotels, who offered the couple a mini vacation at a hotel in Clearwater, Florida. Unfortunately, their trip was cut short when bad weather came.
Overall, Kevin said “it was like three different experiences in one.” The Dragon Con gathering allowed him to let loose and celebrate with friends in a way that he couldn’t when he was around his family.
“We had a good time at Dragon Con,” he said, “and we got to, you know, relax pretty well, you know, at the very end of it all too.”
“We usually say that Dragon Con celebrates the things we love, but sometimes it’s about the people we love,” Dragon Con Media Relations Director Dan Carroll said in an email. “Though Dragon Con doesn’t host or conduct marriages at the convention – we pack five hotels and two AmericasMart buildings – there are people who will conduct ceremonies and lots of places around town to hold them.
“When people do ask about getting married at the convention, we simply wish the happy couple well and suggest they find a place that can accommodate their needs.”