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Marriages have storybook beginnings at Comicon

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On Thursday, Gail Andreasen, 36, and Adam Thomas, 50, celebrated their nuptials "Doctor Who style.

While marriage proposals at Phoenix Comicon are frequent, this year marks the first time weddings have been officially sanctioned, yet another sign that the so-called geek culture is growing more mainstream. Denver Comic Con held its first wedding last May, and will have a group wedding on June 19. Motor City Comic Con in Detroit just featured a "Star Wars" themed wedding in mid-May, and Kansas City Comic Con will host a cosplay wedding in August.

Phoenix Comicon was home to an unofficial "Predator Wedding" in 2014. And that, it seems, was just the beginning.

Longtime wedding coordinator and officiant Crystal Lloyd is leading the charge. She first got involved when she was asked to be on a panel about weddings in 2014. Last year, Lloyd hosted a panel for weddings on a budget, and held a geek bridal fashion show with 400 attendees. This year, there will be a Geek Bridal Showcase on Saturday and a Geeky Wedding Boot Camp on Sunday.

"I'm a geek myself and have been going to Comicon since the early days," she said. "I do a lot of themed and geek weddings, so this is a natural progression for me."

The former manager of costuming at Phoenix Comicon brought the idea of weddings to Lloyd, who began plotting how to make that happen. She went to the Comicon organizers with a five-year plan for how to start small and eventually grow the ceremonies into larger spectacles, complete with receptions. But this year, the weddings will be simple - just a ceremony, since the ballroom needs to be cleared out immediately after for more Comicon programming.

Lloyd put a call out on the official Phoenix Comicon page in March for couples who would be interested in having their weddings at Comicon. She spent time talking to the entrants, seeing who could feasibly do it while dealing with the craziness of planning a wedding in two months.

The ceremonies will feature 225 seats, which are not reserved and are open to all Comicon ticket-holders. The couples get the space for free, and certain things donated by local vendors: a wedding planner, some make-up, supplies and specialty items, such as contact lenses for the zombie wedding.

Rhonda Rush, owner and lead consultant for Impact Events which hosts weddings, social and corporate events, said the idea for weddings at Phoenix Comicon really works.

"It's definitely creating a one-of-a-kind and unique setting for them," she said. "The couples can feel comfortable in their environment, and really fit in versus making it look contrived. And the fact that they're comfortable with the fact that it's public, and others can embrace their love — I think that's great."

Andreasen has known Thomas for 15 years, but the pair didn't start dating until three years ago at Phoenix Comicon. He was the moderator for a "Doctor Who" panel; her friend was on the panel, but he was nervous, so she tagged along to support him. Thomas and Andreasen started dating shortly after that.

The couple has been engaged for two and a half years, but didn't have plans for the big day yet. During a Christmas par ty last year, the pair was joking with friends that they should get married at Comicon. But then, it quickly became a reality.

Andreasen's friend, Kelley Lester, owner of A Sty'ch in Tyme and former costuming manager for Phoenix Comicon, designed her Victorian style dress with bridal elements such as lace and a veil. Her fiance wore the same Fourth Doctor costume he's had for 30 years, updating it with a new coat and scarf. Andreasen's kids served as the flower girl and ushers.

"It started as a joke for us and it's blowing up into what it is now, and I love it," she said. "It's one of those things where we have a lot of people who know us and know of us, who we might not have talked to much, and it will be a great chance to see them at the wedding."

Valori Vlist and Sarah Ozga have known each other since high school, when Ozga was Vlist's favorite barista at a coffee shop nearby. They lost contact for years and then by chance, became neighbors in the same apartment complex in Phoenix. Vlist had come out of a marriage, and Ozga a long-term relationship, and things progressed into a serious a relationship. Their engagement was a bit of a fluke.

"We talked about getting married at some point in the future and didn't really have a formal engagement," Vlist said. "The goal was to save up and get married in Japan. ... I posted a picture of me wearing a ring on Facebook, and everyone thought it was an engagement ring so they started wishing us congrats. It was not the original intention, but we had talked about it anyway so we decided to roll with it."

Then their friend Elyse (who would become the maid-of-honor) reached out to them about the call for weddings at Comicon. She actually sent the email, and talked about the couple's love for steampunk, ghost hunters and zombies, particularly the latter.

"Our world revolves around the 'Walking Dead,' and Sarah is obsessed with the game on her phone," Vlist said. "She told me she would marry me right now if the wedding can be zombie-themed."

They got their wish. The plot of the wedding involves Valori and Sarah heading to their wedding when their wedding party and guests are attacked by and changed into zombies. The couple hasn't been transformed yet, so they'll be in their wedding attire but covered in zombie "gut cloaks," which in the "Walking Dead" universe means zombies can't detect them as fresh meat.

The couple has hired a make-up artist to zombiefy the wedding party, including Vlist's two boys. The Department of Zombie Defense and Umbrella Corp: Arizona Hive, have been invited to corral the zombie guests behind a fence.

A digital backdrop will feature breaking news from family members who can't make the ceremony, and during the ceremony, it will look like the opening sequence of the "Walking Dead." A wall of missing persons will showcase family and friends who couldn't make it.

"I like the idea of letting everyone come in and celebrate with you and celebrate your geekdom," Vlist said. "Everyone goes crazy at weddings, and people get bored and sad at them too. This one is a lot more fun, and we get to celebrate what we're all obsessed with."

Phoenix Comicon: Phoenix Convention Center, 100 N. Third St.

Admission: $70-$75 for full event membership, $249 for fast pass membership, $20-$25 for Friday only, $40-$45 for Saturday only, $25-$30 for Sunday only. $5 for ages 3 to 12. Free for children 2 and younger.


Caption: Gail Andreasen and Adam Thomas exchanged their wedding vows "Dr. Who style Thursday at a wedding ceremony at Phoenix Comicon.

Caption: Valori Vlist, 35, and Sarah Ozga, 37, will say "I do in the middle of a zombie apocalypse Sunday at Phoenix Comicon.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Hwang, Kellie (2016-06-03). Marriages have storybook beginnings at Comicon. The Arizona Republic p. 1A.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Hwang, Kellie. "Marriages have storybook beginnings at Comicon." The Arizona Republic [add city] 2016-06-03, 1A. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Hwang, Kellie. "Marriages have storybook beginnings at Comicon." The Arizona Republic, edition, sec., 2016-06-03
  • Turabian: Hwang, Kellie. "Marriages have storybook beginnings at Comicon." The Arizona Republic, 2016-06-03, section, 1A edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Marriages have storybook beginnings at Comicon | url= | work=The Arizona Republic | pages=1A | date=2016-06-03 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=7 October 2022 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Marriages have storybook beginnings at Comicon | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=7 October 2022}}</ref>