WASHINGTON •Imagine a wedding between Wonder Woman and Deadpool, attended by Mary Poppins, Superman, Dr Who, Kylo Ren and the Little Mermaid.
More than 100 costume-clad nerds, cosplayers, gamers and fantasists gathered on June 17 to celebrate the real-life union of Ms Megan Mattingly and Mr Adam Merica, dressed as Wonder Woman and Deadpool, at Awesome Con, an annual Washington comic-book and pop-culture convention that drew approximately 71,000 visitors that weekend.
The self-described geeky couple were introduced a short time ago (April 2014) in a galaxy not so far, far away (Alexandria, Virginia).
Ms Mattingly went to Restaurant Eve for an after-work cocktail and immediately noticed Mr Merica tending bar across the room. Intrigued, she decided to make the first move. "The first words out of her mouth were literally, 'Tell me everything you know about robots,'" he says, laughing.
Dumbfounded, he instead offered to make her a drink (it was called the "Never Ending Saga").
But, not one to be easily discouraged, she continued to engage "the cute bartender" in lively - and nerdy - conversation and they swopped stories and interests.
Ms Mattingly, 30, who works as an investment banker by day and a fantasy writer by night, disclosed her plans to try cosplay for the first time at Awesome Con and Mr Merica, 29, showed off his Deadpool tattoo. "We clicked, immediately," he says. "She was smart, funny and absolutely beautiful."
A friendship formed and she became a Restaurant Eve regular. "I was smitten with the way his eyes light up every time he (talked) about something he was passionate about," she says. "He's the most interesting person I've ever met."
Although he acknowledges that she "was always the first to like his Facebook updates", he was involved with someone else and did not realise she had romantic feelings until nearly two years later. During that time, she dated other people and grew more involved with the cosplay community, making appearances at comic conventions as comic-book figures Emma Frost and Harley Quinn, video-game character Lara Croft and a steampunk version of Jasmine from Aladdin.
It finally clicked in January last year, when she began clapping excitedly after he disclosed that he had ended his long-time relationship.
Within a few weeks, they were dating. By their second date, they were discussing marriage. "Adam told me I was crazy," she says, "because that's not what people say on a second date, but I asked him if he thought we wouldn't get married. He realised we probably would, but said we should probably date for a normal period of time."
She took this as a green light to try a variety of marriage proposals, five in total, until he accepted. The first four were more in jest, but at the three-month mark of their relationship, she surprised him with a formal proposal at the Pineapple & Pearls restaurant. Halfway through dinner, she plopped on the table a vinyl figurine, custom-made with his face as animated superhero One-Punch Man.
Not used to surprises, he cursed and walked out of the room. Luckily, she knew this was his way of expressing shock and excitement. "When he came back grinning - and thank God, since we were in such a fancy place - he said, 'We aren't normal, so why be normal with this? Yes, let's do it. Let's get married,'" she recalls.
They decided that a full cosplay wedding, right down to the dress, would suit them best. She had accumulated a following in the cosplay community (she has more than 45,000 followers on Instagram) and founded the local group DC CosGeeks. She also did not want a repeat of her first wedding, which was more conventional.
A Deadpool costume was a natural fit for the groom, who has been a fan of the character since childhood, and the bride chose Wonder Woman, whom she calls the "epitome of a modern woman".
Everything was set into motion for Awesome Con this year, but days before the wedding, her Wonder Woman armour was nowhere close to complete. Luckily, in true superhero fashion, help swooped in at the 11th hour, but not from a burly man in tights. Three female cosplay costumers came together to produce a gown from scratch - and fit for an Amazonian bride - in less than 48 hours.
Their herculean effort was rewarded with audible gasps, ahhs and applause as the bride glided down the aisle, accompanied by a live performance of The Diva Song from the sci-fi flick The Fifth Element, and joined her groom at the front of the private room.
She passed her bouquet of "flowers", fashioned out of old comic books, to her parents, appropriately dressed as Zeus and Hippolyta, and took the groom's hands.
Flanked by their wedding party, who were outfitted in DC Comics, Marvel and Disney attire, the couple recited personalised vows that referenced a wide assortment of popular fandoms, including the British series Dr Who and the cult favourite, Game Of Thrones.
"I promise to be your partner in life, in love, in adventure and in crime, in dungeons and while riding on dragons," she said through happy tears, placing a plastic Super Mario Invincible Star ring on his finger.
"I will always be your Ready Player Two."
Before their officiant, dressed as Darth Vader, introduced Mr and Mrs A. Merica, Adam grew emotional and removed his Deadpool mask. Choking back tears, he quoted Dr Seuss to his beloved: "We're all a little weird and life's a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love."
Later, they celebrated into the night at Society Fair in Alexandria. Costumed guests enjoyed a full taco bar, a deep-fried chimichanga tower (Deadpool's snack of choice) and beer brewed by the bride's father's church group.
Anything resembling traditional wedding fare, including cake, were prohibited. "We wouldn't have it any other way," she says.