As we continue to move our lives deeper into the online world, it’s only natural that people may be considering the benefits of getting hitched in the Metaverse. After all, traditional weddings have had to be largely scaled back over the past two years due to COVID-imposed restrictions anyway, with Zoom or micro-weddings becoming more common.
Not only that, but more couples are realising that the expense of a wedding — especially in a time where it is increasingly difficult for young people to enter the property market — is one they are just not willing to outlay.
Or, if you’re like me and just find the idea of a big, traditional wedding a bit eye-rolley and cringe, then perhaps something a little more unique, like a VR wedding, is an idea you might consider.
Before you go rushing off to buy your virtual Vera Wang gown, there are a couple of things to consider.
The first, and most important, thing to bear in mind is that, at the moment anyway, weddings conducted in the Metaverse are not legally binding, so you’ll still have to make the trip to the registrar’s physical office to do the deed in person.
The reason for this is quite simple: when you get married, you have to show up as your real-life self (you can surely imagine why) and not as digital avatars or anything that “distorts your appearance.”
In Australia, the law states that the ceremony has to be performed in person, with the couple in the presence of two witnesses, meaning at least five people (no matter how socially distanced) must be present — so any sort of virtual celebration would only be symbolic….for now.
As Tully Walter, a Futures Strategist with SOON Futures says though, “in so many ways the pandemic catapulted us directly into the future, things that once demanded a physical presence, be that work, dates, shopping, even things like house inspections and now weddings were seen as possible, even in some cases made more impactful or efficient in a digital space.”
She continues, “It feels like an evolutionary step behaviorally so no doubt laws and regulations will evolve and adapt in line with society’s shifts — in both behaviour and values.”
Another thing to consider, if you are looking for ways in which to minimise costs, a Metaverse wedding is not necessarily going to give you change for a tenner.
According to Traci and Dave Gagnon, who were profiled by the New York Times after their 2021 Metaverse wedding, the company they used to create their virtual wedding venue estimated the event to be $US30,000 ($AU42,121) but said that, with less customisation, they could create a space for $US10,000 ($AU14,040). The Gagnon’s (who also held a 100 person real-life wedding) were lucky enough to be gifted the experience, but if you are looking for cheap and cheerful, this type of online celebration might not be the way to go.
For the Gagnon’s, having a component of their wedding held virtually made perfect sense, seeing as that was how the couple originally met (their avatars met at a company event in Las Vegas in 2015). With so many people finding romance online these days, are meta weddings just the next natural progression of this trend?
“In our Future Forecast 2024, we have a chapter called Intimacy Introspection, where we explore how young people are reshaping the future of dating and relationships, challenging conventions and redefining the meaning of intimacy,” says Walter. “According to Pew Research, today, one in three relationships start online, underlining the massive importance digital platforms have for starting and sparking connection.
“Plus, this is a generation coming of age across digital platforms like Roblox, Fortnite and TikTok, so who is to say digital worlds won’t be the place where they fall in love, let alone celebrate milestones?” she continues. “Additionally, rapid advancements in technology, be that AR, VR and the rise cybernetics, will have digital spaces become more seamlessly integrated into our everyday lives and experiences.”
A quick survey of my colleagues on the topic, however, revealed one element I hadn’t considered, and that was the idea that a VR wedding would cheapen the significance of what the ceremony stands for.
“I’m an old school romantic,” said one colleague. “The whole wedding tradition and idea is a bit cringe to me, but I’d love to have a super chill party with lots of champagne and friends and family — I want something IRL to remember. I feel like technology cheapens it, and weddings are already tacky enough.”
Another of my co-workers echoed this sentiment saying, “I actually don’t know too much about the Metaverse, but it seems like a fad and I would never want to mix something as traditional as a wedding in with a fad.
“In saying that, maybe I’d consider doing it if I also had a traditional, IRL wedding. Still, though, I think it would cheapen a wedding.”
And another still, who is currently engaged, said “I just picture the creepy avatars, which is not my vision. I want a non-traditional wedding but that’s a bit far for me and I imagine family would have to log on too. Nightmare!”
The latter makes a great point and the very thought of my dear, technology-challenged mother trying to figure out how to attend my “in the cloud” wedding was enough to make me reconsider my enthusiasm for the concept.
Still, the possibilities when it comes to a VR celebration are intriguing, to say the least. Wherever your wildest imagination can take you could become a (sort of) reality if you have the funds to hire a company that can bring your vision to life.
As an event planner, Sandy Hammer told the NYT, “They’re [couples who choose virtual weddings] going to take their friends on a space rocket. A bride can transport her guests into the metaverse: ‘I want my morning session to be in Italy, my evening session to be in Paris.’”
And while the costs could be prohibitive for some as it stands at the moment, with engineers being required to build out these virtual worlds, the NYT chatted to a director at virtual events company Virbela, who suggested that before too long, couples will have more “plug and play assets” (i.e. predesigned venues, dresses and decor) to adopt for their big days which will bring the costs down.
Of course, conducting only the wedding reception in the Metaverse is always an option (again, if you can foot the bill), as one couple from India are planning to do.
Dinesh S P and Janaganandhini Ramaswamy will marry in an in-person ceremony, but their reception will all take place online. The Times of India reports that “after the wedding ceremony, the couple will switch on their laptops to enter a virtual venue for their Hogwarts-themed reception, which will be attended by friends and family members from across the world.”
“I have been into crypto and blockchain technology, and have been mining Ethereum, a form of cryptocurrency, for the last year,” the groom said. “Since blockchain is the basic technology of Metaverse, when my wedding was fixed, I thought of having a reception in Metaverse and my fiancée also liked the idea.”
I feel so proud and blessed that I have seen and taken advantage of many great opportunities in this world before millions of people have seen them, Beginning of something big! India’s first #metaverse marriage in Polygon blockchain collaborated with TardiVerse Metaverse startup. pic.twitter.com/jTivLSwjV4
— Dinesh Kshatriyan 💜 (@kshatriyan2811) January 11, 2022
So, while the concept of a Metaverse wedding is not legal at this time, there are no laws against dreaming up the most outlandish celebration you can think of and hosting it, no holds barred, with everyone you love in the comfort of their own homes.
As Walter says, “the pros of the Metaverse is that experiences really are only limited by our imaginations! In recent times we’ve seen concerts and fashion move into dreamlike territories – with regards to Ariana Grande’s Fortnite concert to platforms like DressX respectively.
“What that means for weddings is that a prospective couple could take their union and celebration into their wildest dreams.”