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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Getting Married in the Metaverse is possible

Traci and Dave Gagnon met and fell in love in the cloud, so it seemed only natural that their wedding would take place there as well. In a ceremony performed over Labor Day weekend by Virbela, a business that creates virtual worlds for work, study, and events, the pair — or, more accurately, their digital avatars — exchanged vows in real time.

Her virtual counterpart, Ms. Gagnon, was escorted down the aisle by the virtual counterpart of her close friend. Mr. Gagnon’s avatar stood by and watched as his friend’s avatar walked up to the platform and gave a speech. At the reception, 7-year-old twin avatars (the ring bearer and flower girl) performed a dance routine.

Technology is already being included into ceremonies in greater numbers than ever before as a result of the Covid-19 epidemic, which began in 2015. Several Zoom weddings have taken occurred, and some in-person ceremonies now include an element of a livestream for guests who are unable to attend in person. During the pandemic last year, a couple whose wedding had been postponed due to the outbreak held a (illegal) ceremony inside Animal Crossing, a widely popular video game.

It is crucial to note, however, that any marriages that take place entirely in the metaverse are not yet legal in the same way that a ceremony inside a video game is. (Even virtual marriages via videoconference, which were permitted in several states at the height of the pandemic shutdowns, have subsequently been forbidden in New York State and other jurisdictions.) The metaverse, however, will take virtual weddings to a whole new level of sophistication, according to experts, and will provide couples with almost limitless options.

According to Sandy Hammer, co-founder of Allseated, a company that develops digital planning tools for weddings, “there are no restrictions.” It is investing in the metaverse by developing virtual replicas of real-world event settings, such as the Plaza Hotel in New York, for use in virtual reality games. When it comes to doing something distinctive, “you may as well let your imagination run wild in the metaverse,” says the author.

Consider the possibility of guest lists that number in the hundreds. Gift registries that include non-fungible tokens, often known as non-fungible gifts. Perhaps even marriages aboard the International Space Station.

The Gagnons had a wedding that was a hybrid of sorts. Their physical wedding took place on September 4 at Atkinson Resort & Country Club in New Hampshire, where they reside, in a ceremony officiated by David Oleary, a friend and colleague who has been ordained by the Universal Life Church. They also held a virtual wedding in Virbela at the same time, which was broadcast worldwide.

They broadcasted their wedding ceremony live on the internet for those who were unable to attend in person. A computer was needed for each guest to join the virtual ceremony; they had to first download the necessary software and then create an avatar.

Ms. Gagnon, 52, and her husband, Mr. Gagnon, 60, are both real estate brokers with eXp Realty. The brokerage has embraced virtual labour and the metaverse, and it is a subsidiary of eXp World Holdings, which also owns Virbela and other virtual worlds.

To create the virtual ceremony, the Gagnons supplied photographs of themselves and their wedding décor to Virbela’s events team and software developers, who included unique elements such as bird of paradise flowers and photos of their actual wedding setting into the virtual ceremony.

Mr. Perry, on the other hand, believes that as the metaverse develops, “there will be more plug-and-play materials available.” A variety of predesigned items, including locations, flowers, tablescapes, outfits, musical entertainment and other features, will be available for wedding couples to choose from.

Virbela was created to provide as an immersive platform for groups to hold events and foster a feeling of community in the virtual world of Second Life (the metaverse). Users, on the other hand, have requested that the firm organise graduations, bar mitzvahs, weddings, and other types of events. According to Mr. Perry, Virbela has just begun to investigate the wedding industry and is now in the planning phases with a number of couples.

As far as Ms. Hammer knows, Allseated has not yet worked with a couple who are interested in having a wedding that takes place entirely in the virtual world. Aside from the legalities of such a ceremony, she said that a hybrid event like the Gagnons’ is “far more in-demand and practical” since couples desire both in-person and virtual experiences.

The metaverse aspect was important to Ms. Gagnon because it provided a link between her and her guests. She hired two videographers, one who captured footage of the in-person event and another who simulcast the ceremony to the cloud.

Her maid of honour, who was unable to attend the wedding due to illness, was nevertheless able to escort her down the aisle, although remotely. The toast might be delivered by Mr. Gagnon’s buddy, who had been unable to attend since his wife was unable to due to pre-existing health concerns. According to Ms. Gagnon, the experience of travelling around a virtual environment as an avatar — a type of idealised version of oneself — produces a more deep and emotionally rewarding experience than the one provided by Zoom.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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