Traci and Dave Gagnon met in the cloud, so it only made sense that their wedding took place in it. On Labor Day weekend, the couple — or rather, their digital avatars — held a ceremony staged by Virbela, a company that builds virtual environments for work, learning and events.
Ms. Gagnon’s avatar was walked down the aisle by the avatar of her close friend. Mr. Gagnon’s avatar watched as his buddy’s avatar ambled up to the stage and delivered a toast. And 7-year-old twin avatars (the ring bearer and flower girl) danced at the reception.
How the immersive virtual world known as the metaverse, which few of us understand, will change the traditional wedding is, at the moment, anyone’s guess. But the possibilities of having an event unfettered by the bounds of reality are interesting enough to consider.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, technology is already being incorporated into ceremonies more than ever. Zoom weddings have taken place, and some in-person ceremonies now feature a livestream component for guests who cannot be there. Last year, a couple whose wedding was canceled because of the pandemic staged a (nonlegal) ceremony within Animal Crossing, a popular video game.
Like a ceremony within a video game, though, it is important to note that any weddings that occur solely in the metaverse are currently not legal. (Even virtual weddings by videoconference, which many states allowed during the height of the pandemic shutdowns, have since been outlawed in New York State and elsewhere.) Still, the metaverse will take these virtual celebrations much, much further, experts say, and offer almost boundless possibilities to couples.
“There’s no limitations,” said Sandy Hammer, a founder of Allseated, which creates digital planning tools for weddings. The company is investing in the metaverse by creating virtual versions of real-world event spaces like the Plaza Hotel in New York. “If you really want to do something different, in the metaverse you might as well let your creativity go wild.”
Think guest lists that number in the thousands. Gift registries that feature NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. Maybe even destination weddings in space.
“They’re going to take their friends on a space rocket,” Ms. Hammer said, adding that she envisions wedding parties globe-trotting virtually. “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.’”
Nathalie Cadet-James, a wedding planner and designer based in Miami, is approaching the metaverse with “a beginner’s mind of excitement,” and trying to anticipate how her role will change. “I think my role might be more like a producer or film director,” Ms. Cadet-James said. “I could create a set that I’ve enhanced. Flowers might come out of the ground as you’re walking into the space. I would add whimsy and fantasy to it — because we could.”
Of course, this would require the skills of a software engineer, a role not in any typical wedding budget at the moment.
The Gagnons had a hybrid wedding of sorts. The couple were married in person Sept. 4 at Atkinson Resort & Country Club in New Hampshire, where they live, in a ceremony officiated by David Oleary, a friend and colleague of theirs ordained by the Universal Life Church, while simultaneously hosting a virtual ceremony in Virbela.
They live-streamed their nuptials for those who could not be there in person. Guests of the virtual ceremony attended via a computer, which required downloading software and then creating an avatar.