Wedding Planner

Getting married in the metaverse

Traci and Dave Gagnon met in the cloud, so it made sense that their wedding took place there. On Labor Day weekend, the couple – or rather their digital avatars – hosted a ceremony hosted by Virbela, a company that creates virtual environments for work, learning and events.

Ms. Gagnon’s avatar was paraded down the aisle by her close friend’s avatar. Mr. Gagnon’s avatar saw his boyfriend’s avatar take the stage and toast. And twin 7-year-old avatars (the ring bearer and the flower girl) danced at the reception.

How the immersive virtual world known as the Metaverse, which few of us understand, will change traditional marriage is, for now, an enigma. But the possibilities of having an event unfettered by the limits of reality are interesting enough to be considered.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, technology is already more than ever incorporated into ceremonies. Zoom weddings have taken place and some in-person ceremonies now have a live streaming component for guests who cannot be there. Last year, a couple whose marriage was called off due to the pandemic held a (non-legal) ceremony inside Animal Crossing, a popular video game.

Like a ceremony in a video game, however, it’s important to note that not all marriages that occur only in the Metaverse are currently not legal. (Even virtual videoconferencing weddings, which many states allowed at the height of pandemic shutdowns, have since been banned in New York state and elsewhere.) Yet the metaverse will take these virtual celebrations much further, according to the reports. experts, and will offer almost limitless possibilities for couples.

“There are no limits,” said Sandy Hammer, founder of Allseated, which creates digital wedding planning tools. The company is investing in the metaverse by creating virtual versions of real event spaces like the Plaza Hotel in New York. “If you really want to do something different, in the Metaverse you can also let your creativity run wild. “

Think of the guest lists that number in the thousands. Gift registers with NFTs or non-fungible tokens. Maybe even destination weddings in space.

“They are going to take their friends on a space rocket,” Ms. Hammer said, adding that she envisioned nuptials to travel virtually around the world. “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.’ “

Miami-based wedding planner and designer Nathalie Cadet-James approaches the metaverse with “a rookie’s spirit of excitement” and tries to anticipate how her role will change. “I think my role could be more that of a producer or a director,” Ms. Cadet-James said. “I could create a set that I improved on. Flowers may come out of the ground as you walk in space. I would add fantasy and fantasy to it – because we could. “

Of course, that would require the skills of a software engineer, a role that isn’t in any typical wedding budget yet.

The Gagnon’s had a sort of hybrid marriage. The couple were married in person on September 4 at the Atkinson Resort & Country Club in New Hampshire, where they live, in a ceremony chaired by David Oleary, a friend and colleague ordained by Universal Life. Church, while simultaneously holding a virtual ceremony. to Virbela.

They broadcast their nuptials live for those who couldn’t be there in person. Guests of the virtual ceremony attended via a computer, which required downloading software and then creating an avatar.

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Ms. Gagnon, 52, and Mr. Gagnon, 60, work as agents at eXp Realty. The brokerage has embraced virtual work and metaverse and is part of eXp World Holdings, which also owns Virbela.

Before the couple met in person, their avatars met at a corporate event in Las Vegas in 2015. And when they announced their engagement in 2019, their colleagues offered to transform the cloud campus for free. of Virbela in a wedding venue. (Ms. Gagnon estimated it would have cost around $ 30,000 if they had paid for it; Virbela representatives declined to disclose a price for the event.)

The Gagnon’s sent photos of themselves and their wedding decor to Virbela’s event team and software engineers, who incorporated personalized details like bird of paradise flowers and images of their venue into no one in the virtual ceremony.

“They were able to take my wedding dress and personalize it, take a little halo of flowers and put it on my hair,” said Ms. Gagnon.

Patrick Perry, director of event sales and partnerships for Virbela, said the cost of hosting an event in the metaverse “depends on what you want,” adding, “whether there is an engineer who builds an MGM ballroom or something of that nature, then the cost goes up, “from a few thousand dollars to well over $ 10,000.

But, said Perry, as the metaverse builds, “there are going to be more plug and play assets.” Wedding couples will be able to choose from preset venues, flowers, table settings, dresses, musical entertainment, and more.

Virbela was designed to be an immersive platform for organizations to host events and build a sense of community in the Metaverse. But users have asked the company to hold graduation ceremonies, bar mitzvahs, weddings, and other celebrations. Lately, Mr Perry said, Virbela has started exploring the wedding market and is in the process of planning with a few couples.

Ms Hammer said Allseated has yet to work with a couple interested in a marriage that would only take place in the Metaverse. In addition to the legality of such a ceremony, a hybrid event like the Gagnon’s is “much more in demand and realistic,” she said, “because couples want both in-person and virtual experiences.” .

For Ms. Gagnon, who hired two videographers, one to capture the event in person and the other to simultaneously broadcast the ceremony to the cloud, the whole point of the metaverse element was the connection it offered.

Her maid of honor, who is ill, was still able to walk her down the aisle, so virtually. And Mr. Gagnon’s friend, who could not be present because his wife has pre-existing health problems, was able to raise his toast. The experience of moving around a virtual world as an avatar – a sort of idealized version of yourself – creates a more immersive and emotionally satisfying experience than Zoom, Ms. Gagnon said.

“There’s a different level of connection,” with the metaverse, she said.

Being a Metaverse wife also had other benefits. “I’m still a size 4, even in January,” said Ms. Gagnon with a laugh. “And I never have a bad day with the hair.”