New Delhi : when science fiction author Neal Stephenson predicted the metaverse in his book 'Snow Crash, little did he know that the idea would revolutionize the lives of people three decades later. From 'Zoom weddings' in the post-pandemic era, to a U.S. couple conducting the first ever metaverse wedding in 2021, to a couple in Tamil Nadu hosting a virtual reception in 2022, we are now on the cusp of a new dimension. A 2021 study by Bloomberg Intelligence in fact states that the metaverse space could be worth more than $800 billion by 2024.
Luxe wedding designer and founder of The A-Cube Project, Ambika Gupta however thinks that even though the idea of a metaverse wedding is catching on, it will never replace the vibrance and energy of a real-time gathering. She says, "For wedding designers, the metaverse could be a new, exciting idea but I doubt if metaverse weddings will become normative. In today's fast and hyper-digitized world, weddings are possibly the only occasions when we pause and make time to share our happiness with the people closest to us. Metaverse ceremonies will be more like statements, or niche events that may augment an actual wedding but will never replace it."
For traditionalists, as she points out, it is hard to envision a wedding that can be attended via a laptop, or a smartphone and where people can interact through lenses, and sensors, and offer NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) as gifts. Ambika adds, "However, it is impossible to foretell the future. Another wave of Covid-19 may disrupt our lives and in a world where climate change is impacting us all, some couples may opt for a zero-wastage, sustainable metaverse wedding with virtually no carbon footprint. I repeat however that it is not possible to replace traditional ceremonies as they create tangible memories and unmatched intimacy."
Here are a few reasons why she thinks metaverse weddings could gain some momentum in the near future.
Ambika points out how budget-friendly it would be to cut down on travel and hospitality expenses in a virtual wedding but of course, a metaverse wedding can be expensive too, depending on the vision of the couple, the details of the digital theme, the venue, the decor, the avatars, and their outfits. Ambika says, "Wedding designers, I am sure will adapt to this space and come up with innovative design themes to tell the stories that the couples want to share with their loved ones. It would be interesting to reimagine and design events like haldi, mehendi, sangeet, a cocktail brunch, an actual ceremony and a reception in the metaverse. For the guests too, it will be interesting to explore unusual worlds they have never had access to before but I doubt they will enjoy the experience as much as a real wedding."
A wedding brings up a lot of emotions and the absence of a departed loved one can make the celebrations feel incomplete. Ambika says, "Recently, the much-talked-about metaverse wedding reception in Tamil Nadu was made extra special by the avatar of the bride's late father. This idea may not be to everyone's liking but for many, the possibility of sharing a special day with someone who is no longer present could draw them to the metaverse." Even loved ones who are located in other countries and may not be able to attend a physical wedding can be 'present' at a metaverse reception, meet family members and share the couple's joy.
Limitless space, endless possibilities
The metaverse is not bound by constrictions of time and space and hence offers limitless possibilities. Ambika says, "Couples can invite as many guests as they want and not worry about the size of the venue. Plus they have the freedom to envision just about any setting they want regardless of the expanse. This is a different scenario from the toughest months of the pandemic, when weddings had to be planned on a smaller scale and it was challenging to find enough helping hands, artisans, craftspeople and to source raw materials."
Practicality and convenience
Ambika thinks a lot of couples may use the metaverse to replicate a physical ceremony for those who could not attend. She adds, "Or they may opt for a metaverse ceremony if they are apart and cannot be together due to travel restrictions or some other reason. In such a case, a virtual ceremony could precede a physical one. The convenience of not having to wait till all practical complications have been sorted can prove to be alluring though the legality of metaverse weddings is still a grey area and needs to be examined by couples more thoroughly."
More immersive excitement
For technology geeks, the lure of VR is great and it can unleash a lot of creative possibilities to create an immersive, visually dynamic event unlike any other. For wedding designers too, event platforms built in the metaverse may be the next step. Ambika says, "Anyone in the business arena today has to be familiar with terms like cryptocurrency, blockchain, and NFTs and for wedding designers and event planners, to be future forward is important. It is always good to prepare for inevitable shifts in the wedding industry but as a designer, I can say that nothing beats the joy of putting a physical event together and getting every small detail right."