“We hosted our wedding reception in the metaverse,” gushes Dinesh Kshatriyan, who got married in 2022. “The actual wedding ceremony happened physically, at my wife’s native place. But then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. So, to not spoil my life’s biggest event, we decided to host our wedding reception in digital mode.”
Similarly, Abhijeet Goel and Dr Sansrati tied the knot last year and became India’s first couple to get married on a 3D Metaverse. The wedding took place on Yug Metaverse (a made-in-India metaverse platform). The association was conceptualised, organised and executed by the media agency Wavemaker India for ITC Ltd and Matrimony.com.
The wedding market in India is set to grow at a gigantic scale this decade, with revenue reaching Rs 3.68 lakh crore, according to a recent report by KPMG. But here’s an exciting twist — the metaverse is likely to be a part of India’s growing wedding business through "metaverse weddings", where virtual reality replaces the flamboyance of jhoomars and carnations.
Historically, Indians are known for their grandiose and ostentatious festivities. Yet, experts see scope for the metaverse to penetrate this age-old, cultural space. And while there are perks of a metaverse wedding in comparison to a traditional wedding: it is flexible, brings down the costs, makes destination weddings an affordable reality, brings together guests from across the world in a more immersive way than, say, a Zoom wedding, but, a metaverse wedding is not recognised by the law and the State yet.
Two pertinent questions arise here: 1. Why would Indians adopt metaverse weddings? 2. How would metaverse weddings be possible in the present landscape?
Adoption of metaverse weddings
Asked why Indians would take the metaverse turn, Lokesh Rao, co-founder and CEO of fashion and lifestyle metaverse company Trace Network Labs, highlighted two aspects: affordability and sustainability.
“Virtual weddings are easier to arrange without compromising on the experience. With 3D simulations, destination weddings become even more possible. You can now have your wedding in locations such as the Louvre or Hogwarts Castle. Moreover, all wedding rituals can be carried out from anywhere in the world, lowering costs and creating a more sustainable environment,” Rao stated.
Geographical flexibility exists in terms of both destinations and people. “Invite guests from around the world with no boundary limitations. Create special invite links for them to log in, providing an immersive experience like no other. Why not add an extra touch of creativity and send wedding cards as Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT)? Guests will use these NFTs as a pass to the virtual wedding, and your special day will be secured!”
Exception or the norm?
The trend of online weddings, metaverse included, began during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a nationwide, stringent lockdown, people had no choice but to adopt alternative methods. But the pandemic may have been an exception. And now that India has returned to “normalcy”, will the clout of metaverse weddings gradually evaporate?”
According to Prayag Singh, co-founder of blockchain based social media platform SOCLLY, “The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the concept of weddings in the metaverse into the limelight. With physical distancing becoming the norm, couples in India have had to get creative with their wedding celebrations and many have opted for virtual ceremonies held in the metaverse.”
Singh maintains that although the pandemic initiated the trend of virtual, metaverse-based weddings, its popularity has increased due to other reasons (eg. affordability, flexibility, etc.).
“Going forward, we may see a rise in the number of couples opting for virtual wedding ceremonies, as they can be hosted in the comfort and safety of their homes. Additionally, they can be attended by friends and family located in any part of the world. However, metaverse weddings may not be able to replace traditional weddings, as they lack the personal touch. As such, the two forms of weddings will likely co-exist in India.”
Will traditional weddings be affected?
The wedding business is a tremendous market in India. The industry involves a lot of segments, including catering, fashion, hospitality, décor, among others. So, the question is, will metaverse weddings lead to job cuts or affect the traditional wedding industry?
Pratik Gauri, CEO of fifth-generation blockchain ecosystem 5ire, says that for fashion, major brands such as Nike and Gucci are already investing in having a presence in the Metaverse. And that the design and artistic elements of the fashion industry could be transformed into a virtual world quite seamlessly.
“With the hybrid experiences of events, many more of the industries will adapt to this method of weddings and event management, and as we saw a drastic shift in roles and functions of the workplace during the pandemic, this trend will certainly create new opportunities for employees,” he adds.
Asked if metaverse weddings will be able to replace the traditional wedding culture in India, Pawan Gupta, co-founder and CEO of matrimony site Betterhalf, says that one can never replace emotions with technology.
“This new breed of metaverse wedding represents a step beyond the Zoom weddings that already became very popular in India during the pandemic, where guests simply joined in via a video call. While these are undoubtedly a nice option for people who can’t attend the wedding physically, it’s unlikely that anyone would ever choose one over a traditional ceremony,” he said.
“The metaverse, on the other hand, potentially offers an alternative — and a level of immersion that means traditional wedding venues may soon find themselves facing competition from virtual venues. Metaverse weddings will definitely impact these industries. But to actually adapt to these weddings in India we not only need resources but also a change of mindset.”
What about the legalities?
During or after the traditional ceremony, couples are expected to register their marriage and acquire a government-issued marriage certificate. All this legitimises their marriage in the eyes of the law. But, what about metaverse weddings? Have they been recognised by the judiciary?
“Metaverse weddings are not, as yet, legally recognised under Indian Law. There have been no amendments to the existing personal laws regarding marriage in India, particularly those that address and provide legal validity to digital, cyber, or metaverse marriages,” explained Shefali Pahwa, managing partner of international law firm BlockLegal.
The matter of metaverse weddings gets complicated further if the marriage ends in divorce and child custody disputes. “Due to the lack of procedural laws and precedents before the courts of law, any proceedings related to divorce, settlement, child custody, alimony, inheritance and property rights arising from metaverse marriages cannot be addressed,” added Pahwa.
Thus, couples dreaming of their perfect metaverse celebration have some serious waiting to do before courts officially recognise metaverse weddings in India.