American weddings almost always involve elements of fantasy: white dresses that once symbolized purity being worn by women whose fathers pass them off to a waiting groom. Even the etymology of the word “groom” comes from the term for servant. Cap that off with a metal and rhinestone tiara, a veil made of nylon tulle, and a few maids in identical dresses, and there’s a nice little bit of fairy tale cosplay! However, one general guiding principle of the kind of party that requires church manners and costs about the same as a Toyota Carolla is the fact that they happen in the physical world, meaning that anyone who doesn’t feel like going can beg off six weeks in advance with a fake work trip or carefully planned C-section.
Well, not anymore. The metaverse is now taking away your excuses. Per the New York Times, Virbela, a company that “builds virtual environments for work, learning, and events,” is also creating bespoke wedding experiences for couples looking to get married in the matrix. The Times focuses on a couple who happens to work for a company that also owns Virbela. They sound lovely and also hosted an in-person wedding while streaming their virtual event (which possibly cost $30,000) for those who could not make the live one.
And while that is a wonderful idea, probably, for a great many people with loved ones who cannot make their nuptials for whatever reason, allow me this simple counterpoint from a post-Zoom world: No.
I adore this utopian wedding, existing across time and space, connecting those in love with those who love them on their special day:
“Her maid of honor, who is ill, was still able to walk her down the aisle, if virtually. And Mr. Gagnon’s friend, who was unable to attend because his wife has pre-existing health conditions, could deliver his toast. The experience of moving through a virtual world as an avatar — a kind of idealized version of yourself — creates a more immersive, emotionally satisfying experience than Zoom, said Ms. Gagnon.”
I have planned South American vacations to avoid the weddings of family members I loathe, whereupon I would have been seated for hours with people to whom I have absolutely nothing to say. Sending a nice gift and skipping a wedding is every attendee’s God-given right. And I tremble at the possibility of a new era of digital tyranny, where an RSVP indicating one would like to eat neither vegetable lasagna nor lukewarm prime rib because one will be nowhere near that particular Methodist church reception hall when the happy moment arrives will soon be met with “Great, just attend online!”
Luckily, due to the fact that these virtual events are not legally binding, the prohibitive cost of a second cyber wedding is likely saving those of us who don’t dance, make terrible small talk, and are also somehow still weird online the trouble of finding all new excuses:
“Patrick Perry, the director of event sales and partnerships for Virbela, said the cost of holding an event in the metaverse “depends on what you want,” adding, “if there’s an engineer building out an MGM ballroom or something of that nature, then the cost goes up,” ranging from a few thousand dollars to well over $10,000.”
Again, I am very happy for these people in the Times, glad of their love, their celebration, the fact that loved ones who could not be there in person could more readily be there in spirit. Still, I remain terrified for a future where the metaverse steals our time-honored excuses, and pray that the laws of our land will protect the vulnerable from future weaponized digital weddingry.