As Covid-19 forces families across India to downsize or cancel their traditionally large-scale weddings, one couple has found a venue unaffected by restrictions: the metaverse.
Dinesh Sivakumar Padmavathi and Janaganandhini Ramaswamy from Tamil Nadu, where wedding gatherings are currently limited to 100 people, have invited 2,000 people to their virtual reception next month. And as self-professed “Potterheads,” or fans of Harry Potter, the pair have opted for a Hogwarts-themed party that guests can attend via their phones, tablets, or laptops.
“Because of the pandemic, a physical, real kind of reception is not possible with the huge number of people attending,” said Padmavathi, who goes by the name Dinesh SP, on the phone from the southern state’s capital of Chennai. “So, we decided: let’s make it in the metaverse.”
Metaverse is a term used to describe virtual 3D environments in which users can gather and interact. The groom, a 24-year-old blockchain and cryptocurrency enthusiast, worked with start-up platform TardiVerse to create a castle-like digital space inspired by Hogwarts.
The legal wedding ceremony will still take place physically in front of close friends and relatives in Ramaswamy’s village in Tamil Nadu’s Krishnagiri district, about 170 miles from Chennai. But afterward, the couple will log on to join their reception, which is costing 150,000 Indian rupees ($2,016) to design, develop and host. The one-hour event will see the newlyweds virtually address their guests, who will be able to explore the castle and customize their avatars’ appearance and outfit.
As well as being able to invite guests who couldn’t otherwise attend, the couple said the digital celebration has another unique advantage: they can involve Ramaswamy’s late father in the proceedings.
“My father-in-law passed away last April,” Padmavathi said. “So, I’m creating a 3D avatar that looks similar to (him), and he will bless me and my fiancée. That’s something we can only do in the metaverse.”
There have been reports of other metaverse wedding events, including a US couple that held a physical ceremony alongside a digital one on the virtual platform, Virbela. But while Indian law requires witnesses to be present at marriage ceremonies, Padmavathi believes that his reception in the metaverse will be the first-ever of its kind to be held in the country.
Having convinced his fiancée, an IT worker, of the idea, Padmavathi also has his parents’ approval for the unconventional event, he said.
“From childhood, I’ve been working with robotics … and for the last year I’ve been working in blockchain and mining Ethereum,” he said, adding: “So my family knows that I’m into tech.”