Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past the initial sign-in, and my screen kept crashing. It was so glitchy that I had to give up trying to watch the ceremony just a few minutes in. In fairness, that might have been just me. Others were able to watch the entire experienceincluding Mohnot’s grandmother in India.
Still, it left me wondering: Why would people opt to have a metaverse wedding? And will these sorts of ceremonies—especially sponsored ones—stick around, or will they fade away if virtual reality doesn’t live up to the hype?
“It’s crazy and definitely not what we had in mind,” Mohnot says. But the couple say they wanted to do something different from the usual. And beyond the novelty, Mohnot and Godbole’s motivations were straightforward: they got a free wedding out of the bargain. Mohnot is a big fan of Taco Bell, so they entered a competition for the company to pay for the technical aspects of a virtual wedding—the avatars, the production, and more. They won. In return, it plastered its brand everywhere.
For Taco Bell, it was not only a marketing opportunity but an outgrowth of what its fans wanted. The chapel at the company’s Taco Bell Cantina restaurant in Las Vegas has married 800 couples so far. There were copycat virtual weddings, too. “Taco Bell saw fans of the brand interact in the metaverse and decided to meet them quite literally where they were,” a spokesperson said. That meant dancing hot sauce packets, a Taco Bell–themed dance floor, a turban for Mohnot, and the famous bell branding everywhere.
If you look past the splashy branding—a trade-off some couples are willing to make for corporate help building and customizing a digital platform—virtual weddings let you do things you can’t in normal ones. For example, Mohnot rode into the ceremony in avatar form atop an elephant for his baraata pre-wedding procession for the groom. It’s a fun touch that would be far harder to arrange for an in-person party, especially in San Francisco, where they live.
Making it count was less straightforward. They had to set up a simultaneous livestream of themselves on YouTube in order to meet a legal requirement for their real faces to be visible. That’s because some jurisdictions—including Utah, where their officiant was based—recognize remote weddings as legally binding only if the participants are viewable on video.
A lot of couples won’t be willing to jump through that many hoops. The pandemic created an urgent need for virtual weddings, but traditional in-person ceremonies have roared back in the last year. Roughly 2.5 million weddings were held in 2022, up from 1.3 million in 2020, according to a trade group called the Wedding Report.
So why get married in the metaverse? Some are attracted to the lower cost, according to Klaus Bandisch, who runs Just Maui Weddings in Hawaii. He says the company, which also organizes real-world weddings, is booked several months in advance with metaverse ceremonies.