Here’s How to Attend the Wedding of the Future

Guest etiquette for Tomorrowland

I watched enough Back to the Future as a kid to know that we’ve barely begun to scrape the surface of what the twenty-first century supposedly has to offer. (I’m disappointed in what we’re calling a hoverboard right now, is all I’m saying.) But if there’s one thing that doesn’t disappoint, it’s the advent of virtual reality. But for those of us who are not exactly nerds, understanding what the hell VR actually is, well, it’s still kind of confusing. (Who here has had a friend prattle on about VR, and nodded very sagely, like you had any clue what they were talking about.)

But, lucky for me, while I’m not a nerd, I’m married to one. I think that makes me nerd-adjacent… or at least virtual reality–adjacent. So let’s break it down. If you haven’t tried it before, the general idea is this: you strap a set of goggles to your face, attach your phone (or other digital device), and get transported into a 3-D world simulation where you’re the main character. It’s uncanny and weird and a little like being inside your very own video game. (And pro-tip: You can now get really cheap goggles in places like… the checkout aisle at Target. And Meg has a cardboard version the New York Times sent her. The future is officially here.)

So it was only a matter of time before someone took this technology and made a wedding out of it. Because you know what else virtual reality can do? Eliminate the limitations of time and space. Which means you can have all your best people in the same virtual room, no plane tickets needed. So when APW reader Eve Weston reached out to us to let us know she’d attended a VR wedding earlier this year, we asked if she’d be willing to share her best tips for attending a wedding in Tomorrowland. Here’s what she had to say:

On May 25, 2017, the first virtual reality wedding took place. With no cost, no travel, and anyone able to attend—and feel truly present—from anywhere in the world it’s certainly something to consider. And if it catches on, here’s what you’re going to need to know:

Forget cocktail attire. wear a headset: To step into virtual reality, you put on what feels like a slightly bulkier SCUBA mask, inside of which is a screen that tricks your eyes—and then your brain—into believing that you’re somewhere else entirely. So feel free to dress up, dress down, or not dress at all.

Bring Your Best Emoji Game: Don’t channel your emotions into a hanky; send them into the air. In AltSpace, the VR platform where the first VR wedding took place, you can send emojis into the air to express what you’re feeling at any given moment. Hearts for love, smiley faces for happiness, clapping hands for applause. Your face may not be visible, but you’re hardly a blank slate.

Forget the rice. grab a magic wand: Glitter gets everywhere, bubbles are overdone, and rice is out of date. Thankfully, VR gives you some fun new options to show just how excited you are that your friends tied the knot (and the ceremony is finally over!)—glow sticks and magic wands. Each leaves a trail—of color or ethereal sparkle—in the air for a few seconds after you wave it. All that glitters isn’t gold, indeed, nor does it always have to stick to everything.

The ring bearer is out of a job: Believe it or not, your avatar in virtual reality will likely have hands, assuming your VR hardware comes with controllers. And your hands will be able to grab things like the above-mentioned glow sticks and magic wands. Unfortunately, unless you have a fancy motion capture set-up, your fingers won’t separate, making it challenging to put a virtual ring on a virtual finger. (But you know, we’re working on it.)

At the reception, dance like no one’s watching… because no one is: Believe it or not, you can dance in virtual reality, but with the usual gear—headsets and hand controllers— all anyone at the virtual reception will see is a bobbing head and some “rollin’ with the homies” style hand grooves. So let your freak out on your living room floor, pelvic thrust to your heart’s desire, and give the white-man’s overbite its day in the sun.

Eat before you arrive: While it would not be impossible for your hosts to pass virtual hors d’oeuvres, it would be impossible for them to satisfy your hunger. The first VR wedding was an hour long, and that didn’t include the reception. Best to nosh before putting your headset on because even a simple protein bar is hard to find when it’s in a separate reality.

Whatever you do, don’t wear the same avatar as the bride: “Don’t wear white” is so last century. Now that the future is here, avoid wearing the bride’s body. Yup, that was not a typo. One’s avatar is one’s virtual body, and, even in this brave new world, it’s fair to assert that showing up in the same body as the bride isn’t super cool. And besides being rude, it’s just confusing. At the first VR wedding, the bride was mingling with guests before the ceremony, so you could easily find yourself cornered by that close-talking aunt. And yes, in VR, close talking is still a thing. Though, AltSpace has a handy bubble feature that helps you keep a minimal amount of breathing room. Wouldn’t that be nice IRL!

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  • YummieYummie

    This is such a neat idea, but I want to know if the wedding came with a VR training course beforehand, especially for older guests. I love all things technology, and I used to work in data simulation myself, but I know that there are some technology hills that are difficult to conquer for people who aren’t submersed in it 24/7. If y’all thought QR codes on Save the Dates were too complicated, I can’t imagine the hassle of handing grandma a pair of goggles and a controller and telling her “here’s the wedding”.

    • rebecca

      I can’t imagine grandma has a PC w/the GPU to run a room scale device! Attending a VR wedding is only “free” if you have a very, very specific invite list.

      • YummieYummie

        Lol. I wouldn’t say “free” so much as “cheaper than airplane tickets + outfit + hotel + wedding gift”.

        Unrelated side note: I want a GTX 1080 so damn bad…

        • AtHomeInWA

          We have a VIVE and my nerdy partner estimates the VR set plus the computing power to run it is about a $1,500 outlay cost. So … maybe not cheaper than an airplane ticket.

          But, as discussed above, many smart phones can do something similar for much less.

          • rebecca

            AltSpace doesn’t work on Cardboard so that rules out all iPhone users. A mobile experience is really only available to folks w/a Samsung Galaxy newer than a 6 or a Google Pixel. I run a Samsung 8 and I’m always like “Mobile VR is amazing! You should try X,Y,Z!” And then I realize it doesn’t even run on their device 😞 I would probably enjoy a wedding on a Daydream but a Cardboard wedding would be really frustrating to me.

            If you could make it so that all your friends had access to a Daydream, said your vows at a remote place that’s super beautiful and most people would only be able to visit in VR and coordinated simultaneous take-out delivery to all your friends’ homes, I think that would be an exceptionally cool VR wedding. Otherwise, I think the appeal is mostly for folks with accessibility/travel concerns.

          • Kat

            We captured a lot of 360 photos with our brand new Pixel 2 phones in Germany and it was a HUGE hit with grandparents/aunts/uncles at Thanksgiving. That Pixel camera is crystal clear :]

  • Amy March

    I feel so technologically inept. Whole paragraphs of this make absolutely no sense at all to me.

    • Another Meg

      I work in tech and this confused me. VR feels like the new QR code or 3D TV. It’s not here to stay.

      • YummieYummie

        It’s totally here to stay…just not for commercial consumers like us. Unreal Engine has co-opted VR tech for use in the next generation of video games, but that feels like a commodity that probably won’t last past the next generation of consoles (PC might stick around longer just for the wider variety of capabilities). VR’s biggest market right now is aircraft integration, where it’s used for pilot training simulations and in-flight guidance systems.

        • Another Meg

          Training simulations sounds like a great use for VR, and considerably more sustainable than trying to replace emotional in-person events.

          This whole idea, sadly, reminds me that prisons are taking away in-person visits and replacing them with video conferencing. That’s a whole different can of worms, but it’s harmful to families for the same reason that VR for weddings doesn’t seem sustainable – it’s a poorer form.

        • penguin

          It’s definitely fun for video games. One of my friends got a swanky VR system and it’s so unlike anything else. The only downside is that you need a lot of open space in a room for most of the games, which can be hard to come by in apartment life.

        • rebecca

          also surgical training and high end real estate! It’ll be a while before VR matures as a creative medium (there were a lot of movies before Citizen Kane gave us a creative vocabulary of effective cinematic techniques) but there are definitely real applications of VR that aren’t going anywhere. Also Tiltbrush and Medium! Making stuff in VR is suuuper fun

        • MC

          I knew some people involved in Google Glass and it seemed like the original idea was the same kind of thing – to use it for workplace training and not just for individuals to own a cool piece of tech.

  • S

    I don’t understand most of this, but I’m also very into it.

  • Sarah E

    Isn’t the eating and the dancing and the hugging people you love all the fun parts of the wedding? Eliminate travel headaches, sure, cool, but at what cost?!

    • penguin

      I think this would be a fun way to watch the ceremony if you couldn’t travel, but seems to remove a lot of the good parts of the reception. I guess you could also just take a video of the ceremony or live stream it.

      • Amy March

        Yeah the part about eat before you come? I’m definitely not sitting in my apartment with some headset on for more than the length of your ceremony, if I’m even interested in doing that.

    • Her Lindsayship

      Yeah, and I also think it would be a bummer for the couple, though obviously they planned this so it probably was just what they wanted. For me, looking out and seeing our friends and family gathered in the same place was so special… I can’t imagine gathering them virtually would have the same effect. But hey, to each their own!

    • PAJane

      I certainly think so! But this could be a good option for people who can’t physically be there, due to illness or cost or schedule.

      • Sarah E

        Skype or FaceTime sound like better options. Even a video, watched later, seems like it would be better than watching avatars bob around.

        • PAJane

          Yeah. We already have the technology.

    • Kat

      For some people that ISN’T the best part, though. I’m definitely interested in the future of VR applications for individuals with sensory overload issues. I think it’s a great option for people who aren’t necessarily “neurotypical” but don’t want to miss out on memories. I have a family member with severe Asperger’s who struggles in social settings such as weddings and parties, getting overwhelmed by loud music, lights, hugging, etc. This kind of tech could do a world of good for him.

      • SarahRose472

        Super interesting perspective.

      • Alli

        Hm, I can see how that makes sense for your family member. But for the people I know with sensory overload issues, they can’t even handle a 3D movie so I don’t know how virtual reality would work for them.

  • rebecca

    Hahaha I’m actually a VR/AR developer and I always tell people that my best/most terrible billion dollar idea is VR bridesmaids dress shopping. No one would have to travel, you could just take a 3d scan of everyone’s body (which is the kind of thing a clerk w/an iPad at a David’s Bridal could do). You’d save sooo much time trying things on and you could anonymize all the feedback so no one would have to know that you’re the one who hated their favorite dress!

    • Rose_C

      Sign me up! Using VR to make something unpleasant more pleasant sounds great. Using VR as a substitute for being at a wedding seems a little sad.

      • AtHomeInWA

        Less sad than not being there at all.

        • Rose_C

          Absolutely! It did sound like the wedding described was a fully VR experience though, right?

    • PAJane

      Doooo iiiiiiiit.

  • Violet

    Until they can find a way to make this technology not make me motion sick… hard pass.

    • Jess

      SAME. I get such bad headaches in addition to feeling dizzy and ill.