Indian bride's dead father and 5,000 guests to attend Harry Potter-themed metaverse wedding

The digital avatars of Dinesh S. P. and his fiancé Janaganandhini Ramaswamy, Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Castle behind them. There the pair will host their metaverse wedding reception for 5,000 guests, including the bride’s late father.
South China Morning Post

A couple from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu are to become the first Indian couple to celebrate their nuptials on the online metaverse, a network of interconnected 3D virtual worlds.

Their digital wedding reception on February 6 is to be attended by 5,000 of their friends, colleagues and relatives from four continents with the bride's late father 'attending' as an avatar and film stars and politicians scrambling to be invited.

And if that is all not unusual enough already, the whole thing will be Harry Potter-themed.

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Software professionals Dinesh S.P. and his fiance Janaganandhini Ramaswamy, both 24, will enter the virtual set-up by logging in through a website link. This will take them to the dining room of Hogwarts castle from author J.K. Rowling's world-famous wizarding world.

Digital avatars of the bride and the groom will wear black jackets and be positioned against the backdrop of the iconic building.

The duo will tie the 'real' knot with Indian traditions in the morning, while the virtual reception will be held in the evening. "Both of us are huge Harry Potter fans, we will be "Potterheads" and meet and greet our guests from across the world in the virtual mode," said Dinesh, who lives in the southeastern city of Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu state.

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The online event will be handled by TardiVerse Metaverse, a Chennai-based start-up, and cost roughly US$4,000 (S$5,300).

Vignesh Selvaraj, 27, founder of the start-up, said it took his team of 12 about a month to plan the hour-long celebration including the theme, digital venue, the couple's avatars and clothes, and guests' participation details. Guests can attend the reception as avatars of their choice.

"We're very excited as the new medium teems with possibilities. The demand is huge, we're being approached by other couples for such weddings. We're also organising romantic events for Valentine's Day and building a digital beach, temple, school and mall to cater to the exponentially growing demand for digital venues during the pandemic."

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Dinesh said it was his idea of hosting a metaverse wedding reception and his fiancee was immediately on board. Guests can give the couple regular gifts or present them with online bank transfers, gift vouchers or cryptocurrencies.

Dinesh said his professional experience in cryptocurrency for the past two years and the statewide curbs on wedding gatherings due to the rapidly spreading Omicron virus propelled him to opt for the virtual nuptials.

"Metaverse's combination of technology, including virtual reality, augmented reality, and video where lifelike avatars meet in realistic 3D buildings and other virtual reality environments are very immersive. This was important as most of our relatives are unfamiliar with this technology."

Dinesh was also rooting for the unusual wedding because of the death of his father-in-law, who passed away suddenly last year. "When I told my fiance he can preside over our wedding through a virtual avatar, so that at least spiritually he could be with us, she was thrilled with the idea. So was my future mother-in-law. This sealed the deal for us."

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He said the moment the metaverse world appeared he "couldn't wait to do something groundbreaking on it" and his wedding gave him the perfect opportunity even if arranging it has not been easy.

"It was challenging because organising this unprecedented wedding, on this scale, with participation from thousands across the world, would've normally taken about six months, but we're trying to do it in a month."

Through the event the would-be groom also hopes "to enlighten and inspire thousands of others on how they can leverage this technology to upgrade their lives".

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The metaverse offers enormous scope for job opportunities, online classes and Zoom meetings, said Dinesh, who describes himself as a mixture of tradition and modernity. "The sky's the limit," he added.

He and his fiance will tie the so-called real knot with 100 guests near the village of Shivalingapuram, 400km from Chennai, in the middle of a dense forest.

"Very few people are literate here. Teaching them how to log in and participate in the event will be fraught with challenges," said Dinesh.

To initiate all guests into the relevant technology for the big day, the self-confessed 'techie' will conduct an online test later this month "to avoid any last-minute glitches".

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"I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed that all goes smoothly," he said.

News of the extra-special wedding has spread like wildfire across the world and has been trending on Twitter. Such is the excitement in Tamil Nadu that political leaders and film stars are chasing Dinesh to invite them on his big day.

"I'm inundated with calls from VVIPs (Very Very Important Persons) who want to participate in this history-making event. I'll try to have as many on board as possible to seek their blessing." He did not want to disclose names for "privacy reasons".

Wedding planners say metaverse weddings could be the future of the 'Big Fat Indian Wedding'.

"The virus isn't going anywhere soon and with lockdowns and travel restrictions becoming the norm, I'm sure other couples will soon be jumping on this bandwagon too," said Shalini Gupta, a Delhi-based wedding planner.

"Holding hybrid weddings, with one wedding event taking place virtually and the other in real time, are already popular among Indian millennial couples. Metaverse unions may be the next big thing."

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.