While most brides and grooms are stressed about booking a venue, planning wedding feasts, shopping for trousseaus and more, Dinesh SP and his fiancée Janaganandhini Ramaswamy are busy planning a metaverse.
When Tamil Nadu announced a Sunday lockdown, this meant Dinesh and Janaganandhini had to limit their reception guest list to 100 people. The couple, wanting their family and friends present, decided to revise their plans for the Sunday festivities. Introducing a virtual setting of the metaverse for his wedding reception meant they could invite as many people as they wanted; the virtual guest list stands at around 2,500 now.
With the offline and intimate wedding taking place in the early hours of February 6, the same evening will see the meta-reception.
Also Read | Op-ed: Breaking down the hype around Metaverse
Dinesh tweeted about his and his fiancee’s decision, creating plenty of chatter around the prospect of an alternate wedding reality where literally anything could happen.
A whole new world
While the press coverage around the upcoming reception has been largely celebratory at the prospect of something so tangibly traditional taking place in the metaverse, Dinesh admits that some have not been so readily accepting of this concept. He understands, though, that this is the norm for a lot of people who are still adjusting to Zoom calls in lieu of offline face-to-face meetings.
“I certainly had to explain to a lot of people what the metaverse even was and that took about an hour even for millennials, Gen Z-ers and those who also work in tech, the latter including Janaganandhini who works in IT,” admits Dinesh. He adds “I was happy to do that, especially with elders where I had to shift the language to compare it to a video game. Once they understood that all that needed to do was use a login for the website and that they did not need to install a new app or get any new hardware like a VR headset, they were excited. It may take five years for India to integrate the metaverse so I also wanted Indians to experience this now and why not through a wedding?”
A project manager at IIT Madras, Dinesh is no stranger to emerging tech such as the metaverse and the offerings of blockchain and crypto. For this event, he approached fellow metaverse evangelist Vignesh Selvaraj, the CEO of Chennai-based startup TardiVerse that uses blockchain tech to create meta-spaces. Vignesh was immediately on board with the idea and the two got to work given the timeline to create this new world was tight. The process, leveraging Polgyon blockchain tech, will require a mock drill on January 22 to test-drive the space, and the TardiVerse team worked round the clock to make this happen.
So how does one get in? Aside from having to be on the guest list, Dinesh points out the meta-reception will have a gateway in the form of a blockchain wallet that requires a unique and secure login. Once a guest logs in, they can choose their avatar based on their preferences of gender and appearance. Then, you can move about in the virtual reception space and see the by-then-wedded couple.
Potterverse meets metaverse
The best part? All of this is set at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’s Great Hall. Dinesh and Janaganandhini, having first met on a work project, soon discovered a mutual love for all things Harry Potter and the two thought, given the malleable nature of the metaverse, why not celebrate their love at the famous feast hall where the Sorting Hat told Harry Potter he would be in Gryffindor, where Ron Weasley received a very loud and angry Howler letter from his mother, and where the snow-speckled Yule Ball took place?
One has to ask: will there be meta-food on display such as virtual biryani or sambar rice… some Butterbeer perhaps? Dinesh chuckles, “There’s an idea to think about! I’ll check on getting that put in this week. But I do look forward to the future of the metaverse integrating technology where you can virtually taste or smell something.”
Amid the complex tech and impressive visuals, love and family lie at the heart of the meta-reception. One of the most important guests, an avatar of Janaganandhini’s father who passed away in April 2021 will be ‘present’ at the meta-reception. “I thought to give life to my future father-in-law in the metaverse,” says Dinesh, who had seen how his fiancée was struggling with the loss.”
Though the event is taking place at Hogwarts, tradition is still important to the couple; their avatars will be dressed in a sari and a veshti , while Janaganandhini’s father will be in a kurta.
Dinesh wants to entertain his guests as much as possible to lift spirits and share in his and his future wife’s happiness; so he and Vignesh will have animated renders of famous Harry Potter characters present for guests to ‘meet.’
“Ultimately, while I love technology and all things blockchain and metaverse,” concludes Dinesh proudly, “this whole thing is a gift for my girl.”