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Is Augmented Reality the Next Stop for Destination Weddings?

Published Wednesday, Dec. 29th, 2021

Holoportation, hybrid weddings, and (maybe) the future of virtual ceremonies


For engaged couples currently in the process of planning spring and summer destination weddings, the looming threat of border closures and “New Variant” headlines are starting to feel a little too 2020 for comfort… 


Of course, it’s unlikely that we’ll see anything close to the level of shutdowns we did during those early months, but some cautious couples are likely to change their plans anyway, and celebrate closer to home than they’d hoped. 


As we rethink travel plans, and downsize our guest lists (again), why not consider an entertaining alternative to the usual destination wedding….  


‘Travel’ by way of augmented reality. 


We’ll tackle the metaverse, ‘augmented reality’ versus ‘virtual reality,’ holoportation, and speculate wildly on the future of AR in the wedding sphere.

Beam me to the wedding venue, Scotty! 


Is augmented reality the next stop for destination weddings?  


Imagine inviting friends and family to ‘beam’ you and your wedding ceremony into their living rooms in real-time, as if everyone you know has their very own teleporter. 


Or – as a wedding guest – imagine holding up a smartphone or tablet, or pulling on a pair of smart glasses, to watch crisp 3-Dimensional holograms of your friends dance around your living room as they take their vows, interacting from thousands of miles away. 


Believe it or not, the technology is already here. And soon, accessing it might be as easy as opening an app…




The metaverse is cool,

but that’s not quite what we’re talking about


By now, you’ve probably heard that a couple got married in the metaverse, while holding a second ceremony in the real world to keep things legal (a sort of ultra-modern hybrid ceremony). Traci and Dave Gagnon chose the virtual chapel to honor their unique love story, having met years earlier in a virtual office. 


(Read Can you legally marry someone in a video game? to learn why weddings that only happen in virtual spaces probably aren't’ legal.)


This high-tech event quickly made headlines worldwide, along with reports that it could have set the newlyweds back about $30,000. A price-tag like that definitely places a metaverse destination wedding out of reach for the average couple. (At least for now, especially considering that a metaverse ceremony must happen in addition to an in-person ceremony or license signing.)



Metaverse wedding images via Insider, on the left is the immersive metaverse image of groom and bride, and on the right is a photograph of the in-person wedding ceremony

Images from a metaverse marriage, via Insider

"Ryan Abrey with Virbela and Daryl Hawk with White Mountain Photography/

Courtesy of Traci Gagnon."


But we suspect there wouldn’t be much of a rush anyway…


Why not? Because weddings held in virtual spaces like the Gagnon’s are fully immersive. As with other applications of virtual reality, these immersive experiences pull the user out of the real world entirely, replacing it with a virtual one instead. Even the user’s physical form is replaced in this new environment, with an animated digital avatar. 


This is cool, of course, but it’s also impersonal. And when it comes to sharing really intimate moments (like weddings), it’s our opinion that the metaverse’s lack of ‘real world’ charm kinda misses the mark. 


That’s why we suspect the future of virtual destination weddings actually lies somewhere in between a fully virtual world and the real one – in the magical landscape of augmented reality. 



What is augmented reality? 


Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that superimposes computer generated imagery – say, a Pokemon character, virtual avatar, armchair, or city map – on top of your view of the real world, creating a composite (or enhanced) image of reality. 


Unlike virtual reality, AR enhances our view of the real world instead of replacing it. Think ‘holograms in your living room,’ versus the immersive experience of a VR headset. Smartphones, tablets, and wearable tech-gadgetry such as ‘smart glasses’ act as our ‘window’ into this augmented world, using various AR apps and interfaces. 


And when you’re able to interact with this new composite reality (say, have a conversation with a virtual representation of someone, or click on a digital image to expand a menu), augmented reality becomes ‘mixed reality.’ 



A smartphone held up to show how augment reality works while playing Pokemon Go   A smartphone held up showing how Google maps uses augmented reality to help users navigate city streets

Left: AR technology makes playing Pokemon Go possible, via Niantic

Right: Google Maps is using AR technology to help users navigate unfamiliar city streets.

Google Maps screenshot: Cassidy Miller / Google via Mashable



What would mixed reality look like at a wedding ceremony? 


The possibilities are exciting to imagine...


Wedding guests might ‘light’ a virtual candle by tapping their screen during a candle lighting ceremony, or place a virtual flower into a virtual vase during a flower ceremony, participating in the unity ritual from across the country.  


A father might ‘beam’ himself to an in-person ceremony to walk his daughter down the aisle as a hologram in real-time, like a futuristic Jedi. Guests watching this mixed-reality procession through smart glasses (like Facebook's new RayBan Stories) would experience things as if he was physically there – and they might record a wedding video with this digital addition, uploading it straight to social media or storing it in a digital album.


Backgrounds might be enhanced so that couples can marry in any venue they choose without blowing their budget, turning ordinary living rooms into the banquet hall of a distant castle, or the floor of an epic red-rock canyon.   


Or bridesmaids might give real-time speeches as holograms. This one already happened in September of 2021, with a bride's friend beaming in from London with the help of a green screen and AHRT Media. 



Bridesmaid shows up at wedding as a hologram, via AHRT Media



The list goes on and on… 


Mixed reality is where it’s at!  


And we’re not the only ones that think so…


John Hanke, the CEO and founder of Niantic Labs, who launched Pokemon Go back in 2016, says that the real future of the metaverse is in this type of augmented reality – the kind that enhances the physical world rather than replacing it, as a fully immersive mix of augmented and virtual reality does.


Think of it as a ‘VR metaverse’ versus ‘AR metaverse,’ with Hanke rooting for the latter. 


Speaking with Wired back in November, Hanke told Steven Levy:


“[The metaverse] takes us away from what fundamentally makes us happy as human beings. We’re biologically evolved to be present in our bodies and to be out in the world. The tech world that we’ve been living in, as exacerbated by Covid, is not healthy. We’ve picked up bad habits—kids spending all day playing Roblox or whatever. And we’re extrapolating that, saying, “Hey, this is great. Let’s do this times 10.


The future that I am describing is the one that’s going to win. It’s one where computing stays with us, disappearing into the background and supporting what we’re doing. It is ubiquitous computing… I feel like that vision of the future has gotten somehow lost temporarily as people have become fascinated with these online 3D worlds.”


When it comes to weddings, we sure hope so! 



Can you have an AR destination wedding right now? 


Can you digitally ‘teleport’ yourself to a friend’s living room to celebrate a hybrid or sequel wedding ceremony with them, interacting with objects and guests as if you were physically there? Well, the technology is mostly here, but easy home implementation isn’t. Not yet. (Sorry, Scotty.)


(Read Can I Officiate a Virtual Wedding Ceremony In My State? to learn about Zoom wedding laws.)


One of the most promising of these technologies is ‘holoportation,’ an apt description for a unique type of AR first dreamed up by Microsoft around 2016.


Holoportation lets people in separate locations interact in real-time using hologram-style representations of themselves, superimposed over the user’s real environment. Users will be able to use any device – a smartphone, tablet, or smart glasses like HoloLenses – to see and interact with their friends' ‘holograms.’ 


The science is pretty complicated, but thankfully we won’t need to know how it works to enjoy it. 


R&D into holoportation goes back to 2016, when this mind-blowing video was first released. 



Microsoft Mesh, launched in early 2021, brings the next phase of this technology to life, with a platform facilitating the company’s own riff on the metaverse. Mesh will join forces with Microsoft Teams in the spring of 2022, allowing friends and coworkers to interact in virtual spaces. (Facebook’s not the only company chasing the metaverse dream, we’ll be seeing it everywhere soon.) 


Still, for now, because most Mesh users will interact with each other as avatars, this virtual environment will only work for hybrid and sequel weddings, like the Gagnon’s, and not for a legally binding ceremony


And of course there’s PORTL, a ‘hologram communication platform’ maker, who hopes to ship their human-sized hologram boxes (priced at around $100,000) to tech-nerds everywhere. These devices definitely appear a step beyond any kind of augmented reality we’ve seen, but try cramming an entire wedding party into that box! 



A screenshot from the PORTL promotional video, showing a woman in a red shirt in front of white screen, being projected as a hologram in the PORTL box standing next to her

Screenshot from the PORTL promotional video.

On the left is a hologram being displayed in real time, of the woman standing on the right.



What type of AR is available right now for weddings? 


There’s already a lot of AR technology that’s easily accessible, and several AR apps have practical applications for engaged couples in the process of planning weddings, from e-commerce upgrades to tours of exotic travel destinations and potential wedding venues. 


For example, according to, Converse lets shoppers try on shoes virtually with the help of AR; WatchBox lets shoppers virtually try on watches before they buy; and Warby Parker lets soon-to-be-weds try out new wedding frames using AR face-mapping technology. 


The influencer also says that some travel brands and destinations are creating ways for potential visitors to experience their locations virtually before booking. 


If this catches on, couples of the future will be able to rehearse their ceremony with a wedding officiant in a distant location, without having to leave home! 



A woman tries on a wedding ring using AR augmented reality technology

A woman tries on an engagement ring using an AR app.



For those trying to get their wedding day look just right, L’Oreal recently launched Maybelline Virtual Try-On Makeup Tool, which uses Modiface's augmented reality technology to let customers try on different shades and styles of makeup without making a purchase. 


A few suit and dress retailers, including David’s Bridal, have started offering AR-assisted shopping so that soon-to-be's can try on a few looks before leaving the house. Zeekit, a startup app for trying on clothing virtually that launched way back in 2016, was purchased in 2021 by Walmart, so it definitely looks like this AR retail trend is here to stay. 


Most AR apps seem to be for commercial use for now, but it won’t always be this way. As the tech gets cheaper and easier to use, experts say it will start popping up in more helpful places (just like it has in educational and vocational training settings). 


And these AR wedding invitations from a few years ago are delightfully nerdy. 




Cute augmented reality wedding invitations! 




So, ok.  The dream of real-time dancing hologram destination weddings in our living rooms (à la Star Trek) isn’t here yet, but it’s probably much, much closer than any of us imagine. 




Are you tech savvy? 
Tell us your predictions for AR in the wedding industry.
Email [email protected]



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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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