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Is it Legal to Officiate a Blockchain or Metaverse Wedding? Good question.

Published: Monday, Feb. 7th, 2022


Cryptocurrency enthusiasts and tech-loving couples are rushing to the digital altar to make their love ‘blockchain official’ with Ethereum smart contracts, NFT rings, and virtual guest lists in the hundreds or thousands. 

 

But this headline-grabbing trend has a lot of industry pros scratching their heads:

 

Are these newly minted digital weddings legal for wedding officiants to perform, or not?

 

It’s a good question. 
 

 

The short answer, to the best of our knowledge, is this: 

 

Wedding officiants can certainly perform a ceremony in the metaverse to celebrate a couple’s commitment, appearing as an avatar or ‘digital minister.’

 

But for a marriage ceremony to be binding, it needs an IRL component. Wedding officiants should meet with the couple in person and sign the marriage license the old fashioned way in order to keep things legal. The only exception to this might be in a state that allows a ceremony to take place remotely using video conferencing technology, but even then, couples should appear as themselves (not as an avatar) to take their vows. 

 

Why? While each state has its own specific rules, all states that allow virtual online weddings require officiants and couples to use a video-conferencing technology that enables them to see and hear each other in real-time, without anything that distorts their appearance -- such as a filter or adorable cartoon rendering. This rules out fully-immersive metaverse ceremonies that use avatars, as well as ceremonies in video games.

 

 

Read next: Pixel-Perfect Inspiration from 5 Metaverse and Video Game Weddings

Screenshot from a ceremony held in the video game Second Life for a couple named Seren and Sergio. Video credit: Jackson Redstar 

 


Other common requirements are that one or all of the parties must be physically located within the state that issued the marriage license, and that couples must be able to show the officiant a government-issued photo ID via webcam.

 

So, for now, weddings in immersive virtual spaces (such as metaverse venues or video games) are a lot of fun, but probably won’t be legally binding without a real-world ceremony to back them up. 

 

This makes metaverse ceremonies perfect for vow renewals, second ceremonies and sequel weddings, or hybrid ceremonies, in which a couple is married in the real world while their avatars marry simultaneously online. 

 

Here at AMM, we ordain and train compassionate wedding officiants. We’re not lawyers. We can’t give you legal advice, but to the best of our understanding, avatar-only ceremonies without a real-world component don’t meet the criteria of a legally binding wedding ceremony, at least not yet. 

 

For now, we recommend you play it safe, talk to your county clerk, and help your couples to elope IRL first! 


Related: These states are where you can - and can't - get married online

 

 

 

A look at the blockchain wedding trend

 

The first ‘official’ metaverse wedding took place late last year, although couples have been holding mock marriage ceremonies in video games like Second Life, Final Fantasy, and Animal Crossing for years. 

 

Now, in what was bound to be the next step, couples are hosting ‘blockchain weddings,’ sealing their virtual ceremony with Ethereum smart contracts and NFTs. 

 

 

(If you’re like us, you know what all these words mean individually, but they make less sense together in a sentence…)

 

 

The first blockchain-based metaverse ceremony in the US was held just a few days ago in Decentraland, a “3D virtual world browser-based platform.”

 

The Decentraland vow renewal ceremony attracted more than 2,000 virtual guests and was hosted by Rose Law Group in celebration of the couple’s 14th wedding anniversary. The event offered NFT wedding favors, a custom virtual venue, a “Virtual Premarital Agreement,” an NFT 'meta marriage license,' and the couple’s virtual identities were recorded on the blockchain. The first-of-its-kind vow renewal was officiated by Arizona Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick. (via CoinTelegraph)

 

 

 

An Indian couple in Pune held their country’s first blockchain wedding around the same time, on the OpenSea platform. For this ‘sequel’ ceremony, held after the couple’s small courthouse wedding, the couple set up Metamask wallets, and their ‘digital priest’ minted an NFT on OpenSea to transfer to them. The couple's unique NFT is a digital file based on a photo of the bride’s engagement ring, with their wedding vows embedded into the image. (via TimesNowNews)

 

In addition to NFT rings and venues, we’ve also heard stories of NFT wedding cakes – which honestly don’t sound as delicious as the old fashioned variety. The first NFT wedding cake, which is basically a gif file of an actual handmade cake, sold for over $300.

 

Related: Is Augmented Reality the Next Stop for Destination Weddings?

 

 

 

The takeaway 

 

It’s safest to elope in person and save the metaverse for a second ceremony. 

 

Technology moves a lot faster than the legal system. There’s a lot of debate over whether or not the current cryptocurrency frenzy can or will last, and whether or not NFTs are actually cool (or just a cute cover for money laundering). And there’s still no clear legal guidance on the future of metaverse weddings. 

 

We’ll do our best to keep up, but like we said, we aren’t lawyers. We recommend you contact your county clerk, elope in person, and save your metaverse venue for a cutting-edge vow renewal, second ceremony, hybrid wedding, or virtual reception… at least for now.
 


 

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