Over the summer, Lucas Robinson sat on his couch in Los Angeles, popped on a pair of virtual reality glasses and prepared to watch his friend’s wedding.
The couple set up an entire VR system so guests could feel like they were at the wedding.
“We were escorted to a seat, and everyone had a camera, which was our eyes, so we could look around and see all the action,” said Robinson, the chief marketing officer of Crediful, a personal finance site.
If Zoom is the only technology you’re using for your wedding, you’re missing out on other options that can enhance the experience — especially for virtual affairs.
The pandemic has paved the way for technology-driven weddings: There’s everything from holograms (for missing guests) to robotic bartenders (to help with bartending safely). According to the Global COVID-19 Weddings Report, which provides insight into how couples around the world with weddings originally planned for September 2020 through January 2021 are celebrating, in 43% of weddings in the United States, couples are using virtual add-ons. It’s time to join the party.
Virtual reality livestreaming
Zoom is great, but virtual reality is better. Companies like Save the Date VR will mail VR headsets to each wedding guest so couples can livestream their wedding. Through the headsets, guests are able to see the 360 wedding video from a fixed location. The company captures the videos during the wedding and stitches them together, creating a full scene (the couple doesn’t wear the VR set during the wedding). From there, the video is shared and can be experienced through the headsets or on the computer or phone. “Some people want the wedding to be livestreamed, others want this to be a keepsake they can have forever, and some want both,” said Lien Driscoll, the owner and president of the Irvine, California-based company.
Driscoll said her team works with a couple to determine camera positions and to set up everything ahead of time. It’s still a new technology in the wedding realm, but it appears to be growing in popularity as couples learn more about the possibilities, Driscoll said. Photographers are also partnering with Save the Date VR and are using this as a package add-on. Most weddings start at $1,400, which includes video of the ceremony, an edited video, and three more moments from the wedding. The headset rentals are a separate fee, starting at $10 plus tax and shipping (the price depends on the number of headsets rented and the duration of the rental). Return postage is prepaid.
Virtual photo booth
Started in 2017 but primed for pandemic weddings, Outsnapped, a virtual photo booth company, makes it possible to take group photos, or pose with the bride, groom or other wedding guests remotely. You can also create mosaic recap videos and choose backgrounds, stickers and other features allowing guests to pose for photos with stickers of the wedding couple and their pets, superimposing everyone into first date memories, or taking guests virtually on your honeymoon. (If they appear in the photos, they must have been there, correct?)
The company’s artificial intelligence makes all the virtual photos a reality. Photos can be shared, downloaded or made into a tangible album. Basic packages start at $495 (includes up to 500 photos, one overlay, an image gallery and 24 hours of use).
Electronic interactive room preview
We already have the option of virtually moving around furniture in our homes, and now we can do it for our wedding venue, thanks to 3D Event Designer, an immersive, interactive wedding floor plan site based in Laguna Niguel, California. This is a tool offering drag-and-drop features so you can experiment with chairs, place settings, buffet and beverage diagrams and room layouts (starts at $14.95 for a one-month subscription to the service, which includes one floor plan).
3D Event Designer also has dozens of real wedding venues on its site, ranging from the Castle Hotel and Spa in New York to the Space Needle in Washington, so you can experiment with these. “If they want to see what their dining tables will look like with navy tablecloths versus beige, a simple click of the button shows them their options,” said Lynn Kennedy, a wedding planner with the Gilded Aisle Weddings in Chicago.
Do you want fancy drinks but you don’t necessarily want more people in the room to serve those drinks? Now, you can purchase this robotic bartender ($1,250) to make drinks without any real bodies involved. Once you add up to five spirits and three mixers, the app will make the drinks (you tell the app what to do ahead of time). The app comes preloaded with hundreds of recipes, but couples can also customize their own.
Users input their ingredients into the app and select the cocktail they want to craft. They can also create signature drinks for guests. Pop a dedicated tablet on the bar, and guests can order.
“Our guests usually use the machine for entertaining at small gatherings,” said Akshet Tewari, who founded the company. “There has been a wait-list for the Robotic Bartender because of the steady surge of people drinking at home since the start of the pandemic.”
The company is currently shipping a limited number of robots from its wait-list.
Your imagination can go completely wild here: Bring historical figures to your wedding; resurrect famous singers to serenade you; sing a duet with Dolly Parton; or even teleport relatives to your wedding so they can make a speech. You could even create a Kim Kardashian-worthy moment (during her 40th birthday, Kanye West gifted her a 3-D hologram of her late father, Robert Kardashian Sr., who wished his daughter a happy birthday.)
“When it’s a surprise, it can really be quite emotional,” said Daniel Reynolds, director and producer with Kaleida, a hologram and interactive experience company with offices in London, Toronto and Berlin. “Since the video transfer connection is two-way, those appearing can also see the wedding couple’s response.”
Outside of budget, location isn’t a barrier for holograms, as most companies (including Kaleida) have connections virtually everywhere to assist when delivering the projectors. From a technical perspective, these involve projecting or reflecting an image onto an invisible surface, Reynolds said. The holograms you may have seen in Star Wars — which have the appearance of a full 360-degree image existing in 3D space — are still a long way from reality, however.
“For us, the art to staging a great hologram is to leave your audience clueless as to how it was done,” Reynolds said. This used to be around $1 million for a four- to five-minute holographic resurrection of a historical figure; today, it can be done for substantially less, and at a far higher quality, Reynolds said. But it’s still not an inexpensive endeavor.
Prices start at around $80,000 to include a hologram at your wedding, even if for only a few minutes.