Over the weekend, a pair of lovers who met in the cloud celebrated their love in virtual reality. Traci and Dave Gagnon, whose avatars were the bride and groom, said their “I do’s” in a ceremony staged by Virbela, a company that builds spaces for work, play and events. The event was so realistic, even 7-year-old twin avatars were able to take part as the ring bearer and flower girl.
The couple got married in a virtual ceremony that took place in the Virbela Unity Space, an environment that simulates the size of the International Space Station (ISS) and enables participants to look out its windows and explore. The spacecraft was built to host up to a thousand avatars and was equipped with special lighting, music and cameras that allowed the real-life guests to see the virtual wedding as it happened. The bride and groom walked down the aisle, held hands and exchanged rings while their avatars watched from the sidelines. Afterwards, the couple toasted with champagne and danced with each other in the spaceship’s cabin.
It’s not the first time a couple has tied the knot in space, but it was the most high-profile one. In 2003, US citizen Ekaterina Dmitrieva and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko wed over a video conference link between their locations on Earth and the ISS. She wore a white dress and he was in his standard ISS uniform, which he had embellished with a bow tie for the occasion. They were used to long distance relationships as they both lived in the US and trained for their upcoming missions in Russia, so they didn’t let the logistical challenges of a space wedding stop them.
After the wedding, he went on to make two more trips to the ISS and is a hero in his home country. The incident did have some repercussions, though – the marriage was considered a breach of protocol and the contract cosmonauts sign before their missions now includes a clause banning space weddings.
A new company is now offering couples the chance to have a space wedding for themselves, but it’s not cheap. Orlando-based Space Perspective will be journeying passengers to 100,000ft in its Neptune spacecraft from 2024, and they’re already booking up quickly. The Neptune has the biggest windows flown into space and is powered by renewable hydrogen to eliminate the need for rockets and their carbon footprint.
But for those with a much bigger budget, the world’s first space hotel might soon be at your fingertips. Voyager Station, which is being designed to resemble a cruise ship, is expected to open in 2027 and will allow travelers to live and work in orbit, hundreds of miles above the planet.