Anil Narasipuram immortalised his marriage with Shruti Nair by exchanging NFT (Non-Fungible Token) ‘rings’ in the presence of a ‘digital priest’. Photo: Anil Narasipuram
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Marriage celebrations took a major hit after the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, with phases when only 50 people were allowed on the guest list. While this prompted many to opt for simple court marriages, a Pune couple decided to take things up a notch. Anil Narasipuram, a design professor and tech enthusiast, immortalised his marriage with Shruti Nair, a product manager, both in a courthouse as well as on the decentralised blockchain network on November 15 last year. The wedding was possibly the first of its kind in India- marked by exchanging NFT (Non-Fungible Token) ârings' in the presence of a âdigital priest'.
Pimpri-Chinchwad-based Narasipuram explains, "We did the same process followed in a court marriage on Google Meet online. We made a NFT of the image of Shruti's hand, and using it as a token, registered our marriage on the Ethereum blockchain." For those confused about how this was done, Narasipuram says it is as simple as the act of registering a marriage in the office but only this one was done online. "In a traditional marriage, we exchange rings, but in this ceremony we exchanged the NFT or token in a transaction as a ritual that marked the occasion. So, it is as simple as you considering that the NFT is a ring given by me to my wife," says the 35-year-old. The couple also had an offline ceremony in a courthouse.
Interest in the blockchain has skyrocketed in recent years, and that virtual space is being explored for various activities, of which marriage seems to be the latest extension. Dinesh S P, a project associate at IIT Madras, and IT professional Janaganandhini Ramaswamy, from the Sivalingapuram village in Tamil Nadu, recently went viral for revealing plans to get married in the metaverse in February. The bridegroom created an avatar of the bride's father, who passed away last year, so that he can preside over the wedding virtually. Ramaswamy being a Potterhead, the metaverse wedding is set to have a Hogwarts theme.
Getting married with NFTs
At their ceremony, Narasipuram used a photograph of Nair's hand with the ring, clicked on the day of their engagement held in August 2021. They embedded their vows in it and converted that into an NFT, which Narasipuram says represents a "digital ring" that he gifted to his wife. Nair, in return, sent an NFT to his digital wallet to symbolise their union. The transactions were recorded on the blockchain, which to use an analogy, acts like the registrar's office or a registration book, where couples sign and record their marriage.
For the uninitiated, the blockchain is an online ledger than anyone can use. "Blockchain refers to the technology used to maintain this ledger," he simplifies. Anyone who has the link can view it on the Ethereum blockchain but nobody can modify it once entered.
The idea came to Narasipuram because he has been involved in the crypto space for a while now and was inspired when he saw a US couple mark their nuptials using NFT. In March 2021, US couple Peter Kacherginsky and Rebecca Rose exchanged digital rings in a traditional Jewish ceremony on the Ethereum blockchain. Prior to that, way before the technology was as popular as it is now, David Mondrus and Joyce Bayo were the first known couple to add their vows to the Bitcoin ledger in 2014. Meanwhile in September 2021, Dave and Traci Gagnon became the first to get married in the metaverse.
As a professor of User Experience and Game Design at the DY Patil International University, who tries to introduce his students to new topics such as this technology, Narasipuram reckons the blockchain marriage was meant to be. "Since I have been in this space, I understand how blockchain can be used to facilitate digital transactions and can have meaning. When I suggested it to my wife, she was open-minded and humoured me," notes a happy Narasipuram, who adds Nair enjoyed the process too because she was nodding in affirmation while he talked to this writer over the phone.
With blessings from a âdigital priest'
Luckily for Narasipuram, his family is as enthusiastic as he is about this new space. In fact, his 22-year-old cousin acted as the âdigital priest' - a term Narasipuram likes to use - who helped the couple create the NFT and sort of officiated the process too. "My cousin said, âBy the power vested in me by Ethereum, I now pronounce you husband and wife'. So, we made it quite fun and we were joined by some relatives and my mother on the call who watched the part where we completed the NFT transaction." It also led many of them to be more curious about NFTs and how they were used, after the ceremony.
Anoop Pakki, Narasipuram's Vishakapatnam-based cousin, has only recently graduated from college but has long had an interest in NFTs and blockchain technology. He explains, "When Anil called me before the ceremony, we discussed different ways to do the wedding in the blockchain space, after which he did some research and found the US couple who had created an NFT and exchanged it on the day of their wedding. So, we decided that Anil would send an NFT token to Shruti."
For Pakki, a computer science graduate who is currently a freelancer, this wasn't new territory because he has created NFTs for hackathons and projects in the past. Here, he created the ring for Anil to give to Shruti. He adds, "Anil wanted a personal touch to the wedding with somebody from the family creating the contract, and that is why I helped them create the NFT."
Future of NFTs and marriage
According to Narasipuram, NFTs are here to stay. He observes, "It may take different forms but this technology is definitely going to stay. As people become more aware of it and more comfortable, they will understand NFTs and see how it can be more useful."
Among those uses is the fact the technology is as yet decentralised, unlike the offline marriages where documentation is centralised in the registrar's office. "There is only one copy which is maintained by one authority, whereas in blockchain technology there are copies distributed across a network. If something is modified at one place and doesn't match with the other copies, it is rejected and that is the advantage of blockchain. So, we don't have to rely on one person to tell us the âtruth'." Narasipuram believes that this is what makes the technology secure and democratic.
Like Narasipuram, Pakki thinks NFTs are going to become popular in the future for many purposes. However, he doesn't believe it can really replace offline weddings because those still have a really personal touch. Getting married using blockchain technology will only add another layer to marriages.