The bride wore a flowing white gown and an elegant crown.
And so did her avatar.
On Sept. 4, Traci Gagnon, a broker-associate with eXp Realty in San Antonio, and Dave Gagnon, an agent with eXp Realty in Concord, N.H., were married under sunny skies at Atkinson Resort & Country Club in New Hampshire. But as Dave waited in his suit and bright, bird-of-paradise boutonniere with officiant David Oleary (a broker-associate with eXp Realty in La Palma, Calif.), and Traci walked down the aisle with her colorful, cascading bouquet, a second, simultaneous ceremony was occurring elsewhere.
The Gagnons were also getting married in the metaverse—a virtual world where people can socialize, work, and even hold major events.
Detailed avatars of the Gagnons and Oleary mirrored the trio’s real-world movements in a computer-generated event room provided by Virbela, a company that creates virtual spaces for work, education, and events. Virbela, owned by eXp Realty’s parent company, eXp World Holdings, also enabled the wedding party and guests to create personalized avatars and upload them to the event space. And behind the avatars of the Gagnons and Oleary, a digital “screen” broadcast a livestream of the in-person proceedings.
At the end of the ceremony, the crowd in New Hampshire burst into applause, while the virtual attendees responded with even greater enthusiasm. While digital balloons descended from the ceiling, the avatars of the guests clapped, cheered, danced—and did backflips.
And as it turns out, the metaverse was an ideal venue for the tech-savvy couple’s nuptials.
It’s also where they met.
Traci began her real estate career in 1997, working first with Century 21 and then with Keller Williams, before joining online brokerage eXp Realty in 2015. Dave—also known as “Super Dave”—received his real estate license in the 1980s and became a team leader for Keller Williams in 2006, eventually shuttling around seven offices throughout New England. He became agent number 123 at eXp Realty in 2013 (eXp Realty now has over 60,000 agents worldwide), and worked for three years as the company’s director of cloud leadership and growth. Part of his job was teaching classes in eXp World, the company’s 3D virtual platform, and he first encountered Traci in avatar form when she took one of his classes.
“We met in person thirteen weeks later in Las Vegas at an eXp convention,” says Traci, adding that a romance soon blossomed in the real world. At the convention, Traci also bestowed the nickname “Super Dave” on her future husband. “I had a Southern accent, and I was always saying, ‘Super, Dave!’ ‘This is super, Dave!’ And everybody started saying it.”
Flash forward a few years, and the wedding ceremony in the metaverse—Virbela’s first, which was provided free of charge to the Gagnons—allowed friends and family who couldn’t be present in person to attend virtually. Traci’s maid of honor was unable to travel due to illness but was still able to walk the bride down the aisle in the virtual environment. And a dear friend of Dave’s, who was also unable to attend in-person due to a family illness, was able to offer a virtual toast to the couple.
“Metaverse weddings are wonderful for people who have family members who are spread out,” says Traci. “Really anyone in the world can attend.”
And Dave is quick to extol the virtues of eXp’s metaverse model: Agents can operate in any state where they are licensed; they aren’t tied to brick-and-mortar locations but can access physical offices and meeting spaces if they need them; they have access to online training and support; and they also receive equity in the company. “We all get stock in parent company eXp World Holdings,” he says. “We all get to share in the platform.”
The Gagnons are excited about all the metaverse has to offer, and they aren’t alone. In December, in a story in The New York Times about the Gagnons’ ceremony, wedding planners waxed rhapsodic about the possibilities of virtual nuptials as an addition to in-person ceremonies. (As of this writing, virtual ceremonies aren’t legal in most states.) NBA star Stephen Curry made a big splash in the same month when he sold 2,974 nonfungible tokens representing pairs of sneakers that can be worn in any or all of three metaverses: Gala Games, the Sandbox, and Decentraland.
In the real estate realm, Andrew Kiguel, the CEO of Tokens.com, told USA Today at the end of December that he’s made a tenfold profit on his November purchase of $2.43 million in commercial real estate parcels in the fashion district of Decentraland.
And, of course, the company formerly known as Facebook made headlines around the world in October when it announced it had changed its corporate name to “Meta” in honor of the metaverse.
With all of this metaverse activity, can residential real estate be far behind? Will we see sales of residential NFTs and agents representing metaverse-only homes?
Traci believes those could happen and that with the metaverse, anything is possible—for both weddings and real estate. “The sky’s the limit,” she says.