An Ethnography of MMORPG Weddings

About 10% of male players and 33% of female players have married online. About 1% of male players and 10% of female players have married online more than once.

Most MMORPG players feel that getting married online is silly. Male players were more likely than female players to feel that getting married online is silly.

Part of why so many people think MMORPG weddings are silly is that they feel it is meant as a counterpart or parallel of a real world wedding, as if the digital wedding is trying to accomplish what a real world wedding does Ė a commitment between a man and a woman that leads to the beginning of a family. In this sense, of course the digital wedding is silly, but thatís not what the virtual wedding is supposed to do. A virtual wedding isnít an attempt to hi-jack a real life ritual as much as it is a ritual that has evolved and taken on its own significance in a virtual world. In the same way that words and dialect take on their own cultural meaning and bestow cultural identity on its speakers, a virtual wedding is a cultural phenomenon that establishes a kind of digital identity for these virtual communities.

In fact, as the following stories demonstrate, a virtual wedding is a combination of social entertainment, extensive role-playing and sometimes political intrigue. Instead of thinking of a virtual wedding as the corrupt bastard child of a real world contractual agreement, the virtual wedding should be considered as an elaborate form of collaborative digital story-telling Ė a ritual of its own right that fulfills a completely different purpose.

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The following narratives highlight the collaborative story-telling function of virtual weddings:

My friend and I were married in game once. It was a hoot. I am female in RL and play a male char, and he is male in RL and plays a female char, so that role playing was fun. Our guild leader made everyone remove their head gear and disarm their weapons before the ceremony, and then read these very beautiful vows that she had written. They were full of Norrath imagery and very well done, I was impressed. During the ceremony attendants were role playing via emotes **Sarah sniffles and looks for a handkerchief** **Korlon hands Sarah a piece of gnoll fur** That kind of thing. It was great role playing fun. Then everyone gave us gifts and we handed out the booze, and everyone got drunk and danced and made each other levitate and what not. It was very silly and fun. That guild had several weddings, and they were some of the best times I've had in the game. That guild broke up though, I miss them. Its also fun because now when we see each other in game on those chars my friend and I can be like, 'Oh damn, there's my wife. Hi honey.' **rolls his eyes** or some such role playing nonsense. He has another char that he role plays as my Mom, that is even more role play fun. =) [EQ, F, 33]

I married my boyfriend online in 1999 and we were married in reality in 2001. The wedding was held in a special chapel in the game and a 'Seer' preformed the ceremony, with much pomp and circumstance. We received specially engraved wedding rings which are blessed and cannot be lost should our characters die. A guild we often interact with and role play with arrived. Our guild is the 'good guys' guild and theirs the 'bad guys' guild. They roleplayed a small disruption, but nothing to spoil the day, and we had a really great time. Then I was kidnapped away during the feast and my beloved had to follow clues and he and the wedding guests set out in search parties to find me. After a little searching they found more clues which eventually led him to me. He had to fight his way past some of the 'bad guys' guild to rescue me and take me away to our honeymoon. It was great fun and I will always cherish it. [DAOC/UO, F, 40]

My first wedding was very special. I married Zexis Tal 'Daris. A GM friend of mine took us around to various places that we considered for our wedding. On a specific date, our friends and guild members met us by being summoned and a gm friend who was a cleric 'married' us. Afterwards, we had wedding cake and lots of ale etc. We had no unruly nor unexpected guests. It was a very nice experience. My second wedding was several years later after my first virtual husband had left the game. It was very romantic. He asked me to marry him at sunset on the Oasis beach. His name is Tobie Baine. The location was special, in that we were married on the Oasis beach where he had asked me to marry him. Our guildmaster married us and it was delightful. There were no special vows really, but I kept going linkdead =) No unruly guests, but interestingly, my previous online husband showed up unexpectedly and seemed to have a bit of a difficult time with this wedding. It didn't bother me and he behaved himself. Tobie and I have remained friends now since our characters were both in our early teens. They are now both 65, but he no longer raids with the group we used to raid with. He is currently in college and can't keep the raid schedule and do well in school. We have kept touch by email even when one of us has taken a break. We still have a good friendship. I also remain in contact with my first husband by email and by instant messaging. Oh! Interesting story =) With my second husband, Tobie, we were raiding together the day after the wedding and I got charmed and killed him. He said that he joked that it didn't bode well for the marriage when the bride kills the groom the day after the wedding =) [EQ, F, 51]

Some months after we became involved IRL we married our characters in the game. It was a full guild wedding. We actually had special outfits we'd acquired (pity the male high elf cleric got to wear white while the female woodelf druid had to settle for bejeweled brown leathers-- Velious Models). I was at his place in Toronto and we had major problems with keeping two machines connected-- I kept LDing every couple of minutes. We wound up on the phone with the guildleader (who's a computer person) trying to coordinate everything. Wedding was done in increments until I LDd again. We had picked the location for ease of access, safety for guests, and beauty: the shoreline south of the port in ButcherBlock Mts. Would have preferred the dock in Lake Rathe on the RM side but it's too hard to get to. We wrote our vows in advance, and our 'best man' had a speech prepared as well. Most of our friends attended, the ceremony was performed by the guild's ArchBishop Ldara and leader, Prince Zackary. Some people gave up raids with their guilds to attend. Pictures posted on guild website (along w/ several other weddings of guildmembers who are RL couples) at http://sofeq.sofguild.com/scenes/scenes15.htm The rainbow of spell effects coordinated by our friend Katrinz afterwards is one of my favorite memories. [EQ, F, 59]


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Other weddings are more laden with humor:

Iíve been married twice. Once to a very good friend who I met very early in the game. We were married near a large arena by a lake. The vows were strange, because normally people dont think of a pair of dark elf shadow knights to be all happy happy love love. O_o But you know, it was your normal evil wedding with vows about walking the path of darkness with each other and slaying the innocent, ect. LOL. Followed by a drunken guild fight in the arena. (What would you expect from a PvP guild?) The second time was less fun. It was in a dull place that I didnt pick. The vows were nothing to remember. I didnt enjoy it very much. After we went to a dungeon that I also didnt pick, to camp something that he wanted. The start of a very unhappy EQ/RL relationship. One wedding I remember well actually wasnt my own, but a friends. It was in a city, and a guard came by and started to attack some guests as the vows were being said, it was pretty interesting. [EQ, F, 17]

Highlights of the wedding? It was a cute ceremony, I guess. I got a ring that one of my alts still wears. I got married to my old guild leader, the location was the docks at Freeport. We all went and 'got a hotel room' in Freeport and started boozing it up. The funniest part: a friend of mine who didn't want me to get 'married' to this guy, sends my RL boyfriend (we werenít dating at the time though) a tell sayin 'i hope it friggin rains' and it started raining. [EQ, F, 22]

Yes I have been married 3 times, the first 2 times just a roleplay arrangement. The first wedding my husband got drunk and fell in some water and drowned. The second was supposed to be in my favorite place in lesser fay fairy ring, sadly before i arrived the whole wedding party was wiped out by the corrupted horse so the venue had to be changed. But the most meaningful was the third time because I had truly fell in love and now am married to this many in many different lives. [EQ, F, 38]

And finally, sometimes weddings fulfill political purposes:


I have married someone in game. It was partially a political move (believe it or not....) to get me into a pretty selective high end raiding guild that had closed off its application process. I got married to a long time friend. We said pagan-like vows to each other (as I wanted to roleplay it as much as possible ... and had been to previous weddings that modeled the american-christian weddings services ... that bugged me to no end Ö as he iis korean-american and I am jewish-american it made sense to do it this way) There was a lot of alcohol drinking and food eating. We got married in Lake Rathe....a place we both picked out. [EQ, F, 29]