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Love in the time of metaverse
When Bay Area couple Sheel Mohnot and Amruta Godbole got married in the metaverse on February 24, one of the many amusing reactions they drew on social media read,
‘Culturally speaking, getting married at Taco Bell is even more Indian than getting married at the temple.’
Mohnot, co-founder of VC firm Better Tomorrow Ventures, and Godbole, a lawyer at Instagram, beat 300 couples to win a contest held by Taco Bell for a metaverse wedding. Actor Kal Penn , son of Gujarati immigrants, interviewed the couple on video, while the celebrations, laced with interactive Taco Bell-branded items, played out.
“I’ve always been a big Taco Bell fan, and a bunch of people sent me the tweet when Taco Bell announced it (the contest),” said Mohnot. “Amruta was a very good sport about it, though it was my idea to enter the contest. We submitted a two-minute video and were notified a few weeks later. (Our) parents were mostly confused about why we would do this but they ended up enjoying the experience!”
Band, Baaja, Baraat
Complete with a mandap, Bollywood-style desi outfits, hot sauce-flavored agni, a baraat led by a digitized elephant, a dance party, and heartfelt speeches made by the avatars of family members, the hour-long virtual festivities unfolded in Decentraland, a 3D universe powered by the Ethereum blockchain. Ordinary netizens were invited to gate-crash the wedding either through Decentraland’s platform or the live feed of Twitch streamer Jordan Payton.
The Taco Bell team was happy to Indianize things for the couple. “We wanted to bring in our heritage and Taco Bell obliged,” said Mohnot. The couple wanted a baraat, a mandap, and fire and worked closely with the Taco Bell team over five months to make it a reality. “They were excited to bring those things to life.”
Taco Bell collaborated with creative agencies Deutsch LA, The Electric Factory, and livestream production company Mobeon for this digital effort.
There’s an IRL side to this wedding too! On February 27, the Taco Bell team hosted a private reception for the couple at its Pacifica Cantina outlet, which is where they met for one of their first dates. The couple will have a larger event in Mexico later this year with Indian and Mexican food on the menu.
Desi Heritage, Veggie Taste
Mohnot’s parents are from Rajasthan. His father was raised in a village called Pipar and later moved to Mumbai to study at IIT. In 1974, he came to the US to attend graduate school. His mother, raised in Nagpur and Kota, came here in 1979.
Godbole’s parents were both raised in Mumbai. Her father came to the U.S. for his Ph.D. in 1979 and her mother joined him here in 1984.
Both Mohnot and Godbole are vegetarian, so Taco Bell promoted its vegetarian menu through their wedding. It’s been three years since the fast-food chain launched Veggie Mode, a feature that transforms the menu to display only vegetarian items on its kiosks.
“For Sheel and Amruta, their South Asian heritage plays a big role in their lives and that was one reason they frequented Taco Bell. Through this celebration of marriage, we’re grateful for the opportunity to connect authentically with South Asian consumers nationwide, knowing that many in that community already enjoy our vegetarian options,” a Taco Bell spokesperson said.
Metaverse is real
Metaverse weddings took off during the pandemic when couples could no longer gather for in-person ceremonies or pay for them. Dinesh Sivakumar Padmavathi and Janaganandhini Ramaswamy made headlines last year when they became India’s first couple to marry in the metaverse. But the trend has outlived the pandemic.
When was the Taco Bell couple’s actual wedding, though? “The actual legal wedding was in the metaverse,” says Mohnot.