Marriages are made in heaven but wedding gifts are surely decided on earth.
Unfortunately, many of them end up being boring and mundane, which is why Prashant Sharma and Niti Shree, both 28, decided they didn’t want bouquets, wall clocks, dinner sets, or bedsheets. Instead, the couple, set to tie the knot on Dec. 09, has made its preference known: bitcoin.
The cryptocurrency has gained over a 1,000% this year, unsettling central banks and exciting investors. On a wild ride, the price of a single bitcoin has already crossed the $19,000 mark, up from $10,000 just 10 days ago. Unsurprisingly, this has led to frantic buying across the world, including in India.
But Sharma and Shree say their interest in virtual currencies dates back to 2014 and they aren’t jumping onto the bandwagon because it’s in vogue. “We believe that blockchain, the technology on which bitcoin is built, is going to be the next big thing. And we do want to take a bet on bitcoin and have a piece of that pie,” said Sharma, an entrepreneur.
The unconventional gift
Wedding worries often keep couples up at night.
In November, suffering a similar affliction, Sharma was running through the wedding checklist in his head. When it came to gifting, he was certain he didn’t want his house stuffed with either dying flowers or gifts they would never use. Separately, he had also been reading extensively on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
“Suddenly this idea struck me. What if I bring a dash of technology in the conventional marriage set-up and accept bitcoin as gifts?” he recalled. The following morning, the idea was discussed with Shree, also an entrepreneur and cryptocurrency enthusiast. Then, the couple tied up with Zebpay, an Indian bitcoin exchange company, to facilitate this idea.
When their wedding cards were printed, guests were informed that if at all they wanted to give the couple a gift, bitcoin would be preferred.
At the wedding reception venue, a gift booth with a bitcoin backdrop will be set up. It will be manned by staff who can handhold the guests through downloading the Zebpay app and buying bitcoin, which can be then sent to the couple.
The decor will also sport quirky one-liners about bitcoin. Even the menu will carry the flavour. Guests will have the option of picking up any of these four drinks at the bar—Ethereum, Monero, Ripple, and Litecoin—all named after cryptocurrencies.
Sharma and Shree’s enthusiasm over bitcoin hasn’t been marred by the fact that the Indian government and the country’s banking regulator are not comfortable with virtual currencies. Murmurs of an impending ban have been around for months.
“We don’t know if it will get banned or not but we are willing to take the risk. After all we are entrepreneurs and we are used to taking risks,” said Shree.
The couple launched Offrd, a platform that helps companies hire non-tech talent, in April this year. “There is risk in everything, for instance people who invest in stock markets also take on that risk, so you can invest a portion that you are willing to lose in an adverse scenario.”
They’re also convinced there will be resistance from the government and the regulator—but only till cryptocurrencies become mainstream. “Whenever a technology that can change the face of the world and the way business is done is introduced, there is resistance from different quarters. But the resistance will happen only till a point and will gradually die down as more and more people begin to adopt it,” added Sharma.
For Zebpay, a bitcoin-themed wedding of this sort is further proof that cryptocurrencies are becoming more popular among millennials. “This has been happening in the West but it is the first time that it’s happening in India. We believe this is just the beginning and we will see similar instances and used-cases in future,” a spokesperson said.
However, a word of caution. “If you want to have a piece of the next big thing then you can bet a little,” said Sharma, who, along with his partner, has invested less than Rs1 lakh ($1,552) in virtual currencies so far. “It may completely disappear also. So we are not saying that people should invest all their money into it, we are saying just bet on it a little if you are ready to take the risk.”