The moment that the full potential of the internet became clear, it was immediately apparent that the days of several large industries were numbered. The internet could put everyone in the world in touch with each other instantly, and allow for files and data to be sent over long distances immediately. Distribution would never be the same, and sales and service companies found that the only two options that they had were adapt or die.
The first casualties of the internet were in print media. With news available online immediately twenty-four hours per day, every day of the year, nobody had any reason to wait for a weekly or monthly magazine to be delivered anymore. Even newspapers with circulations of millions of papers each day suffered. There are far fewer newspapers and magazines around today than there were in the year 2000, and even the largest of the companies that are still active are seeing their sales figures dwindle. Newspapers are still with us now, but they might not be with us for much longer.
After the newspapers came the DVD and video rental stores. As recently as the 1990s, Blockbuster Video stores were still opening up in their hundreds all over the world. They had no idea that streaming was coming, or how quickly it would make their business model obsolete. You could draw a straight line between the creation of Netflix and the closure of Blockbuster, and the line would be a short one. Several people have pointed out that Blockbuster could have lasted longer if it had made a few smart decisions – getting into the streaming business themselves being one option they didn’t consider until it was far too late – but the die was cast the moment that the idea of Netflix caught on.
Where the path of internet-led destruction goes from, there is a little harder to follow, but you could make a strong argument that casinos are feeling the strain now. Online slots websites have emerged as a strong alternative to a night out in the casino, and in many parts of the world, online slots websites are a lot easier to access than a real casino is. Factor in the small matter of convenience and range – you generally have a lot more UK slots casino to choose from online, and there isn’t a fee for entry – and you quickly come to understand that casinos are going to have to make some significant changes in the near future if they don’t want their online cousins to steal an even larger share of the market. The internet is the way of the future in every trade – and now it seems that even extends to marriage.
Our reason for saying all this is that as of this month, you can get married in the state of New York without leaving your home. You don’t need witnesses there to see you exchange your vows. You don’t need a registrar there to sign your documents. You don’t need a vicar, a priest, a pastor, or any other religious figure to conduct the ceremony. You don’t even need to wear your best clothes if you don’t want to. Using a video-sharing platform like Zoom, Skype, Houseparty, or Microsoft Teams, you can have the entire marriage ceremony conducted remotely, and your marriage will still be legally binding. We imagine that – for now at least – people will still prefer to have an ‘in-person’ marriage because half of the point of holding the ceremony is to have a party afterward – but there can be no denying that this is a much cheaper and more accessible way for people on a limited budget or with limited options to tie the not.
The state of New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, has authorized the issuing of remote marriage licenses to couples who had a wedding date booked for the next few weeks and months, but now cannot go ahead with their wedding as planned because public gatherings are banned in the state. He is not, however, limiting the granting of those licenses to people who already had a date booked. A clerk will need to be present on the call with them to ensure that the union is conducted lawfully and also to certify the wedding, but aside from that, there are no restrictions.
Whether or not the rest of the United States of America decides to follow suit and start issuing remote wedding licenses remains to be seen. Marriage laws differ dramatically from state to state in the USA, and some take a more conservative view of what does or doesn’t constitute a legally-binding marriage than others. The New York policy draws attention to the fact that such a thing is possible, though, and it’s hard to think of a reasonable objection to people getting married remotely if that’s what they choose to do. We don’t expect remote marriages to replace ‘in-person’ marriages at any point in the near future – and they may only have become a reality because of the current situation – but now they’ve become a reality, it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle. We suspect that remote marriages are here to stay.
Perhaps the most curious aspect of all this is that the two parties getting married don’t have to be in the same room for the marriage to take place. So long as they can both virtually be there on a video call at the same time, they can exchange their vows across the internet. This raises the possibility that people who have never met in person but conduct their relationship from a distance over the internet can now get married before they’ve so much as shared an embrace. Is this a charming new facet to the world of online romance, or should it be viewed as more of a worrying development, and one that will ultimately cause a spike in the divorce rate? We can’t say for sure. We’ll only know that in the future – and it seems that the future might be full of long-distance marriages.
Image Credits: Marc A. Sporys