Many people don't understand the emotional and mental intimacy virtual reality relationships can create. When SL only offered text it was still an incredibly close experience but once voice became available, oh my that changed everything! The avatar you were hanging out with, sharing your thoughts and dreams suddenly became real. This may have changed some relationships, I suppose-- some for the worse or some became even closer. Once the voice was there it with all the nuances of every day life, where you could hear their joy, frustration, annoyance and adoration (one hopes) all of us took a giant leap from fantasy to reality.
One of the by products of all this mingling is love. Yes, even avatars fall in love! And because we are creatures grounded in our other world rituals, we bring carry this over to our virtual lives. Viola, the virtual wedding!
Now, don't you go rolling your eyes! Weddings are big business in SL. Sure, avis could all live together in moral anarchy but most of us don't. We like commitment just as well as our flesh and blood counterparts! Some things aren't quite the same--the food isn't eaten but it's still purchased and displayed. That's one of the oddities of Second Life. Can't eat it, but you are a bad hostess and a major virtual faux pas if you don't have it for your guests. Go figure. Same goes with the virtual bar. Some guests even fall down drunk if they have the right script. Mostly people just have fun, dance, chat in text, speak to one another in voice IM or public voice.
Let's not forget all the planning! There is a reception place to reserve, music to consider (DJ or stream?), bridesmaids & dresses---oh yes, wedding gowns, flowers and invitations, even marriage certificates. All of this costs serious lindens (money), too!
Linden Labs, the creators of our wonderful world, hasn't offered the ability for their citizens to change their name after marriage. Sighs...so many people resort to posting a group title over their head, ie: Jane's husband, Jim's wife for all the world to know they are an official couple just in case one hasn't taken a peek at their profile. There is such a thing as "partnering" in SL. It's their version of "we are together." It's in the profile but nothing says married like a wedding!
So far there aren't wedding announcements yet in SL newspapers but it's only a matter of time, I think. How long do SL marriages last? Well, the divorce rate is probably equal to real life but that doesn't stop anyone from giving it a try. I do know several couples planning on meeting in real life with the hope that their real world compatability will equal their SL experience. If it is, they all say they will continue in real life with the intention of marrying! Now, that's cool. After months and months of sharing online will the real world transition be any easier?
I'll be following some of these meetings and let you all know :)