The bride and groom left the chuppah, smiling widely, and proceeded up the aisle.
“We paused,” said Rebecca Rose. “And we took out our phones.”
She and her now-husband, Peter Kacherginsky, weren’t texting, and they weren’t making a sudden pivot to Instagram. Instead, the newlyweds were using their phones for an entirely modern ritual, sending each other copies of a piece of animated art that contained a nonfungible token, or NFT, a unique and permanent digital marker.
Both of them work in blockchain, the technology that underpins NFTs, and it was a way for the San Francisco couple to mark the occasion as uniquely theirs.
“The idea just spoke to us, because the concept of NFTs allows you to show ownership,” said Kacherginsky. “Under the chuppah [the groom is] asked, ‘Does this ring belong to you?’ So in a similar fashion you can say, ‘Yes, this [NFT] belongs to me, I crafted it, I made it, and I can now give it to Rebecca to represent our bond.”
On top of that, he said, the transaction is recorded and will be a tangible marker of their marriage into the future.
“We have a to-the-millisecond record of exactly when the exchange occurred, and that’s permanent,” he said.
NFTs are a popular way of collecting art, music, or almost anything these days. A local Jewish nonprofit, Value Culture, just raised over $4,000 auctioning off a digital image of a matzah with an NFT during Passover. But as part of a marriage? Most people don’t hear “nonfungible” and think “romance,” but Rose and Kacherginsky aren’t most people.
“We liked the idea of the NFTs. We were able to personalize it and find artwork that meant something to us, that illustrated the bond of marriage,” Rose said. “And I feel like it was personal to us. Also we work in crypto, so it was a way to share a little bit about who we are with our families and friends.”
Rose, 34, and Kacherginsky, 38, both work at Coinbase, a platform to buy and sell digital cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ethereum. But they didn’t meet at work — they met on Hinge, a popular dating app, and had their first date in Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden in June 2019. That’s also where they got engaged and where they were married on March 14, bringing it full circle.
Once they started dating, Kacherginsky encouraged Rose, a product designer, to apply for a job at Coinbase, where he is a security expert, bringing her into the blockchain fold.
That the marriage was a moment of joining two lives was reflected in the art piece that Rose and Kacherginsky chose for their NFTs, an animation by a Swedish artist that shows two circles joining and merging in a swirl of color. Kacherginsky created a nonfungible token called “Tabaat,” Hebrew for ring, that was linked to the art piece. (For those who want to get a bit technical, the NFTs they exchanged at their wedding are on the ethereum blockchain, as are most NFTs. There are only two tokens, naturally — one owned by Rose, one by Kacherginsky.)
Rose said it brought an additional autonomy to their traditional Jewish ceremony, officiated by Chabad of Tri-Valley’s Rabbi Josh Zebberman.
“I think what was nice about this new tradition is it was a two-way exchange,” she said. “I was able to give Peter something and make that commitment public.”
The couple planned the wedding, during a pandemic no less, with the help of Tanya Shore of event planners the Simcha Sisters. The ceremony was attended by a close circle of family and friends, with others attending by Zoom.
“We were surprised to see clips from India, from Thailand, from China, from Europe,” Rose said.
She admitted that not everyone at the wedding fully understood what was going on.
“People were like, I still don’t get it, I’m stupid,” Rose said. “They’re not stupid. As far as we know, it was the first time that any couple has done this specific action within a marriage ceremony.”
But even if the technology seems complicated, in the end it was a simple moment that symbolized the couple’s love and commitment — an age-old message, even if the medium was new.
“Obviously we had a religious ceremony, we went through the State of California to get a marriage certificate,” Rose said. “But those are all governed by external authorities. We were able to do this on our own. We made a commitment to each other without approval from anyone.”