Computer serves as minister at Houston wedding

[From AP via The Houston Chronicle; a 1:08 minute video of the wedding is available here]

[Image: Miguel Hanson, right, kisses his fiancee Diana Wesley by the computer Thursday, July 28, 2011, in Humble, Texas. (David J. Phillip – AP)]

Computer to serve as minister at Houston wedding

By JUAN A. LOZANO Associated Press
July 29, 2011

HOUSTON — You could call it “My Big Fat Computer Geek Wedding.”

When Miguel Hanson and Diana Wesley get married Saturday, they won’t stand before a gray haired minister holding a Bible. Instead, they’ll be looking at a 30-inch monitor. On one half of the screen, they’ll see a virtual minister with an animated, square face with blue eyes and thin, oval glasses. His voice will be heard over a sound system while the text of what he’s saying will show up on the other half of the screen.

Hanson, a Houston web developer and IT consultant, created the minister software program when the couple couldn’t get a friend to serve as the minister at their wedding.

“I was like, you know I’m going to write my own minister,” Hanson said.

Wesley, a high school sign language teacher, said she’s aware of the nerd jokes that might come the couple’s way once more people hear about the wedding. But the couple says being married by a computer fits who they are. They met through a website called “Sweet on Geeks” and love science fiction and fantasy.

“That’s kind of our thing,” Wesley said. “In fact, my maid of honor, she’s making my cake and she’s making it with Nerds (candy) as the topping and not icing. That’s kind of the theme, the geeked out wedding.”

The ceremony will take place in Hanson’s parents’ backyard in Houston. Wesley, 30, said she wanted a small wedding, and the couple started planning it after Hanson, 33, proposed in May.

The computer will greet the couple’s 30 or so guests in a mechanical, robotic voice, give a little history about how they met and then go through the ceremony. The virtual minister, nicknamed “Rev. Bit,” also will crack a joke or two.

“If anyone here has anything to say that might change their minds or has any objections, they do not want to hear it and I will not recognize your objections since Miguel has programmed me to only recognize his commands,” said the program during a preview that Hanson played on his home computer.

It’s HAL 9000 meets “Here Comes the Bride.”

While Hanson wrote the software program, the couple collaborated on the text the computer will recite during the ceremony.

They said their friends instantly like the idea. But some family members took a little longer to warm up to it.

“A couple members of the family were like, `Really? A computer?’ I think once they see it. … It’s novel and so it’s something they haven’t seen,” Wesley said.

While performing weddings might not be the next logical step in the evolution of computers, Hanson and Wesley are not alone in wanting holy matrimony to be more high tech.

A robot officiated a wedding last year in Japan, but in that ceremony, the robot was remotely controlled by a man sitting a few feet away.

Hanson said while he will use a wireless mouse to move the computer program forward after it pauses to let people speak, it will for the most part run on its own once the ceremony begins.

The computer-officiated wedding won’t be legally binding. Hanson and Wesley still have to get a justice of the peace to sign their paperwork to make the marriage official. They plan to do that shortly after the ceremony.

“We’re both friends of the computer. So it’s kind of like our best friend is still marrying us,” Wesley said. “The computer is a huge part of our lives, so why not be a huge part of this?”


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