Vows From the Heart (and From a Chatbot)

Josh Withers likes it when the couples he marries mess up their vows, such as when someone says, “I take you as my awfully wedded,” instead of the standard “lawfully wedded.”

But lately, Mr. Withers — an international marriage celebrant who helped found the Celebrant Institute, a training and mentoring organization in his native Australia — has been worrying that artificial intelligence will ruin those moments. He has already heard murmurs about the chatbot ChatGPT’s potential role in weddings.

“I’m seeing people using it to write speeches and write vows on wedding Facebook groups,” he said. “If a computer makes the words you speak at a wedding, what you’re going to get is recycled clichés. You’ll lose the humanity, the moments that make us feel love.”

Since its release last November, ChatGPT has become a source of concern in classrooms because of how students can use the chatbot to complete their assignments. Now, the increasing use of A.I. in weddings has raised even more questions about its potential and its ethical boundaries.

Ben Hart, who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, runs ToastWiz, an A.I. wedding speech-writing business that provides best men, maids of honor and couples’ parents with scripted remarks. He started the service in December, after a bout of nerves gripped him a few years ago at his own mother’s wedding, when he had headed to the microphone to propose a toast, and blanked.

After that deer-in-the-headlights moment, Mr. Hart heard what might have been a worse speech at another wedding: “It was a father of the bride speech, where the father was bragging about how much he paid for the wedding. It was awkward and uncomfortable.”

For $30, and in less than 15 minutes, ToastWiz generates three original speeches with the help of GPT-3, another A.I. chatbot. Chris Noessel, an author and public speaker who helps audiences understand A.I., and whose day job is actually designing A.I. for IBM, said that even though bots such as ChatGPT are free, the $30 price tag will be worth it for some.

“Just because you have access to this tool doesn’t mean you’re going to know how to use it well,” he said. Those who are terrified of wrestling with words for a speech and are not tech-savvy, he said, may find a service like ToastWiz — which is tailored to write specifically for weddings, unlike ChatGPT — more helpful.

Mr. Noessel, who lives in Richmond, Calif., is among the few ever to be married by an A.I. officiant. On April 2, 2018, he and his husband, Benjamin Remington, a user experience designer, exchanged vows read aloud by a chatbot.

Having a disembodied voice officiate was their way of honoring their relationship in a way that their 150 guests would recognize. “We kind of have a brand,” Mr. Noessel said.

The vows were handwritten, but had ChatGPT been around then, and Mr. Noessel felt as if he needed help crafting language to express his love and commitment, he wouldn’t have dismissed it. As an idea generator for ceremonies, toasts and vows, “there are ethical ways and unethical ways of using it,” he said.

“If you went to ChatGPT and said, ‘My bride-to-be’s name is Marcia and we met on the beach, write me vows,’ what you’ll get is inauthentic because ChatGPT doesn’t know Marcia. It’s just regurgitating stuff out to you,” Mr. Noessel said. But if the chatbot generates vows where “you end up going, ‘I like the structure, but I’m going to replace these sentences with heartfelt sentiments,’ I think it’s fine. It’s the human gate that makes it ethical in my consideration.”

Myka Meier, an etiquette consultant and wedding conduct guru, believes that gate or no gate, vows assisted by A.I. may be a technological bridge too far.

“Those are words that are supposed to set the precedent for the rest of your lives together,” she said. “If you feel you won’t do that justice without using A.I., consider letting the officiant say them rather than writing your own.”

On the other hand, Ms. Meier said she doesn’t believe in using up honeymoon time writing thank-you notes when a bot can help. After her wedding in 2013, she spent hours hand writing personal thank-you cards en route to the Maldives for her honeymoon. Ms. Meier said she would never endorse using fill-in-the-blank, impersonal thank-you letters, but ChatGPT, she recently discovered, doesn’t produce that kind.

Another question for those with A.I. experience and the inclination to use it might be: Why stop at vows or speeches?

Krystal Webber said she would design A.I. for her own wedding if she had the time. Ms. Webber, who lives in Austin, Texas, will be married on May 20. Her work as a partner at IBM’s Global Strategic Partners Division is focused on A.I., which enables her to understand its wedding-related capabilities. Yet, she claimed that there isn’t an AI interface designed with wedding considerations in mind.

“You could use technology to do comparison shopping,” she said. “It could be something like, ‘I’m getting married in Austin on this day, and I’m serving upscale tacos to 125 guests. What are my three best options?’” Shopping for wedding gowns could be a matter of typing, “‘I’m 5-foot-2, I generally wear this size and I’m looking for something in one of these three cuts.’ The technology exists. We just need somebody to build it.”

Ms. Webber can rattle off a full kit of fantasy A.I. bridal tools, including one that greets out-of-town guests with a custom welcome message when they land at the airport, and another that figures out whether it’s cheaper to stay at a hotel within walking distance of the venue or stay farther away and pay for cabs.

For now, though, she’s stuck poring over wedding spreadsheets and envisioning a day when technology will allow for more time to focus on bridal tasks that don’t involve sitting in front of a computer.

“If I could spend 10 percent of the time I’m spending on comparisons and calculations thinking about lighting and decorations, it would matter to me tremendously,” she said.

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