Immersive Technology Creates ‘Destination’ Weddings Without Leaving OC

August 3, 2020 Updated: August 3, 2020

In the Capistrano Beach neighborhood of Dana Point, California, a building decorated on the outside with a funky fish mural is known as the Fish Tank. 

Once you’re inside, you could feel like you’re submerged in a real fish tank, if you so desire—or you could go anywhere in the world. 

At least that’s the goal of creative director Thomas Clark, who uses projection technology to create life-sized immersive scenes of exotic locations. He has teamed up with wedding planner Laurie Davies in hopes of bringing destination weddings to land-locked couples amid the pandemic.  

“[You can] get married anywhere in the world, in ‘a galaxy far, far away,’ or next to a waterfall. In other words, the world is your oyster with the immersive experience,” Clark told The Epoch Times. 

“We figured a lot of people aren’t traveling,” Davies told The Epoch Times. “They planned on going to Hawaii or Europe, but nobody wants to fly now. So we’ll bring the destination to you.

“If you want to be in Hawaii, we have all the lighting and the technique to make it look like all the waves are coming in. You can see whales. It’s like you’re in Hawaii. We’re almost [at the point] where the water comes through beneath your feet,” she said.

Clark is currently working with his team to expand their visual library and perfect the options for ambient sound. Soon, they will perform a mock wedding to “play with the ideas and enhance the experience.” 

If all goes according to plan, the Fish Tank will be ready for its first event in early December. 

Davies listed ideas for immersive weddings—couples could get married in Paris, Barcelona, or New York City, all within one building in Dana Point. 

“It’s wherever you want to be … something that hasn’t been done before,” she said. 

Clark is an artist who works with a variety of media and on various projects. His passion for projection started when he used it in his home church, Capo Beach Church. 

For Easter services in 2015, he set up environmental projections to replace the dark-walled backdrop. He has had many commissions from multiple churches. 

Last year, he teamed up with retired businessman Larry Robinson to create the Fish Tank, by converting a warehouse in the mixed-use neighborhood. They kept the roll-up metal door of the warehouse, which adds some character to the space, but painted it with the fish mural. It’s a place dedicated to “fostering community, creativity, and collaboration,” Clark said. 

“I believe we were all created to engage life with all of our senses,” he said. “So often, events that we attend are limited or don’t fully engage our full capacity to interact.”

He explained that the environmental projection experience is similar to being in the middle of a movie set. 

“We are using the technology available and turning a studio lot into the setting of a romantic movie destination with the director, production designer, cinematographer, and sound and lighting designer all setting up the scene.”  

While environmental projection requires sophisticated technology, Clark says he is “right-brained” and relies “on the skills of those who can technically make it happen.” 

While the venue has additional allure during the pandemic, Clark and Davies also see the general potential for this concept in the future. 

“Even beyond COVID-19, it’s a wonderful alternative for people looking for a monetarily feasible and creative alternative for their wedding,” Clark said. 

He mentioned a friend who recently revisited his wedding photos and summed up what’s essential to the wedding experience. 

“They had hired a photographer, a band, and fed over 200 of their family and friends. Almost all the photos that the photographer sent them were he and his bride, his immediate family, and his closest friends dancing and connecting.”

It isn’t necessarily the huge crowd of people at a wedding that stands out as important, but the closest of friends and family, he said. Clark sees the Fish Tank space as an opportunity to embrace a smaller-scale ceremony. 

“There is so much pressure to create this huge event that it puts stress on the couple and straps them financially at a time that their finances should be going toward their new life together,” he said. 

Even if finances aren’t the main concern, Clark says, an immersive wedding provides “lower stress [as well as a] unique and creatively entertaining way to get married.”