A former soldier who served in Afghanistan is to showcase his new Virtual Reality wedding business, at the Sovereign Shopping Centre’s Bride on a Budget Wedding Fair, in Boscombe.
Luke Woods’ new service allows couples to share their special day up close with loved ones even if they are thousands of miles away, thanks to 360’ interactive Virtual Reality (VR) video, meaning they can watch proceedings from several angles.
Luke, 49, from Poole in Dorset, is no stranger to conducting romance at long distance, as he is preparing to marry his fiancée Jennifer Lloyd-Grey, who he met on a dating website while 5,000 miles away from her, in Canada.
The couple, who also run the business together, will be among a wide range of exhibitors at the Bride on a Budget Wedding Fair which is free to attend, at Boscombe’s Sovereign Shopping Centre, from 10am to 4pm, on March 25.
Luke says his VR wedding service adds a new dimension to his existing wedding photography services, and allows people who can’t be guests in person to experience the ceremony and celebrations first hand. The VR videos also provide a lasting interactive memory that can be shared privately or on social media.
It comes two years after Luke left the Army having served for six years as a Rifleman. While in the Army he built his photography business, so it was ready for him to go into full time on returning to civilian life.
He is now preparing for his own wedding with Jenny, and even filmed his own proposal in 360’ virtual reality format.
“It was a really great experience coming home from Afghanistan knowing that we’d made the lives of people who’d suffered at the hands of a brutal regime, so much better,” said Luke.
He added: “I am quietly proud to have been part of the British Armed Forces peace keeping operation in Afghanistan. We gave those people their country back.
“Now I’ve done my duty in the military, and I’ve got a new mission to improve people’s lives in a different way, by spreading happiness.”
Luke, originally from Bridport, took a laptop and digital camera on tour with him while in the Army and in his spare time honed his digital editing skills.
“I’d always wanted to go into business as a professional photographer,” said Luke, whose first experience in the industry was back in 1978 helping his uncle who was a Fleet Street photographer.
“So when I made the transition back into civilian life, the skills I’d built up doing this as a hobby really came into their own.”
Luke took a job working in IT, and after a stint helping Google Maps software, took the leap to set up on his own.
“I was putting out a lot of media and Google saw that, interviewed and selected me for a Google Maps program, said Luke. I jumped right on board and have not looked back since. It’s no free meal ticket though – lots of brain sweat and long hours but it’s worth it, I now get 80k views a month of my work and its growing all the time.”
It was while working on a Google project in Canada that Luke started chatting to Jenny on-line and when they met, Luke says he immediately knew she was “the one”.
He said: “It’s amazing what technology can do to connect people emotionally even though they are thousands of miles away.”
”When we met it was love at first sight – its true when people say ‘when you meet the one you just know’. She has given me some of my life back that I lost in service and I owe her so much already.”
“This is my mission now, giving people more happy, emotional experiences and helping them to remember the precious moments in their life.”
He added: “For me it is clear that VR Video is the next visual evolution in how we see the world – you can see it with a VR headset – and on a mobile screen, it’s so easy – just play it and spin round and you are there”
Other exhibitors at the Bride on a Budget Wedding Fair at Sovereign Shopping Centre on March 25 include wedding favours supplier Cockatoo, photo booth hire company Click It, florist Bottom of the Garden Flowers, Carousel which can help couples with car hire and décor, and stationary suppliers Jellicoe Creative.
Entertainment will be provided throughout the day by local singer songwriter John Cotton, from Boscombe, and his Latin style band. The musician’s wife Sarah Cotton will also be exhibiting her wedding photography services.
There will also be a vintage tea room and caravan with sweet cart from Lick a Lollipop Weddings.
Sovereign Shopping Centre Manager Peter Ruscoe said: “We’re really excited to have such a wide variety of exhibitors at our Bride on a Budget Wedding Fair.
“Luke’s virtual reality service is really exciting, and we’re looking forward to seeing people’s reaction to the videos.
“It is important to us that the event is free to attend, and that so many of the services being showcased can help save couples money on their special day.
“We hope lots of people from across the Bournemouth area will come along to see what’s on offer.”
Luke invested the money he saved while in military service, and used this to set up his business.
His VR wedding videos are filmed using several specially built cameras and microphones at any one time, placed in strategic locations around the venue.
This allows virtual guests to pan around the proceedings as the videos are playing, giving views from many angles and a feeling like you are in the room.
Luke is so taken with the technology that he filmed his own proposal to fiancée Jenny, at the top of Hardy’s monument in Dorchester, on August 29, 2016.
“I had to keep it a secret to surprise her, said Luke, “I tricked her a little bit and told her everyone we knew could see her answer live!
“But it meant I couldn’t do my usual set up, and I only used one camera and mic. It was a bit windy up there too so the sound isn’t great. Jenny keeps saying we’ve got to go up there and do it again.”
Luke added: “I’m a big romantic and I love fairy tales. When it comes down to it love is the building stone of humanity and so I’m honoured to get to record these special moments.”
To find out more about Luke Woods’ Virtual Reality wedding videos visit: https://luke-woods-weddings.co.uk/virtual-reality-wedding/