Thanks to one smart investor — and bitcoin today cresting $16,000 — a big wedding in Indiana just got even bigger.
Bride-to-be Sierra Linarducci’s dad is paying for her knot-tying. Earlier this summer, when one bitcoin was worth $4,000, he purchased $10,000 worth of the hot digital currency as a way to defray the cost of the wedding. Since then, bitcoin’s value has quadrupled. Now, it’s paying for the whole wedding.
“It’s so exciting,” mother-of-the-bride Jennifer Linarducci told NBC News. “Without bitcoin, we would have been a little more nervous and think ‘Oh my gosh, how are we going to do this?’ But with bitcoin we’re like ‘We can do this! We can handle this!””
Newlyweds-to-be Brad Lee, 32, and Sierra, 24, who met at Indianapolis Motor Speedway where Brad works in IT and Sierra was an intern, can even splurge on a few extras now, like fancier flowers, without worrying as much about the cost. Sierra’s father also threw her a surprise bridal shower with 75 guests and a three-course-meal, all paid for in bitcoin. The vendors don’t take bitcoin directly, but Linarducci uses a BitPay card that lets customers load bitcoins onto it, then he swipes it at stores just like a credit card.
As bitcoin’s price has risen, what was once largely the de facto currency of dark web transactions and those seeking to avoid restrictions and fees on international cash transfers has gone mainstream.
It’s also caught the attention of industry leaders who have been sounding the horn that the currency’s volatility can burn investors, novice and expert alike, even likening the unregulated virtual money to an investment bubble or Ponzi scheme.
Last week bitcoin dropped 20 percent after hitting $11,000, falling to nearly $9,000. Since then it’s recovered and gone on to new heights.
“I could care less what bitcoin trades for, how it trades, why it trades, who trades it. If you’re stupid enough to buy it, you’ll pay the price for it one day!” JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon told the Institute of International Finance conference in October.
Personal finance experts say that bitcoins are like trading cards or stamps — only worth what the last person will pay for them — and recommend investing no more than you can stand to lose at once, or no more than 5 percent of your portfolio.
Related: What’s with all the bitcoin hate?
“It’s a gamble. It’s a gamble that might give you better upside odds then then playing craps in the casino,” certified financial planner Ian Weinberg told NBC News.
But some of those who invest in or work with bitcoin technology say the potential of bitcoin, and the transparent, decentralized transaction system underneath, called the blockchain, is only just starting to be tapped.
“We may be witnessing a tipping point where retail and institutional investors have widespread confidence in bitcoin as a store of value similar to gold, art and jewelry,” said Salil Pitroda, a senior adviser at private equity firm Francisco Partners and an early investor in Blockchain, a digital asset software company.
“Bitcoin is one application of the blockchain as a trusted, secure, distributed ledger technology that provides many benefits such as greater accessibility, lower cost and increased convenience,” wrote Pitroda, who invests in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
For now, regular people are jumping in and cashing out on the wild ride.
“I just feel we’re very fortunate and lucky that we’re doing it at the right time,” bride-to-be Sierra Linarducci told NBC News.