photos by Buttercup, Andy and Ben
I absolutely love the idea of getting married at Burning
To people that have never been, this may sound like an odd idea. They
see the pictures of naked people and crazy costumes and think, “That
seems like a frivolous setting for something as serious as marriage.”
But for those of us who call it home, the playa is the least frivolous
place on earth. It is, in fact, the most holy and spiritual place on
the planet. It is our Aires Rock. It is our Sedona. It is our Vatican.
Is it a place of silliness, dancing and play? Hell, yes!!!
But so is my vision of the divine.
Ever see a baby laugh? Or a toddler dance?
The same divine magic infects the denizens of Black Rock City.
So, when Kip and Renee asked me last year if I would perform their
marriage ceremony at Burning Man 2003, I was thrilled and honored.
I am an ordained minister. It is the same church that ordained Mick Jagger
and anyone else who responded to the ad in the back of rolling Stone magazine.
(With the internet age, you can now get ordained by the Universal
Life Church online in a matter of minutes.)
I love “my” church’s philosophy. It ordains all who
ask. It does not assume the presumption that it can decide who is or who
is not qualified to speak the “word of god.” It states, “We
ask only that you promote the freedom of religion and do that which is
right and it is up to the individual to determine what is right as long
as it does not infringe on the rights of others and is within the law.”
Do that which is right.
Well, joining Kip and Renee in marriage is as right as anything I know.
So I was definitely qualified for the job.
The three of us met several times before Burning Man to work out the
details. They had a few Rumi poems they wanted me to read and a few
minor things they wanted to include (like a group hug at the post
ceremony reception.) Renee was creating outfits that matched her
vision of matrimony, but other than that, they were pretty much open.
They wanted to have a wedding in the spirit of Burning Man.
We would find the location once we got there. We would find a musician.
We would set the time. We would let whatever else happen as it should.
I was a little nervous about the lack of planning. But I reminded myself
that everything happens on the playa exactly as it should. There are
no wrong turns. Only plans you didn’t know you had.
Before heading to the playa, I met with my Grandpa
Caleb. I asked him what he does with couples before the ceremony.
He gave me some old handouts he used to use. And he gave me his old
marrying bible. It was worn thin and held together with tape on Corinthians
1-13. It contains the passage he read at over 1000 weddings: “Love
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all
So he gave me this weathered token that had infused in it the unions
of countless loving couples. Some couples married with that bible have
been married 50+ years.
Regardless of your denomination or religion, the power of the symbol
was difficult to deny. Even though I had no plans to read the words
in the book, I wanted to have it with us as part of the ceremony.
Once we got to the playa and acclimated for 24 hours, we met again to
discuss the wedding. Kip visited David
Of Joy” installation, and he knew that was where he was getting
married. We set the time for 7pm Friday. The reception would be at camp
SlutMonkey immediately following.
We invited everyone we knew and we invited everyone we met. You didn’t
have to know Kip and Renee long to want to be a part of the ceremony.
It was going to be magical.
As the sun set, the bride and bridesmaids formed a procession to the
temple. Leading the way was ring bearer, Shonda. She spun a flaming
hoop and danced as she approached the center of the temple. When the
flames went out, she handed me the rings we used in the ceremony.
The temple artist David Best was in the audience. 70 or so of our friends
were there. Another crowd of people who just happened to be at the temple
circled around. A new friend played classical guitar. The bride and
groom wore red vinyl and gold sequins in a beautiful goth-egyptian style.
I wore a white dress with furry playa adornments. It just seemed like
somebody should wear a white dress.
I had the notes they gave me, My grandpa’s bible, and little else.
I felt unprepared, but it was time to begin. I took a breath and let
go to the flow.
”We are gathered here today…!” I belted.
I was excited and nervous. My mouth was dry. I spoke slow and loud as
I read the passages they selected.
I also adlibbed a bit, nothing prepared, words that just flowed out
of me. The most magical moment for me and many others, was when I said,
“By the power vested in ALL of us…WE pronounce you…husband
When I said “WE,” the crowd erupted in cheers and joyous
tears. There was a tangible flood of love towards the couple. The crowd
of friends and strangers seemed to bless this union on behalf of the
It was magical.
And then we were all cheering and hugging and laughing and crying.
After some pictures, a beautiful art car carried the wedding party to
the reception. angelic music played, champagne was poured, and the gorgeous
rolling platform drove towards the setting sun at 5 miles per hour.
Before the ceremony I sent an orange around the crowd. I asked everyone
to hold onto it and think of a blessing for the couple, and to take
their time with it. By the time we arrived at the SlutMonkey camp for
the reception, everyone had held the ritualistic orange. After the group
hug, I asked Kip and Renee to cut the orange together. Then I squeezed
the juice into a goblet of wine. They shared the glass and absorbed
all of our blessings and love.
The wedding was perfect.
It was real.
It was sacred.
For richer or poorer
In button down shirts and in pink fur.
In the desert or in the suburbs.
They will live in playa-blessed love, for as long as they both shall live.