Getting married is an enchanting experience. Something Walt Disney, society, and influencers have all had a hand in forging our wedding ambitions and happily ever afters. The 72 billion-dollar wedding industry capitalizes on love, pressuring young couples everywhere by their families, religions, magazines, and social norm standards.
Getting married on the playa is a truly magical experience, one peaking on irrational exuberance, and something I have dreamed about since my first Burn. There are no barriers to break down with a playa wedding, as barriers to the creativity and ingenuity at Burning Man are virtually endless. The price of your ticket is your venue cost. You bring in everything you need, no sales tax added, and you are free to create the aura of your own perfect day by your personal standards.
The only time all your friends and family come together in the same place typically is for your wedding and your funeral – my ammunition mantra to throw three weddings. My fiance and I want to celebrate our love for each other, celebrate our love for our family, and celebrate our love for our friends. Obviously, celebrations are important to us, and so is making people we love feel special. Just like the majority of Burners out there we have that giving and gifting energy year round. When you throw a wedding you are gifting a part of your soul, your creativity, and your personal magic to those you love.
In this spirt my fiance and I chose Burning Man to be our first wedding. For the next one, we want the experience of to eloping at a courthouse in Santa Barbara, with a crash pad that is shaped like a whale, for our friends who already are planning on crashing the wedding.
For the big blow out family and friends combo we are bringing everyone to Asheville where I am from, for a carefully crafted wedding at the Biltmore House. I chose the Biltmore Estate because when I was seven on a field trip touring ‘America’s largest single family home’ I was already fascinated by the architecture, art, and history. I told my best friend and now one of the maids of honors, that I was going to get married there. I am staying true to my 7-year-old self. For this, I have the most wonderful wedding planner – Sara Field Bridges, founder of Wedding Connections who has helped shape my particular visions for this monumental occasion.
On the playa you are your own wedding planner. Without Sara’s brilliance, I came to rely on the help of those closest to me. While one of the biggest Burning Man principles is radical self-reliance, which was used by us in logistical issues of all kinds, my closet friends under the principle of Radical inclusion worked with me, and together or rather because of them, we designed our wedding.
The day began like the next day would begin, a celebration with French champagne. After riding around the playa on my bride ride, the Unimoke e-bike ( the Rolls Royce of ebikes) visiting friends and art pieces I returned to our RV which was fully out of water! One simply must shower before their wedding day, even on the playa. I chased down a few water tankers begging them to fill our tank, but like you face on the playa they were busy heading another direction. I put out a sign on our RV windshield saying ‘Please give me a shower, it’s my wedding day!’, with my veil duct taped to it. As I started to stress, I quickly caught myself, this is not the Burning Man way. The playa always provides. Minutes went by. Then Tyler, our camp manager came over to tell us he rigged up the camp shower with hot water. It was the best shower of my life. Thanks Tyler.
Around 2 pm, the stunning and sought-after makeup artist Cameron Cohen began making me beautiful. Outside her RV a dust storm was brewing so bad quickly it turned into a massive whiteout. People around me began to get nervous. I refused to feel that. I told them if it’s a whiteout, let it be, but I believe it will clear and if it isn’t, who cares? At that moment I manifested the hardest dust storm, then a complete clearing, and a warm night as a cherry on top. This worked. The sunset was epic and the night was the warmest night on the playa.
Cocktail hour began promptly at 5 pm on Wednesday at our camp Ashram Galactica’s main bar, a giant Moroccan tent with an epic Thursday night party. Burrata, prosciutto, figs, and toast were positioned on giant charcuterie boards. We put out the tequila, Mezcal, champagne, and mixers. We greeted our guests, then Laura Grier, National Geographic photographer, and photographer for all our weddings brought us outside for an epic photo shoot, one can only have at Burning Man.
At 630pm the entire wedding party of over 100 incredible people boarded the Christina, Playskools famed yacht art car. The sun begins its descent as we head to the Altar of Intentions, the art piece we deliberately chose from the Burning Man art site. The artist Daniel “Devas” Strickland, from Brazil created the alter to perform a similar experiment to Dr. Masaru Emoto’s water-absorbing feelings in the 1990’s. The Altar centered on a toroidal water chamber illuminated by LEDs into which visiting BRC residents would inevitably transmit their vibrations, which Daniel would then document with the help of Akiko Stein from the Emoto Institute. “The goal is to capture how the energy of interaction between art and observer is affecting reality,” Daniel says. Read more on this here.
The experience of riding an art car at Burning Man with all your friends, while the sun is setting, passing by other art cars full of people dancing, waving, and clapping, and watching the sculptures roll by is spine-tingling. Booking the right art car for your wedding takes familiarity with other camps and their cars, contacts, and donations for the ones operating the car while you are on deck. We booked the Christina because, not only is it one of our favorites to watch roll by at night with the blue neon waves, we knew we could pack over 100 people on it.
Once at the Altar we all disembark from the Christina. Angel Rolon stays on to DJ. The wedding party formed the guests into a circle. The officiant and maid of honor climb up the altar while the groom stands anxiously by. I wait for my cue, to penetrate the circle, but there are no cues. It is whatever I want it to be. I smile, and think, there is no time like now. And I walk down the playa aisle up to my future husband. I look in his eyes and see our world being invented from this moment. Then I look at the jubilant faces circling around me, and I get so unbelievably happy at the life decisions I have made, that I get a case of the giggles.
Our officiant, the mighty Amy Oswick begins her speech. Amy was the MVP of our playa wedding. Her meticulous attention to detail, her extraordinary surprise gifts such as a wooden carved book of the ceremony from which she wrote and performed, to fire spinners, and surprise guest singer Gary Underpants. Everything she composed and assembled built our wedding into the unforgettable tearjerker that it was. The maid of honor Whitney Weiskopf is standing with Amy holding the ceremony book. Amy’s “far from the traditional” wedding speech is angled to us and the crowd.
Amy calls for the scroll bearers, our dear friends Drew Yacu and Greg Pichler. I am handed the microphone as Greg gets on his knees holding the scroll on which I wrote my vows to Justin.
I have never seen so many men cry.
Then it was Justin’s turn.
Then a poem. A surprise song of Hallelujah. Our do you’s and we do’s, ending in do you Lara and Justin promise to keep shit weird? Which we promptly agreed, we do. A kiss. A sea of happy faces. And the finale of Amy getting the guests to close the circle around us all say in unison, ” We, the citizens of Black Rock City, by the power we have chosen to create, celebrate you Lara and Justin as partners in life.”
And that is one hell of a monumental finale, feeling all that energy all that love all that desire, all at the same time. And just like that, we were married by the citizens of black rock city. Just as I dreamed about years before.
Pulling off a wedding of this magnitude only buds from love and the hard work from the Best Man, Justin LaBaw and the groomsman and bridesmaids making sure everything was on time, going to pick up the art car, holding the scrolls, and most importantly being part of our experience. Alex, a member of our camp Ashram Galactica, set up the reception while we were at the ceremony. And The maid of honor Whitney Weiskopf held a dance party for us at her camp Friends in High Places post-reception.
We let the night take us into the much-coveted sunrise, sandwiched between Robot Heart and The Mayan Warrior, smiling ear to ear as we gave appreciation to every person and everything that got us to this moment of light peaking out over the mountains recharging us for the day to come. Cheers, queue more French champagne.
If you have the same dream of a playa wedding, here is a guideline, and the people who guided me.
First things first.
Like all weddings, you must decide on what budget fits your lifestyle and go from there.
Make it your own.
You may choose to have all the fixings or you may choose to have an intimate setting under the piece of art that speaks to you most, or deep playa, or at a camp. Whatever you choose, know that you are already pretty freaking special by getting married out here in the first place. Dive deep into the principle of Radical Self-expression and what that means to you.
Choose your team wisely.
Personally, I would not push Burning Man on anyone. Nudging people in the direction is one thing, but shaming someone for not wanting to be part of your playa wedding is another. Burning man is not for everyone. And that is a good thing. It is hard AF to battle the elements. There are the principles you must follow, the stress of getting a ticket, costuming, renting an rv, joining a camp, the list goes on and on. But if you are a burner and you want a playa wedding here is a list of people you want in your life.
The Wedding Party
Nevada makes it quite difficult to get married in the state so this needs to be worked out with your officiant prior to the wedding unless your wedding is more ceremonious.
How to get married in Nevada.
Maid of Honor
First Class braids LA
Wedding Dress Designer
I sourced the materials from downtown LA, then designed dress, and brought it to a very talented seamstress that shall remain anonymous
My Head Piece Designer
Maid of Honors Headpiece
Another one of my creations
Cosmo and Nathalia
Engagement and wedding rings Sofia Kaman
Wedding gifts Justin Montoya
Food and Beverage
champagne k & L
Unless you have a chef on the playa, you have to bring in your food for everyone.
New Indian Oven
Indian is great to bring to the playa
Alter of Intentions
Save the dates
Photo Shoot by famed photographer Frankie Batista
Made with Canva, sent digitally
Stage the Ceremony
Purchase playa gifts for the wedding party
One of the most important rules of Burning Man is you must take everything you need in for the time you are there and you must take everything out and leave no trace! This includes 1.5 gallons of water per person per day.
As we chose to fly from Los Angles, our dear friend drove up a u-haul trailer packed full of our wedding supplies, this is a life saver.
Trailer/RV/Automobile carrying all your shit
Cooler packed with dry ice
(pack in frozen reception meal and cake)
Boxes of wine, champagne, etc for guests
Plates, cups, napkins, cutlery
Staffs Gifts for the wedding party
Fake flowers for the wedding party
Fairy lights and all other decors