a story about same-sex wedding ceremony in Black Rock City and how I almost missed it

candid wedding picture of two lesbian women after their same sex marriage ceremony


a story about same-sex wedding ceremony that I almost missed

The sun was rapidly approaching mountain range line that was surrounding the desert. I was on my way to the Temple, to meet Jessie and Taylor. We exchanged some emails about what and when, but honestly, we didn’t do our homework. I didn’t know how Jessie and Taylor looks like, we never had a chance to talk over the phone and discuss wedding ceremony details.

Nevertheless, that day in Playa, everything was going accordingly to the plan. Temple was few minutes away. I knew I am right on time. Weather looked good. Light was perfect for the wedding ceremony.

And then I’ve noticed the dust storm rapidly approaching in the horizon. And I knew right away that everything was about to get a bit more complicated.

Some people mistakenly call them sand storms. But in Black Rock desert, it’s really not a sand. It’s an alkali lake bed dust. And that alkali is no joke. And that dust storm will kick your ass if you’re not prepared. It’s usually dry and packed, but it gets ground up from the surface during heavy car, bike and foot traffic over the course of 30 days of Burning Man preparations. And so that dust is everywhere, waiting for that perfect wind to show up.

So, when the dust storm kicked in at the full power, I finally admitted there were quite a few problems I had to deal with.

First of all, I didn’t know what exact spot where wedding ceremony will happen. Second of all, I didn’t know big wedding party will be.
And then there was this third problem. My favorite one. I didn’t even know the gender of the wedding couple. Jessie and Taylor. Could be woman and man, could be to gay guys, or it could be lesbian couple. And honestly, I was hoping for the latter, as I never photographed lesbian wedding ceremony before.

And I was ready to figure that on the go, but the dust storm, with visibility limited to 15-20ft, suddenly made it all much complicated.
So, my journey in the dust storm began.

I encountered several wedding ceremonies, I’ve met music band, I’ve found pastry chef wondering around with wedding cake.
But Jessie and Taylor were nowhere to be seen.

And after wondering in the dust for 45 minutes, I was ready to give up.

But then three figures, wrapped up in goggles and bandanas, stepped out of the dust wall. Right in front of me. And after exchanging words I quickly learned that they were looking for their wedding party. I was like “Who’s getting married, yo?”. And the figures covered faces were like “It’s us!”. I was like “You’re not Jessie and Taylor, are you?”.
And the covered faces said the magic words: “Yes! we are!”.

And once the face covers were down, I realized my little dream came true. I was going to be photographing my first lesbian wedding ceremony after all!

Apparently, they got separated from their wedding ceremony attendees. Third person turned out to be wedding officiant. In my Burning Man wedding ceremony planning tips, I strongly discourage couples from losing your wedding officiant.

And since wedding officiant and wedding photographer were there, Jessie and Taylor decided to proceed with their same-sex marriage.

The ceremony was one of the dustier ones I ever photographed. Couple had covered faces for big portion of it, and finally took it off as the wind started dying off in the end of same-sex wedding ceremony.

Taylor and Jessie’s wedding had exactly three guests. Four actually, if you count wedding photographer. All strangers. Saul, my Amber Dust camp mate, that appeared out of nowhere (and later disappeared the same way), and a couple of random by passers. Very typical wedding crowd for Playa’s wedding ceremony.

After the wedding ceremony, we exchanged congratulations and good-bye hugs. Jessie and Taylor were ready to head back to camp and celebrate their same-sex marriage with their friends.

The dust was settling down. Weather was calm. And the night was rolling in. It was time to put some warmer clothes and get ready for night in Playa.

See another, Sandi’s and Andy’s Burning Man wedding ceremony, >> HERE <<



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I am LGBTQ friendly award-winning wedding photographer based in Madison, WI. If you’re a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer couple and are planning your LGBT wedding in Madison, WI or Black Rock City, give me a shout! It really doesn’t matter how big or how small your LGBTQ wedding will be- I would love to be part of it! Love is love!
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Burning Man wedding ceremony and the story behind my infamous underwear picture

me as a Madison WI wedding photographer after wedding in Black Rock Dessert hugging happy bride and groom


 // burning man wedding ceremony :: Sandi and Andy

I was drunk, I was in my underwear wearing tank top with “FUCK YEAH” paint sprayed on it, I had my cowboy boots on, I was about couple miles away from their wedding ceremony location AND I didn’t know how bride and groom looked like!

I had 4 minutes to make it to their wedding ceremony.

Few minutes earlier before it all happened I got back to my camp, grabbed a beer and made myself comfortable in in lounging chair. It wasn’t my first drink of the day- I had few already (I’m out here to party after all, right?). Heck yeah, I was having a great Monday!

And then my camp mate showed up. She walked over to me and gave nice heartwarming greeting: “Why the hell are you here? You’re supposed to be photographing Sandi and Andy’s Burning Man wedding ceremony!”. My heart jumped. “No” I said. “No I’m not!. They’re not getting married today. It’s mañana”. “It’s today you idiot!” she responded. “They stopped like 5 hours ago and left you an updated message on chalk board!”. My friend was definitely enjoying giving me hard time.

My heart was racing by now. I ran to our camp’s improvised message board and there it was- date that before was saying “9/2/15” was changed to “9/1/15”. They moved date from Tuesday to Monday! Their Playa wedding ceremony time remained the same- 6pm. I looked at my watch.

It was 5:56pm.

Some people get married in the banquet halls, some people get married in the barns, and well, some people get married in the middle of the desert.

Planning Burning Man wedding ceremony during this week-long festival is no joke. I never realized amount of homework until I started talking to couples who get married there. In a way it’s exactly the same wedding planning as in real world: you have a date and time, you need to dress up, you need to have your marriage license, and most likely there will be wedding guests. And if you really into wedding planning, you can figure out flowers, cake, music band, party bus, wedding photographer, etc. I’ve seen it all.

It definitely won’t be easy to put it all together. But worth indeed, if you willing go extra mile in order experience magic of Burning Man!

Sandi and I exchanged some emails before leaving for Playa. I never met her and her future husband-to-be Andy. I didn’t know where they from, I didn’t know how they look. I knew the date and they knew my camp’s approximate location.

When festival started they were able to figure out where my camp is. Unfortunately, they were not so lucky tracking me down. I was never at the camp. So this improvised message board was started: Sandi and Andy would leave me a message, and I would leave a reply when i would get back from my journeys. The couple would come back to see me again and would leave another message. And I would reply. And it worked. Until that Monday afternoon, I learned the date was moved and I was given few minutes to get my ass to the wedding ceremony.

So after realizing that time’s almost up, I got on my bike and I pedaled. I pedaled that shitty bike I had like I never will pedal again! Lol!

And I made it. And they were there, all dressed up, and happy to see their wedding photographer.

Sandi and Andy’s Burning man wedding ceremony had a real taste of Playa: short, sweet, emotional and topped with a juicy kiss. No silly games, no pretending to be someone you’re not. They got married surrounded by few friends and bunch of strangers. After the wedding ceremony, couple with their wedding attendees got on their bikes and disappeared in the dust whiteout to celebrate marriage, friends and life.

Sun was out and night was quickly creeping in.

It was time for me to head back to the camp, put the pants on and get ready for the night.


See full Sandi and Andy’s Burning Man wedding gallery >>HERE<<.

Thinking about getting married or renewing your vows in Black Rock City during Burning Man festival? Check out my blog post about simple, easy and effective Burning Man wedding planning tips >>HERE<<.


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Thanks a bunch for stopping by, reading Sandi and Andy’s Burning Man wedding ceremony adventure! Are you a fellow burner that is planning Playa wedding out there in Black Rock desert? Or maybe it’s your friends who are getting married? Either way, shoot me a message with your thoughts how you imagine your Burning Man wedding and what you have planned so far. I might be there and you might be able help you out!
I am documentary wedding photographer based in Madison, Wisconsin that specializes in moment driven wedding photojournalism. I won’t boss you around. I won’t ask you to be an actor and pretend to be someone you are not. I will stay out of your way and I will let you be true you.
See my FAQ page for more information. Available for travel worldwide!



12 Simple Tips for Planning an Amazing Burning Man Wedding

12 Simple and effective Tips for Planning an Amazing Burning Man Wedding


// 12 simple tips for planning an amazing Burning Man wedding

If you’re reading this you most likely are spending your Labor Day weekend in Playa. And you probably are getting married there as well. And it’s fOcking exciting in so many ways, yet keep in mind: just like putting together a default world wedding, you will have homework to do. 
Where to start? What to expect? And how make sure you get the most out of it.

I went ahead and I did put a list of simple and easy real-life wedding planning tips to help you get the most out of your wedding and have an amazing Burning Man experience. I’ve been going to and photographing Black Rock City since 2009.

And while the wedding planning tips below will be most helpful to someone who have never been to the Burning Man before, I’m pretty sure a seasoned burner still can find some of them useful.


1. Figure out legal stuff in advance

I know, it’s not most exciting thing to do, but if you want a real wedding, that’s where it all needs to start. Marriage license, officiant, etc. Burning Man website has some useful information regarding weddings in Playa. Make sure you do your homework in advance, because it won’t be an easy task if you arrive to Playa unprepared.

licensed officiant signing the marriage certificate after the Burning Man wedding ceremony

2. Find your wedding vendors

Yes, there’s more homework to do. So, roll your sleeves and hit the Pinterest and Google search. I imagine, finding wedding photographer is probably a bit easier than, let’s say, finding a guy will roast you a pig, but… Reality is, every imaginable wedding vendor is there in Playa. I’ve met music bands, I’ve seen pastry chefs delivering cakes, I know florists who made flowers for brides. Go ahead, find a camp that serves dessert, talk to some fire spinners you found online, grab some champagne on the way to Playa. And you got yourself a decent start for the wedding ceremony after party.

licensed wedding officiator friend is taking a gulp of bourbon bottle after signing marriage certificate

3. Do all heavy lifting BEFORE event starts

Talk to all your vendors in advance and touch base again 2-3 weeks before the event. Once out there in the desert, communication could get tricky due to unreliable phone and internet service. Also, bear in mind that all serious shopping is done in Reno, NV. And that’s 3 hours away.

bride and groom raising their hands and shouting after their Burning Man wedding ceremony

4. Figure out where and when.

When it comes to time, be specific. “Sunrise” or “sunset” could really fall into 30-45 minute gap. Also, keep in mind, that sunset or sunrise, while definitely nice times of the day to get married, could be very busy in certain locations (i.e. Temple). Usually, around that time of the day, you can find numerous wedding ceremonies happening at those locations simultaneously.
Consider less traveled spot in deep Playa if you want more intimate Burning Man wedding experience.

group of people gathered for a wedding ceremony near art installation in Burning Man

5. Don’t get separated from your officiant/ wedding guests

Want to make sure your wedding ceremony attendees won’t get lost in transition? Go ahead and gather people in camp. Bike together or set gathering point at the art peace that is easy to find and is less traveled. If you’re going for a wedding ceremony at the busy spot, park your bikes further away, and walk to your spot the whole group.
Believe me, it’s easy to lose your friends (and wedding guests) in Playa.

lesbian couple holing hands after wedding ceremony in Black Rock Desert, Nevada

6. Have a plan, but also have no plan

Have a plan, but play it by the ear once there. Keep your eyes and ears open in Playa as Burning Man festivals offers lots of unexpected opportunities. So be smart and use them.

dusty bride’s and groom’s hands with wedding rings on fingers

7. Prepare for the worst weather

Seriously, please do. As someone who spends 2-3 weeks in desert during each Burn, I have a simple advice when it comes to newcomers: please do not underestimate Playa weather. Weather in Playa changes quickly and things could go sideways at the same speed. Over-engineer your camp, over-engineer your art installation structures. Please do the same for your wedding. And see a story about how bad weather almost ruined this beautiful same-sex wedding ceremony.

Burning Man wedding tip about dust storm whiteout in the desert

8. Don’t expect things to go 100% smoothly

Trust me, this will happen just like in default world wedding. Someone will get drunk and not going to make it, someone will get lost on the way to wedding ceremony location. Heck, I missed several Playa wedding myself. 
So, keep calm and keep smiling. Because all you really need is your significant other and your officiant.

groom is opening and spilling champagne bottle while bride is laughing

9. Invite your new friends to attend your wedding

While in Playa, you’ll meet new people, make new friends. Go ahead, plan your wedding for Thursday or Friday, and invite them all to your wedding ceremony. People love attending weddings in Playa!
Or just invite everybody.

man holding “just married” sign after the Burning Man wedding ceremony

10. Get creative. Dress up

If you could wear ANYTHING, (and by anything, I even mean you could arrive to your wedding ceremony naked), what would you wear? Seriously. Dress fucking up.

lesbian couple holing hands after wedding ceremony in Black Rock Desert, Nevada

11. Be yourself

No one is there to judge you. Nobody cares who you are. People who surround you are people who love you. The reality is, that there’s no better place to be true yourself, than Playa.

lesbian couple kissing after exchanging vows during Burning man wedding ceremony

12. Enjoy every little bit of it

No one is there to judge you. Do whatever the fuck you wanna do. Get weird, get freaky and have fun!

portrait of bride and groom after the wedding ceremony: Burning Man wedding tips

Thanks for reading!