Black Rock City wedding
How to get married, legally, at Burning Man
When Robin and Peter Fletcher decided to spend the rest of their lives together, they had a commitment ceremony in August 2001. She was dressed as a French maid, Peter was in a Martian costume, and they were standing in front of a towering figure that would soon be burned to the ground. They were at Burning Man, proclaiming their love before the Man himself.
“We decided to do it there because we had met there,”says Robin.
The Fletchers made their marriage official with a bigger ceremony—and all the proper paperwork—at Donner Lake the following August. Five days later, they renewed their vows with their full wedding party at the temple at Burning Man.
“It was really sweet,” Robin says of her Black Rock City wedding. “It meant something to us. It wasn’t like a joke. It was really serious.”
With a bit of pre-planning, many couples have fully legal weddings at Burning Man.
“Things happen at Burning Man,” says Armadillo Puttanesca, the playa name for Black Rock City’s volunteer wedding coordinator. “I’m sure there’s a lot of proposals, so people want to get married where they were proposed to. It’s also one of the few places you can have a truly unique wedding, a crazy wedding, if you want everyone to dress up in a clown costume or whatever. You can have any kind of wedding you like. You can say anything you want in your ceremony. I have an officiant that has Dr. Seuss vows.”
Puttanesca has been the volunteer wedding coordinator at Burning Man for the past five years. She fields emails year-round from people wanting to get married at the event.
“A lot of times people think they can just show up to Burning Man and get married legally, but they can’t,” she says.
Paperwork for the playa
To get married legally at Burning Man, a few things need to be in order, namely the officiant and the marriage license.
You must get the marriage license in Nevada if you’re getting married in Nevada. That should be done before you arrive at Burning Man. Otherwise, you’ll have to leave the playa, drive to Reno or Lovelock to get the license, then pay $20 per person to get back into the event.
Puttanesca can arrange in advance for a couple to be married by one of Burning Man’s volunteer officiants, all of whom are ordained and registered with Pershing County, where Burning Man takes place. If the couple wants a friend to marry them, that person has to get ordained—many people do this for free, through online sites such as the Universal Life Church at ulc.org—and register with Pershing County.
Other considerations include the guest list: If you want your friends and family members to attend the wedding, they have to buy a ticket to Burning Man which range from $210 to $320. Day passes are no longer an option at the event.
Also keep in mind the playa’s unique environment: Don’t be surprised if your wedding plans have to wait out a dust storm.
And remember there is no charging for services on the playa. If you want to hire a photographer, for example, you can work out fees after or before the event, but no payment should be exchanged in Black Rock City.
Puttanesca suggests couples start getting the paperwork in order four or five months in advance, or one month minimum.
“Being spontaneous is great,” says Puttanesca. “That’s part of Burning Man, being in the moment, but weddings take a little bit of planning.”
Once the planning is done, and the couple is out on the playa, anything is fair game.
“You can say whatever you want, you can do whatever you want,” says Puttanesca. “You have the freedom—if you want everyone in your wedding party to be naked—there are very few places outside of Burning Man that you can be truly creative.”
But before you decide to get married at Burning Man, Robin has some advice: “I know for some people, they get out there, and they’re just blown away and swept off their feet and meet somebody, and they think they want to spend the rest of their life with that person. I think you need to take it off the playa and see if it works in the real world, too.”