Sasha & Ra's vegetarian gluten-free burner fire-spinning wedding

By on Jun 2nd
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Photos by Maurice Ramirez

The offbeat bride: Sasha, Designer

Her offbeat partner: Runn (aka Ra), Entrepreneur

Location of wedding: Jug Handle Creek Farm in Mendocino, CA

What made our wedding offbeat: We talked about what our wedding would look like — months before we even got engaged — after going to a bunch of our friends' weddings. We envisioned a weekend campout with 150 of our nearest and dearest, high on color, and low on formality. Our community in the San Francisco area coincides with the Burning Man community. So whether or not we make it out to the Nevada desert, we have a lot of camp-outs and parties that are in that spirit. We tried to incorporate some of those values into our wedding, such as radical self-expression, participation, and leave no trace.

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202We did our best to encourage radical self expression. Our dress code was colorful (or burner-formal). I am a clothing designer, so I made a red dress with a turquoise lining for myself, and wore striped socks and pair of red Frye boots for practical field stomping. My husband-to-be helped me to design the jacket that he wore with a Utilikilt.

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We asked the bridesmaids to pick out an orange dress that they felt comfortable in, and to accessorize it however they wanted, while the groomsmen were asked to wear black with red or orange. We ended up with one in a kilt and another one in orange corduroy pants! Our guests wore everything from tutus, to fairy wings and corsets, to platform boots.

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By the end of the evening, both of my grandmothers were wearing a bindi that one of our friends had given them. My dad got into the spirit and got himself a pair of rose-colored prescription bifocals to wear with his suit jacket and birkenstocks.

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839Ra and I decided that we would rather do a fire spinning duet as our first dance, so we started taking poi spinning classes six months before the wedding. After our duet, we were followed by with ninety minutes of some world-class fire poi, staff, hula hoop, fan, juggling, and whip performances. This was our way of doing music and dancing.

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660Our invitations were a set of Ra and Sasha paper dolls, with a change of clothes. We invited everyone to make their own paper doll and had a crafts table with templates, paper, and markers.

We believe in the value of participation, and that we get so much more out of an event if we are part of putting it together. We put out a call of help to all of our friends, and our 200community answered beyond our wildest dreams. We had committee heads for lighting, bar, food, decor, greeters, etc. Friends and family volunteered for shifts to put the bouquets together or to man the greeter and orientation table at the gate of the campground.

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People who wanted to DJ brought their music. Our circus juggled and hula hooped during the day, and spun fire at night. My dad, his best friend, and my grandfather made breakfast for everybody three mornings in a row. If they wanted to, there was a way for everyone to participate.

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120We chose to do the wedding at a nature preserve and it was really important to us that we leave no trace. Luckily for us, most of our community is trained that way. We handed out garbage bags at the greeter station so people could pack out their own regular camping trash. There was a compost heap on-site to throw away any leftover food, and we hauled away recycling. We didn't use any disposable utensils. One of my bridesmaids designed the centerpieces using local river rocks and tree clippings.

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Tell us about the ceremony: Our ceremony was held in a meadow surrounded by pine trees. We had some chairs set up for family and everybody else set out carpets, blankets, and pillows to sit on. We had asked the funniest person we knew, whose own marriage we admired, to officiate for us. Ra had been his best man and it was great to include him in our ceremony. The combination of irreverence and sincerity had us all laughing or in tears.

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501Instead of using a bible, he read the ceremony out of a leather-bound copy of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. At the beginning of the ceremony it sounded like he was speaking Hebrew until the best man pointed out that the book was upside down, setting the tone for what was to come.

We took a moment of silence to honor the family members who had passed on, especially my mother who had committed suicide two years ago. Just when it felt like the moment was too much, our officiant lifted the mood by starting a sing-along of Love and Marriage.

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We chose "If I Were a Moose" by Fred Small as our reading:

214If I were a moose and you were a cow
Would you love me anyhow?
Would you introduce me to your folks
Would you tell your friends, "No moose jokes!"
If I were a moose and you were a cow

Would you invite me to your club
And risk a cruel bovine snub
Would you lead me down the receiving line
And boldly boast, "This moose is mine!"

Would your parents watch us graze
Shake their heads, "It's just a phase"
Or would they thank the stars above
Their precious heifer's found her love?

Would your grandparents change their will?
They'd really expected a Holstein bull
"For this we toiled before the plow
You bring home someone who's not even a cow"

"There's lots of proper stock around
335Like that nice young Guernsey at Farmer Brown's
Or that last one we ridiculed and cursed
On second thought you could do worse"

"But if you think this thing will last
Could he learn to moo and eat our grass
Shed his antlers in the dirt
Could you persuade him to convert?"

If our anatomies did not quite fit
Would you make the best of it
Would you nuzzle up so near
And hum sweet cow tunes in my ear?

Or would you sadly break it off
When all the hillside sneered and scoffed
"You know these moose are all the same
They're lazy, they're stupid, they come from Maine"

It's true things slip a moose's mind
That cows remember all the time
Bulbous nose and knobby knees
A coat that harbors ticks and fleas

612But a moose can be a handy thing
When hungry wolves come visiting
In icy gust of winter storm
Our fur is deep and dry and warm

And someday should your milk run dry
And farmer stare with baleful eye
In dead of night I'd slip your noose
And lead you home to the land of moose
If I were a moose and you were a cow

If hunters came to do me harm
Would you hide me in the barn
Would all the herd come on the run
And glare until they dropped their guns?

Might you permit a goodnight kiss
Could you learn to love wet moose lips?
If I were a moose and you were a cow
If you were a cow and I were a moose

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When the officiant asked, "Who has the rings?" two voices chimed in from the back, "We do!" A little white dog from the right of the aisle and a little black dog from the left of the aisle were lifted up by their owners. Each of them had a ring tied around their necks, and when they came to the front, the rings were untied. Then the audience blessed the rings, and took a vow to support us in our marriage.

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We each read vows that we had written, then made the following pledges together:

Do you each pledge to learn from one another, and give each other understanding?
(We do)
Will you devote yourselves to maintaining balance in your relationship?
(We will)
477And do you pledge, no matter how difficult, to openly, and honestly communicate together?
(We do)
Do you each pledge to have the courage to remain true to your individual principles?
(We do)
At the same time, will you maintain determination for the health and wellness of your relationship?
(We Will)
And do you pledge to remain Passionate for Life, for Love, and for Each Other?
(We Do)
Will you remain Loyal to each other, and to all things to which you commit yourselves?
(We will)
071And do you pledge to have compassion and for one another, for your loved ones, and for all humanity?
(We do)
Will you both continue to grow, as individuals, and as partners, both mentally, and spiritually?
(We will)
And do you pledge to Nurture your Love for one another, and the Love for your Friends and Family?
(We do)
Do you pledge to avoid becoming narrow, closed, or too opinionated, and to help each other to see various sides of situations?
US: We do.

533We finished our ceremony with our single nod to Ra's Jewish heritage. He smashed a glass and everybody yelled "Mozal tov!"

Our biggest challenge: Food is usually a challenge for us. My husband is a strict vegetarian, and I am gluten-intolerant. On top of that, we needed to keep our costs down because we didn't want to let budget be the reason we didn't invite someone. It took several phone calls before we could find a caterer who understood what gluten was, knew that substituting portabello mushrooms for meat was not the only way to design a vegetarian menu, AND fit into our price range.

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093We managed to find a caterer who could make gluten-free eggplant moussaka to die for, and offered a delicious Mediterranean menu. Even better, she was willing to work within our budget. To save costs, she made the food, then we picked it up and served everything ourselves so we didn't pay for a catering staff.

We decided on cheesecake instead of a typical wedding cake since gluten-free cake, sadly, is not as good. After looking around, I found a cheesecake wholesaler who did not use flour in the filling and made a gluten-free crust. They did wholesale deliveries to our area, so they dropped them all off at our apartment, boxed and pre-sliced. It ended up costing a fraction of what a traditional cake would have!

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272Meanwhile, my dad is from Montana, a hunter and very carnivorous (and helping to pay for the wedding). Ra really wanted the wedding to be vegetarian, but was okay as long as whatever meat was served was killed and dressed by my dad. This went from the idea of bringing an elk roast, to planning a boar hunt and pig roast. Never mind the fact that Ra was born in Israel and his family is Jewish — a pig roast did not go with our vegetarian wedding. On so many levels this wasn't going to be kosher!

738After a few months of telling this story to our friends and rolling our eyes, Ra called up my dad and told him how uncomfortable he was with this idea. My dad listened and instead brought fifty pounds of homemade deer sausage which he served for breakfast everyday to the whole camp, along with sourdough pancakes and eggs. It was the food of my childhood, and a great gift that my dad was able to bring a piece of Montana with him.

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258My favorite moment: Before the ceremony, my sister pulled me aside and gave me a brooch that had been my mother's, which I pinned beneath a fold of my dress, near my heart. It was incredibly hard to have a wedding without her. My dad was using one of her handkerchiefs as a pocket square in his jacket. In his toast, he talked about the fact that each of us had a token. He talked about how to make love last, how much work it takes, and how you don't even know how much you love until the person you love is gone.

In the other toasts, people talked about how they met us, the hard times they had seen us through, and the times we had been there for them. Ra and I held hands, feeling honored, loved, and humbled while we listened. Then we lifted a toast to everyone there, thanking them for being part of our lives.

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689Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I was very nervous about smashing together our burner friends with our families. I was warned not to make the weekend too far out there or the family might feel alienated. On the other hand, I didn't want to be in the business of censoring our friends. Ultimately, Ra helped me to let go of my anxiety and to let people be responsible for themselves.

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721This was our rehearsal dinner: in the corner was Ra's Jewish Orthodox sister and her family having a Shabbat ceremony. On the other side of the room were my aunt and uncle from Texas, complete with cowboy hats, sharing a bottle of wine with my dad and grandparents. And our friends dressed in faux fur coats and woolly dreadlocks come in and out to grab a plate of food. It was awesome to see everyone comfortable being themselves. By the end of the weekend, my sister was raving about Ra's family and vice versa, my dad had become the godfather to all the burners, holding court outside of his camper, and everyone who wanted to feel included, was.

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648My advice for offbeat brides: I know that many people can tell you how important it is to delegate, but DO it! People want to help you, and the more invested people are in the event, the more meaningful it is for them.

Have a typed copy of the wedding schedule and the phone numbers of everyone vital to the event. Then on the big day, hand a copy to one or two people, along with your cell phone. This way, someone else can be in charge of making sure things happen on time, and take all your calls and you can focus on staying calm and being present.

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