• Kate Stapleton

Elopement by The Hytch at Black Rock Desert

The road to Black Rock Desert is very isolated. I feel peaceful on the way there and I find myself appreciating the mountains surrounding the deserted land that stretched as far as the eyes can see. I am traveling with husband and wife team Juston and Yeliz of The Hytch. They offer a unique wedding service where they design the perfect setting and officiate your intimate elopement at the location of your choice with your closest friends and family. We are on the way to Black Rock Desert to the playa where the infamous Burning Man event is held yearly. Waiting for us are Steve and Wendy (aka Boom and Bendy), a couple from Seattle who are now camping out on the playa so they could get Hytch'd.

We turn from Gate Road into the eight mile entrance to the playa. A land of nothingness. But about a mile to the right we see a red truck and next to it a green tent. A small sign of civilization. As we pull up, we are greeted warmly by a sweet couple who we know as Boom and Bendy. We step out of the vehicle and straight into the blazing sun and 100 degree Nevada desert heat. Right away we are offered water but we all end up drinking champagne in celebration of what we are about to commence: the unity of two people in love.

I notice a beautiful altar at the front of the tent. On it are god and goddess Odin and Freya, a braided cord of purple, green, and red ribbons, a small cauldron and some lovely smelling incense. It peaks my interest and ask Bendy to explain to me the symbolism of the things that make up the altar. Odin and Freya are gods who are also husband and wife. Then Bendy tells us they practice handfasting, an ancient Celtic tradition which is a ceremony of commitment between two people. The cord is what they use to bind their hands together to signify their commitment for one another. The cord is made up of six ribbons; the first two for each of them (Boom and Bendy), the next three to signify Boom's three children, and the last ribbon to signify Bendy's only son. It is very meaningful as not only are they unifying themselves but they are also unifying their families as one.

Unlike me, this is not the first time Boom and Bendy have been on the playa. They are veteran Burners who had very different reasons of attending Burning Man. Boom loved creating; he is an artist who was involved in building art pieces for the event. Bendy, on the other hand, saw an opportunity for self exploration. Because they are veteran Burners, one would think they met a while ago. They have been in the same areas at the same time and when they met just a few years back they realized they have unknowingly crossed each other's paths at the playa year after year. Boom tells us though that all those years it just was not the right time to meet. But as fate had its way, they met at the right time. And it couldn't have been timed more perfectly.

Boom lived in Boston and Bendy in Seattle. As we all know, love is powerful so it didn't take long until Boom packed up and drove cross country to be with the love of his life. They both knew that they are meant to be together.

And today, they are together on the playa. The land that brought them together.

We are here today because it all started with a surprise proposal. One that is secretive and romantic. A secret that he painstakingly kept for months as he inconspicuously met with a friend to custom design her engagement ring. They had plans on going to Mexico and Bendy had a hunch that she was coming back home an engaged woman, but little did she know the road to marriage would start at home. One night, Bendy was exceptionally happy. She was happy because she knew in her heart of hearts that she was ready to marry her love, Boom. He was happy too and was taking in all of Bendy's emotion. He knew the perfect time to ask her hand in marriage has come. He puts her beautiful ring in his breast pocket. The one that he meticulously designed perfectly down to the very last detail. With his guitar in one hand he asks Bendy to sit down so he could sing her the song he wrote for her. The love song he had written early on in their relationship and have sang together. They sing the song together as he played the guitar and in the end Boom changed the lyrics to "Will you marry me?" Bendy was still singing along until she realized that Boom just asked for her hand in marriage!

And of course, we all know what she answered to that...

Tonight, the playa is empty. Quiet. Not unlike the day that they met. The sun has set itself comfortably behind the mountains and the wind whistles quietly as it blows a cool soft breeze. It is cooler now and it is time to get married! Boom is dressed in a kilt with a pink button up shirt paired with a black vest and a black top hat which was accented with a red ribbon. Red. The color of love and also Bendy's favorite color. Bendy is wearing her red velvet blouse matching the straw hat veil that she herself created for this special occasion. They are ready to become husband and wife.

The Hytch makes their intimate elopement very romantic. Juston is standing under the gold arch that he carefully crafted for this special couple. In front of him facing each other are soon to be husband and wife Boom and Bendy. As he officiates, the couple stare at each other lovingly. Both are smiling from ear to ear. They are excited. Happy. The playa is empty but it is filled with love.

Boom and Bendy, your love for each other is organic. Your love for people is also so natural that it flows seamlessly with your every word and action. I joined this trip to be part of an experience that I thought would contribute to my growth as a photographer, but it turned out to be more than that. I gained friends the moment we met and in the short time we spent together it went from having new friends to sharing a meal with family. The hospitality you extended to myself, Yeliz, and Juston is unsurpassed. They say home is where the heart is and with you two your home is not a place but within each other. I fondly call you Papa Boom and Mama Bendy and I am in awe that I have had the pleasure to meet the both of you. Such wonderful loving people. The universe did a wonderful job aligning your paths because collectively there is not a more doting power couple I know. I will remember you two for years to come and I only wish your journey together as husband and wife nothing but unequivocal love and more adventures ahead...

A big thanks to the A-Team Juston and Yeliz of The Hytch for bringing all of us together. Here are some of my favorites from your special night...

Kate Stapleton is a wedding photographer who values telling your story in a way that feels like you.

She creates images that are sincere, meaningful, and real.

Kate is based in Reno, Nevada and photographs weddings in the Reno-Tahoe area as well as destination weddings.

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