KAT COLE & DALEY ERVIN BURNING MAN WEDDING
MAGICAL: beautiful in such a way as to seem removed from everyday life.
The only word that accurately describes my Burning Man Wedding experience. I sat on the plane headed back to Dallas. Daydreaming and covered in dust. Was this a parallel universe of sorts? It had to be. I spent quiet mornings drinking coffee and watching the sun rise next to sculptures that stood over 100’ tall. My nights were spent riding as fast as I could into the darkness on a borrowed bicycle lit up with twinkle lights. For once, I wasn’t worried about anything. I felt free.
It’s no secret…I get sappy about my clients and their love stories but this one left me speechless. Burning Man was something a handful of my friends had been to over the years but honestly I didn’t know much about it until I saw Kat Cole’s photos from a few years back when I first met her while she was speaking at a conference. In the photo she was in the middle of a desert wearing a fur coat, goggles and a top hat. It was what dreams are made of and I thought to myself….I need to experience whatever this is someday.
I have photographed Kat in corporate settings many times but THIS – this was an honor. When Kat and Daley asked me to photograph their wedding they mentioned that a good amount of their family and friends wouldn’t be able to experience this once in a lifetime moment with them. They wanted me to tell their story. After I picked myself up from the floor I did a happy dance and immediately started researching…since this was only a month before Burning Man.
When I got to the Playa and pulled into our camp “Rumi’s Tea House” I was greeted by the biggest smiles and tightest hugs from complete strangers who somehow felt like friends already. This is when I first met Daley. It is impossible to not get overwhelmed with all the good feels when you see Daley and Kat look at each other as they tell their love story. They light up. You see a spark of magic in their eyes as she describes the first time seeing him walk into the room… the first touch on the small of her back when he asked if he could buy her a drink. It was a scene from a movie. Here is a glimpse into their love story. Told by Kat, Daley and my view from their wedding at Burning Man.
“Magic, adventure and hearts colliding: the dust will settle, but their love remains.” – Amber Lykins
1. Paint us a picture of how your love story started. What was the first thing you noticed about each other? We want all of the details:)
Kat – we were both independently invited to attend a social impact event in Baltimore as a part of the ‘Breakout” movement and community. We were listening to the police chief and community leaders talk about the complexity of the riots and the process of healing in the community and creating progress – – pretty serious stuff. I was sitting on one side of the room listening and looked across and saw Daley. The only word I can use to accurately describe the feeling is …. deep familiarity. I thought, “I know him…but I definitely DON’T know him…but I know him”. I felt it in my head, my heart and my gut. It was insanely powerful. Our group split for dinners after that event, then rejoined for drinks and an after party. That’s where we really connected – quickly – we danced near each other, were totally drawn to each other, ended up talking the rest of the night, rapidly realizing how much we had in common. That turned into an amazing tonight together, which literally, and immediately turned into what could have just ended up being a great night, but turned into non-stop communication, seeing each other again immediately when I was back in my 2nd home of New York, and that turned into love and realizing we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. As the year went on, he set out to row across the Atlantic Ocean in a rowing race – and through those 45 days of him at sea – we got closer, not farther apart – only reinforcing we were a force together that should not be separated, but rather find every possible way to bond and be together.
Daley – I first really noticed her when we were dancing at an after-party in Baltimore. There was such a strong energy coming from her, she was just radiating amazingness and good vibes and I wanted to do everything I could to be close to her. We ended up pulling each other to the side and talked until the lights came on. Something felt so unbelievably comfortable with her, we dove into deep conversation about life, relationships, career etc. From minute one it was like talking to someone you’ve known for decades – that sense of familiarity was uncanny. We ended up spending the next full week together basically and at the end of week one I told her I didn’t want to be with anyone else ever again. I was prepared for her to freak out but she looked at me and said “I don’t want to be with anyone else either”. We proposed to each other the week after that. The first of many times we would open up our hearts and minds to each other on the topic of such a deep commitment.
2. So why a wedding at Burning Man?
It’s a long backstory – but the short version is… I (Kat) had a magical burn the year before with an amazing coven of girlfriends and an awesome tribe in our camp. At that burn in 2015, I remember talking with my friends about life partners, relationships and love. I thought about all that I felt I deserved and wanted in a partner – and literally, a month later, I met Daley. So in addition to Burning Man being a community and an event that I will always be a part of in some way, it felt a little like Daley was magically conjured up in that dusty environment. It was only fitting that as he and I grew closer – that we decided to go to Burning Man together, and ultimately to get married there. We decided we would likely get married a few times a year, in various spiritual and hippie ceremonies all over the world, for the rest of our lives to continue to celebrate our love. So at first, our Burner wedding was going to be one of many.
Daley wanted to go to Burning Man for many years, so he needed no convincing. As we talked through the possibility of having our ceremony there, it just felt right. We aren’t traditional types in any part of our lives, and this was no exception. We hadn’t really decided if it would be the legal one, or just one of our celebrations. We quickly decided it was so special, that we wanted it to be our official wedding – so we planned out getting our marriage license on our way to the burn, contacted the wedding volunteer for Burning Man who hooked us up with a Nevada licensed officiant (who is also a burner and volunteer), and organized getting married with our camp. It all came together in about 4-5 weeks and cost only our costumes and what we already were spending going to burning man. Reverend Jennefer – so many thanks to her – she rode through a dust storm to get to us. We trusted in the dust – and all worked out beautifully.
3. Talk about what it was like being surrounded by close friends and strangers during your ceremony. The love and support is so obvious in the photos but would love to hear it from your perspective.
To have so many people there, literally next to us while we read our vows to each other was one of the most magical experiences of my life. Everyone wasn’t simply witnessing our wedding but actually taking part in it which felt so special. Burning man is so random, so and so impermanent in its physicality…but emotionally and mentally, it’s as permanent and everlasting as it gets. From our amazing camp, Rumi’s Tea House organizing the tea ceremony to start the wedding, to some of our dearest friends helping us prepare, to the random burners that tagged along when they saw a gathering of love – it all felt so right. We could not have designed it to be as magical as it organically became.
Even where we chose to get married at burning man, in front of the MAGIC installation – was a recommendation of a friend and fellow burner just 24 hours before the wedding. We have always called each other magic, magnetic puzzle pieces, so it had deep relevance to us in addition to being beautiful. Add to the magic that after touring the playa looking for the best spot to bike out to for the wedding, eventually choosing that sign as the location the day before, Steph had miraculously and simultaneously uploaded that exact art installation as a photo (insert wide eye emoji here!). We had not communicated – we didn’t know she had uploaded that photo, and she had no idea that out of the hundreds of art installations and choices of locations that this exact piece of art was what we chose as our ceremony location.
4. What was the significance of the tea ceremony?
Our camp is called Rumi’s Tea House, after the poet Rumi, so it seemed fitting to have a proper Persian tea ceremony for everyone to ground ourselves in love and gratitude at our meeting place prior to biking through the dust storm to the ceremony. Without that little tea ceremony beforehand folks would have gotten lost in the dust storm and not had the opportunity in a more focused area to quietly honor the moment and our group. Someone (haha that was me, Steph) also brought Jameson – so some of the delicious Persian tea was replaced or enhanced with that – ha!
Many at our camp and in this tea ceremony were there in Baltimore the day we met, and they continued to be a part of milestone events as our relationship grew. The talisman and symbols they shared as gifts for all attendees was a symbol of their love for us and their wishes of protection and good fortune – they were hand made – and chosen by our camp mates and given to all who attended as a momento of thanks for sharing this moment with all of us.
5. I have seen that there is a definite stereotype when it comes to Burning Man. How would you describe BM so that people who have never been might be able to view it from a different angle?
Short version: It’s like Disney World for adults on Mars.
In more practical terms, it’s a community, a movement, a love and hug fest, an endless exploration, an ongoing experiment, a place of radical self-expression, radical inclusion, radical self reliance and a deep commitment to leave no trace and communal effort with a promise to engage in deep participation and immediacy as well as embracing decommodification and gifting – the Burning Man Principles. And when these principles are lived – by most of the 70,000 participants in a city that pops up in the middle of the desert – it is otherworldly, magical, real, impermanent, yet oh so unforgettable. Like a tattoo in invisible ink on your soul.
Because Burning Man is such a complex event (and really like anything is mostly what you make of it), it lends itself to a wide variety of experiences that feel unique to the participant, yet may look anther way to an observer. Insane to experience, tough to explain, and easily judged and stereotyped. Yes, there were billionaires in fancy camps and models in extravagant costumes, and yes there are pieces of it that are the modern Woodstock and many other analogies you hear (but no, it is NOT like Coachella – no offense Coachella – we love you, too). There are also so many of the 70,000 burners in attendance that are just there to live the principles, engage, learn, share, grow, release, experience and explore.
The people we meet throughout the week are from all walks of life – with many, you never learn or ask what they “do” per se, but some, through longer conversations, share that they are professors, veterans, artists, parents, teachers, children (we love the burner babies!), scientists, artists, bums or celebrities, students or CEOs and who knows what else. Rarely in life do you get to meet people from such varied places – all in the spirit of such openness and exploration. Separate of what you want to believe it is or isn’t, no matter what lens you look through, it’s impossible to not appreciate and be in awe of the intricate art installations, the music, the sunrises and sunsets, the art cars, the camp themes and gifts that random strangers provide, and the love you feel throughout. Easy to judge from the outside, and just as easy to love from the inside.
6. Top 3 things that are crucial for making a relationship last….GO!
We aren’t experts, but we do a few things that we really appreciate and feel make us stronger. Ultimately, deep love, self care (strong individuals make strong couples), mutual respect, being aligned in what kind of life you want to build as individuals and as a unit are critical foundations. But on top of those basics that most know, these are a few “techniques” that we think have made us unusually strong.
Prioritization and Attention – We, as a couple, are the priority. This isn’t original – but we first read this from Tim Brown (IDEO founder). As we both travel nearly 100 days a year, staying connected and not letting ourselves “grow apart”, we use technology to share moments of the day and have a strict 10-day rule. It’s important that we never travel away from each other very often – we honestly feel we’re more awesome when we can root out of the same place together. But when we have to travel extensively, we commit to never more than 10 days without seeing each other. We’ve flown thousands of miles to spend 12 hours together, so we don’t break this rule. We are students of each other and work to make sure our behaviors evidence the love as strongly as do our words. We happen to both believe we are a magical force individually and together and therefore deserve immense attention in whatever way is possible, whether we are in the same room or oceans apart. With technology, there are so many ways to say I’m thinking of you, I love you, or just share a little moment or win in the day.
Intentionality, Reflection, Candid Communication and Openness – We celebrate our anniversary every month; we often (if together in person) enjoy a glass of wine and have our monthly ‘check-in’. We ask each other the same set of ten questions that get at a conscious focus on reflecting on the last month, learning and appreciating the other’s perspective in a focused environment dedicated to improvement that is in service of our relationship. Examples: List the 1 best and 1 worst thing from the last month, what’s one thing I can do differently (more or less of) to be better for you, what was the best (and worst) use of our time in the last month, what has worried/bothered you, what are you grateful for. Mostly centered around each other/the other or the relationship. It’s not meant to be an easy conversation, but it’s great to really talk through even the little things that pop up during the month. I firmly think we are stronger every month because of this check ins. We believe little things too easily turn into big things, so we cover the little and the big – the positive and the negative – in the spirit of equal intention to grow and be amazing together.
Commitment (Candle Power), Being “All in. Every Day.” – “All in. Every Day.” is our family motto (and both of our next tattoo). It is about how we are in life as individuals (anyone who knows us would agree), but it is also very much about how we commit to showing up for each other. Candle Power is the concept that when the wind blows, we stay lit – even get brighter – more like a lit candle that turns into a fire when the wind is strongest. In our short time together – we’ve had our share of tests from health scares, family issues, big life decisions and oh yeah, Daley rowing across an ocean. In each situation, however tough, sad, inconvenient, messy, painful or maddening, we show up stronger for each other. It really feels like a team – that you can always trust – that is powerful – that is commitment.
7. What was a favorite moment together at Burning Man? Also, what are your playa names?
Our wedding was the highlight… hands down. Other than that, for me, Daley, as it was my first Burning Man, so it was just amazing to experience the whole thing together as a couple. I particularly enjoyed getting up early, making coffee and riding together quietly out in the playa and seeing all of the art installations as the sun came up over the mountains. For me (Kat), outside of the wedding it was all the special moments with our friends and reactions of new friends when they learned we were getting married. So much love for our love. So many hugs. So much dust. And as Daley said, coffee and exploring the morning desert during sunrises – breathtaking, quiet, transporting, otherworldly.
Playa Names: Kat’s is ‘Bruha’; Daley didn’t get one yet, but there’s a “temporary playa name” that may become permanent if nothing else sticks — ‘Hot Baby’
8. Give us those outfit details:
-Hat from Goorin Brothers and jazzed up by Auminea
-Headpieces, Necklaces, Skirt, Wraps and Capes by Auminea
-Bracelets by Giles & Brother
-Pants and vest by Marvaan
-Leather boots by Palladium
9. Do you both have a song that reminds you of each other?
Calvin Harris – How Deep is Your Love
Robin Schulz – Sugar (feat. Francesco Yates). We listened to this incessantly the first month we were together.
Leon Bridges – Home
….and anything from the 2016 Burning Man Mayan Warrior or Robot Heart sets – especially sunrise sets.
10. If you could give a single person one piece of advice when it comes to finding their person…. what would it be?
Be your best self – focus on living a life that is fulfilling and meaningful to you, and you are likely to end up doing things where you feel and are your best and are more likely connect with others with similar passions, priorities and energies. We were both out of long term relationships and were mentally focused on just learning, growing and connecting with friends – and in fact figured we’d both enjoy being single for the next little while. Ironically that put us in a position to be our best selves – and led to us meeting and played a big part in us connecting.
Another human that is a great fit for you is out there somewhere, and you’ll know when you meet them. You move mountains to have time together, your priorities (them) become clear quickly, and if where you are in life aligns, maybe that turns into building your worlds together over a longer term. When you do meet that magic, magnetic puzzle-piece take your guard down and jump all in from day one — they will do the same and you’ll be better for it. When we all look back at the end of our breathing days – we’ll be so proud of the times we could say we went “All in” – especially when it comes to love.
Now push play and enjoy:
Kat Cole Wedding Burning Man
KAT COLE BURNING MAN WEDDING TO DALEY ERVIN