Talk to any Millennial and they’ll inevitably regurgitate a singular hot take on weddings: “all my friends are getting married and having babies, and I’m just over here trying to get my life together!” Oh, you. The jealousy is as plain as the Merlot stains on your teeth. Far be it from me to criticize, but the bellwether for success is far less tangible than the ability to fill out a marriage license, or to squirt genetic material into another human being—total idiots can (and do) accomplish this all the time. Never have I been more sure of this than the five sad, savage days I spent sweating off shots of wheatgrass in the California desert when my stepbrother got hitched. As I sat on the dirt floor of a yurt, inhaling other guests’ B.O. vapors and simmering in a broth of my own swamp ass, I realized a sobering fact: weddings are a great way to torment and dehumanize the people you allegedly love.
I should’ve known the crunchy horrors that awaited me when I mailed back my RSVP. The bride and groom hail from San Francisco by way of Seattle and Vermont, respectively—the hippie runs deep with these two. The second red flag should’ve been the fact that this was to be a “wedding weekend” with organized activities, but try getting me to listen to reason when I’ve got my Wedding Crasher goggles on. I figured the trip would be an endless cavalcade of boozy flirtation with the bride’s sister. I was wrong. Instead of hotel rooms, we were put up in bunker-style AirBnB accommodations in the middle of the fucking desert. If you’ve never slept in constant fear of being carried away by lizards, I suggest you try it. But perish the thought of swanky rehearsal dinners and booze-fueled bachelor parties; at a hippie wedding, you perform yoga in the middle of Joshua Tree National Park while your skin absorbs UV rays like a space shuttle tile.
Then came the big day. I rolled into the wedding venue—think Buddhist monastery meets Pueblo architecture—and dragged my sunburnt corpse to the bar. “Vodka soda, please,” I croaked. The bartender informed me that a local gin company had exclusive rights to the wedding’s booze supply. Fucking gin. You might as well serve your guests floor polish mixed with hemlock. Still, desperate times call for desperate measures, so I swallowed my pride and asked for a gin and tonic. Now, never in my life had I been cut off before a drop of alcohol touched my lips, but this was a weekend of firsts, after all! The bartender insisted it wouldn’t be appropriate to serve me in front of my “little buddy.”
It was while I searched for the proverbial mouse in my pocket that I noticed a ten-year-old kid standing beside me, finger halfway up his nostril. Maybe it was the brightly colored suit and long hair. Maybe the sunburn and chapped lips made me look like a reverse party clown. Whatever the case, some opportunistic trash person convinced his kid that I was the wedding’s designated babysitter before sneaking off to smoke a joint. In a matter of minutes, every kid in the place was glued to my side while their parents hotboxed an outhouse. I refused to accept this fate, instead using it as an opportunity to demonstrate my value to the bride’s sister. It might’ve worked, too…were it not for the usher with his tongue snaked so far down this girl’s throat that you could see it coming out the bottom of her dress. But hey, at least there was weed at the wedding, right?
There’s a code of conduct when it comes to cannabis. It’s bad form to walk up and ask for a toke; it’s even worse to hold out on a fellow stoner. I made sure to put out the vibe, giving an emphatic thumbs up and a smile when I saw someone sparking up a joint. I have never met a greedier group of granola-crunchers in my entire life. I was so desperate to shed my sobriety that I seriously considered smoking the sage bundle party favors. And I still had a legion of rugrats following me around like a disgruntled pied piper. Then it happened: I felt the velvet embrace of warm pee trickling down my leg. Only it wasn’t my pee. Mistaking a cactus that was stuck to my pant leg for an “urchin,” some toe-headed little flower child decided to piss on my leg to counteract the “poison”; if this were an oceanside wedding, I’d be sending her a thank you card instead of dissing her for all the Internet to see. Exhausted, dehydrated, and stinking like a Juicy Juice pee, I managed to ditch the kids with the wedding photographer (who overdid it on the tequila and was in drunken repose on the wicker divan, housing miniature pies like a crunchy Kobayashi). And then, I wandered out into the desert to be melodramatic die.
I’d had big plans for this weekend: mainly, peyote trips and making out with an adorable hippie to a Father John Misty soundtrack. Instead, I was hiding in a cactus grove with someone else’s piss in my pants. Weddings are a magical moment for those tying the knot, but they’re an emotional blanket party for everybody else. It’s bad enough that a normal wedding comes replete with all kinds of pitfalls—getting embarrassingly drunk, blowing it with a bridesmaid, feeling like some kind of leper for being the last of your single friends—but a destination wedding in the middle of the desert is a special way of testing how much your loved ones actually love you, while letting them know that your love is conditional on how much of your hippie bullshit they’re willing to endure. If marriage is the mark of a mature, successful adult, then surely a shitty wedding is an omen of self-centeredness and dysfunction.
As I dusted myself off, I took small comfort in knowing that my maturity level was obviously commensurate with the grace with which I’d endured a weekend of abuse, while the 35-year-old stoner vegans were about as grown up as their feral children. On the horizon, a flock of paper lanterns sailed into the sky, symbolizing…unity? That floaty feeling you get when you’re in love? Incipient brush fires? I watched the lanterns float towards the stars, and listened to a chorus of cheers from eighty hammered hippies. And I prayed on those lanterns—prayed that if the Gods were just, they would spark a matrimonial massacre on the level of the Red Wedding. Whistling the Lannister song, I began my lonesome trudge back to civilization.