The first thing you notice when you peer tentatively into the serene California botanic garden is two wedding crashers doing cartwheels in the buff. ”I heard there was a naked wedding,” the bald one tells a guest, ”and I was like, ‘I’m going to be there.’” Funny, you thought the same thing when VH1 announced that Dating Naked — the show about love-seeking singles throwing caution and clothing to the wind — would film the nude nuptials of two contestants. It sounded like a Bachelor wedding special, only watchable.
Before the ceremony begins, about 20 people — ex-contestants, friends of the betrothed — are cavorting around a body-painting mixer, wearing only leis and color splatters. (Your somewhat successful survival strategy: Power-stare at the naked parade, get it out of your system, resume job.) Conversations veer from eco-friendly (”Save the planet, shower together”) to practical (”My ass is burning, so I’m gonna go in the shade”). Guests try human wheelbarrow races. One paints a phallus on a mural. But there’s white wine, so it’s classy.
You slip away to meet the nude-lyweds. After hooking up two months ago on a surfing date, artist/model Ashley, 27, and yoga instructor/”sexual healer” Alika, 36, began dating long-distance and then decided to get hitched without britches. But not in a legally binding way. ”It’s a ceremony of love,” says Ashley, while Alika notes, ”Love gives freedom, and without freedom there is no love.”
Once they’ve reapplied sunscreen, guests sit on a circle of pillows. One guy stealthily curls his cushion to shield his junk. ”Don’t be scared if it gets a little weird,” says Regal the shaman, ”because that’s what’s supposed to happen.” Ashley and Alika enter. She removes her dress, and Alika unbuttons his shirt, turning it into a striptease. It’s like Magic Mike, but with more chakra points. The three-part ceremony — body, mind, soul — is steeped in New Age-speak. (”What does the divine master represent to you?”) At one point co-shaman Naia declares, ”If there are any sounds you are inspired to release, let yourself.” A few giggle. No one knows exactly how seriously to take this ritual. Except the couple: Ashley tears up while they exchange achingly enlightened vows before their left hands are tied together.
Everyone dances into the reception, manned by an overdressed shirtless bartender. Guests drip candle wax on one another and play spin the bottle. One of the show’s six couples agrees to move in together. Another breaks up, and soon the guy is sizing up the naked-and-unafraid singles. ”I’ll tell them I’ve got a ring for them and they just have to look for it,” he quips. You laugh and keep your eyes above his waist.
Ashley notices a few women chatting up Alika about his sexual-healing gig. ”I’m going to remove him from this situation,” she says playfully. ”Naked divorce!” someone shouts. And then someone else yells out a surefire wedding crowd-pleaser, whether you’re wearing a tux, a T-shirt, or nothing at all: ”Shots! We need shots for everybody!”