A Desert-Inspired Wedding in Palm Springs
Dating long-distance was no hurdle for this energetic couple—both avid runners—from opposite coasts. For their desert-getaway wedding, they gathered loved ones in sun-soaked Palm Springs, California, to cheer them on and dance the night away.
Megan Golden and Daniel Hanks's relationship got off to a running start. In 2017, having just completed the Vancouver Marathon, Megan was out with friends when Daniel—in town on business from Washington, D.C.—walked into the bar. "I was in search of a TV showing the NBA Finals," he recalls. "But before my first sip of beer, I got distracted by this cute blonde." Fast on his feet, he struck up a conversation with the lone guy in her group and scored an introduction. "I was taken by his flirty humor and contagious smile," Megan says. So much so that she invited Daniel to join her crew for dinner that night, and met up with him the next weekend, when she was back home in San Francisco, and he had another serendipitous work trip.
Their lucky streak continued. Both work tech jobs they can do remotely, so they fell into an easy rhythm of cross-country visits. By that fall, Daniel knew Megan was the one, and she secretly felt the same way. But it was a bit early for the L-word, so they landed on a sweet stand-in: "I adore you." The following September, unabashedly in love, they bought a house together in D.C. That December, Daniel proposed on a starry night in the San Juan Islands, overlooking Puget Sound.
The two decided on a destination wedding on October 19, 2019, at the Pond Estate, in Palm Springs, California. But mere months before, a zoning snafu left them venue-less. In typical Megan-and-Daniel fashion, they took the setback like champs, and with the help of their planner pivoted to the Bella Donna Estate, in nearby La Quinta. (They even made a hilarious YouTube video to relay the change to their 140 guests.) "I had a good cry," says Megan, "but considering all the couples who've reimagined entire weddings due to Covid, we feel very grateful." Their two best friends officiated the outdoor ceremony, which was followed by steak, salmon, and mac-and-cheese, served family-style. "We wanted dinner to move quickly so we could hit the dance floor," Megan says. To that end, the couple did their first dance during the salad course, and swapped a formal cake-cutting for self-serve mini Key-lime and salted-caramel tarts. Eventually, the party relocated to the bar at the Saguaro Palm Springs, where the newlyweds cut loose till dawn, flying past the finish line in lockstep.
The invitation suite introduced the sunset hues and turquoise accents of the venue—which finding wouldn't have been nearly as easy without the help of One Darling Day. "Our day wouldn't have been nearly as carefree without our planner," says Megan. "I had assumed they were just for six-figure budgets. But there's a market for partial planners who can identify vendors and be the boss you need on the big day. And if something goes wrong—like when we lost our venue!—they can talk you off a ledge and help course-correct."
Megan, in a sleek Sarah Seven wedding dress, and Daniel, in a Tom James Company suit, shared a first look at the Pond Estate, where they stayed for the weekend. Post-ceremony, the pair peeled off for a just-married squeeze, Megan sporting a hairpiece made by her florist: "I asked for something between a tiara and a flower crown—and absolutely loved this."
The palette of the bride's bouquet—a warm mix of blooms including 'Café au Lait' dahlias, cappuccino roses, and marigolds—played off the arid surroundings.
Megan's two bridesmaids (her sisters) and her best friend carried bunches of gold- and rose-gold-painted fan palms, brick-red anthurium, and roses in the same desert palette as her flowers.
Pampas Grass Aisle
Fluffy pampas grass in recycled-glass vases lined the aisle. When Megan and Daniel asked their respective best friends to co-officiate their ceremony, Dianna Kraus and Hussein Nasreddin had never met. But once they started drafting a plan, regaling each other with memories, and sharing their love for the couple, the script practically wrote itself. "We told them, 'We chose you because you've been along for the ride,' and asked them to speak as if they were giving a maid-of-honor or best-man speech at the altar," Megan says. The result was a mix of "funny anecdotes and smushy advice that felt totally us."
"Happy July" is the phrase engraved inside both wedding bands, in honor of Daniel's first trip to visit Megan, on July 1, 2017. "It's something we toasted to that day, because we were both a little nervous," says Megan. "Now we say it whenever we have something to celebrate."
Gold flatware gleamed against simple place settings, in a wink to Megan's nickname, "Goldie." Arrangements overflowing with stem-dyed carnations, strawflowers, and cascading date branches softened the rustic tablescapes, and pillar candles set the scene aglow after dark.
Rather than greet guests with traditional Champagne, Megan opted for Aperol spritzes: "They feel just as celebratory, but with the ice, I knew they'd stand up better to the desert heat."
To begin the evening's festivities, the couple swirled between tables to the folksy ballad "Never in My Wildest Dreams," by Dan Auerbach. Music is always playing at Megan and Daniel's house. "One of the first things we did as a couple was share playlists," says Daniel. So naturally, they chose excerpts from favorite songs for ceremony readings ("Dog Years," by Maggie Rogers, and "North Star," by Future Islands), and hired a top-notch DJ for the reception. "He played all the hits we'd dance to at 2 a.m. in college," Daniel says with a laugh. "It's amazing how fast I went from being aware of my surroundings to having no idea what was going on, other than that I was dancing with my new wife."
"Project Recovery" was what Megan and Daniel called their post-wedding pool party at the Pond Estate. Megan's dad grilled burgers, and friends and family flowed in and out, either nursing hangovers or sipping spritzes. "You miss so much at your own wedding," Megan says. "This was a special way to hear those stories and say our goodbyes."
After their destination nuptials, Megan and Daniel took time to decompress, heading home to D.C. by way of Santa Monica, where they stayed for a couple of nights at the Santa Monica Proper, "basically to sleep off the wedding," says Megan. Five weeks later, they jetted off for a two-and-a-half-week jaunt through the South Pacific, starting in Sydney, then hopping to the South Island of New Zealand to hike the Milford Track—a four-day journey through mountains and misty rainforests. "We knew we wanted to burn it to earn it," jokes Megan. The reward: six relaxing days at Tokoriki Island Resort, in Fiji, "where we spent the rest of our vacation eating, drinking (virgin cocktail, anyone?), and receiving twice-daily massages."
Venue, Bella Donna Estate
Event Design, Styling, and Production, One Darling Day
Photography, Kelly Brown Photographer
Catering, Spotted Hen Catering
Drinks, The Whaling Club
Flowers, Best Day Ever Floral Design
Invitations, Chandler Lettin Design
Bride's Gown, Sarah Seven
Bride's Accessories, Catbird (necklace, bracelet); Alexandre Birman (shoes); Rosantica (ceremony earrings); Deepa Gurnani (reception earrings)
Hair and Makeup, Girl Meets Bongga
Groom's Suit and Shirt, Tom James Company
Groom's Shoes, Johnston & Murphy
Rentals and Lighting, Bright Event Rentals; Planks & Patina; the Hostess Haven
Signage, Yellow & Lace
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