Synchronized Swimmers and Pastel Pineapples: This Wedding in Palm Springs Was All About "Elevated Kitsch"
Nearly six years after Lee and Aaron met in a cozy little strip mall dive bar in Hollywood, Aaron popped the question with an engagement ring hidden inside a travel book on Morocco—which he presented to Lee while fireworks boomed overhead on New Year's Eve.
After their January 1, 2021, engagement, Lee and Aaron booked the Sands Hotel and Spa in Indian Wells, Calif., for their 150-guest weekend celebration. "We wanted playful, elevated kitsch mixed with classic Palm Springs resort flair and some classic Hollywood glam thrown in the mix," says Lee.
With help from Gather Events, the couple came up with a gold, pink, and green color palette that they used to tie together the paper goods, bridal party fashion, and reception décor for their November 6, 2021, event. But they also decided on an array of unique touches—tulle, feathers, and painted fruit incorporated throughout their floral arrangements; an ABBA tribute band and a Bruno Mars impersonator hired in lieu of a traditional wedding band; and showstopping synchronized swimmers that performed during dinner for guests seated around the pool.
"We wanted the wedding to be exciting and entertaining for our guests most of all, so our main focus was on the entertainment aspect and getting the mix of styles right for the venue," says Lee. "We love to entertain as a couple and knew for many people it was their first big gathering since the beginning of the pandemic, so we wanted to prioritize their experience and make it as fun as possible."
A custom invitation suite from Swell Press previewed the Palm Springs atmosphere and the couple's color palette with a tropical leaf envelope liner and a collection of pink, green, and gold hues. "For the invitation itself, we went with a more refined look, tying in the Art-Deco feel with the choice of type in gold foil on white with an embossed palm frond motif border," Lee says. "The rest of the suite spoke to the weekend's festivities: a quad-fold insert with a map of the Palm Springs area containing many of our favorite sites, a schedule of the weekend activities, and a pocket with what-to-pack and coronavirus policy cards. All of this was bundled together with a die-cut disco ball tag. The fold-out portion included a map of the Palm Springs area with little icons representing our favorite locations."
Vintage tiles, pink walls, and intricate detailing made the Sands Hotel and Spa an easy choice for the couple's venue. "We were blown away by the beauty and style of the Sands Hotel—an exquisite combination of mid-century Palm Springs and Moroccan design," Lee says.
Lee's ivory BHLDN wedding dress featured sequined and beaded geometric detailing that seamlessly tied into the event's aesthetic. "The pointed star beadwork played well with both the throwback, Art-Deco style of the wedding, as well as the Moroccan design of the hotel," she says. "I tried it on and it fit perfectly on the first try." Though wedding-dress shopping alone due to COVID-19 restrictions wasn't what she envisioned, Lee made the best of it: "I always imagined having the group experience of family and bridesmaids reviewing the dresses like you see in the movies," she says. "But it was honestly fun going solo."
Lee added extra sparkle to her wedding day look with beaded flats from Badgley Mischka, Olive and Piper jewelry, and a Cult Gaia rhinestone clutch. She also donned an intricately beaded, ostrich feather cape from RMINÉ. "The dress was more refined, and I wanted to add something bold to it," Lee says. "The cape was definitely the showstopper part of the outfit."
Sea of Pink
Lee asked her bridesmen to wear dusty rose-colored tuxedos, and gave the bridesmaids a variety of pink shades to choose from for their gowns suits. "We went back and forth on the colors for the wedding party several times and were a bit indecisive in that area," the couple says. "We chose this color scheme to fit our overall palette and because it would be most flattering for the party."
Aaron chose a dark gray velvet tuxedo jacket for the couple's ceremony and reception, adding cuff links made from New Zealand greenstone. "Travel and adventure are a big part of our relationship, and New Zealand is one of my favorite places," he says.
A Golden Touch
His boutonnière included a white flower surrounded by pink tulle, ferns, and green fringe.
The Wedding Party
To complement the bridesmaids' pink gowns, groomsmen wore emerald suits with gold bow ties, socks and cuff links, and pink tulle-embellished boutonnières. Groomswomen chose dark green dresses and gold accessories, too.
Welcome to the Wedding
An oversized, arch-shaped sign at the ceremony entrance displayed the names of the members of the bridal party, backed by a tropical leaf-print poster that set off floral arrangements in high-contrast striped vases. Floral arrangements designed to look as though they were growing from the ground marked the entrance to the aisle, with soaring leaves, colorful yellow and pink blooms, and textural accents that complemented the gold guest chairs.
Tulle and Flowers
Working with Felisa Funes with Of the Flowers, who designed and executed all of the pair's florals and installs, was a highlight of the planning process, explain Lee and Aaron. "She created a stunning altar frame installation that was totally unique to us," says the bride.
All in the Details
For the arch, a mix of painted palm fronds, feathers, tulle, and fresh florals came together in a sea of pink and green to highlight the couple's overarching wedding palette.
In Their Own Words
Those swaths of mixed elements framed the couple at the altar as they said their own vows—one of their favorite parts of the day.
During the cocktail hour, guests sipped on the pair's signature drink while resting on stylish lounge furniture. "The drink was a fizzy gin, coconut seltzer and pomegranate mix that we named 'The Sailor & Lula,' a reference to one of our favorite movies, Wild at Heart," Lee says.
Yay, You're Here
Upbeat signage was dispersed throughout the event landscape; an acrylic, palm-tree piece backed the pair's velvet guest book, which was placed next to the lounge area.
The pair's chic attendees wholeheartedly embraced the event's throwback, "elevated kitsch" theme.
A seating display of rich, green tags and glimmering disco balls helped guests find their seats before dinner.
Color and Light
At the couple's poolside reception space, bright green velvet linens added color and texture; gold chairs shimmered under the overhead lighting.
Fresh and Fruity
The couple's florist incorporated fresh fruit into the centerpieces, using painted pineapples as vases; adding lemons for cheery bursts of color; and skewering bite-sized pieces of fruit with cherries, flowers, and delicate tulle to create sculptural arrangements on each table.
Pale pink chargers with a green edge, pink napkins tied with a miniature disco ball, and gold flatware sat at each place setting. "The lime velvet tablecloths really made the tables pop," Lee says. "The linens and place settings added some soft pink and gold elegance to contrast with the bold colors." The hotel provided a menu of beet, fennel, and citrus salad; broccoli tagliatelle; and salmon over lentils.
Making a Splash
Lee and Aaron emphasized their reception entertainment, booking a variety of talent for the evening—including the Aqualillies synchronized swimming group. "Because our dinner seating for the reception surrounded the hotel pool, we knew we'd have a great opportunity to use that space," Lee says. "We decided almost immediately that synchronized swimmers would perfectly match the mid-century vibe of the hotel and Palm Springs. Their performance was an absolute showstopper."
Josephine Bakery provided the couple with a watercolor-finish, lavender-flavored wedding cake complete with gold foil accents, blackberry and lemon buttercream, and blackberry preserve filling. Other bite-sized desserts, including miniature strawberry angel food cakes and pavlova, rounded out the sweet station.
After dinner, the couple and their guests moved inside to dance. Above their dance floor, an installation of ferns, feathers, and fringe caught the light from an array of disco ball-inspired fixtures. For their first dance, they decided on Patsy Cline's "You Belong to Me."
"The themes of the song matched our relationship well—we love to travel together and independently," the couple says. "We love each other and are dedicated to each other, but do not feel the need to be attached at the hip at all times."
A Memorable Celebration
Lee and Aaron vetoed the idea of a traditional wedding band, so they booked three diverse acts. "Because we both love ABBA, we thought it would be a great surprise for our guests to have an ABBA tribute band rather than a traditional wedding band. We found a great one called ABBA LA, and they were a huge hit," Lee says. "After the band retired and the DJ took over, we had one of our favorite celebrity impersonators, Johnny Rico, perform a few songs as Bruno Mars. All the stress about little details pays off—our wedding weekend was the most incredible, joyous time of our lives."
Photography, Jenn Emerling
Venue and Catering, The Sands Hotel and Spa
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Gather Events
Flowers, Of The Flowers
Stationery, Swell Press
Cocktail Napkins, Hello Harper
Cake, Josephine Bakery
Music, Abba LA; Dart Collective DJ; Johnny Rico
Rentals and Lighting, BBJ La Tavola Specialty Linen; Signature Party Rentals
Bride's Gown, BHLDN
Bride's Accessories, RMINÉ cape; Badgley Mischka shoes; Olive and Piper jewelry; Cult Gaia clutch
Hair, T'Nique Hair
Makeup, Alondra Excene and Zenna Hodge
Groom's Attire, The Black Tux; Suit Supply
Menswear, The Black Tux
Photo Booth, Smilebooth
Synchronized Swimmers, Aqualillies
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