Stephanie & Joyce's Rat Pack meets modern soiree wedding

By on Aug. 13th
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Photos by Mark Ayoub

The offbeat bride: Stephanie, Wine Country Corporate Events Diva

Her offbeat partner: Joyce, CEO for a non-profit

Date and location of wedding: Riviera Resort, Palm Springs, CA — May 1, 2010

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: After Joyce proposed at Tahquitz Canyon outside Palm Springs, we decided, while hanging at the pool at the Riviera Resort, that we wanted to bring our friends and family out to experience the beauty, splendor, and respite we both find in California's High Desert. We decided to host a wedding weekend "Celebration of Love."

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It was definitely intimate… for us. I come from a big Jewish family and Joyce and her clan are far more reserved. To ensure we created an experience we were not only both comfortable with (me trying not to insult anyone by not sending an invite and her willingness to bend and be flexible with my occasionally over the top desires as a career-long event producer), we made a couple of decisions that were invaluable in creating a wedding and a wedding planning process we would both love.

Namely, we made a hard and fast rule that if we didn't both know a potential invite and/or if their numbers weren't in our cell phone(s), we would pass on extending them an invitation. Our reasoning was that we wanted the weekend to be intimate and special to each of us and all of our guests, while creating an atmosphere of inclusion. What we didn't want was to ask people to fly in for a destination wedding from around the country, but not be able to spend any time with them because we were too busy mixing and mingling with others.

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The theme and decor decision was simple, as we both love the throwback music of Frank, Sammy, and Nat King Cole, and the hotel does a wonderful job of marrying classic Palm Springs history and culture with contemporary architecture and design, giving everything a fresh spin. We too mixed old and new with our music selection. I walked down the aisle to Etta James' "At Last", and Joyce walked down to Nat King Cole's "L-O-V-E." Our first dance was to her parent's first dance ("Moon River"), but our grand entrance was to "I'm Coming Out" and our first dance with everyone was to Beyonce's "All the Single Ladies."

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From the moment of arrival, we tried to make sure guests felt personally welcomed and informed of all of the weekend's festivities. We left a message in each of their rooms inviting them to a hospitality suite our parents hosted, which we stocked with a full bar, snacks, and welcome gable boxes familiarizing them to the area and providing them with ample snacks and libations reflective of the area. We included assorted citrus-flavored vodka and mixers, fruit, cactus pear candy, an agenda, and a map.

We invited everyone to all weekend events and held a casual rehearsal dinner at Matchbox, a cool pizza/Italian joint in Palm Springs. Afterwards, everyone piled into the hospitality suite or took a late night dive into the pool.

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The wedding day was not without its challenges, but it was an amazing weekend for us. The biggest feat we faced was that on our wedding day, a Mary Poppins-worthy wind storm decided to breeze into our day. Our ceremony took place outside on a lawn with a view of the San Jacinto mountain range, with the first part of our party (dinner, dancing, and speeches) poolside.

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During the ceremony, centerpieces began flying off the tables and shattering everywhere. Needless to say, the candle-lit effect we were trying to create later in the night upon sunset didn't quite work out. I had purchased LED votives as back-up (highly recommended), but our wedding coordinator couldn't find them. So we simply chalked it up to the winds of change and continued with the ceremony.

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After our ceremony, instead of walking out together, we escorted each others' parents and invited everyone to follow to the cocktail hour. Fortunately, we elected to take our photos before the ceremony, so that from that point forward, we could celebrate with all our guests… after a brief respite back in our room to soak in the moment and to allow us to change into our "party clothes."

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Around dinner, the winds finally died down and the breeze provided the perfect relief from everyone's non-stop dancing. Later in the evening and once we had our cake cutting, the property provided us their private bar/lounge and a fantastic DJ, as there had been some miscommunication regarding amplified music outdoors after a certain hour (good idea to double-check this for anyone hosting outdoor events!). They really did a terrific job guiding everyone to the next party locale and set up a fantastic slider bar with parmesan truffle fries, cupcakes, and more libations. Some of the "grown-ups" retired for the evening, but almost the entire party danced and hung out until the wee hours. We also set up a cigar bar, at the request of Joyce.

By the end of the night, my feet were worn out, and as an homage to my late stepfather, I decided to jump in the pool and jacuzzi with my cousins… in my wedding dress, while the guys relived the evening, smoking cigars and making s'mores around the fire pits by the pool.

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Our biggest challenge: Our biggest challenge, aside from the wind storm, was definitely working with our wedding venue. While the line staff on the day of the event were fantastic, there were some management transitions and challenges we wish had been avoided. The woman we had initially worked with when booking the venue had transferred to another department by our event and that, combined with them having recently relaunched the property, led to some logistical issues.

Needless to say, we all did our best to work together and remember that the details weren't really what mattered. After the weekend concluded, Joyce and I spent a couple additional days on property and the GM and his team did everything in his power to ensure we left with nothing but positive memories.

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My favorite moment: I would definitely say one of the most meaningful moments of our wedding was the blessing of our rings, which our amazing officiant explained and had passed around throughout our ceremony. She also took the time to explain the Jewish customs we incorporated into the ceremony, since we had guests of all backgrounds and cultures. When we did the blessing over the wine, we were able to use the sterling silver goblet my grandparents used when they were married, engraved with their names and wedding date.

IPhone Pictures - October 2010 520I also had a custom ring bearer pillow made with an elephant on it. My grandmother had recently passed away and she collected elephant figurines from her travels around the globe, because "they never forget." I didn't want to forget her on our wedding day, as her husband of 66 years, my Papa, walked Joyce down the aisle since her dad had passed away when she was a teenager.

In terms of each other, I truly appreciated our stolen moments we shared throughout the day. We never forgot that our wedding was about honoring each other and offering gratitude to everyone who supported us, even though we are an interfaith, same sex couple with a significant age difference who met when we lived on other sides of the country. The odds may very well have been stacked against us, but we never paid any attention.

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My funniest moment: One funny moment came in the form of a tradition my family introduced years ago, called "the cousin's toast." I'm one of 10 first cousins and when the first cousin got married, the rest of us gave her a "cousin's toast" to welcome her into the family and initiate her as one of the cousins. Since that initial wedding, the toasts have gotten increasingly creative and funny. Since I'm the first one to marry someone of the same sex, my cousins appropriately welcomed Joyce into the clan with a monumental, custom lyric version of the song "Tits & Ass." It was awesome.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? One thing I know for certain is when hosts are relaxed and enjoy themselves, everyone else will too. We never wavered in terms of our focus, which was that the weekend was all about love, joy, and celebration. In the end, that was precisely what we received and hopefully delivered to each other and each of our guests.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

  • Photography: Mark Ayoub
  • Rehearsal dinner venue: Matchbox Palm Springs was fantastic. They collaborated with us to work within our budget and deliver a dinner and evening everyone enjoyed!

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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