The Making of Our Romantic, Irish-Serbian Wedding in Palm Springs

Two brides are better than one!

Katie, PR Director & Minya, IT Consultant

Minya and I met in 2006 while volunteering, and it was love at first sight. She was serving lasagna and I was doing a bad job of not being obvious while smiling at her from across the room. We quickly became friends, although we didn’t officially begin dating until May of 2009. Minya, who is Serbian, had gone home to visit her parents in Montenegro for a few months, and we began Skyping with each other every day until she finally decided to come back to LA. I like to joke that we won the “lesbian U-Haul” contest because I basically picked her up from the airport, brought her back to my apartment, and she never left! We’ve been together for five and a half years now.

Minya proposed on September 21, 2013, at the meditation gardens overlooking the Swami’s surf break in Encinitas, California. Because Minya’s sister is a teacher in Barcelona and her parents manage property during the summer in Montenegro, we had to find time when everyone could travel, and that left us with a small window to work with. We set the date for September 13, 2014, and jumped headfirst into planning since neither of us had any idea what we wanted our special day to look like. Thank goodness for A Practical Wedding! We were originally going to get married in our hometown of Los Angeles, but our plans fell through and we ended up stumbling upon Spencer’s, which is located on the grounds of the Palm Springs Tennis Club.

We love everything about Palm Springs—the midcentury vibe, the foodie scene, and its queer-friendly atmosphere—so the decision to move the wedding out there was an easy one. Spencer’s was the perfect mix of old Hollywood elegance and breathtaking desert landscapes, complete with picturesque palm trees, a vast mountain backdrop, and a couple of hundred-year-old cacti that framed the space we decided on for our altar. More importantly, it was different from other weddings we had been to. The restaurant is also acclaimed for their organic and locally sourced fare, something we really appreciated. After working out the numbers and deciding on the desert for our wedding weekend, we visited a bridal shop together, and I purchased the first dress I tried on. Minya found her suit shortly after, but spent some extra time looking for shoes since they are always her favorite accessory!

We had decided that we were going to pay for the wedding ourselves, which meant not hiring anyone to help plan (gasp) and incorporating a lot of DIY elements, while sticking to a very tight budget. Spencer’s is a unique venue in that the ceremony took place outside in a garden setting, the cocktail hour took place around the pool, and the dinner reception was held in the banquet room. I was torn on a color scheme between my love of soft pinks, greens, and golds, and more of a Southwestern palette.

We decided on the best of both worlds by spending our wedding weekend at the famed Saguaro Hotel, know for its bold colorful design. We gifted bright floral robes for our bridal party to get ready in and added desert staples like air plants and succulents into all of our floral pieces, as well as fresh rosemary (a Serbian wedding tradition) and lavender (in the spirit of the Irish wildflowers) from our florist’s home garden (our bouquets smelled great!). I made countless trips to thrift and dollar stores for things like antique serveware, mason jars, votives, and frames, which were all spray-painted gold and used as centerpieces; I took advantage of free printables for things like our guest book and “Mrs. & Mrs.” cake signs; and I hand stamped all of the escort cards with a simple gold leaf I found on clearance at the craft store. I work for a chamber of commerce, so I am always looking to support either local or small businesses when shopping, and the wedding was no different. I looked to Etsy for everything from floral crowns for the flower girls and bow ties for the boys, to our wedding bands, which are brushed and hammered from sustainable, eco-friendly recycled 18K gold.

Minya and I spent the last few weekends cutting our own table runners from discount summer fabric and putting together all of our “To have and to hold” wedding programs which doubled as fans for our guests. We made sure to infuse elements of our personalities wherever we could, from ring boxes that paid homage to our love of cycling to handwritten quotes on chalkboards from some of our favorite authors. I was nervous about how it would all come together (“nailing it” as they say), so it was amazing to look around the room and see how all of our handmade decorations had transformed this fairly dark banquet room into a romantic, magical atmosphere.

With regard to our ceremony, most of our guests had not been to a same-sex wedding before and weren’t sure what to expect, so in a way it was exciting because it allowed us to sort of “break the rules” a bit and left us with a clean slate to build upon. It also presented unique challenges throughout the planning process, like changing routine ceremony wording and deciding on how we wanted to be announced. It was very important to us that our ceremony be traditionally structured and spiritual in nature, while maintaining a sort of classic, relaxed vibe in the spirit of Palm Springs. Our ring bearers wore matching sunglasses and our flower girls made a barefoot entrance. In honor of my Aunt Isabel who passed away a few years ago, I wore her favorite pieces of jewelry, which served as my “something borrowed.”

With the help of the APW tutorials, we were able to craft a very special ceremony from start to finish that brought not only the two of us together, but our diverse group of guests as well. Our parents walked us down the aisle, one after the other, to a string quartet version of Etta James’s “At Last” and we exchanged handwritten (and very tearful) vows with each other in which we promised to never go to bed angry and to take each other’s temperature even when the other person thinks “she’s fine.” We made sure to combine our Irish and Serbian cultures with meaningful elements like a traditional handfasting ritual (tying the knot), and little Irish bells were given to guests with tags that read, “As we share our first wedded kiss, ring this bell for lifelong bliss. Ring the bell with all your might ’til the happy brides are out of sight!” which of course made for a very sweet exit, accompanied by Ray LaMontagne’s “You Are The Best Thing” as our recessional.

Other special moments were during the reception when one of our flower girls caught the bouquet (she was so excited), blessings from our sisters in which they quoted the late Harvey Milk, and my father’s toast which had everyone in the room, including our vendors, in tears as he welcomed Minya’s parents in their native Serbian language and reminded everyone that “love is love.” People are still talking about his speech and how perfect it was, and we will forever be proud of him for the words he shared that night.

Handmade Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches stole the show as our surprise “midnight snack” wedding favors, which were handed out to guests with edible wrappers that read, “It was so cool of you to come,” along with the wedding date and our #katieandmintietheknot hashtag. Minya and I agreed early on that incorporating our love for sweets was a MUST, and we thoroughly enjoyed sampling their gourmet cookie combinations like maple bacon vanilla with chocolate chip and coffee Oreo ice cream on s’mores late into the night.

The highlight of our wedding was most definitely our guests. Minya’s family had not all been together (or even in the same country) in over fourteen years, so in addition to sharing our one bedroom apartment with four international guests (two of which don’t speak English), having Minya’s parents give her away and her sister serve as her matron of honor is something we will forever be grateful for. Friends and family came from near and far to be there (Europe, New Orleans, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Chicago, etc.), and we were so overwhelmed with all of the love and support we received in those busy days leading up to the big day. Everyone offered their help and went to great lengths in making sure things all came together. Although we were working on a budget, we were blessed to be able to have a hundred of our closest family members and friends by our side.

Even with the hundred-degree heat, Palm Springs has an ambiance unlike anywhere else, and the day could not have been more perfect. We loved everything from our flowers (simple and romantic) to the music (DJ Aubrey is a danceaholic!), and our guests are still talking about how great the food was. Our favorite moments were escaping with Minya for a quiet breakfast in town before the chaos started, and our impromptu family breakfast/pool party the day after (the twerking contest got pretty wild!). It was more wonderful than we could’ve ever imagined, and we are looking forward to spending our anniversary weekend in Palm Springs for years to come!

My advice: keep an open mind! Shop around and don’t settle. If you know what you want, someone out there will be able to give it to you, and for the right price. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Trust your vendors to do their best work and try not to micromanage. Because of my experience in event planning, I have a tendency to want to take care of things myself and I got scolded a few times trying to fix table settings and re-string banners right before the ceremony. Don’t sweat the small stuff; the things that go wrong won’t matter in the long run. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you get to marry your best friend. Do yourself a favor: sit back, relax, and try to let someone else do the dirty work. The day really does go by faster than you can imagine so soak up every second and just try to stay in the moment. Our day was filled with so many sweet moments that we will remember forever and we wish you all the same!


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