When we ask newlyweds to think back on what they wanted most for their big day — and we’ve interviewed hundreds of them over the years — the most common response is: “For it not to feel like a wedding!” But in a monsoon of flower crowns and macaroon towers, how do you see beyond the usual tropes and actually pull off a non-cookie-cutter affair? For the answer, we’ve decided to interrogate the cool couples whose weddings we would actually want to steal — right down to the tiger-shaped cake toppers.
Here, we talked to a Hollywood scribe who got married in the home of Hollywood royalty — that is, Greta Garbo’s place in Palm Springs. Maisie Culver, a TV writer, and David Imai, a car designer at Tesla, live in Silver Lake and shared vows (off the mic) on a very hot spring day last April while their guests sipped cocktails named for the couple’s cats.
Maisie: When we met on OKCupid, I was working in a room full of comedy writers on a TV show. After our second date, I was saying, “I can’t believe this person I went out with! He drove to my house. He picked me up. And he held the door open.” They were like, “Maisie, never tell anybody how low your standards are.”
David: For our second anniversary in 2016, we spent a weekend in Palm Springs and I planned a hike on Mount San Jacinto. I had never hiked there, so I went on Google satellite view to scout out the trail, looking for beautiful secluded points where I could propose.
Maisie: He does this bit where he asks me to turn around so he can take a picture of me making strange poses in front of nature. I turned around and he was on one knee with the ring.
David: We started planning the wedding as soon as we got down from the mountain.
Maisie: But we had a long engagement; I was pretty stressed about the idea of a wedding. I have some people-pleasing tendencies and the idea of throwing an event for 150 people freaked me out. We got engaged in September 2016, and the wedding wasn’t until April 8, 2018. I thought, “Hey, if we stretch this out as long as possible, we can just do a tiny bit each weekend.”
David: We wanted it to feel like a bit of a holiday for people, so we looked in scenic places around LA: Santa Barbara, Ojai, Joshua Tree. We fell in love with La Quinta [$1,750 for site only]. It felt like it could really be a retreat, everybody in the same location.
Maisie: La Quinta is a resort in Palm Springs where a lot of celebrities used to have homes in the ’20s. They have a house where Greta Garbo spent her winters when she wanted to get away from Hollywood; it’s from the 1920s, a pretty, smallish one-bedroom adobe house with this amazing Spanish-style walled courtyard. It’s preserved as a historical location so they don’t let you inside, you can only peep in and see the foyer, which has a gold mural you can see through the window. As soon as we picked it, everything fell into place. Like: We don’t really need flowers because there’s bougainvillea everywhere!
David: When we began planning the wedding at La Quinta, we thought, “Oh, the average temperatures in early April are in the low to mid-80s, so we’ll be fine.”
Maisie: The week of the wedding, I started getting text messages from family members, like, “Hey, so you know it’s going to be really hot? You sure you don’t want to relocate?” We both took the side that they were overreacting. When I actually drove up to the hotel where we were staying and I got out of the car, I was like, “I can’t breathe.” I called my wedding planner — Jenny Yi of Chloe + Mint — and she said, “Do you have a friend who’s still in L.A.? Would they be willing to go pick up parasols and fans for everybody?” My friend Diane stopped in Chinatown on her drive down and bought like 200 parasols for all the guests.
David: Then came the wedding day — it was like 97 degrees. Just searingly hot, searingly hot. The photographers led me to a courtyard where Maisie was standing. She looked breathtaking, with the desert background and the Spanish-style architecture. It was a moment I’ll never forget. We greeted, kissed, and talked about how hot it was.
Maisie: I thought he looked great, but Dave always looks great. [Suit Supply, $1000] He’s the most stylish person I know. My dress was Jenny Packham. I’ve always loved Jenny Packham — the 1920s Hollywood feel with the elaborate beading and the sequins. Initially I picked a different dress but then I went to go try it on it looked terrible. The 81-year-old woman helping me out picked a different Jenny Packham dress and it was amazing. I found an article about her in the L.A. Times. She has like at 95% success rate at picking out dresses. I did splurge on the dress ’cause I just fell in love with it. And there were a lot of cutouts in the dress, so it wasn’t as hot as I thought it would be. Because my hair was off my neck, it wasn’t so bad. I was actually more concerned about sunscreen than I was about sweating because I’m very pale and I burn pretty easily. One of my bridesmen and one of my husband’s groomsmen had to stand near us at the altar with parasols over our heads because it was so hot. The venue put out ice water and cold towels.
David: My sister officiated because she is a fantastic sister, my best friend. We thought that she had a great voice and had a great presence. Also, I officiated her wedding, so she owed me one.
Maisie: He grew up Catholic but I did not want to make our guests sit through an hour-long Catholic ceremony in the desert sun. I wrote the ceremony a little bit like a set, a comedy set, because I just wanted to just be entertaining. It was short, like 12 minutes, but with some sweet moments in it. Although one joke fell flat. It went: “If anyone knows any reason why these two should not be joined in marriage, speak now and risk me throwing this microphone at you.” The crowd laughed a little bit, but it was an uncomfortable laugh.
David: I was nervous about matching the quality of her vows because Maisie’s a very good writer and I’m less so. I was definitely right about that.
Maisie: One thing we did that I really, really liked is that we did not use microphones for the vows.
David: That’s something that we discussed really early on — that we felt our vows were for us. It would feel more organic and more true to our relationship if we just spoke to each other.
Maisie: We didn’t tell people we were going to do that, and then some people afterwards were like, “Do you know the microphone glitched?” And I was like, “Oh no, no, it was deliberate.” But it was very short, so I don’t think people minded too much.
David: The ceremony was on the lawn of the house, and then, while the cocktail hour was happening in the little courtyard, the first thing we did was run into an air-conditioned SUV, where our lovely coordinator brought us ice-cold cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. We just sat there for maybe 15 to 20 minutes, taking in what happened and talking and coming down from the high together.
Maisie: We served two specialty drinks themed after our cats. They were so good: The Sloane, my cat when we met, was tequila, muddled blackberry, cucumber, simple syrup, and our favorite hot sauce. The Piper, which was Dave’s cat when we met, was basically an old-fashioned with some maple syrup.
David: The reception was a sit-down, plated meal. I couldn’t tell you what I ate, honestly.
Maisie: I think I had chicken. Our tasting was in December and it was freezing, so we picked like the heartiest food that we could. On the actual day, it was like, oh god. We got a cake through the venue, but the cake wasn’t really important to us. We did a good dessert table, with cookies and macaroons. We had rectangular tables set up with those ball lights strung across — so pretty. One area we saved money was on the flowers, because it didn’t make a lot of sense to bring flowers to the desert. We mainly just did greenery, eucalyptus, and lemon leaves wrapped together as runners.
David: The DJ was a friend of ours named Wes [Wes Riechmann of Good Mood Events]. I’ve since also hired him for my 40th birthday party. He always does a kickass job. We wanted to start with music that had a broader appeal — oldies, Motown, soul — to get all of the generations at the wedding to dance. Then it got into more contemporary music at the end.
Maisie: Even though it was still kind of warm, it was a very energetic dance floor.
David: Our wedding hashtag was #imaiwillalwaysloveyou, so we asked the DJ to play Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” at the very end. He was like, “Really? That’s a really strange one to be playing.” And we’re like, “No, no, no. Trust us.” Everybody was just like belting out the chorus at the top of their lungs.
Maisie: Every single person scream-singing Whitney Houston. Our DJ said, “I have never seen people have that strong of a reaction to Whitney Houston.”
David: For the afterparty, we booked a little party room on the property and had pizza and quesadillas served there. It was pretty fun because the entire time we had the reception, all the little kids were in a suite with a babysitter, but they all came to the afterparty. It was so much fun to dance with the little kids.
Maisie: Thanks to our wedding planner Jenny, who was also our florist, we got to take home the pot of bougainvillea that sat at the altar. I’ve planted it in our backyard.