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 macaron towers, how do you see beyond the usual tropes and actually pull off a non-cookie-cutter affair? For the answer, we decided to interrogate the cool couples whose weddings we would actually want to steal — right down to the tiger-shaped cake toppers.
Here, we spoke with Sera Gamble, the executive producer of Netflix’s You and Syfy’s The Magicians, and Eric Weiss, a photographer and therapist. Their wedding date (and time) this past September was chosen by their astrologer, and the venue was the former Beverly Hills home of legendary set designer Tony Duquette. The couple exchanged vows in a flower mandala, served chilaquiles for dinner, and offered palm readings and a Vanity Fair–style portrait studio as part of the entertainment.
Sera: There was an accidental proposal. Christmas morning 2017, I’m sitting on a stool at a vanity table, putting on makeup to go to his mom’s house, and he’s giving me a Christmas present in a small ring box. He starts to give a speech about the present and I was like, I need to stop you and ask what’s happening, because you’re holding out a ring and you’re on one knee and what finger is that going on?
Eric: I go, “Well, not that I’m not proposing to you — I wouldn’t think of proposing — but I wouldn’t be averse to that. But that’s not exactly what this is. I mean, it could be? I don’t know.” For the longest time, we didn’t even really believe in marriage. We don’t like marriage. Marriage has all these tropes that weigh people down, and that’s not what we want. We both had that understanding, and so it wasn’t like it was off the table, but it just wasn’t really on a high burner.
Sera: We sort of played with the idea of being engaged for a couple of days. He took me out to dinner a month later, and he seemed really nervous and weird and I was like, “Did you have too much coffee today?” In the middle of dinner he hands me this stack of index cards. I’m a television writer and that’s how we figure out television episodes, we write down each beat on an index card and stick it on the wall, so I have them all over my house.
Eric: I wrote, basically, that I was proposing. I didn’t want the moment to be over quickly — I love to linger — and she had to take the time to flip each card. It took three or four or five minutes.
Sera: I’m flipping through, reading these sentences, and when I was most of the way through the deck, it occurred to me that he was asking me if I would marry him. I started crying. Our waiter started crying. It was perfect.
Eric: Because we have these avoidant, introverted personalities, I would say that if we were younger we would’ve eloped, gone to the courthouse.
Sera: The place we initially met, back in 2007, was the retreat center Esalen — it’s in Big Sur overlooking the ocean, where Don Draper goes at the end of Mad Men. (We told the story of how we met at our engagement party, and we invited all the writers from You, the show I executive produce. So yeah, when that detail popped up in a season two script, it was a little wink from the writers’ room. Part of the fun of doing an L.A. season of You was getting to make fun of myself.) In a workshop, the teacher said we could do this practice where you are silent for 24 hours — it’s a wonderful way to examine the human condition, to shut up for a few hours — and she passed out little stickers that said “in silence.” I took one and he took one and we ended up sitting across from each other at lunch and I started laughing and couldn’t stop and it became this nonverbal conversation and I think that’s when we bonded.
When we got engaged, I just noticed in conversations that people’s eyes lit up. The world right now is a tortured place. One simple thing we can all be happy about is the potential to fall in love and want to hang out together. We decided that the purpose of a wedding is to share that moment with the people in our lives, who have taken care of us. They deserve a really fabulous party.
Eric: Also, one of my lifelong mantras, which is why I’m a therapist, is “To see, to be seen, and to be met.” There’s something important about standing up in front of family and our community and being seen. We had about 75 people there.
Sera: We hired a wedding planner named Beth Helmstetter, who we found just clicking around on websites. We loved how calm and masterful she was, very unruffle-able and very open to ideas.
Eric: Because we’re Californian, we also had to go to our astrologer, Tanda. She has her Master’s in psychology, so she’s part therapist, part astrologer. We asked her, what’s the perfect date? She gave us two dates, and she goes, “Well, this one day would be very challenging, but rewarding, and this other date has a kind of ease and well-being.” So we said the second date, which happened to be on the fall equinox. She said noon would be the optimum time, and we said, “Daytime wedding? Huh. I guess if that’s the time, then that’s the time.” So we had a noon wedding.
Sera: Our wedding planner took us to a few places, then rung me and said, “I have a friend who threw a party at Dawnridge, have you heard of it?” It used to be the home of the interior designer Tony Duquette and it’s very, very maximalist. He’s the one who famously said, “More is more.” His protégé, Hutton Wilkinson, bought it and made it a museum to Tony’s aesthetic. When you stand in there you get a little high. There’s beautiful art from all over the world on every surface, the floor, the ceiling. We felt like, what a gorgeous place to throw the most fabulous party.
Eric: She’s very attracted to bold ideas, and I’m very minimal, but for all the fullness of that house and the craziness, it worked so well. I walked in and was equally stimulated and calm at the same time. It was unmistakable — this place is special, and this place feels right for us.
Sera: I wore two dresses, both designed by Mala Mukherji and made at Subject Studio here in L.A. on Melrose. As we were designing the wedding dress, we realized it was really important to be able to dance, even in the middle of the day. I couldn’t really move in that dress. It was comfortable, but not something to boogie in. So midway through, we thought, let’s make one more, and that was the green dress. I was a little contrary about the color white. It felt a little virginal for someone like me. I didn’t want to feel like I was wearing some costume, but I wanted to wear something that felt special and respectful of the gravity of the moment. I tried to think woman, not girl. If I put something on and I feel girly, I’m not in that place in my life. I like things that feel womanly — like you’re the queen, not the princess.
Eric: I wanted to be comfortable and feel good. My friend John is always harping on me about Tom Ford. He said, “You need to get a Tom Ford suit. Tom Ford’s the guy.” We ended up getting a Tom Ford suit. I tried on leather shoes and I felt like, it’s brunch and this feels really formal. It doesn’t feel daytime. So I wore white sneakers. Something about that high/low felt right to me.
Sera: He and I got ready in different areas of the house and we met on the balcony to take a good look at each other. We did a first look.
Eric: I didn’t know that was a thing. I’m getting ready, and someone comes down, and says, “Hey, we’re ready for the first look.” I’m like, “Sorry, what?”
Sera: Once you’re en route to having a wedding, a lot of wedding shit comes at you, traditions. And at a certain point, despite our desire to be original, we’re just like, fuck it, let’s do all this stuff. It was randomly raining. Of all the things you expect to happen in Los Angeles at the end of September, the one thing you’re counting on is no rain. There was one day in September 2019 where it rained for six hours, and it was these exact six hours. I was like, I’m going to have that Alanis Morissette song stuck in my head my entire wedding. Beth doesn’t seem to get nervous, which I suppose is a key attribute for a wedding planner, but she was like, “It’s going to be beautiful.” It was a light sprinkle and we were like, fuck it, let’s stand out there. I love the rain.
Eric: Our friends Shiva and Kanoe officiated. I met Kanoe doing a Master’s in spiritual psychology, of all things. That probably sounds pretty California, too. I just loved the way she holds her heart. She has a lot of heart wisdom and heart compassion. The two of them just work really well. It made sense to be married by people who can model this for us.
Sera: We had people arrive about an hour early so that they could have coffee and doughnuts and Champagne and little bits like that just to chill out and chat. The ceremony was in a circle and Hollyflora decorated it with beautiful flowers and there was a mandala at the center. I follow people on Instagram who make flower mandalas. I find them soothing to scroll past. It reminded me of Esalen — you’ll find these little art projects people do on the side of the path, a perfectly balanced pile of stones that someone spent six hours doing on their way back from the meditation dome. Eric and I had an idea of the kind of flowers and colors we wanted. The space itself is very colorful but in a sort of dusty, aged way. We wanted jewel tones that popped against that dusky background. When Holly and I walked through, we kept noticing all these sculptures and busts and statues hanging out in the nooks and crannies of the outdoor space: a lion head against a pole, a stately looking man with a giant mustache. Instead of making flower arrangements, we adorned the existing sculptures. I know I’m going to sound a little woo woo about all of this, and honestly, it was a breath of fresh air, because in my day job, I’m an executive producer on a couple of TV shows and have to make a lot of practical decisions. This was purely from a heart space, so it was pretty therapeutic.
Eric: I’m a lapsed Catholic, and Sera’s Jewish, but as a couple we get to create our new rules and new agreements. We did a blending of sensibilities. Sera’s cousin from Israel read a Jewish prayer in Hebrew and English, and my aunt who’s a nun gave a blessing.
Sera: We wrote our own vows, and he was like, “You’re a writer so fuck you.” But I was told by our wedding planner that in all her years, his vows were the first time she’d ever heard a man call his wife-to-be a high king. He called me a king. My vows were the first time she’d ever heard someone bring up time travel and magical creatures. I get why people assume horror writers will be dark people. But actually, I work out my darkest fears and shadows on paper, so my own life is fairly light and optimistic as a result. We’re lucky to have a relationship that’s too functional to make a riveting Netflix show about. I mean, neither of us have killed a single person!
Eric: Right after the wedding, it was cocktails and hors d’oeuvres passing. Tony Duquette’s motto was “beauty over luxury.” So it was the greatest hits of comfort brunch by The Food Matters. Chilaquiles, chicken and waffles. Ironically, on one of our first dates, we’d gone to the caterer’s restaurant, this Mexican restaurant that’s since closed and now they just do catering.
Sera: L.A. is a very Mexican city, and I would say 65 percent of the good times I’ve had with Eric have been over tacos. I was like, it’s brunch — let’s get waffles, lots of sugar, everything decadent. The design of the wedding was one really long table in the garden, and then tables and a couch and a cocktail-y vibe everywhere else. But it was raining, so we positioned the food stations inside and outside the house. People had to move inside and sat in the house with their plates on their knees. We couldn’t move all the tables inside. I was so worried about that, but my friend told me later that everyone was talking and hanging out and maybe if it had been more spread out, people would’ve just hung out with whoever they already knew.
Eric: Everyone went out to eat, then we brought them all together to cut the cake, do the toast, and then the first dance. In the beginning it was free, then the ceremony was focused, then back to free, then focused.
Sera: Both of us are snobby about music and we came up with all these playlists and the DJ checked out the list and sent it back with songs we’d never heard before. It was a fun, creative process and I discovered some cool music that way.
Eric: It was eclectic. We wanted the music to be body-friendly, something that would invite you to move. We went all over the map.
Sera: This is going to be the most L.A. thing I say, but neither Eric nor I eat gluten, so the cake was gluten-free. Cake Monkey made this cake in lemon and raspberry. We did a cake-cutting, did the thing, and then dancing, and at one point we grabbed the microphone and thanked all the people who designed the day.
Eric: After the toast, we were like, “Stay here as long as you like. House is open.”
Sera: It’s like a cabinet of curiosities. Every little corner is just layered with so many things. We set up a Vanity Fair–style portrait studio, so people could go in and pose in dramatic fashion. We had a friend who’s a palm reader by the DJ. People were leaving their readings with tears in their eyes, she’s so good. Then — Marlon Brando apparently rented the house for 12 years, and in the big gold room where the dancing was, the story is he used to lie on the floor and stare at this gorgeous chandelier on the ceiling painted with birds. That’s what we did as people left, laid on the floor and stared up at the chandelier.