A Personalized Palm Springs Wedding With Modern Twists

A shared sense of humor, values, and love of dirty martinis and hip-hop music brought Sam Bartley and Nate Bakke together. The pair admits they both weren't ready for a relationship after initially meeting though a mutual friend in May 2013, but quite literally running into each other at a coffee shop two years later led to fateful changes of heart. "It's been love ever since," says Sam. Fast-forward to December 2016, when Nate popped the question in Aspen, Colorado—despite a few unexpected setbacks. With a romantic proposal location in mind, Nate hired a professional photographer in advance to capture the moment. But lo and behold, the gondola intended to transport the pair to said locale broke, and Nate had to improvise on the spot. "To say he was stressed out that day would be an understatement," jokes the bride. However, the backup plan worked out perfectly—Nate resorted to a snow-covered hill overlooking Aspen Mountain to get down on one knee. "It all turned out more perfect than I could have ever imagined," Sam muses.

The couple fell in love with the Colony Palms Hotel in Palm Springs, California, for their April 7, 2018, nuptials. The selling point? They could house their entire wedding crew for a mini weekend getaway of sorts. "It felt like summer camp meets boutique hotel living," Sam says of the celebration. Playing off the venue, the wedding also maintained a timeless, classic allure with a dash of modern elegance. "I love the look of mix and match vintage glassware and modern-style menus and invitations," explains the bride, who admits that she changed her a mind a lot over the course of the couple's year-and-a-half engagement.

Indecisiveness aside, Nate and Sam ultimately wanted to host a party their nearest and dearest would never forget, and their personalized Palm Springs wedding did just the trick. Keep reading to see the celebration unfold, as captured by Chris and Ruth Photography.

To make the nuptials feel as special as possible, Sam had a hand in every wedding detail. With the help of her groom and parents, she designed the invitations, menus, and napkins to reflect a fusion of the pair's tastes. "They’re simple, textural, and classic with a modern twist to match the venue," she explains.

On the big day, guests kicked off the weekend affair in style with a private pool party before the main event. Sam's bridesmaids also surprised her with a festive, oversized sombrero and scrapbook, complete with photos from her bachelorette party and sweet notes.

Contributing to the wedding's timeless allure, Nate looked dapper in a simple navy suit with a black lapel.

Sam's dress—a crepe, cowl-neck Monique Lhuillier number—followed suit. "I had always loved Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy’s timeless look from her wedding day and wanted something similar," she says. As for her something-old, the bride upped the sentimental factor by sewing pieces of her mother's and mother-in-law's wedding dresses into her own.

Hopping on the white-bridal-party trend, Sam allowed her girls to pick their own frocks. "Since my dress was fairly simple, I wanted the bridesmaids dresses to have lots of texture and movement in theirs," she explains. "I loved the way they all worked together." Nate's guys offset the mismatched styles with black suits.

Leading up to the outdoor ceremony, guests grabbed glasses of Champagne from a gold bar cart, then made their way to vineyard chairs—each with a buri fan and satchel of rose petals.

The couple strove to individualize their nuptials in any way they could, but the bride considers their vows the most personal component of the wedding overall. Neither had heard their partner's prior to the ceremony, but they coincidentally proved that great minds truly do think alike. "We both ended ours with 'always and forever,' a saying we always say to each other and have engraved on our wedding bands," says Sam.

The reception gave way to a much more energetic vibe with not one, but three, aptly named signature cocktails—the "Blushing Bride," the "Groom's Gimlet," and the "Just Married Margarita." The newlyweds also curated their own wedding playlist (with plenty of hip-hop, no doubt) in collaboration with their DJ.

Beneath bistro lights, long rectangular dinner tables lined the outskirts of the pool, where each was topped with a mixture of floral arrangements in assorted white and clear vases. Wedding attendees sipped from vintage crystal Champagne coupes and dined on rose-gold flatware with sand-colored linens.

Along with prioritizing music and cocktails, food became another major focus of the wedding. Even before picking the venue, a family-style menu was a must for the bride and groom. "[It's] much more interactive and really gives people a chance to engage over dinner and allows for people to taste all the different types of food instead of being limited to one," Sam explains.

The bride had another culinary curveball up her sleeve—custom ice cream push pops from Bluebird Creamery, decorated with the pair's initials, in honor of the groom's favorite food.

Opting for crowd pleasers within their music selection, Nate and Sam partook in their first dance as newlyweds to "Baby I'm Yours" by Arctic Monkeys.

Along with the eight ice cream pop flavors, dessert also featured the pair's three-tier wedding cake and an ice cream tart covered with white blooms and greenery.

The main menu highlight, however, came as a surprise later in the night—Taco Bell catering, which the bride's mother suggested! "I've never seen 100 Crunchwrap Supremes go so fast," Sam says with a laugh.

Capping off the evening, the newlyweds took a dip in the pool, wedding dress and all, with their 160 guests quickly joining in afterward. An in-pool dance party to Betty Who's "I Love You Always Forever" promptly ensued, which the bride fondly recalls as a memory she and Nate will cherish forever. It also proved a true testament to the couple's personalities: "We love having fun and are always up for a new adventure," Sam says.

Looking back on their fun-filled big day, Sam recommends that couples planning their own weddings take on a similarly fun and laid-back mentality. "Don't sweat the small stuff and enjoy the day," she advises. "Things will go wrong, but your guests vibe off you. As long as you are happy, they will be happy...a.k.a. be the first ones to jump in the pool!"

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