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’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 Daya Ramesh, an illustrator and social-media strategist, and Mikey Mastrangelo, a data analyst and computer programmer. They’re two Californians who married last March in matching prints, against the neon environs of the Saguaro Palm Springs. Though their DJ went rogue, and some people ended up getting locked in a tiki bar, many friends told them it was the most fun wedding they’d ever attended. 

Daya: The thing Michael and I thought about first for the wedding was our clothes. We love fashion, we love playing with our looks. A friend from college, Zoe Miyori Fujii, is a fashion designer. She is so talented, and I thought, “She’s going to be famous. Let’s get on it now while we can afford her.”

Mikey: Daya and I met at a house party when we were both going to UC Davis. We were together for a lot of years when I proposed, in the tub — we do this thing called Premium Tub Time, where one person gets to use the bath tub and the other person is essentially their waiter. They get you whatever you want. I put on an episode of The Simpsons for her where Homer proposes to Marge and I waited for the moment when that proposal was going to happen.

Daya: I had a face mask on! During the proposal scene, Michael walked in and said, “Marry me?” It was just so sweet. The Simpsons is our thing. It’s one of our love languages.

Mikey: The engagement ring is from Communion by Joy [$525], and it looks like a ring a mermaid would have. And then, for the wedding outfits, we started with the print. It’s called “Exploding Poppies” and it’s one that Daya had always wanted to buy from our college friend Zoe but didn’t have an occasion for. I liked it a lot, too.

Daya: And I always loved the two-piece outfit Emma Stone wore to the Met Gala one year. It was a crop top, really fitted, with this really beautiful flowy skirt. That is what I wanted it to look like. [$350]

Mikey: We always wind up dressing like each other anyway so we decided to plan it that way. I had a collared shirt made out of that material [$150], and then she did kind of a modern homage to a sari, with a sportier top.

Daya: He wore that shirt with a suit from Zara [$200], actually, and it was good we got to save a little bit on it because we splurged a little bit on the rest of our outfits. Then my earrings were made by my friend Lily [$30], and she had the colors match the pattern. I loved that I was wearing handmade things by my friends.

Mikey: We went to see a lot of venues near my parents’ house in the Bay Area, but it would have been way too expensive for a wedding of 130 people. So her mom scouted out a few options in Southern California and one of those was the Saguaro hotel.

Daya: She was probably even more excited than us that we were getting married. She’s good at planning and she knew things that I would never think of. She said Saguaro was aesthetically pleasing, the colors and everything, and she was right.

Mikey: We had an Indian-lite wedding, so a Western ceremony and an Indian ceremony the night before. Days before, at her parents’ house, we had an actual wedding according to the Indian practice — our friends and family coming up and rubbing turmeric and other spices on our faces as a symbolic blessing.

Daya: The day itself, I feel like as soon as I woke up I was in hair and makeup. The first look was around 3 p.m., and honestly it was my favorite part of the day. It was just really nice just to see Michael in his suit — he was so cute, waiting at the bar.

Mikey: I woke up at 6 a.m. and was laying out gift baskets, wrangling the staff, briefing the DJ, practicing the song I was going to perform. We did the first look at the bar, and it was the only time we got to talk with nobody around us.

Daya: This couple that had just got married bought our drinks — such a sweet way to start the ceremony. Both of our sisters officiated. We are both the little ones in our families, and we always looked up to them.

Mikey: They sort of tag-teamed. A duet, a comedy duo. They wore matching saris. My family loved wearing saris!

Daya: His sister was his “best man,” his best person. My sister was my person of honor. We told them we wanted them to wear pink or plants, either something pink or a green floral print. I love how it looked because they all wore something that was very them, but matching. And I didn’t want them to spend a lot of money on something they couldn’t wear again.

Mikey: During the cocktail hour, we were out getting our photos taken, but apparently the food didn’t come out fast enough and people got really drunk on margaritas.

Daya: The ceremony was on the lawn on one side of the hotel, and then the reception took place in one of their ballrooms upstairs. People were watching the ceremony from their balconies and stuff, so I liked that the ballroom was separated from the party crowd. We got married in March, right before Coachella, right before spring break.

Mikey: In hindsight, it’s more of a fratty, crazy place than a getting-married place. Because of that, it was about 20 percent cheaper than the other venues on the list. And it was also more fun because obviously the colors are really nice, the view from the atrium is really beautiful, and the background of drunk teenagers is hilarious, actually.

Daya: There were a lot of people there to have a good time — which was actually great, because that mood was infectious.

Mikey: We had everyone enter and dance to their seat, which was pretty fun.

Daya: Every table had guac and chips and salsa, and then there was a make-your-own-taco buffet. Saguaro did all the catering. We really didn’t want anything formal, like a sit-down service. We thought, “This is so California.” Also, the food was pretty expensive and so we were like, if we could save with a buffet, let’s do that. It was also easy to incorporate dietary restrictions, because we had fish and chicken and two veggies, rice and beans on the side, and everything is separated.

Mikey: I wanted to perform at the wedding, “All I Have to Do Is Dream” by the Everly Brothers, with the singer of my band. I told the DJ not to play that song because we’re playing the song and … he played it. Okay. You stole the moment. I let it happen.

Daya: We really didn’t want any top 40, any contemporary hits. We wanted songs that were important to us, and we had spent a long time making playlists for when people were waiting for the ceremony to start, during the cocktail hour. He played most of it but … he just needed to throw in some of his own things. It wasn’t enough to get mad about, but ugh.

Mikey: He ended up playing a lot of Bruno Mars. I think the thing with vendors is you tell one person every single thing in your head, and then the person who shows up day-of is somebody else who doesn’t have the details, maybe.

Daya: We just got this weird calm over us and we were like, What could we do? It’s the day of. We’re here. I honestly think the first look, those 15 to 20 minutes alone before it started, really helped ground us. We were reminded, Oh yeah, we’re here for each other. If we feel stressed, let’s just hold hands and look at each other. We were lucky because my mom and sister and the people in the wedding party — when stuff like that happened, they were on it. We did speeches, Michael’s side did speeches, our sisters did speeches.

Mikey: At the end, there were donuts and cupcakes and mud pies and all these cakes. A donut wall. We did cut something, but it wasn’t cake. We cut a cupcake.

Daya: We’ve had a lot of bad wedding cake, and we thought it’d be more fun to have a bunch of little desserts. There were churros, and pudding cups. Plus, there were a lot of dietary restrictions, so we wanted to make sure we had vegan options, gluten-free options. It ended right at midnight, a limitation of the venue. We were both exhausted anyway, though.

Mikey: But my dad and some of my college friends all went to a bar. And then, I don’t know how this happened, the bar wanted to close down, but a bunch of people were in the backyard and they got stuck.

Daya: They got locked in a tiki bar, or something? I don’t know exactly what happened.

Mikey: They all had to hop over the fence, like piggyback on each other.

Daya: So many friends told us it was the most fun wedding they’ve ever been to.

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