“I was in my office one day when a friend from work walked in and told me that he attended Stanford Law Prom over the weekend and met my [future] wife,” explains Michael Kives. “He passed along Lydia’s number and told me to call her.” Michael had been living in Los Angeles for 13 years, with most of that time spent at CAA, representing everyone from Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger to Kate Hudson, Katy Perry, and Jessica Alba. (Prior to that, he’d worked for both Bill and Hillary Clinton.) He then founded the investment advisory firm K5 Global. While he was very much part of the L.A. ecosystem, Lydia Gray, a civil rights lawyer who graduated from Stanford Law, had just moved to town. Now she works as a staff attorney at The Bail Project, a new national nonprofit organization that posts bail for individuals in need while pushing for meaningful, systematic criminal justice reform. “A mutual friend basically set us up on a blind date, which we shared over dinner at our now favorite L.A. restaurant, Pace,” Lydia says.
The two had been dating for two years when Michael surprised Lydia with a proposal. “He told me he was planning a trip for my 30th birthday weekend,” Lydia explains. “He wouldn’t tell me where we were going until the night before, when he gave me a plane ticket to Miami.”
She found out later that it was never Michael’s intention to simply celebrate her birthday in the Sunshine State—he proposed to her on the very first night of the trip. “It was on a boat, with just the two of us, looking out at the Miami skyline,” Lydia remembers. “I was completely surprised and, up until our wedding, it was the happiest moment of my life.”
Afterwards, they walked to famed Miami institution Joe’s Stone Crab. As they approached the back of the restaurant, two doors slid open to reveal the couple’s family and friends. “Another surprise!” Lydia laughs. “I saw the faces of our parents, siblings, and best friends. I couldn’t believe that so many people had gotten to Miami for a weekend without me having any clue. The whole night was a perfect blur of happiness.”
But this was no easy feat. “It was nearly impossible!” Michael admits. “It felt like I was running a spy operation, coordinating secretly with all of our friends and family who had to hide in the Miami airport and hotel lobby bathroom so we wouldn’t see them when we landed and then arrived at the hotel to check in. Also, stellar acting performances by our parents, who pretended to be at home in Canada and Pennsylvania when we called them after the proposal, when they were secretly waiting at the restaurant.”
Once the surprise had sunken in, Lydia and Michael got right into planning mode. The two agreed from the get-go that doing a destination wedding somewhere close to Los Angeles was the way to go. “We also wanted a hotel that was big enough to do a buyout, so that whatever space we chose would be filled up with our family and friends,” Michael says. “We fell in love at first sight with the Parker in Palm Springs! It’s whimsical and warm, with beautiful outdoor spaces underneath pink skies and purple mountains. We didn’t even look at other options.”
They worked with wedding planner to the stars Yifat Oren to create an aesthetic that was natural, classic, and chic. “Other couples warned us that wedding planning would be stressful and chaotic,” Lydia says. “But Michael and I honestly loved every minute. I think that was in part due to how well we work together. But it was also due to the comfort we felt knowing Yifat was at the helm. I trust Yifat’s taste and direction completely, and never had to worry that anything would be overlooked. She and her team are magic-makers.”
Lydia has never been a big shopper, so searching for her wedding dress was actually one of the few aspects of the planning process that she didn’t look forward to. “Luckily my friends made it fun, and I went with one of the first dresses that I tried on from Oscar de la Renta,” she says. “And Tamara Mellon gifted me a pair of her gorgeous shoes—she’s the best!”
For hair and makeup, her look was clean and natural. “David Babaii gave me beautiful waves while making me laugh the entire time. He really has a way of making his clients feel confident,” Lydia says. “And, my makeup artist, Chanel Cross, is the sweetest person you’ll ever meet. She’s amazing with natural, glowy looks.”
Of all the festivities, the ceremony was the most important part to Lydia. She wanted it to feel intimate, even with their 325 guests, so they did a candlelit service in the round at sunset. “We were quite literally surrounded by love, and we totally felt it,” Lydia says.
It started with friend Ellie Goulding singing the bride down the aisle to her song “How Long Will I Love You.” “It’s a song that I can’t listen to without major tears,” Lydia admits. Emily Verellen Strom and Darnell Strom, two of the couple’s closest friends, officiated. “Emily and Darnell have a really beautiful relationship, and they’ve shown us what it means to love each other fully, when it’s easy and when it’s not,” Lydia says. “They also have really beautiful perspectives on all things love and life, and given how close we are, could speak to our relationship in a way that most could not.”
The bride and groom wrote their own vows. “This was really important to us,” Lydia says. “And our dearest friend Cleo Wade read an original poem called ‘Good Love’ that truly took our breath away. ‘Good love,’ she said, ‘is a place where we are always safe, a jubilant and well-earned home, perhaps the kind that we only get once in our precious lives.’”
After the service, guests gathered inside the tent for a family-style dinner at long tables. “This was really a compromise wedding,” Lydia explains. “Michael does everything big, and if this were exclusively up to him, we would have had a 1,000-person wedding with Cirque du Soleil acts and all kinds of crazy things! I, on the other hand, wanted the wedding to feel intimate and heartfelt. I’m really proud to say—thanks to Yifat and her team—that we accomplished both. Our wedding was very much a Michael Kives production, but it was also extremely heartfelt and beautiful, and the toasts, which were all so thoughtful and special, really contributed to that.”
It was an all-star lineup. Katy Perry learned and sang “Hava Nagila” for the hora, and afterwards, Katy, Sia, Ellie Goulding, and Michael Hess surprised the newlyweds by singing a medley written by Hess. After, the dance band had every single person on the floor.
“I loved all the speeches and performances,” Michael notes.
“The Clintons blew my mind. Mikey Hess’s song included the lyrics, ‘You better believe us, you’re a lucky man Michael Kives’—and those words could not have felt more true. I felt like the luckiest man in the world. But Lee [Eisenberg] and Gene [Stupnitsky], former head writers on The Office, brought me right down to earth, with a roast for the ages. Lydia was mostly spared!”
Post-reception, Yifat created a nightclub atmosphere for the after-party. “I had seen an incredible light-up dance floor by New York artist Beau Burrows,” Michael says. “The dance floor lights up and moves as you step on it. Like a living art installation.”
They situated nightclub booths all around the dance floor. The Casamigos was free-flowing, and DJ Sam French had everyone dancing late into the night. “It felt surreal! I kept looking out at the crowd, and just seeing everyone we love from every walk of life,” Michael says. “High school friends, mailroom friends, friends from politics, former clients, a former president, and maybe a couple future presidents. Just everyone in the world that I’d want to celebrate with, all together.”