“The chances of us meeting organically were slim to none,” Jillian Zakaria, née Paul, says about her courtship with her husband, Sherif. (As she explains it, Jillian was often traveling for business while Sherif had long work hours.) But thanks to modern technology—and a little help from Jillian’s coworkers, who made her a dating profile without her knowledge—the couple met on Bumble in June 2017. “Once we finally met in person, it was very clear that we were never ever going to be casual,” she recalls. “We were all in and couldn’t have been more excited about the potential.”
Though the pandemic threw a wrench in Sherif’s proposal plans, one thing was certain: The couple wanted to spend the rest of their lives together “more than anything.” So, on December 20, 2020, Sherif popped the question during a picnic in Long Beach, California. “Sherif recreated our first date,” she explains. “He says to me that he sees dolphins in the bay and I make fun of him and immediately shut him down. He gets up and waves me over to look at the ‘dolphins.’ He gets quiet and then his entire energy shifts—and I just knew right then and there what was happening.”
A little less than a year later, 85 close friends and family members celebrated Sherif and Jillian’s nuptials in Palm Springs, a city that brings the couple so much joy. Since the pair knew they wouldn’t be a traditional bride and groom, they wanted their December 3, 2021 wedding to be just as bold and colorful as their personalities. Fortunately, the Saguaro Palm Springs ticked off all of the boxes.
“I had mostly seen the Saguaro on Pinterest, and its pictures always stuck with me,” the bride explains. “This was the one and only venue we considered. We toured the grounds and pretty much signed the paperwork the same day.”
With a hefty dose of DIY—and help from their day-of coordinator, Gemini Hearts + Events Design—Jillian and Sherif had the righteously retro wedding of their dreams. Read on for an intimate look at the special day, as photographed by Emma Johnson of The Bold Americana.
Between her penchant for rollerblading and love of all-things disco, it was only fitting for Jillian to plan a wedding with retro vibes. “The biggest thing was that we wanted it to be a high-energy event where people could do nothing else, except have fun,” she explains. “It’s not every day you go to a disco-themed wedding. Everyone has already been through so much the past couple years, and there was no better time to throw a Studio54-themed event.” A colorful invitation suite, which was designed by the bride’s father, started the festivities off on a groovy note.
When it comes to choosing a venue that’s equal parts cheerful and photogenic, it doesn’t get happier than the rainbow-clad Saguaro. “We loved the vibrancy and personality that were abundant everywhere you turned while on the grounds,” the bride shares. “No matter where you stood, we had a picturesque view which would be awesome for pictures.”
Though Jillian is known for regularly wearing a top knot, she wanted to shake things up for her wedding day. Hairstylist Teirney Wellington coiffed the bride’s hair into soft romantic curls, while makeup artist Sharon Park provided Jillian’s signature red lip. “There was never any other option for me,” she says of her pigmented pout. “I knew that was it.”
Before she slipped into her wedding dress, Jillian snapped some glamour shots by the pool with her inner circle and, yes, her trusty pair of roller skates!
“I didn’t have bridesmaids, but I wanted to include my closest friends to share the morning and prep with me,” Jillian explains. “We had so much fun! The energy in the room was so positive, energetic and full of joy.”
The bride stunned in an off-the-shoulder dress she sourced from Sofia Bella Bridal in California. According to Jillian, this dress was the very first one she tried on. “I had no clue what I was looking for, but I knew how I wanted to feel,” she explains. “I knew this dress was the one because, honestly, I had never really seen my body like that in clothes before. I roller skate and work from home. I live in baggy tees, Vans, and jeans [with holes]. This dress gave me an extra dose of confidence that I didn’t know was there.”
Jillian accessorized her gown with Lilly Pulitzer heels, as well as a belt, veil, and headband she found on Etsy. For the perfect finishing touch, the bride sported jewelry she borrowed from her family. “I never knew my grandmother, but have always felt strangely connected to her,” she shares. “I was happy when my mom wanted me to wear [her broach]. I also wore my dad's gold classic Chevy pin. Chevy’s are a whole thing in our family because my dad used to restore these beautiful classic cars.”
The couple shared a sweet first look before the ceremony began. For Jillian and Sherif, it was important to spend some quality time together—not to mention get the party started sooner! “I know, it doesn’t sound that romantic but remember: We had a Studio54 to get up and running,” the bride explains. “The dance floor was calling our names.”
It truly felt like it was the two of us back on our first date all over again.
“The moment was special because it truly felt like it was the two of us back on our first date all over again. We were dressed up more than usual filled with nerves and excitement,” Jillian recalls. “We had waited so long for this day. It’s funny because no one tells you how weird it is to be the center of an entire event; it makes you feel all sorts of things.”
“We were able to capture most, if not all, our couple photos before the ceremony, so this helped in a big way to keep the energy and momentum going,” the bride adds. “We were leery of creating lulls and we didn’t want that to happen.”
True to the venue’s colorful aesthetic, the ceremony area was lined with rows of bright pink chairs.
A “nearly DIY” wall offered a photogenic moment to the ceremony. According to Jillian, her father and brother constructed the backdrop with faux floral panels and signage, which were both sourced from Etsy.
The bride and her father walked down the aisle to Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” “If you know my dad, you know Elvis is king. There was really no one better to set the tone, other than Elvis,” she says. “My whole family still gets a little choked up when they hear this song. It just really makes you feel something special.”
A close friend presided over the ceremony, which Jillian says offered “an extra dose of personality and fun.”
Since Jillian and Sherif are self-proclaimed “kind-of sensitive people,” it was only fitting that they wrote their own vows. “It was the most incredible and most special thing I have ever felt,” the bride shares. “Word on the street is that we had guests crying [from] their balconies, so I guess people felt something with us!”
Mr. and Mrs. Zakaria recessed down the aisle to “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers. “It’s fun, upbeat, silly, and so us,” Jillian says. “We did a rainbow confetti toss which matched this song so well.”
Throughout the day, Jillian and Sherif had one goal in mind: To have as much fun as possible. “Honestly and truly, no one is [going to] notice an un-ironed tablecloth, the fact that we somehow lost our seating chart (completely gone), or that you and your DJ had a miscommunication on the photo booth order,” the bride shares. “We had the freaking best time ever, and no one had any idea.”
The reception area was decked out in magenta napkins Jillian found on Amazon, gold plastic silverware and gold chargers from the Dollar Tree, and DIY centerpieces the mother of the bride made over the course of four months.
The Saguaro Palm Springs delivered a mouth-watering menu, with tacos as the highlight of the night. However, little did their guests know, the taco played a role in Jillian and Sherif’s love story. “When Sherif and I had our first-ever couples fight way back when, we made up by getting tacos—it worked like a charm,” she recalls. “Funny thing was that everyone that we talked to about the food kept telling us to get the taco bar. I have never heard so many wedding food compliments before, and I used to work weddings in my food service days!”
For their first dance as husband and wife, Sherif and Jillian opted for Lauryn Hill’s rendition of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” “At one point, we got our guests involved [and] they were all singing along,” the bride says. “We were jumping around, waving our arms like we were at a concert, and smiling so big our cheeks hurt. The song was the perfect mix of surprise, classic ballad and the right amount of hip hop.”
Dessert, anyone? The couple enlisted Over the Rainbow Desserts to create a vanilla and salted caramel cake, which was decorated with disco balls and pampas grass. “I have never had such a luscious cake in my life, and their range is awesome,” the bride adds.
True to their Studio54 theme, the couple and their guests danced the night away to a groovy playlist by Crowd Control. “We are a big music household and truly believe that music sets the mood for any and all occasions,” Jillian and Sherif share. “We wanted our guests to get up and out of their chairs and enjoy the night in the Zakaria sort of way.”
Looking back on their day, the couple has so much gratitude for their community. Not only do Jillian and Sherif have hands-on families who were willing to roll up their sleeves and dive into a DIY project, but they also had a trusted network of vendors. “I think one of the coolest parts of the day was taking a step back and realizing what an amazing community of support we had,” the bride shares. “Nearly everyone we worked with was through a previous established relationship we had with amazing people. If we didn’t know the vendors personally, they were referred through trusted friends or family.”
It does take a village to host a fun, personality-packed wedding—and having a team of people who truly have your back is priceless.
Venue The Saguaro Palm Springs
Coordinator Gemini Hearts + Events Design
Bridal Salon Sofia Bella Bridal
Bride’s Veil CICIWeddingStore
Bride’s Jewelry Koala Jewelry Vault
Bride’s Shoes Lilly Pulitzer
Bride’s Hair Teirney Wellington
Bride’s Makeup Sharon Park
Mother of the Bride’s Dress Mac Duggal
Groom’s Attire Portfolio Designs in Downtown Los Angeles
Engagement Ring Robbins Brothers
Floral Design Negretes Flower Designer
Invitations Handmade by Bride’s Father
Toss Paper Bags Red Letter Vows
Guest Book ArcoAlbum
Music Crowd Control
Catering The Saguaro Palm Springs
Accommodations The Saguaro Palm Springs
Photography Emma Johnson of The Bold Americana