Jenna Moser, one of Sara Zarrella Photography’s 2022 brides, is back on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! as a newlywed to discuss the ins and outs of planning her 3-day Catholic-Indian Fusion wedding celebration! If you missed episode 37 of the podcast, Jenna was one of the brides-to-be featured on that episode; however, now she is a married woman! Listen in on this discussion about Jenna’s tips for planning a massive celebration without a wedding planner. Jenna also shares her honest opinions about what decisions she is grateful she made and which decisions she might change if she was doing it again. So if you are feeling stressed about the myriad of details for your upcoming day, this episode is for you!
We’re so excited she’s back on the podcast. For those who don’t know her, meet Jenna!
I was a 2022 Bride and a customer of the amazing Sara Zarrella Photography. I was on the podcast last year talking about my wedding (episode 37!) and enjoyed talking about the experience so much. We decided to have an interview again to talk about the process and what wedding planning regrets I have – and what I’d do again if I could.
Can you tell our listeners about your wedding? It was really unique!
So my wedding was an Indian and Catholic fusion wedding. My family is Indian and Tyler’s family and myself are Catholic. Basically, our wedding was a several day event that included several aspects of a traditional Indian wedding, as well as a traditional Catholic mass ceremony. Planning and coordinating all of the events was a huge task, but we ended up having a really smooth experience overall.
Our team was there all three days and I just want to say, you definitely pulled it off, my friend. I’m really impressed too, because I learned later on that you didn’t have a wedding planner. So, you did all of this on your own.
I did not have a wedding planner, which in retrospect, I don’t think I needed one! I had a very specific vision for what I wanted our weekend to be. Plus, I’m a very hyper organized person. My venue, Newport Beach House, was also full-service for the day that we were there. That means they handled a lot of the little stuff – like chairs and tables and linens. It was mostly getting my people to the right place at the right time. I’m Type A and like doing things myself, so it made sense not to have a planner. I also delegated a ton to my bridesmaids and family, which was helpful, too.
I thought it ran really smoothly. Can you tell us what you did and would do again?
So, the number one thing I did that I’m still happy about is making wedding binders. It felt a little neurotic when I was doing them, but there were so many moving parts to the event – 4 days, bridal parties with 11 people on each side, kids in the wedding party, and so many vendors. I was getting overwhelmed making sure I had the big picture in place. So, I made a huge itinerary for every single day to make sure I knew where things were, the distances between, the focus of the event and specifics. Once those were done, I bought binders (pretty ones!) to house the information.
The binders had all of the information we needed about what was going on. It helped reduce confusion and made sure everyone knew where to be when. My maid of honor had a copy and I handed copies to our day-of coordinators or whoever needed it on the vendor side, too. I also had envelopes inside with whatever money we still needed to pay, our excel spreadsheet, a seating chart, and meal choices. It was so useful.
Speaking of seating charts, how did you do yours? There’s so many ways to do it.
First, I poured myself a glass of wine. Then, I wrote out the names of the couple or person who was supposed to be coming on little pieces of paper. All over the island, we set up spots for each table and then moved those little pieces until we felt the seating was in a logical position.
I love that. I know so many couples who have done some sort of physical display – not in a spreadsheet – and it’s much more successful. There’s lots of ways to plan a seating chart including using post-it notes, a poster board, and moving around the papers. Lots of great ideas.
Visual was so important. I mean, I had 200 guests and 20 tables, plus the sweetheart table, so technically 21 tables. We had guests from all over, too – Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, all over the country, school friends, Indian friends, work friends… I wound up with groupings that made no sense but reminded myself that they’re just eating dinner. That was one of the things I wanted to say, too. I also saw this idea on Tik Tok where we had cards with different topics of conversation, so they had something to talk about and didn’t feel like they were randomly seated together for no reason. So, each table got a card from me and Tyler that said thank you for coming, being here, and here are some common ideas and areas of interest between all of you.
That’s so fun. I love it.
It was great and it also saved us from having to do the table rounds, because we had already thanked everybody in the card and said hi to everybody in the card. So, we didn’t feel obligated to go and take time away from everything else to make those rounds. It really served a dual purpose for us. Plus, it made people feel really valued and welcomed.
Such a good tip! What else do you have for our listeners?
So, for our hair and makeup – we actually ran early. It wound up being a mad dash to get dressed, but we finished hair and makeup early, which was a shocker. But I put itineraries on the walls of each room, and we got ready in the board room because of the space. It went so fast because people knew when they were supposed to go, which kept things moving.
I love that you mentioned the boardroom. It’s important for people listening to think about this – sometimes it’s good to get ready in the same space as your hair and makeup is being done, for space purposes. But sometimes, it can just add to the chaos. It’s helpful to help you stay calm but also reduce the chaos in the room for photos.
I can’t take credit for the idea of getting ready in the boardroom – it was one of my bridesmaids who suggested it because we were having issues coordinating. I had three makeup people, 2 hair people, 11 bridesmaids, a junior bridesmaid, myself, and 2 mothers. How on earth would we have gotten ready in a single hotel room? Even a suite would have been too small. So I called the hotel and it was like an additional $200. At that point, you’ve already spent your whole bank account, so what’s $200 more? It worked out perfectly – we had our coffee and got our hair and makeup done, then went to the hotel room which was perfectly cleaned for those posed getting ready photos. It was a great idea. I highly recommend it!
So, you said that you had the envelopes in your binder, too. Can you talk more about that?
Well, first I want to say – the binders helped me be able to relax and enjoy my day. All the planning and background work is done – but even with all the moving parts, I wanted to be able to breathe and enjoy everything. Anyway, the other thing I included in the binder that wound up being really important was payments for our vendors. Do yourself a favor and organize this in advance. The last thing you want to worry about is if you wrote everyone their checks. There were just people we had to pay that day – tips for our hair and makeup, DJ, and the payment for our bowl performer. I knew that the day would be hectic and I’d be worried about remembering everything. So I made a spreadsheet and put it in the binder with who had been paid and who still needed to be paid – and when.
When the dances were over and we were just in our little bubble of bliss, I remembered to check the binder and found we had two envelopes left so I ran in and made those payments. I had the DJ tell me I was his favorite bride because he didn’t have to chase me down. People forget and I didn’t want to. So I highly recommend doing that in advance, it makes your day so much less stressful when you don’t have someone else to take care of all of these things.
Yes, I love the organization. And as your photographer, we organized too. We had a shot list of what was important to capture and what wasn’t so important. When you’re talking about organizing, think about having an itemized list of pictures that you want. Don’t think your photographer knows – you have to go over that with them.
Absolutely. And actually, those conversations that we had helped me so much in creating my day of itinerary because I just assumed things about when you’d be arriving, but you were able to break that down. It helped me make sure that everyone was ready. It was so great to have you there to rely on as someone who knows how things go to help me set my mindset and schedule.
If your photographer isn’t as hands on, that’s okay too. You can definitely lean on your vendors for that information.
Exactly, every single vendor sheet that I had filled out was included in my binder, so that I had a basic knowledge of what everyone was doing and needed. So, if I had to cross reference or figure something out on the wedding day, it was right there. But, I honestly did rely a lot on my vendors, too.
And don’t be afraid to tell your vendors what you want, and figure out how they can make it happen. Because I’m a people pleaser by nature. I tend to think about what’s easier for everyone else versus what’s easier for me. I had to push that down during this wedding planning process to think about what I needed – or what Tyler would need. So, I found myself struggling to advocate with vendors – not because we asked for anything ridiculous, but because I didn’t want to make it harder on them. I had to keep reminding myself to just talk to them because if you’re afraid to ask, you’ll definitely never get something. Chances are, they’ll help you figure it out.
I think that’s the best advice – because it’s your wedding and you want to have a day that you won’t regret. If you feel something, go with your gut and speak it out.
Yes – you only do this once and you don’t want to have regrets!
Let’s talk about the things you would do differently if you had to do it all over again.
Okay, so there are two things that come to mind. And really, they’re not even fully regrets because I kind of worked around some of them. The first is pretty minimal – it had to do with my photo list. I made the list and sent it to you and only realized after the fact that I had missed some things. And, honestly I only realized because my friends had photos in groups I wanted to be a part of. They just took them on their own and I realized we didn’t get pictures with those people. And I realized that I didn’t want to have people miss cocktail hour and I was trying to people please, so I made the list super efficient – family, bridal party, groom’s party, me and Tyler.
But, I made a mistake because I had so many groups of friends there and now I wish I had the professional beautiful images with them. I just wish I had thought about it more and had those professional images. So, if you have any special guests coming to the wedding and you want a guaranteed photo with them, talk to your photographer and work to get those people in pictures, too. Because in retrospect, I really wish I had those group photos with me in them – and professional versions of them. I just wish I had a couple more that I hadn’t kind of pushed out of my own thoughts because I was worried about how other people would feel.
Yeah, for sure. A few things to remember with that kind of situation – definitely be an advocate for yourself and talk with your photographer. But, we can also take those photos outside of cocktail hour so it is possible to get more group photos beyond your formal portrait hour. We can totally grab those during the reception.
Exactly. And I 100% should have done that. When I went back and I was thinking about it, and I saw these pictures, I was like, wow, Jenna – you didn’t communicate at all. You wanted to have that memory and didn’t say it. So, it goes back to talking to your vendors and telling them what you want so you can make it happen.
What was your other wedding planning “regret”?
I think I’m going to get a laugh from this one, if anyone from Episode 37 listens to this one. Because I talked about a videographer. We didn’t have me because I didn’t think I would watch the video more than once. It didn’t seem like it was worth it to me. And now, I wish I had hired a videographer. I absolutely would have watched our video at least once a week!
We did record our speeches and dances on our iPad on a tripod, but everything’s so blurry and just low quality. We had some other friends that sent videos too, and we pieced together something. But it’s not the same. There was so much happening those days and things I don’t even fully remember now. I find so much comfort in watching what we do have from everyone and I know now that I would have watched a video often.
Absolutely. Sometimes, too, when couples use a tripod or video like that – it may not capture everything or people could walk in front of it.
It would be like asking someone to take iPhone photos of your wedding instead of a photographer. I would never have done that – why did I think I should with video? We have some video still and those are keepsakes, but it’s just not good quality and that’s disappointing. We had some amazing days with our family and friends and I just want to relive it all the time now. So, try to capture that in every single way you can and do not skimp on that.
I know we’ve talked about budgetary restraints, but look at where you can cut costs efficiently. Don’t skimp on your photographer and get a videographer. Pick the people who fit your personality and budget and take the photos the way you like them. I know that we did that with you, Sara. But, I know I also ignored this advice and didn’t get the videographer.
That’s good advice. Anything else that you want to share with listeners?
I had a specific trade off that I made instead of a videographer. In a traditional Indian wedding, you have staging setup in your reception space. It takes over where your altar was during the ceremony. But ours were in two different spots. So, I asked my grandparents if I really had to do the staging – because we weren’t really going to be using it with the way our day was set up and they said yes. But, the day of the event, we took a few photos on it but not much else. I realized I did it because my grandparents said so – and that’s money I could have used to have a videographer instead.
Actually, I know exactly what you’re talking about. And that you I never saw you there, you’re right!
I never sat on it. It was a beautiful couch and setup, but it just didn’t make sense in the end. Honestly, it wasn’t even important enough for me to want a picture on it. But, those decisions are so hard to make. I would be surprised if you found a couple who said: yes, I used my money the most effectively that I could have and there’s nothing I would have changed. But, don’t let it ruin your day. It didn’t ruin mine.
What are some tips as a newlywed that you can share with those who are about to walk down the aisle to make their day a perfect event?
Overprepare. Make a binder or spreadsheet so that you know what’s done, still needed, and what’s going on.
Advocate for yourself. THis is your wedding day and your dream day. Make sure you talk to your vendors about what you want and need. If you have good vendors (like I did), they’ll work with you!
Think long and hard about decisions you’re making when it comes to vendors, decor, and what you’re having (or not) for your wedding. Sometimes you might end up having something you didn’t really need and could have used that money elsewhere.
Enjoy your special day. You’re with all of your people. It’s probably the last time in your life, you’re gonna have every single person that you love in one place celebrating you. And when it ends, it’s over. So savor it as much as you possibly can because it’s the best feeling in the world.
What We Discussed
About Jenna’s wedding (1:49)
Seating Chart Tips (8:16)
Beauty Prep Tips (12:12)
Being Your Own Advocate (29:53)
Wrap Up Question (39:11)
Links Mentioned in the Episode
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