Since getting engaged, many people have given me advice on getting married (“Don’t do it!”), planning the wedding (“Let her do it!”), and married life (“You’ll have to do it yourself!”). In all my 25 years on this earth however, no one has ever told me not to make my own wedding invitations.
I have always liked to make stuff myself, starting with some extremely dangerous and violently wooden things on the farm, and later branching into homemade cooking. I even made a very crude looking coffee table for the new apartment, much to Christina’s chagrin. When the wedding planning began in earnest, there was no doubt that we were going to have as much input as possible in the invitations. There was really no reason not to.
We would save lots of money and have a project to keep us excited about the wedding during a long engagement. They would take a lot of time but time we had. I was very much content putting them on the tip of my longest finger but Christina, who cracks as good a whip as an Egyptian Pharaoh, didn’t give me a minutes rest. The design and idea of the invitations changed as regularly as I change my socks but one thing was certain – we did want them to be letter-pressed.
In order to make home-made letter-pressed invitations, you needed a home-made letterpress. I scoured the internet for ideas because there is always someone on the internet who has tried to do something before you. The one I liked best involved a bottle jack. I will spare you a heartbreaking details of how it all came together but needless to say I had no earthly idea what letter-press entailed. I assumed once I made the contraption, everything would be plain sailing. I couldn’t have been any more misguided if Helen Keller was my Sherpa climbing Everest.
Making the thing is a very different beast to actually using it. Get a bit of ink, spread it on, slap on a piece of paper, press it, and Bob’s your uncle. But Bob wasn’t my uncle. There was no record of Bob even marrying in to my extended family.
I needed to know what type of photo-polymer plate to use. I needed to position everything to the millimeter. I needed to figure out what type of ink was best. After making an unmerciful fuck up of that on first try and pissing all of the money we saved down the drain, I thought I got it right. I had the plate, ink, and paper for the Save The Dates which were to be the test. If they went right, I would win the contract for the big job. I got some beers in and planned to spend a quick weekend night banging them out.
Countless weekend nights, numerous old t-shirts (used to dab away the ink before pressing), and a large pile of stale beer cans later, I was frustrated but proud of what I had produced. If you scratched ever-so-slightly below the surface, you would see that pride was actually just me me settling for something I knew I could not improve on. The invitations themselves would be better, faster, and sexier. Again, my level of misguided-ness was on a par with Stevie Wonder being my caddy on the PGA tour.
It took months. For all the time I spent on them, I could have taken on a part time job instead, paid for the invitations to be done professionally and still had enough money left over to climb Everest and buy my way on to the PGA tour. I slaved away in the basement that became my prison for those months. I never resorted to smearing my own shit on the walls but sometimes I felt like that would have achieved more.
While all of this was going on in the basement, upstairs Christina was working on another facet of the invitation process. She was cutting sheets of paper to length and painting them blue. We never really answered the question as to why we didn’t just buy blue paper in the correct size, we just went with it. After an evening of this, she would often resemble Tobias Funke. Later in the process (again, months went by and hairs turned grey) she suffered from repetitive strain injury from punching holes in the paper and, out of necessity, enlisted my help.
It was around the same time I finally emerged from the basement for the last time, broken but victorious. My machine had broken on me twice and was probably one invitation away from being unusable, my photo polymer plates were disintegrating, and I had a pile of inky t-shirts that would probably have clothed every homeless man in the Great Boston area – but I was done.
With renewed optimism, we both sat on the floor of the living room and worked in unison to hammer out the final details of the invitations. It was during that time that we realized why the task had been so miserable – we have not been working together. The simple act of making wedding invitations had driven us to our respective edges, and “happily ever after” is a much more cruel mistress entirely.
When we started to work together, we achieved more and were happier doing it. While the invitations were not exactly what we had hoped, they still had our sweat (yes, that was the fragrance), tears, and even a little blood when we ran out of pink ink. They definitely had our personal touch and a quick life lesson to go along with them. Wedding planning is essentially a microcosm of the rest of your life together and if you can learn as you go, you’re doing alright.
“So is that it? Are we done?” Christina asked, as she sat in a puddle on the floor. The popping of the champagne cork was all the reply she needed.