You know those inspirational posters your school guidance counselor had plastered to his or her walls? The little cat advising you to “Hang in there!” and the unicorn telling you that your dreams are important? Those posters are ridiculous. Everyone knows that cats can’t do chin ups; what was that kitten thinking?
But it’s true; your dreams are important and sometimes you do need to hang in there. So what happens when you envision something that seems so cool and then realize, half way through, that your dream is way more work than you thought? Do you hang in there, or do you know when to call it quits? And at what point do you realize that all of your hard work, cramping muscles and long, sleepless nights are in service of something that is likely to be forgotten by the person you are making it for?
Enter my Save the Date conundrum.
After I entered into an engaged state of being, I immediately knew four basic truths. One, that I was going to marry my best friend. Two, that I had to buy the APW book. Three, that I wanted Elissa R as our photographer. And four, that I had the best idea for Save the Dates ever.
“They’re like, magnetic paper dolls,” I explained to my fiancé over breakfast, using my hands in broad exaggeration to explain how cool this idea was. “People can dress us up for the wedding! Or put me in a suit and you in a dress! It’ll be so fun!”
“It sounds like a lot of work,” he said, dubiously. “Oh, no,” I replied. “It’ll be fine. Just leave it all to me!”
Famous last words, my friends. Famous. Last. Words.
My idea for magnetic paper dolls was inspired by my friend Lee’s fridge, on which she has a slightly-less-than-clothed Barack Obama, rocking blue boxers and his swoony grin. (She claims that she’s lost the clothes that went with him, though I suspect she just likes that the President is hanging out in his skivvies on her refrigerator door.) Having loved paper dolls since I was a child, I thought it’d be adorable to send out Save the Dates in that fashion—my intended and me, all dressed up for the wedding!
The first step was to find someone with actual artistic talent to commit my fiancé (heretofore known as The British Ambassador) and me to fridge stardom. My friend Alix, who apart from being a super talented artist, is just a super cool human, rose to the occasion! After a few rounds of back and forth and “can you make my hair shorter and my boobs smaller” requests, she had both of us in paper-doll-like format! After an amusing look through wedding websites for suit and dress inspiration, we had our templates!
(Yes, that big poofy dress is inspired by Princess Diana’s, as an inside joke between me and approximately no one. And the short dress is based on an actual number from David’s Bridal, should you be so inclined.)
Cute, right? I think so!
Upon receipt of the drawings, I took myself off to a printing place to have them printed. Enter Problem Number One.
Problem Number 1: What paper should these be printed on?
Should I print them directly to magnetic sheets? But they need a glossy finish! I know; I’ll pick super expensive glossy brochure paper, because throwing money away is fun!
Don’t be like me, kids. If you should decide to take a project like this on, do your research. I’m pretty sure there are better and cheaper options out there. (On the upside, the glossy brochure paper had a great quality and definitely worked well. It wasn’t a bad choice, just an expensive one.)
Once the drawings were printed out, I figured the best way to go about making the magnets was to rough-cut the people and clothes out, and then attach them to the magnetic sheets. This was no more or less time consuming than any other option, I think, though I did idly wonder if this could be done on a Cricut or Silhouette machine and have it mostly automated.
People and clothes having been cut out, it was time for the next step: attaching them to the magnet sheets.
Problem Number 2: Holy crap, the magnet sheets.
If I thought the fancy brochure paper was expensive, I was not at all prepared for the magnet sheets. Each one by two feet magnet sheet fit almost three full Save the Date sets on it, and each magnet sheet was about $9. That led to:
Problem Number 2A: how many freaking people are we inviting to this wedding?
Once we’d finally nailed down a guest list, I counted up the numbers and realized that I’d have to make about ninety Save the Date sets. Ninety. Nine zero. Go ahead and do the math on how many magnet sheets I had to buy and how much it cost; I’ll wait.
Okay, so, now that I’ve sunk lots of money into this project, it can’t get any worse from here, right? Ha ha ha, you sweet, summer child.
Problem Number 3: These things take forever to make.
Each Save the Date set took approximately an hour to cut-adhere-cut-assemble. An hour. Go ahead and do the math again; I’ll wait.
Yep! Ninety or so hours total, to make Save the Dates that cost at least $3.50 each in supplies (not to mention postage; let’s not even mention postage. Please, I don’t even want to think about postage ever again).
I know what you are thinking. You are thinking the exact same thing that I was thinking for six weeks during this long, arduous process: “Girl. Are you smoking crack?”
I wasn’t smoking crack, although I won’t say the thought didn’t cross my mind a time or two while I was hip deep in magnet scraps. And was this project possibly too much to handle? Almost definitely. But I would do them again in a heartbeat (well, perhaps a wine-fortified heartbeat), because in investing so much time and effort into a project, I learned some very simple truths:
Truth Number 1: Is this person worth it?
I’m not going to lie; there were a few people on the guest list that I grumbled about inviting, but put on anyway because I felt like I had to. But once I was in the Save the Date process, it really forced me to think about each recipient, because I felt like I was making the magnets specifically for those people. Was I happy about spending an hour or more of my precious free time on crafting something for this person? No? Then why the hell was I inviting them to my wedding? All of those people I’d waffled on before I was able to remove from the guest list without any doubts or guilt.
Truth Number 2: Friends are friends forever, if you have a lot of champagne.
People are always telling you to reach out to your friends and family when you need help with DIY efforts, and I always sort of eschewed that advice until I realized just what I was up against. I bribed my friends with champers and braised short rib tacos, and they helped knock out about twenty sets in a few hours!
Of course, this also led to this slightly awkward, dashed off reminder to self, since they took their Save the Date sets home with them:
Truth Number 3: My fiancé is Awesome.
The British Ambassador was not able to help out much with these, since we are currently biding our time in a very long-distance relationship. But he came down for a weekend and cranked out as many as he could, while complimenting me on my craftiness abilities the whole time. Doing such mundane but necessary(-ish) work together was such a reaffirmation of just why I’m marrying this guy: for all those wonderful quiet moments that are better with him by my side.
Truth Number 4: Sometimes it’s worth it, and sometimes it isn’t.
I’m so glad that I did such an overwhelmingly timely and (for me) costly project relatively early in the game. Why? Because it’s set the barometer for every wedding-related decision since. Time after time, my fiancé or I have found ourselves asking: “Is this actually worth the effort? Will we end up caring as much as we cared about the Save the Dates?” If the answer is no, then it just doesn’t get added into the wedding. Easy peasy!
Truth Number 5: I can take my passion and make it happen!
I’m not really a creative person and I typically lack the ability to take a concept and actually put it into something I can see and touch. Basically, I have ideas, but no follow though. But I totally rocked this project (well, except for the actual artistic part; I’m not Superwoman)! Which just goes to show that exercising kitten is right: sometimes you do have to hang in there.
(The completed set on my fridge. If nothing else, my niece and daughter love them.)
Photos from Erin’s personal collection