In June 2017 I completed one of the most challenging projects of my career in the design field: my own wedding.
The process started one year ago, and it kept me busy during most of my free time outside my ‘real’ design career at Design Group Italia, a design studio in Milan where I work on product and UX design projects. Also, the client was one of the most demanding I’ve ever dealt with: my beloved wife Ilaria.
From the beginning, we decided not to hire a wedding planner and to do everything by ourselves, since we are both complete control freaks. In hindsight it is obvious that we gravely underestimated the task at hand.
To add more complexity, the wedding took place in Liguria, where we are from, and where our families and friends live, while we both live in Milan, so we had to manage most things remotely. Looking back at this experience, however, I can say that I’ve learnt a lot in various design disciplines. Let’s take a closer look.
Experiential spaces and UX design
The first step was to find the church for the ceremony (ours was a typical Italian catholic wedding), and the venue for the banquet. The first was an easy decision, because we wanted to marry in the small church of Campochiesa d’Albenga, the town where Ilaria lived until she left to attend university, and where we stay when we escape Milan during weekends.
The choice for the banquet venue required a bit more scouting. We gathered all the information from weddings we attended in the past, reviews from friends as well as online research, and ended up choosing the Locanda della Torre Antica, a restaurant on a hill near Alassio. We chose it for the amazing view to the sea and the spacious garden, that we could customize with decorations.
After the two venues were booked, we were able to lay down a rough plan for the day and a list of all the things we needed to choose/make/decide.
The style we agreed on was vintage, so every touchpoint of the event had to match that style. With this in mind, we did site inspections for both the locations to start going deeper on the decorations we actually wanted to have.
Since the church is already quite colorful and decorated on the inside, we decided to keep it simple with the flowers and use only white ones with red accents provided by chili peppers. We left it to the florist to decide the composition in details, and dedicated more attention to the decorations of the restaurant. We sketched a map of the venue and positioned the elements that we selected, and at a point became aware that we couldn’t do everything by ourselves, since it was necessary to bring all the stuff to the venue the day before the wedding, and stage everything in the morning.
So we asked our amazingly creative friends Francesca e Giulia (who together run FraGiù) to help, and they happily agreed (and then regretted it).
After all the elements were defined, we all started to look for props to use, like old suitcases from my grandmother’s attic, and vintage mirrors and frames from flea markets. We were also able to get some things cheaply from Amazon, Ikea and Flying Tiger. Some props were made by us reusing old stuff, like the tableau marriage made from old windows frames, hanging candles holders, made with glass parts from a chandelier, and the blackboard-like flavour tags for the confetti (the Italian kind).
Design lesson: When designing an installation or an event for a specific space, make sure to spend time at the location at various times of the day and with different amounts of people in it to make sure you know all the different conditions that may occur.
For instance, the video messages from the GoPro corner turned out to be very dark at night, because there was no light illuminating people’s faces. I feared that could happen but I didn’t get the chance to visit the place at night to verify.
The first thing on the agenda the graphic design of the invitation cards, that had to be delivered about three months before the wedding day. We opted for some classic 10×15 cm cards with main points about the event, and two smaller cards with information about the banquet venue and the wedding list. Since we were already living together and didn’t need anything for the house, we opted for a honeymoon list, so people could pitch in our post-wedding journey to Japan.
I designed three versions with different styles, and asked our best men and bridesmaids for some external feedback, since we obviously couldn’t agree on one proposal. (Surprisingly, I was the one pushing more for the floral-themed proposals). After days of staring at test prints and one iteration, the final design was born.
After that, I designed all the other deliverables for print, always trying to keep a consistent identity: booklet for the ceremony, list of people for each table for the tableau marriage, menus to place on each table, labels to put on the glass containers for the confetti.
Design Lesson: your favourite proposal is almost always not the one that will be chosen by the client. Try not to stick to ideas and learn to know when it’s time to let go.
This was the field where I had the least experience, so I tried to learn as much as possible along the way. Project management of my wedding involved various activities, like:
- Keeping track of expenses and making sure to stay within the budget;
- Keeping track of deadlines, such as to attend the pre-marriage course at the church, to submit documents to the city office, etc.;
- Giving instructions and making sure that all the people involved had the information they needed: the photographer, the band for the banquet (including booking hotel rooms and organizing their travels), the florist, Francesca and Giulia, the restaurant owner, the priest and our families;
- Planning the details of our trip to Japan.
All of this while trying to save some free time for hobbies, friends and families (and sleep).
We didn’t use any digital project management tool except for an old-fashioned paper agenda, so it could always be available for both of us and we could bring it along for quick note-taking during our site visits. We did use a Pinterest board to easily collect and share inspirations for things like the decorations, graphic design, wedding rings, though.
Design Lesson: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong (yes, that’s Murphy’s Law). Try to be prepared and have a fallback plan, and anticipate any possible hitch that may happen along the way.
Luckily for us, we were diligent enough to prevent any major accident that could happen and our special day went by smooth as silk. Ilaria and me were very satisfied with how the whole experience turned out, and our guests were very happy, too.
Looking back, the fact that we spent a year to prepare for just a single day may seem crazy, but it actually taught me a lot about patience, attention to details and caring about other people’s needs. Skills that will certainly come in handy both in my career as a designer and in my relationship as a husband.