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AT LARGE: Ring them bells

AT LARGE: Ring them bells

This is the last one, I promise. By the time you read this, I'll be married and the odyssey of the past six months will finally be over - making way for the odyssey of the next 50 or so years, but that won't be the recurring theme of this column. I promise.

If there is one lesson I've taken from the whole wedding experience that I would pass on to any of you who may be contemplating such a move, it would be this: get a professional to organise everything.

There are people, I'm told, who organise forty or fifty weddings a year. They know everything that needs to be done, and they know the people who do it. I didn't want to have such a person working on my wedding, because I figured "I'm a bright guy - there's a bit of a learning curve, but nothing insurmountable". I wanted this to be uniquely "mine" (and also my bride's of course).

Well here's what I've discovered: the learning curve is not insurmountable, but you only get over it once the wedding is organised. If I were to organise another wedding, knowing what I know now, it'd be incredible - but I'm not going to, am I?

The main problem is the details. Pretty much anyone knows what the main issues are with organising a wedding. What you don't get until you do it is the details. There's an American maxim doing the rounds at the moment that I'm thinking of adopting as my own: "don't sweat the details". Over the past six months, I've been sweating.

For example, the menus. I designed them. I laid them out and typed in all the text (provided by the caterer) in the most gorgeous font you've ever seen, complete with customised ligatures and swashes (just like the invitations). I swear to you, I've had print professionals ask me if the invitations were done by hand - they're that good.

D-Day

In between printing up the invitations and printing the menus, I updated my operating system. The update came with a new version of the font I'd used for the invitations. The new font is larger, with smaller line spacing (so the characters all kind of overlap - not an unattractive effect if it's what you want). The main problem, though, is the letter "d", which looks entirely different between the two versions.

After I discovered this, I had a mad dash to find someone who hadn't updated their OS yet so I could get a copy of the old version of the font. Otherwise the menus would look entirely inconsistent with the invitations. Somehow, this seemed important at the time.

Salad days

I found the font. I printed up the menus on hand-made cotton paper and took them to the caterers to place them on everybody's plates. They read over it and said "you can't say ‘Salmon and warm potato salad with tarama dressing and caviar', you have to say ‘Salmon with warm potato salad, tarama dressing and caviar'." Apparently these sentences describe two entirely different dishes. Read over it again, and see if you can spot the difference.

It looked better my way, but the caterers wanted it written their way. I conceded the point and reprinted the menus. Had I left the text they sent me alone, I'd have saved a chunk of work.

Black art

I've already told you about the search for cyan ink cartridges so that the map that accompanied the invitation would have the water in blue. After that column went to print, a reader wrote in and said "screw it, let them have black water". I have to say, I see the point now.

I'm reminded of the early days of desktop publishing - or, for that matter, the early boom in Web publishing - when the tools of mass communication were taken away from the professionals and the privileged few, and placed into the hands of anyone who could type and use a mouse. Very empowering it was, but geez a lot of bad design came out of it. Disgusting hotch-potches of fonts (six or seven on a page) and blinking bits and colour for no reason. Ick.

The learning curve split into three then: either you figured out what worked and what looked disgusting and gradually became a professional, or you realised that you simply didn't have those skills and that you should leave it to a professional next time. Or you didn't learn a thing and now you work for Wired.

I think my wedding's going to be pretty great (and if it's not, who cares - I'm not sweating it).

Matthew JC. Powell has decided to keep his maiden name. Congratulatory missives to mjcp@optushome.com.au.


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