It’s better late than never–at least that’s what I tell myself. At this point, I’m glad I finally found time (and we don’t even have kids) to sit down to knock out the very last part of this longer-than-expected series: the centerpieces! Designing, and making the centerpieces was probably my single favorite portion of planning the wedding.
I knew I wanted to make the centerpieces at my wedding even before I knew who I wanted to marry. I didn’t know what form the centerpiece would ultimately take at the outset since I planned on merging both Tiff’s and my tastes. I’m extremely proud of the product we (this was a team effort) ended up with. For those who haven’t seen yet, this is what they looked like:
Being an engineer, I began the process with a set of product requirements:
Symbolic: The centerpiece had to represent Tiffany and I as a couple.
Aesthetic: It had to look good and match the overall theme of our wedding
Whimsical / Interactive: I wanted the centerpiece to be somewhat unique and fun.
Manufacturable: About 10 needed to be made
Easy assembly: Obvious for somebody who had never seen it before, with limited instructions
Packaging: Simple disassembly and airplane-proof for guests to take home
With the requirements in mind, I began an iterative process of creating components, testing them, and refining them.
The first component I created was the top lighted portion. The shape is called a trefoil knot and it has a few interesting (for nerds at least) properties which double as symbolic attributes. First, like a ring, it’s made of a single unbroken strand (like marriage). From various angles, it looks almost like a three dimensional infinity sign (representing an everlasting love). The trefoil knot is also nontrivial in the mathematical sense in that it cannot be untied without cutting (insert your own apt marriage analogy here). Another property which made it highly adaptable for lighting in this project is the fact that even though it appears as if the faces twist around, they actually keep the same orientation with respect to each of the other faces (I don’t know enough math terms to describe this properly). In practical terms, it means I could insert a single strip of LED rope and have all the lighting be visible without cutting it into separate sections.
The physical model for the knot was created by extruding a U channel along a curve defined with a set of parametric equations (shout out to IMSA math teachers! I knew this stuff would be useful). I tweaked the parameters for the shape to fit my print bed, fit exactly 1 meter of lighted rope, and have “lobes” that look good.
As you can see, my first print (top) had severe stringing and had a lot of overkill in terms of support material which made it a bit of a nightmare to finish. Luckily, I’ve got a bit of experience in optimizing print settings which helped in the production process down the line ;).
My first prototype trefoil knot used some WS2812 LED strips left over from projects I completed years ago. While it worked as a proof of concept, I didn’t like that discrete LEDs were clearly visible.
Searching for a replacement, I found a newer LED strip product with super high density (96 LEDs per meter). Additionally, I started the project out by planning to control the LEDs by rolling my own arduino code and creating some basic power management circuitry as I had done in the past, but I was amazed to find integrated controllers (SP511E) which did everything I wanted to and more for cheaper than I could buy individual components (thank you AliExpress!). This awesome little controller has two different power inputs for either battery or wall wart, has an IR sensor for a remote control, has a ton of pre-programmed light patterns, AND has a sound reactive function! Above is a prototype video showing all of this in action.
I toyed around with the idea of having a vase with flowers inside the trefoil knot for a little bit, but ultimately we decided that the lighting would look better raised. We also searched for and tried multiple color options on both black and white plastic before deciding on gold paint on white.
I went through multiple design iterations for the base as well. I optimized the overall height, the number of and shape of the “layers”. Additionally, I had to ensure all the control components could be hidden from view to add to the “magic” factor.
After finalizing the design and building the functional prototype seen above, we got to work in the production phase…
Not only did I need to print about a dozen trefoil knots (each print took ~18 hours), I needed to cut the same number of bases while minimizing plywood waste material.
This took over our living space for quite a while… Not shown in any of these photos are the hours that Tiffany spent sanding to finish the tops before spray painting, the time I spent trimming and soldering the LED ropes, and the preparation of the floral elements.
Arguably the most important element of the design is how easy it was to assemble and disassemble… it doesn’t matter how good it looks if nobody else can put it together and take it apart again. I knew I would not have time on the date of the wedding itself to do either, so I put a lot of work up front to make everything as intuitive as possible including: optimizing cable routing, creating sub-assemblies, and writing work instructions.
Thanks so much for sticking with me for this series for almost a year now. It’s been a ton of fun for me, and I hope it’s been at least somewhat interesting for you :). I want to take this opportunity to once again thank my wife, family, friends, and vendors who all made our wedding special and unforgettable!!
For you readers that have made it this far… Here’s a little thank you video I put together that shows the centerpieces in action at our wedding!
It’s hard to believe it’s already been over six whole months since our wedding, and I haven’t finished this series yet 😅… The holidays have been a bit busier than I expected with my Etsy shop despite relatively little input effort. The post today will be relatively brief, quickly covering everything on our tables sans the centerpieces themselves: the party favors, table numbers, escort cards, and our cake topper, and a bonus faux neon sign.
We definitely took advantage of the fact that Tiff’s dad owns both fiber and CO2 lasers. The fiber laser even has a rotary tool–perfect for our party favors: engraved boba straws. Creating the wedding logo in vector format made scaling down trivial. After engraving, the straws were polished, then stuffed into muslin bags (which were surprisingly difficult to source).
I’m a bit biased, but I REALLY like the design I created for our table numbers. The signs are very ABC (American Born Chinese), using a “weddingfied” double happiness symbol for the base. After the signs were laser cut, Tiff spray painted them to match our wedding colors a bit more closely. While we only ended up having nine tables at our wedding, I created designs for the numbers up to twenty for Tiff’s dad to productize on his Etsy store. There’s multiple ways these could be personalized, from engraving initials, names, dates, or images into the stems, to changing the shape of the standing number, to changing fonts, numerals, etc. Frankly, I think this is the single most marketable item I created for our wedding.
Our cake topper was also made using a laser cutter–nothing super fancy, just our names along with some laurels. It turned out well:
My incredibly generous groomsmen gifted me an Ortur diode laser as an early wedding gift, which proved to be instrumental for creating the escort cards which listed everybody’s names and clearly illustrated their food choice. I really wanted the escorts to be unique and playful–I had a lot of fun designing them.
I created a Word template in which I loaded everybody’s names and table assignment information. Next, I used my regular laser printer to print the filled templates out on card stock. Finally, I created an alignment fixture on the diode laser table to cut out the cards six at a time with each guest’s food symbol. Getting the fixture right took a bit of trial and error, but mass production was relatively quick once my system was implemented. A big learning for me was how sensitive the laser power was to the slightly different shades of pink–the lighter colors required more power than the darker ones. In hindsight, it’s obvious since the diode uses visible wavelengths and lighter colors reflect more of the energy.
I think these escort cards are the second most marketable item I created, although I also learned the meaning of the symbols initially eluded some of my guests:
Guest A: “Hmm… what do these symbols on these cards mean?”
Guest B: “Oh! I think I know–it must be the Chinese zodiac–year of the cow and year of the chicken!! Maybe those are when they were born?”
Guest A: “What’s the year of the carrot!??”
A fairly common wedding fad which has popped up recently is having a faux neon sign created. I learned how much people were paying for having them made, and I laughed. I wanted ours to use individually addressable RGB LEDs, so we wouldn’t be bound to a single color (also so I could hang it up in my workshop after the wedding), so I rolled my own in a few basic steps:
I wrote “Apiphany” in cursive as a drawing on my iPad
I translated this drawing into a vector file
I prototyped my design in cardboard to ensure the bends were not too harsh on the LED strip
I installed the light strip into an acrylic version and attached a controller
At the wedding, our brilliant wedding planning team brought along clear fishing line to invisibly hang the sign up:
I believe my next post will be the last one in this series–the only component I have left to talk about is the centerpieces. Hopefully I’ll get to that in a matter of weeks, rather than the months this one took ;). Thanks for sticking with me through these ramblings!
Thanks for sticking with me despite the delayed postings… it’s only been about 4 months since our wedding 😅. This quick post covers a hodgepodge of projects–the personalized elements in our gifts to our wedding party, and the tip jar for our bartenders.
Our wedding party was fairly small–just 4 members on each side–so Tiff and I wanted to give functional and meaningful tokens of our appreciation. For my groomsmen, I gifted duffel bags, personalized luggage tags, personalized Moleskine notebooks, travel tie cases, ties, pocket squares, tie bars, and themed socks :D. For her bridesmaids, Tiffany gifted waterproof shoes, necklaces, robes, and the same personalized luggage tags I made for my groomsmen.
The same process was used to personalize both the luggage tags and moleskine notebooks. First, I designed debossing tools with inverted text and wings to help with alignment:
It took a bit of experimentation for me to refine the process, but was extremely straightforward to do once I had all the tools set up:
For strength, print the debossing tool with a higher than normal number of walls (5) and infill (50%). Normally, there are diminishing returns on adding more infill, but in this case it was warranted.
Wet the surface to be imprinted
Add a very stiff backing plate beneath the area to be debossed
Sandwich the component between more flat plates to help spread the clamping force evenly
Clamp down HARD, for at least 15 minutes. Using hard mounted vises makes the work easier.
As one might expect, it was more difficult to emboss larger objects with longer names, since a greater amount of overall force is needed to apply the same amount of pressure (force per given area).
To create the nametags for the bridesmaids’ gift boxes, I used the laser cutter my groomsmen gifted me. I used inkscape to generate vector files to create a background piece, a border to fit on top, and names. Aside from dialing in the diode laser intensity settings for clean cuts in each color, the most difficult part of the project was actually applying the adhesive spray without making a mess.
Of all the projects, the tip jar was probably the most straight forward. We found a round glass vase we liked. Then, I used a vinyl cutter to cut the word “Tips” out of a sticker material and used transfer tape to place the stickers on the vase. That’s all it was!
Once again, thanks for sticking with me–I should be able to wrap things up within two more posts, hopefully before Thanksgiving rolls around!
Alright, with writing about process and tools done, I’m finally onto the physical builds! We made an above average number of items so not everything fits in a single post. I will be the first to admit that the most exciting part of wedding planning for me was the DIY project part. It’s in my nature to make, so I’m glad that Tiff was on board with everything, even pitching in and toiling away on several projects. While we didn’t make every single item from scratch, we added our own personal flair, so it counts ;).
The very first piece of design work I completed for the wedding was our logo consisting of our couple name (Apiphany) and our wedding date atop two garlands. I created the design in Inkscape as a vector file for easy scaling for application in multiple places. It only took me a few iterations to win Tiffany’s final approval!
Here’s the full 17-item list of things we created for the wedding:
Guest Book Box
Mini Sign Holders
Wedding Party Gifts
Customized Luggage Tags
This post will cover some of the items we created for our two tables for the ceremony and cocktail hour — guest book accessories, raffle box, lantern boxes, card box, mini signs, and mini-sign holders.
Before we started planning, I knew I wanted one of two styles of more interactive guestbook. The first type I considered was a polaroid book, and the second was a name drop. While we could have borrowed a pair of cameras, we decided against a polaroid book out of a concern of lighting and ease of use. I initially planned on creating my own name drop guestbook, so I purchased a shadowbox picture frame. However, I found a Ukrainian shop on Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/shop/WeddingByEli) who was somehow selling the guestbook (with customization) for less than the cost of materials would be for me. They worked with me going through multiple iterations of the design of the names to get it exactly perfect! I made the purchase nearly a year before Russia’s invasion, and I hope the people at the shop are doing well. The basic idea is that the guests take and sign a wooden heart and drop it into the frame which then serves as a sculpture rather than laying around as a rarely opened book.
As an accessory for the guest book, I generated a hinged box design using boxes.py (https://www.festi.info/boxes.py/) to hold the blank hearts. I then added engravings of our wedding logo on the lid, and added instructions on the inside. Assembly was straightforward using translucent wood glue and plenty of clamps
Unfortunately, I mixed up the length and width dimensions for the box the first time I cut it… oops. Luckily, I needed another box to hold hearts for the centerpiece raffle anyway, so nothing went to waste. I printed raffle information and instructions on cardstock then cut them out and glued it inside the lid, covering up the obsolete guestbook instructions XD.
I re-used the boxes.py script twice to generate the basic .svg files to cut our card collection box–once for the main box itself, and one for a slotted lid. This was very easy to do since the script gives the option for entering both inner and outer dimensions. I then modified the base vector files by adding a slot in the lid and our names along with a huge amount of detail to be cut out for the front of the box.
We borrowed lantern boxes from Tiffany’s matron of honor and reused them exactly as she did at her wedding… We stuffed them with pinecones, fairy lights, and added mini framed pictures of ourselves in them. I loved how they turned out!
The last thing I will cover in this post are the mini signs and copper pipe holders we created to hold them up. The design of the holder was a simple C with perpendicular stabilizers. I arrived at this configuration to maximize the four 1ft lengths of copper we purchased. The cut list I derived demonstrates the only true advantage I feel imperial units have over metric–the 12 inches in a single foot were easily divided into fairly whole numbers:
As a bonus, the C-shape also minimized the number of fittings needed (2x L’s, 1x T’s, 3x endcaps for each sign). Somewhat surprisingly, the most difficult part of the process was fixing the pipes into the fittings. Plugging the pipes into the fittings straight up resulted in too loose of a fit. Using teflon plumbing tape looked very ugly. What ended up working very well was carefully adding a mess of hot glue into the fitting and jamming the pipe inside before the glue hardened. I may or may not have dropped a fitting cause copper is a great conductor ;). The signs were created by printing the schedule onto cardstock and gluing on the detail pieces which were laser cut from a differently colored cardstock.
Thanks for making it this far, I’ve only covered about a third of the project list (the most basic ones at that), so there will be a few more posts in the near future! I know I’ve been a bit slow on getting these posts out, but they’re coming!
After a bit of a delay due to Independence Day travels, here’s Part 3 of my designing the wedding series; a listicle on specific tools we used and how we utilized them. The next part of the series will shift back to what my blog has traditionally focused on… physical builds and DIY projects! In no particular order, here are the Top 8 tools we utilized during our planning and preparation process!
1. New shared Google account
This proved to be indispensable for multiple reasons. Having a fresh and clean new inbox dedicated to wedding planning made it easy to find messages that either of us could respond to or reference at any time. As a side benefit, any spam associated with new accounts we created were contained to our wedding-specific email account :D.
We handled email announcements in gmail semi-manually because I wanted full control over how the messages looked. To send out our invitations (we opted for sending them only digitally) I created a template using invisible tables to lay everything out and inserted our invitation graphic, then sent customized messages to all our guests using a mail merge script in google sheets. Further general announcements (RSVP reminders, month before, week before reminders for parking, weather, etc.) were sent more simply using bcc fields to keep any responses grouped in the same conversation.
Not only did we have a shared email, but we also were able to take advantage of file sharing via google drive (also came in clutch) to hold all of our planning spreadsheets, images, documents, etc. Speaking of spreadsheets–we ended up using two workbooks. We began with a single one to keep track of big picture things: the guests we could to invite, vendors we interviewed, budgeting, and a to-do list. Closer to the event, we created a second spreadsheet to share with our wedding party and coordinator. This spreadsheet included the table assignments, room assignments for our wedding party house, detailed schedules for individual vendors (shuttle, dj, photography, videography), a list of decor with photos and setup locations, and our vendor contact information.
While we did not create one, a shared google voice number would have been the next step–a shared virtual phone number that forwards text messages and calls to both of our cell phones could have been useful, but we made due without it.
2. Shared Google Photos Album
Right before the wedding, I created a new Google Photo album in my personal google account (instead of our new shared one), and sent invites out to everyone who attended our wedding beforehand. Although there were a few hiccups with adding everybody, a shared album proved to be better than using hashtags for us to find photos and videos taken by our guests.
3. Wedding Website
We used The Knot for our free wedding website. There are many out there, many with similar features. The two most important features to us were 1) the ability to create a custom shortened URL, and 2) an online RSVP manager with the ability to export data to CSV.
4. Social Media
Regardless of what you think about Zuck, or social media in general, Instagram is a very useful tool we used to conduct wedding venue and vendor research. Insta gave us a great idea of venues in our area, vendors who worked there before, and decoration ideas.
I don’t know how to use pinterest, but Tiff used it to create inspiration boards to help our vendors get a feel for our vision in terms of color scheme, feel, etc. I think you can use it to map out specific photo poses you want to match, hair, nail, makeup styles, etc. but I’m a n00b, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
To practice our first dance choreography, we went to the gym every weekend after our normal workouts. The mirrored walls in the main multipurpose room were perfect–we just needed to avoid the scheduled classes and had to be cool w/ sharing the space with others there, but it worked out well. We made sure to record ourselves and review the footage (dips were particularly hard for me to initially master).
We also may have been using the facilities to get/stay in shape after our wedding clothing measurements were taken 😉
6. Venue Visits
During our venue visits, we tried to make sure to take photos of EVERYTHING in our space to help out with laying everything out. Specifically, I wanted to make sure we found the outlet locations for both the ceremony, and the reception (needed for DJ setup, lighting, etc.). We also scoped out areas we wanted to take golden hour photos and checked whether or not we would need to provide umbrellas for our guests during the ceremony.
Our venue visits were the perfect opportunity for us to practice our choreography on our actual dance floor. This was important to help us get a feel for spacing, identify any areas we needed to avoid, etc.
7. Printing Services
Before the wedding, we decorated two tables at the cocktail hour with photos printed using mpix.com.
After the wedding, we used minted.com to create our thank you cards. Instead of opting for a $0.45 charge for printing a return address on each envelope though, we just custom printed return labels from Walgreens for less than half the price, and now we’ve got extra labels we can use going forward to boot!
Lastly, I’m happy to have discovered that my trusty little Brother laser printer has a manual feed tray for printing on thicker materials. If I didn’t have this resource in-house, I was prepared to use the UPS store to print our mini schedule signs, the text for our escort cards, etc.
My iPad with pencil especially shined for sketching layout ideas of our ceremony and reception spaces. I used the Sketchbook app by Autodesk for this, but there’s many equivalent drawing apps. It was also generally helpful to have access to all of our planning documents on a screen larger than our phones while on the go.
That’s it for this edition! Next time I’m finally getting into specifics of how I created the individual components of our wedding (personally, my favorite part!)
The second part of my series on designing the wedding will continue focusing on the planning process itself. In case you missed it, you can catch the first part, which summarized some overall thoughts on the day here. This second part is going to be relatively general and abstract, focusing on core principles we used to guide our overall decision making process. The next part will be still centered on the wedding development process itself, but with an emphasis on more concrete tools we used.
These fundamentals should be fairly obvious. If you look at it from a certain perspective, weddings essentially are big, high stakes projects to manage. It follows then, that a lot of project management 101 tools are useful.
The single best thing we did to make our wedding a success was simply starting our planning early. Seriously. It sounds simple, but it truly helps in a myriad of ways, and in many cases you literally don’t have a choice.
COVID caused a lot of the issues around pent up demand, increased competition, and supply chain woes, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. We started planning around April of 2021, before I had even officially proposed… but still, all Saturdays in 2022 were already booked at our first choice venue.
Even though we decided to DIY much of the wedding, we never felt like we were drowning under a terrible amount of pressure or rushing to get things completed. I’ve heard horror stories about bridal parties being enslaved and rushing to finish a bunch of stuff right before the wedding, but we intentionally tried to make things as simple as possible for our friends.
In essence, starting early builds in flexibility and resilience (more on this later), which in turn reduces stress levels for everybody involved!
This is a big one. So big that honestly each of these probably deserves to be its own top level bullet…
Set expectations with yourself
First and foremost. I’m not tryna write a self-help book here, but don’t judge your wedding (or yourself by extension) by comparing it to others’ weddings. After seeing things up close through taking part IN FOUR weddings the year before ours, it was difficult for me to not compare… especially given how amazingly successful and fun they each were in their own ways. What helped me was reframing my thoughts as taking inspiration from the amazing experiences my friends had to build my own.
Along these lines, realize that your wedding is a celebration of YOU AND YOUR PARTNER. None of your true friends should be judging you by how your wedding goes. Take pride in doing what you think is best and owning it! Avoid toxic weddinglinity–there’s no dishonor in making things easier on yourself, or not following all things traditionally. You should decide what’s important, and you do you!
Dream big, but don’t be irresponsible… (aka budgeting)
With enough time, money, and willpower, all things are possible. Unfortunately for most of us, a deficiency in at least one of these resource categories keeps us from pulling off everything we want for our wedding in its most ideal form. I’m a natural optimist, and I still believe you should go into planning with a blank sheet, blue sky perspective on what things can be. However, you also need to be somewhat realistic on how much time and money it will take to achieve your ideas. We thought of budgeting as simply an additional requirement we had to come up with creative solutions to meet. Frankly, in a lot of cases, having more constraints can help force you to make your processes and designs better and more efficient ;).
We both agreed to pay for the wedding ourselves, with a 50/50 split between the two of us. This enabled us to take a top-down approach, starting with how much we knew we could responsibly spend, and then setting budgets for the subcomponents. I don’t know about you, but it makes it easier for me to stick to budgets when I’m dealing with my own money. Overall, we were fairly successful in sticking to what we originally budgeted, but we still inevitably overran it in some areas. We were fortunate enough to be in the position that we could absorb the cost of the wedding without any major impacts to our longer term goals. Don’t get me wrong, I love weddings and mine was the best day of my life, but it seems unconscionable to me to take on any sort of debt or other heightened risk to host the event…
Since weddings are a union between two partners, it’s important to set expectations with one another. In other words, you MUST…
It sounds simple, but can be hard, especially when the emotional stakes are high.
I am particularly proud of the way Tiffany and I managed our communication throughout the planning process. To help manage our conversations between ourselves and with our vendors, we created a shared gmail account to keep track of emails and documents (more on this in the next installment as well!).
Tiffany did a good job at making sure we were actually completing our tasks in a timely manner. My general approach to complex projects is to take care of big, non-negotiable things first while leaving smaller things to be done on a more nebulous time frame (sometimes you can’t just schedule creativity!). It drove Tiff mad sometimes since her style is more about seeing concrete progress and results, and we had slightly different definitions for high priority items. Looking back, I should have communicated better, but if I saw 60-80% of a solution to a problem in my head, I automatically deprioritized it, willing to take a calculated risk. For example, we got into a minor argument about the design of our escort cards. In my head, I had an idea nearly fully formed, so I didn’t think much of it and was happy to delay the work instead focusing on something else. However, my description made it needlessly difficult, hence a small quarrel ensued. I took 5 minutes to cut out a prototype, and sure enough, Tiff’s fears were assuaged.
Luckily for us, we didn’t have issues with communication between us and any outside parties. Most of this is due to how are friends and family simply are, but at the same time, we did try to tell everybody well in advance what our plans were, and what we needed help from them on. I am so glad we avoided problems akin to those I’ve seen from peoples’ posts online. I’ve read rants from brides on the verge of tears about parents/future mothers-in-law being insanely demanding, bridal party members being irresponsible, and drama in general.
In terms of cultural demands, both of our families were relatively progressive on this front. The only ask from my parents was a tea ceremony. My dad prepared a giant double happiness sign for the event, so we made it happen with the help of our bridal party:
Decide what REALLY matters to each partner
We began our planning process bright eyed and with expectations as realistic as possible. We each thought of things within the wedding that were particularly meaningful to us and made sure to convey it to the other. Conversely, we both had certain items which we had less of an opinion/were more flexible on. Knowing both made it much easier to prioritize and make tough decisions.
While we didn’t formally write everything out or graph it at the time, I did notice that our priority lists were actually VERY complimentary (I’m not sure how abnormal this is?)–that is, most of the things I wanted the most weren’t a priority for her, and vice-versa. Looking back, I guess this is one area where being different made things easier. Our division of labor was obvious since we could both focus our energies on what we each cared most about, and trusted the other’s judgment on what they were more passionate about.
This doesn’t mean we both got everything that we wanted, of course–we’re not baller enough. The biggest sacrifice we had to make was on our guest count (mostly on my side). Due to the uncertainty COVID brought, the limits of our venue, and the expense entailed, we simply could not invite everybody we wanted to, and ended up with an intimate wedding of only 90 guests. The biggest enabler of a reduced guest list was actually a creative suggestion from my parents. I have a very large family, but the majority of them are in the Chicago area, so we had a wedding banquet for 30 of my aunts, uncles, and cousins in lieu of inviting them to fly out to the main wedding.
While we found it helpful and intuitive for us to KNOW what we each wanted for various parts of the wedding, it wasn’t something which was set in stone. Additionally, we were blessed to have attended so many weddings immediately before ours, so we had a pretty good idea about what would be most meaningful to us from the onset. Even had we not attended multiple weddings before our own, I feel that a lot of what we wanted would have crystallized as we went through each phase of planning, from researching options, weighing pros and cons, talking to our vendors, asking for advice from friends, walking through schedules step by step, etc.
The key was understanding that even though we set a rough budget we wanted to stick to beforehand, the wedding was not a zero sum game. We worked very well together to come up with creative solutions that ensured we both got what we wanted while keeping within our constraints.
Plan to be flexible
The last concept I wanted to highlight was building resilience in our schedule and overall plans. If COVID has taught us nothing else, it’s the fact that life can be unpredictable. It feels like now more than ever before, things can change completely without notice. I’m glad that this collective trauma we’ve faced together has (hopefully) helped everybody become a bit more understanding and empathetic to the fact that we’re just trying to do the best we can with the resources at our disposal. That being said, I found it imperative to have a Plan B for everything–and honestly, starting early was a huge factor in resilient planning.
The biggest oh **** moment for us was when the housing for our bridal party fell through. We had booked a venue months in advance, however the owner ended up taking advantage of the insane housing market by selling the property, and canceling our reservation. Given that we only had a few months’ notice, a huge group, and were looking at a busy holiday weekend, we panicked a bit. Our next steps were obvious though, since we were guided by the fact that we both knew that we both wanted our wedding party to be together. We agreed without question that we had to book a replacement immediately, and we would simply take on any cost differences. Without a question, this was the correct decision, and I am thankful we were able to book such an amazing property… The photos speak for themselves! Take a look below:
Had we not gotten on the same page beforehand, knowing that we both wanted a great looking location to shoot our getting ready photos with all of our friends at, I’m not sure we would have moved with such conviction and alacrity to secure the house. I’m just grateful that we created a system for ourselves that made the decision simple.
Thanks for tuning in!
Thanks for sticking with me to the end of this long, long post. I wrote earlier about these principles being the stuff of project management 101, but reflecting a bit, I also see that many of these concepts (e.g. communicating, realizing things are not zero sum) are among basics in relationship building as well. Next time, I’ll be writing about more concrete tools and planning methods we found effective in designing our wedding.
Sound check… sound check… 1, 2,3… It’s been a minute… is this thing still on? It’s been quite a while since my last post. Just a couple of life updates, ya know–an ongoing global pandemic, starting an online design shop, and oh–getting married 😉. I’m glad to have enough free time again to do a bit more writing.
I’m going to try something new! Instead of talking just about designing objects (although, I certainly will dive into it), I’m going to be writing about a much more complex and rewarding process–the design of my wedding. I’ll be frank here–I love weddings in general, and especially loved all the planning and execution that went into ours (maybe atypical for grooms?). I may be biased, but I believe Tiff and I work exceptionally well together. While our experience may not be directly applicable or repeatable for every couple in every relationship in every location (heck–I can’t even guarantee all of my thoughts align exactly with Tiff’s perspective…), it isn’t my goal to give a bunch of generic/useless advice (or any advice at all really). I could talk for days about everything that we did for our wedding, but I’ll do my best to distill my thoughts as well as I can. That being said, this is going to be my most ambitious blog writing project–so big that it comes in an unknown number of installments.
Part 1 will be an overall summary of the day itself, through quick highlights of what I felt were the biggest successes, things I would do differently if I had a time machine, things that had a bigger impact than I anticipated, and things that didn’t matter as much as I originally thought they would.
In a single word, the day was sublime. I loved every moment of our wedding day. I have never felt so much love emanating from everyone, everywhere all around, all at once. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of designing and planning for the wedding in and of itself, so it was an incredible and surreal feeling to watch everything come together. Despite minor behind the scenes hiccups, I felt the day was a huge success overall. It was the best day of my life so far, and I know I’ll look back on it fondly forever.
The biggest successes:
All of the speeches. Our officiant Jason’s. Our vows to each other. The toasts at dinner–all fantastic. They each triggered my allergies to some extent.
Overall, all of our vendors were fantastic to work with. We had a snafu where we misplaced all of our final payments and gratuity envelopes. I was able to apologize profusely and arrange alternative payment methods in today’s age of Venmo. Luckily, we found everything at the very end of the night, but this wasn’t until after some of our vendors had already departed.
No drama at all! Browsing through various wedding planning forums, I see a ton of horror stories involving overbearing in-laws, incompetent/non-responsive vendors, irresponsible friends, unruly guests, etc. I’m so glad we had zero issues people-wise. Everybody had a good time, and stayed safe!
When issues came up, those around us were empowered to just take care of things. Our coordinator Melissa from Mellie Bee, and Nick, my best man especially. I was very proud of the planning spreadsheet we put together. It included everything from photos of what each piece of decoration looked like to where we wanted it to go and clean up/packing instructions, full layouts for both ceremony and reception areas, the full schedule and also our seating chart. We gave everybody in our wedding party access to it in case questions came up (they did).
DIY Decorations. It would have been extremely embarrassing for me as an artist and engineer if the centerpieces we spent so much time on turned out badly. Tiff and I are so lucky that both of our fathers were able to contribute as well. My dad’s portrait was a showstopper, and I think the table numbers Tiff’s dad helped us cut have the potential to be a successful product.
This is gonna be a bit cliché, but honestly, just seeing everybody was truly the biggest treat for me.
Things that had a bigger impact than anticipated:
Photo booth. The photo booth was something we saw as optional/on the chopping block if we couldn’t find one that met our budget. It was actually a bit difficult to find a company willing to quote due to how far our venue was. Luckily our DJ’s company had one they worked with often. The booth was used widely, and was a great outlet for those who didn’t want to be on the dance floor.
Coordinator. At the outset of the planning process, I didn’t really want to have one. Thankfully our venue required us to hire one, and the one we hired was spectacular. She was able to help take care of our decor setup and takedown, while helping us manage all the little things that came up. It was such a blessing to know that we didn’t really have to worry too much about anything on the day of.
Our photos. This is not technically something that made an impact on the day of… but I can’t believe our amazing photographer Elyana (IG: elyanaivette), turned around over a hundred (!!!) sneak peak photos in less than a week. They are all so much better than I hoped and I can’t wait to see the rest! Along the same lines, the shared google photos album we set up worked better than I expected.
One thing that took me by surprise was I also didn’t expect how easy it was to get swept up in the moment. The time just flew by so quickly.
Things I would do differently with a time machine:
Communication with our venue
Despite all of our detailed planning, there were still a few miscommunications with our venue. The biggest one was how the timing of food service would impact our vendor break. It was an unfortunate oversight, which forced us to cut out photos with each of our tables.
We should have been more explicit about where exactly we wanted our dinner tables to be–we expected a bit more space to move the portrait to the deck area after cocktail hour.
Planning more special photos ahead of time
The biggest photo I regret not taking was with the portrait my dad drew.
Looking back at some of our night time photos, I wish we took more. Our venue looked like something straight out of a fairy tale when it was all lit up.
Spend more time talking with people
Basic and generic, but true. The dance floor was fantastic, and it’s my favorite thing at all weddings, don’t get me wrong, but in hindsight, maybe a bit more balance would have been nice.
Practiced our first dance
Even though we spent so much time practicing our first dance, I wish we had taken a few minutes to run through our first dance one last time. We missed a few steps during the execution, and I got caught in Tiff’s dress. Whoops! Adding 5 minutes into our timeline to sneak away would have paid dividends >.<
Lack of official hotel block & shuttles. I felt really bad about not being able to arrange an official hotel block for our guests to take advantage of. At the time we were searching, none of the hotels we talked to were able to accommodate without committing to a hard number and minimum number of nights for each guest :(. Since we didn’t know where exactly everybody was staying, trying to arrange an official shuttle likewise didn’t make sense. I’m glad that this didn’t seem to make as big of an impact for our guests though.
Things that had a smaller impact than I anticipated:
The weather. Throughout the few weeks before the wedding, the weather was fluctuating between very hot and very cold. Given our wedding was mostly outdoors, it was a big concern for us. While our venue had an option to add heat lamps, I never feel they are that effective. To help combat this, we sent out multiple reminders and told our guests to bring layers. Luckily, the weather turned out to be a non-factor since it wasn’t too cold, and those who were could keep warm by either drinking or going on the dance floor 🙂
Nerves. I was surprised at how easy and natural the day was for me. I didn’t really feel too worried or anxious at all. I think it’s just a testament to the excellent support group of friends and family.
Not being able to eat. I’ve heard stories that brides and grooms don’t usually get a chance to eat at their own wedding. This was not the case for us, but it may have been due to our confusion with the vendor break. Also, our coordinator made sure to save us some of the desserts and appetizers :).
Length of toasts. All of the toasts at dinner went a bit long, but they were all extremely heartfelt and none of them seemed out of place at all.
Alcohol. I was a bit nervous that the pressure to drink a lot would be pretty high. It was. I definitely did not get drunk at all though, despite the numerous shots I took :O. Thank goodness for adrenaline!
Thanks for sticking through this rambling post, I hope it is at least semi-coherent! As I mentioned, this will be a multi-part series… no guarantees on timing, but I promise the next one will come out eventually. I plan on delving deeper into the planning process, and yes, closer to my normal project updates, I promise I’ll get into the design of all the DIY decor as well ;).
TL;DR: Tiff and I took advantage of a few lazy quarantine weekends to plan and create a few custom pieces of wall décor.
A few weeks ago, I posted photos previewing string art Tiff and I started working on. We planned a series of four. While she focused on making the most adorable one, three fell to me. For the background of pieces, we upcycled an old dress otherwise destined for Goodwill. This was my first string art project in about 7 years and actually found the act of stringing quite meditative and refreshing.
As a bonus art project, we also created a shattered mirror piece. I purchased “sliceable” adhesive-backed plastic mirrors for a different project but first wanted to experiment with how easily cut the parts were. I doodled a geometric hummingbird design while Tiff picked colors for and assembled the background from cardstock we had laying around. Cutting the mirror was harder than I expected, but got much better by the end.
I originally intended to add a simplified geometric rose to match the rest of the aesthetic, but it was difficult for my friends to figure out what it was. We went with a bundle of curvy cherry blossoms instead, and I think I dig the contrast in shape and colors.
TL;DR: I made a working respirator using a small stockpile of N95
replacement filters I have… However, since a local hospital has the appropriate
adapters and real respirators, for the greater good, it makes the most sense
for me to simply donate my materials.
Two weeks ago, I completed the design of, and successfully tested a
prototype N95 respirator. Before everything was sold out, I managed to buy a
small stockpile of about forty 3M 5N11 particulate filters, typically used for
industrial purposes. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any of the requisite adapters
nor compatible respirators.
Luckily, what I did find was this great project called S.A.F.E
(self-assembly filtration unit for emergencies) from the Medical University of
South Carolina (MUSC) (https://web.musc.edu/innovation/covid-19-innovation/safe-cartridge-system-and-masks)
to use as a starting point for my own design. In the original design, MUSC
recommends using part of a furnace HEPA filter as the filtering material
inserted in a replaceable cartridge system. What I believe was the true key to
their design, however, is the inclusion of a simple one-way valve. The valve
makes it easier to breathe out, prevents excessive CO2 buildup, and extends the
life of the filter, but it does not prevent the user from spreading COVID-19 if
they are already infected.
To speed up the printing process (and thereby the prototyping and
fit-checking stages), I broke the system into three main components:
The mask – this remained untouched from the original
The tube – This component was originally built into the
cartridge, and attaches the filter to the mask. The tube also houses the
one-way valve, which I thought was a particularly high-risk feature, so I
wanted to be able to test it separately.
The cartridge – I needed to replace the HEPA filter
design to fit 5N11 replacements.
Since the mask needed no modifications and changes to the tube were minor, I
was free to focus my energy on creating a cartridge to fit filter replacement
pads. To be honest, even this was a fairly straightforward design job… I took a
few measurements of my filter and made a simple enclosure, making sure that the
tube would fit into the back. One neat trick I employed to check my fit before
printing was that I took a photo of my pad and imported it into my design
software to ensure all my geometry looked correct.
While I originally intended the design to be a snap fit to make it easier to
swap out the 5N11, I decided that simply sealing everything in place with hot
glue, and turning the cartridge into a single-use item would be safer. It is
simply much harder to guarantee a seal if end users are the ones making changes.
The tube only took about half an hour to print, so I made that first to test
the valve. The S.A.F.E. design called for the use of heavier rubber for the
flap, but the only material I had available were thin inspection gloves. Luckily,
the design was robust as-is! However, since my membrane material was much thinner
and tended to curl, I paid extra special attention to ensure the curl direction
defaulted to the closed position. Next, I made the filter cartridge. Since I
had checked all my dimensions electronically before, the parts fit together
perfectly on my first try—yay! I hot glued a filter in place to make sure the
only path for air was through the filter pad itself.
Since the mask took hours to print, I made it overnight. Unfortunately,
sometime in the middle of the night, my nozzle clogged a bit and/or my extruder
skipped a few steps. This resulted in some underextruded and weak layers, which
caused the mask to break as I removed it from the print bed and cleaned up
support materials. However, since the breaks were clean, I was able to fix the
mask in a quick and dirty way by simply smothering the interface with hot glue.
I then attached some rubber material used for sealing windows to the inside of
the mask to ensure I could get a tight airtight seal on my face.
Assembling the mask was simply a matter of attaching the cartridge with tube
into the corresponding hole in the mask. I put the mask on and breathed in and
out to ensure the valve operated as intended. Then, I did a vacuum test—I covered
the filter with a sheet of plastic, and breathed in extra hard… and… success! I
was able to hold the plastic up, demonstrating no leaks in my mask!
Despite some initial success, I quickly realized there were some potential
issues with my mask design. First, the positioning of the filter is non-ideal
for healthcare workers. Although the filter is out of the way for the doctor,
it is facing a potentially exposed area where it is super easy for a patient’s
cough to cover the filter itself. Second, my design lacks any sort of exterior
grating to protect the filter. Regardless, I saw the two units I did make as a
As an engineer, I really love designing and making stuff. However, in this
situation, I realized that if any hospitals actually had the real adapters and
respirators to pair with my 5N11 filters, then the filters would be better
utilized as donated goods. I contacted a few hospitals in my area, and UCI said
they could accept them.
As an aside, now that I have two printers running, my output has tripled (my
2nd printer has a bigger build area than my first), and with bigger
nozzles coming in, I expect my output to increase again to *FOUR* times what I
TL;DR: For my friend Teddy’s birthday, I made him a hypebeast worthy (if I
do say so myself) Supreme EL box.
My good friend Teddy is one of the biggest hypebeasts I know, so I wanted to
make something he would like. I went back to the EL wire well again for this
project (see: headbands https://www.andrewpip.com/2019/03/28/el-wire-lighted-headbands/
and sign <https://www.andrewpip.com/2019/04/07/faux-neon-signage>).
However, I needed to dig into my paint supplies dating all the way back to my
Iron Man Mask (https://www.andrewpip.com/2018/05/06/infinity-war-masks).
Conceptually, this project was relatively simple:
I made a box.
I cut some channel shaped holes in the box.
I painted the box.
I put my wire through the box.
I gave Teddy the box.
For this project, honestly I think the gallery will explain things better than I can in words, so here it is (it looks nicer if you click to open the full-sized images):