One For The Books

Here is the album that will go down as 2016’s most memorable.

I received a call this summer from the fabulous Arina Borodina ( who had photographed a wedding with special requirements for their album. It needed to be big, it needed to be brilliant, and it needed to be delivered ASAP. Because the client wanted gold gilding on the page edges, I recommended one or two album binderies I knew of. Gilding is a specialized process that was once done by hand but is not widely offered any more. Today it requires machinery larger than all my kitchen appliances stacked together.

But those binderies were not able to deliver in time. It was a tough request. The client was seeking a large album with customizations, and the project was starting at square one. The photographs would need to be designed into a page layout, reviewed, changes made, and the final design approved by the clients – all before the album even begins production. Production would include custom stamping dies made at a foundry, and a family crest engraved by a jeweler. Did I mention it needed to be delivered in three weeks?

Well I did it. The size pushed the maximum dimensions for several pieces of equipment. The clients even pushed the deadline, and I did it. Here’s what it looks like.

Wedding album standing in custom box

Adding to the size were the eighty pages they wanted for the album. For large page counts I recommend splitting the album into two volumes, so that neither spine has too much weight on it. But this album was destined to be a centerpiece on a table in the reception area of the couple’s home. Size counted, so eighty pages it was. Here are the prints laid out prior to binding.

Prints for wedding album

Notice the fan. This was one of the hottest weekends of the year for Southern California. It was 104F that day.

While binding the pages I made sure to calculate the thickness of the page block, because the next step was to trim the pages in a guillotine cutter. It fit the guillotine but just barely. There was zero elbow room left in the blade housing. Eighty-two pages and it might not have fit at all.

Wedding album being trimmed

The clients had a specific vision for the album which included a number of customizations. These included: A vellum opening title page, script font titles matching their wedding stationery, ivory leather, the engraved family crest mounted on the cover of the leather-bound solander box, and a matching family crest stamped on the red velvet end pages of the album.

Here is the opening title page in translucent vellum paper.

Vellum title page in wedding album

Lifting the vellum title page in a wedding album

The photograph beneath the vellum title page

The album open showing Arina’s beautiful photography.

Open wedding album showing design

Remember that part where we don’t do gold edge gilding? We found a bindery specializing in bibles with the machinery for the job. Their reaction was similar to mine – the album literally took every bit of clearance their machine would allow. A few overnight shipments halfway across the continental US, and here was the result.

Wedding album with gold edge gilding

Red headbands were added to the spine. This was my idea, the clients didn’t request this one. Headbands don’t provide structural support for flush mount album pages they way they do in traditional books, but it’s a nice touch and complements the reds elsewhere in the binding.

The spine of a wedding album

For the red velvet end pages, laval book cloth did the trick quite nicely.

Red velvet laval cloth as end pages

The end pages were stamped with a family crest. This, along with the script font titles, had to be designed and then created at a foundry which again shipped to us from many states away.

Family crest stamped into the box

The family crest stamps were only accents to the centerpiece, which was a family crest engraved by a jeweler and sent to us on the final day of production. We mounted it to the cover of the solander box above the titles.

Family crest on solander box

Here is the box in ivory leather with matching ivory silk cloth on the box trays.

Custom leather solander box

The inner trays of the box featured the same red velvet laval cloth as the end pages of the album, and though it’s hard to see, there are family crest stamps on all three red velvet surfaces.

Open solander box

There it is my friends. One 12×18″ eighty-page wedding album, from computer files to finished product, with special orders from six different suppliers across the country, complete and delivered in three weeks. Aaaand… scene.

Wedding album in custom box

Theater is maybe the wrong allusion though. This album was an orchestration, not just of the different suppliers or me or Arina (who incidentally was working abroad through the entire process) – no this album would not have happened if not for the amazing Aja Lauren of Aja Lauren Event Production & Design. Aja was the event designer for the clients’ wedding and stepped in to collaborate with me regarding their wishes and timeline. The clients were leaving to visit family, and the album’s tight schedule was endeavoring to fit with that departure. We did it. 24 hours to spare. Aja met me at a halfway point to take possession of the album for final delivery, and over coffee we kind of took a collective breath of relief, joking that somewhere in this process one of us really should have been playing the theme song to Chariots of Fire.


  1. Rhee on 12-12-2016 at 11:55 am

    Hi Michael! How many images were in the final album?

    • Michael Tyler on 12-12-2016 at 12:01 pm

      It was 80 pages (40 spreads). The clients were firm in wanting a single large book versus two smaller volumes, otherwise I would not normally recommend this large a page count for long-term durability. It sure looked impressive though.

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