Edited by Sara Adams

Back in 2017, my daughter told us she was going to get married in June 2018, and my son-in-law-to-be claimed I had to prepare a speech for the occasion. I happily accepted and thought deeply about what to say.

I like to tell small stories around the origami models I teach, and I wished to make something the couple could keep as a memory. So I decided to design a storygami that would also serve to entertain the guests. Realizing this was the one occasion in my life in which I had the right to moralize to my children, I decided to let the story revolve around the challenges of being a couple and the importance of love. I drew on all my boomer experience, having had only one love myself, and having been together with her for 35+ years.

The resulting diagram, reproduced below, was printed and laminated as an auxiliary gift.

The shaded diagrams, as printed for the wedding.

Editor’s Note: I edited the original diagrams so that they do not have a background color or gradients. You can find a link to that version below the picture of the model.

The changes save you printer ink and avoid a well-known problem with printing transparent objects (which are used for the gradients) within PDF documents. But these modifications come at the price of less-beautiful diagrams, so if you are not printing, you may want to download the image files of the original diagrams instead. The PDF version is available on happyfolding.com.

At the wedding, I gave a speech with a short intro about how I love them and how much I appreciate my new son, while 15 cm (6 inch) squares of bright-red kami with a white back were distributed to the 60 guests. Then I switched to telling the story while everyone folded along. I believe around 80% of the guests actually succeeded in finishing the house.

House of Love by Hans Dybkjær. See PDF diagrams.

Some Design and Storytelling Considerations

The idea of the hidden heart that becomes visible with backlight was inspired by another origami model I saw a year or two earlier — unfortunately I didn’t remember where or the details.

The model had to be simple, so the design sequence uses valley folds only and rather few steps.

The design sequence was conceived to make the model a surprise: Neither the steps nor the story hint at what the final model is, and when people see the house, they believe the story has ended. Then you tell them the final words — that home is where love is — and tell them to look through the backlit house. The heart appears as a complete surprise.

When telling the story, you must stand in a place with bright light on your hands, which should be held up so everybody can see the paper clearly. You start by making it clear that everybody is to fold along and convincing the few hesitant, shy people that they can do it.

Then you begin telling the story in your best storytelling voice, at a steady pace, pausing between each step to ensure that everybody is together and seems to have a model similar to yours. If needed, small extra instructions can be given, but most people should be able to follow the steps with just the demonstration.

When you fold, point to landmarks, exaggerate your movements, make the fold, unfold and repeat the fold. The guests are unlikely to be folders, perhaps having folded the fortune teller in kindergarten and no more. Be clear about turning over, rotating, and other invisible steps.

Heart and house are concrete objects, but troubles, love, etc. are abstract concepts. Hence the tent (your first home, before marriage), the house (your permanent home, after marriage) and the heart are the only concrete symbols. The abstract concepts are alluded to via the steps.

Thus, the story, the model, and the folding sequence develop together. The story can be adapted to other needs, but the folding sequence is tuned to the young story of finding your love and how to make your love survive while establishing your home.

The heart shape is actually rather angular, but the paper layers make the shadow edges fuzzier, resulting in a smoother impression of a real heart.

And the Main Characters ...

By the way, my daughter also happened to have a request: Could I make the bridal bouquet? Of course! Here is the couple, on a beautifully bright and merry day, with the bouquet:

The wedding couple (left) and the origami bridal bouquet (right)


May 7, 2020 - 8:57pm dsilver263

I have to admit that I did not read the article before I jumped into folding the model and I am glad I didn't. I got so lost in folding the model and following the story and pictures that I lost track of where the model was going. I wasn't paying attention at all and, as encouraged, I was talking while I was folding. I was completely surprised by the ending. I laughed out loud in delight when I saw the result.

This is such a beautiful story and model. Thank you.

May 8, 2020 - 1:37pm Hans Dybkjær

I am happy that you did it that way. The model itself is plain, even if nice. All its design and virtue lies in presenting the story along the folding, and in the surprise clou at the end.
As such the article is like trying to explain and dissect a joke: the sure way to kill the joke. I really should have asked readers to fold the house from thin, read/white paper before reading the rest of the article.

At the wedding I didn't even tell the title, I just told I would give a speech illustrated by folding a simple model, and urged everybody to fold along.

May 8, 2020 - 2:36pm charlotte.shandley

Your sentiments are beautifully presented. Even having read the article first I still had a "wow" feeling when I saw the heart shining inside the home. Thank you for sharing with everyone.