To tell you the truth, I still don’t really understand traditional guest books. Half the weddings I’ve attended, I’ve forgotten to sign — and that includes weddings I’ve been in! Frequently, if you check a guest book after the wedding is over, only the first few pages are filled. If you divide the cost of the guest book by the amount of the book that was actually used, each page comes out to about ten bucks.
That isn’t to say that some people don’t treasure their guest books — and one friend of mine even turned her wedding guest book into her home guest book, and every time someone stepped through her door, she had the person record her visit. But with so many guest book options available these days, why not try something more personal?
A framed picture with an autographed matte is a fun way to keep your guests’ well wishes front and center in your home. The matted picture has become standard, sometimes displayed at the reception beside a traditional guest book. Whether you choose to have both or go with just the frame, it makes a sentimental keepsake that can look classy in black and white, or coordinate with your wedding colors, go rainbow-bright with a pack of neon markers, or blend with the colors you’ve chosen for your home’s decor. Similarly, you can set whatever mood you want with your photo — by choosing a subdued engagement picture or a snapshot of you and your beloved making a tandem skydiving jump.
Another trend that’s gaining momentum is a “prayer tree” or “wishing well.” Not only does it make a big decorative statement, but giving your guests private slips of paper will encourage them to leave more personal messages for you — things they might not write down if they know your other two hundred guests can read it! If you don’t have the space or don’t like the look of the tree design, consider setting a beautiful note card and envelope at each place setting for guests to write their well wishes.
Check any wedding website, and you’ll find couples who have had their guests sign the pages of a coffee table book. This works especially well when a couple has a destination wedding (who wouldn’t want a keepsake with spectacular shots of of the Caribbean coast or Parisian Boulevards?!), or for couples who live in an area known for its stunning views (Napa Valley, the coast of Maine, the Rockies), or for couples moving to a new and exciting home (New York City, Hawaii, Southern California).
Then there’s my favorite: the personal photo book. You can scrapbook your entire life, documenting your first steps, your fiance’s first lost tooth, your gymnastics competitions, his science fair win. Or you can go slightly more conventional and showcase your engagement pictures. With print-on-demand websites like Lulu, Picaboo and Snapfish — among many, many others — you can design and layout your own photojournal, leaving plenty of blank space, or even blank pages, for your guests to sign.
How ever you choose to collect your guests’ names, just remember: no matter if you have a trusted cousin working the guest book table or ask the DJ to remind the guests to sign it, you aren’t going to get every last guest’s name inked. Don’t look for a definitive record of who attended — just plan a book or display that you’ll treasure for years to come.