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The Guestbook: Do I Have to Have a Guest Book at My Wedding?

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The short answer...

No. First and foremost, it's your wedding. So do, or don't do, whatever you want. I personally didn't use a guestbook. I did however, use a creative alternative that was unique and left a lasting impression on our guests as well as my husband and ME! BUT-- if you do away with the concept altogether, you may regret it in the long run.

I've included a ton of pictures from my wedding. Click them to enlarge.

Our good friend Patrick served as an excellent guestbook monitor!

Our good friend Patrick served as an excellent guestbook monitor!

A Guestbook Alternative

This idea is great for themed weddings (think steampunk or 1920s which is what mine was), garden weddings-- any wedding really. If you want it, do it. Keep in mind that your alternative can end up saving you money or costing you even more. I didn't nix the book tradition to save money; I did it because I see them as cliché and wanted something fun that would encourage more guest participation.

I am guilty of not signing guestbooks for the following reasons:

  • too little room to write anything of consequence &/or
  • the line was too long and I would rather sit.

Our alternative enabled multiple people to sign at once since there was no singular book to hog or share and allowed them ample room to write whatever they wished.

Vintage Postcards

Vintage reproduction postcards.  I used New York (my husband's home state), Halloween, and other various vintage images.

Vintage reproduction postcards. I used New York (my husband's home state), Halloween, and other various vintage images.

Tea-Stained Paper

My tea-stained "instruction sheet"

My tea-stained "instruction sheet"

Vintage Underwood Typewriter

My typewriter and "instruction sheet"

My typewriter and "instruction sheet"

Day of the Dead Bride and Groom

Our wedding was the weekend before Halloween so this looked great at the guestbook table!  It was also an engagement present from my mother.

Our wedding was the weekend before Halloween so this looked great at the guestbook table! It was also an engagement present from my mother.

Planning for your guestbook or GB alternative

Who - Designate someone you trust to "man" or "woman" the guestbook table. He or she will invite your guests to sign in, regulate the flow of traffic, and can answer questions. They are also a great pair of eyes to make sure nothing on the table gets broken. This person should be someone who has no other job or obligations at your wedding, someone you trust, and someone who will be cordial to your other guests.

What - So what are you going to use? I used vintage reproduction post cards, pens, a mailbox, and a typewriter for ambiance and instructions. If you opt for a typewriter, you will need to decide if it will be used or just for decoration. If using the typewriter, ensure it is working order and all the components are ready to go (ink ribbon, instructions, etc). Etsy has tons of guestbook alternatives including art and fingerprint mosaics. Do some research before you decide.

When - If your ceremony and reception take place at different venues, decide when your guestbook will be available. I made it available at both because we had guests that could only come to one or another. Make sure your reception venue will have a spot for it and that it's not hidden away from sight. We gave Patrick a break at this point so he could party down. People still need to know it's there and perhaps your DJ or MC can make an announcement to make sure everyone has signed.

Where - Most wedding ceremony venues will provide you with an area or table for your guestbook. Should you choose to do something else, make sure the table or area you are given will accommodate what you have in mind. I saw and measured the table at our garden ceremony venue way in advance and planned around it. When we transported all of our items to our wedding reception, we put just the "tools" necessary at the end of the candy bar.

How - The sooner the better. Keep a list of what you would like to include in your display. Start this as early as you can, especially if you have items that need to be purchased. Use butcher paper to cut out a template of the surface area of your guestbook table and do a mockup of how things will be arranged. In the final stages of planning, you can trace and label the items onto the paper and give the "map" to whomever is setting up the table on your wedding day.

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To get this look!

Don't put the cart before the horse. Get the "tools" first and then focus on the details.

We used:

  • A vintage underwood typewriter (from local antique store)
  • Vintage reproduction postcards (from
  • A small mailbox (from Home Depot)
  • Some beautiful beaded pens (from Michael's)

Our typewriter was just for "looks" and not for use. Having our friend Patrick "man" our guestbook table was important because I didn't want someone to try to use the typewriter. If your typewriter is just a decoration, put a piece of paper in it with a message or instructions. You don't even have to use the typewriter to write it. I used my PC and a vintage typewriter font. I also tea-stained the letter to make it appear aged. You can read more about my typewriter here, Another memorable thrift purchase-- my antique Underwood typewriter.

With the important stuff out of the way, now you can have some fun. Place items on the table that are important to you and or help tie your wedding theme together.

We used:

  • Skeleton keys; we had a key motif (from the dollar bins at Michael's)-- read more about my skeleton keys here
  • Picture frames with fake vintage pictures (the frames were gifts and the pictures were scrapbook paper that was also used for the wedding programs
  • A string of pearls from a party store (my bridesmaids were flapper girls)
  • An electronic butterfly in a mason jar (this was a gift from when I was in the hospital earlier that year and matched the garden setting)
  • A black lace shawl as a table runner ($2.00 from Bell's Outlet)
  • A birdcage for wedding cards (this was actually to put candles in; my mother purchased it as an engagement gift years before)
  • A day of the dead bride and groom figurine (this was another engagement gift from my mother, originally intended to be a cake topper)
  • A metal and glass stone peacock to match our peacock motif (Target $15)

A Valentine Spin

Valentine-themed concept from my article, Valentine Wedding Ideas

Valentine-themed concept from my article, Valentine Wedding Ideas

Finishing Touches

To go that extra step we did two finishing touches that really made this whole idea sing. My husband put gold adhesive letters on the mailbox spelling out our last name. These were just a couple of dollars and we bought them in the same section of Home Depot.

I figured if someone was sending us a postcard it would need a stamp, wouldn't it? So I didn't want to skimp on this detail-- especially when this detail could help tie together our 1920s theme. I began looking for sticker stamps, preferably some that were vintage reproductions like my postcards. During the entire wedding planning process I learned to always check Etsy first. And boy did I hit the jackpot! Kristin, of papersbykristen, turned a 100+ antique stamp collection into adhesive stickers that made our postcards spectacular. Our guests enjoyed this attention to detail. Some were even postmarked from cities that our families flew in from! Her work was amazing and she helped my dream come true. Our wallets were also pretty happy since her pricing is a great value. I ordered tons of stuff on Etsy and will include an article about that next, so stay tuned!

Your typewriter can be for use or just decor!

Your typewriter can be for use or just decor!

"October 29, 1929

Dearest Guest,

We are so pleased that you are able to join us on this very special day! Please pick a postcard and write us a heartfelt or downright silly message. Place it in the mailbox when finished so that we may treasure it for many years to come. Thank you for coming and remember to enjoy yourself!

All our love,

Jason & Heather"

I've included a few examples below. All picture scans done by Heather Says.

Heather Says: the literal guestbook is what I found to be cliché and boring, but the idea is timeless. While we didn't want a BOOK, we still wanted something that held messages from our friends and family that we could keep and treasure for always. Guests drew us pictures and wrote us poems. Some were signed anonymously. The different card choices allowed our guests to pick one they liked. My mother-in-law chose the one with baby carriages and every time I see it I make the comment "Foreshadowing!" One of my bridesmaids, Lizz Price, picked one with a black cat that resembles her own.

My husband and I had a wonderful time reading through all of them and we still do from time to time. In fact, I'm in such a great mood right now as I just re-read through all of them while scanning a few for this article. Remember that this is great opportunity to receive silly or heartfelt messages from friends you haven't seen in years or from family that will someday pass on. I hate to sound macabre, but it's true. If you also hate the book idea, think of something else to do instead but don't scrap the concept altogether. We wouldn't have done it any other way in a million years.

Check out more helpful articles in my wedding series:


Heather (author) from Arizona on March 27, 2012:

Natashalh, thanks! I really love what your friends did. I've loved the Narnia series since I was very small. It must be amazing to have a beautiful copy with messages from friends and family inside. Priceless. Glad you enjoyed the hub, thanks for reading. :)

Natasha from Hawaii on March 27, 2012:

Your postcard idea is so cool! When one of my friends got married, they had a really nice copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and asked people to sign by their favorite passage because my friend and her now husband had gone on a trip to CS Lewis's house together. It was a neat idea and very personalized.

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