Guest Book Basics

Martha Stewart Weddings, Volume 10 1999

Personal inscriptions, bound in a simple guest book, can be more meaningful than any gift. Here are some ideas for creating an enduring and rewarding keepsake of your wedding day.

Personalizing Your Guest Book
In addition to the traditional white guest book, wonderful books are available in all shapes, styles, and colors. You can personalize these ready-made books by affixing your invitation to the cover or embossing the bottom corner of each page with your monogram. Or craft your own guest book using fabric, colored paper, or decorative ribbons that complement the colors of your wedding.

Selecting the Paper
Choose thick, creamy paper for an elegant volume or less formal sketch paper for a more casual book. Whether making your own or using a store-bought book, consider one with unlined paper, so that guests are tempted to do more than merely sign their names; the unbroken expanse works as a subtle encouragement to guests to wax poetic and leave longer messages.

Individual Message Cards
As an alternative to a guest book, you might provide plenty of individual small cards and envelopes for the guests to fill. The perfect size for a few warm words, the cards will seem like dozens of little presents to be opened; after you've read them one at a time, bind them into a beautiful album to be enjoyed again and again.

Selecting the Writing Instrument
Perhaps you'll want to provide an heirloom fountain pen to add a bit of nostalgia to the signing ritual. On the other hand, groups of colored pencils and markers are just the thing to inspire the artist in each of your guests. No matter which type of pen or pencil you set out, make sure it's easy to work with. A calligraphy pen, for instance, might be difficult to wield for those who aren't used to its unusual tip. Also, have backups available; assign a bridesmaid or groomsman to check periodically that pencil leads haven't snapped or pens run dry, so you don't miss out on any good wishes.

Signing the Book
How you handle the actual signing of the guest book depends on the size and style of your wedding. For small, intimate celebrations, it's appropriate to set the guest book out on a table and let guests sign it at their leisure during the reception. For a large wedding, you might leave the book out until halfway through the reception, then recruit someone to take it from table to table so that guests who haven't signed yet will have an opportunity to do so. This is an excellent job for an outgoing young attendant or relative.

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