I always feel pressure to come up with something funny/meaningful, but often fail to achieve this. In the USA, it seems to be traditional to assign someone to the guest book, to ensure everyone signs it. In the UK, it is more commonly passed around the tables after dinner and people make their own choice whether to sign or not. I certainly feel compelled to sign when I am passed a book - even if it is with the uninspiring "best wishes."
Also, what do you do with them afterwards? (Seriously, anyone who is married reading this please tell me!) I have a yearbook from school and one from university - mainly they sit in a cupboard and get ignored. What is the point of a wedding guest book if this is where it ends up?
As with all wedding traditions that aren't important or immediately obvious to us, we set about questioning the guest book concept. What is the point of one? Where did it come from? Do we want one, or is it wasting money?
The WIC naturally has plenty to say on the need for a guestbook, and ideas for how you can spend more money on one. During my research, though, it was yahoo answers rather than the WIC that cracked me up - one person had commented that a guest book was a must as people "sign in" then add their address so you know where to send the thank you note. I wasn't aware attendance at weddings was monitored like attendance at school - and if you didn't have their address how exactly did you manage to invite them?!
On a more serious note though, it appears that this may have been the original purpose of guest books. Presumably there was a time when the couple did not get to choose their wedding guests, and the invites were actually sent out by the bride's parents. In that case, having everyone's names and addresses would be pretty useful. But does anyone actually do this now?
The there are the people who think a guestbook helps you remember who was there to share your big day. Excuse me for being cynical, but if you can't remember who was there I think you may have invited too many people who aren't important to you.
Of course, there are lots of options for personalised guest books and guest book alternatives. There are works of art your guests can help you create, or you can use a Photo Booth or video camera for a more visual 'book' (for simplicity, I'm going to refer to all ideas as 'books' for now). These sound like neat ideas, but still doesn't really answer the question of what couples hope to achieve. What do you want that book to do or mean?
For us, anything that will end up in a cupboard is pointless (we're not big on sentimental clutter). So it needs to be visually attractive in order to be displayed. Gadget thought it should look like a big card signed by lots of people - such as a work leaving card. This appealed to me too - those that know us well enough to write relevant/funny messages could do so, those that can't think of anything can wish us their best without worrying about filling an entire page. It would look relaxed and fun, not be overly sentimental, and not take up too much space. We decided that if we can achieve this, we will have a 'book' at our wedding.
We had a look at the thumb print trees, but Gadget felt they were a bit flamboyant for us. He also didn't like the idea of having letters signed like this (shame, I quite liked this):
|repin from Pinterest, source currently unclear|
|no9 images on etsy|
That isn't one of our song choices, but you get the idea. I imagine giving people blue and purple pens and getting them to write round the edges. My other contribution was that we might be able to use the artwork from our ceremony reading. Without wanting to give too much away, if you had "The House at Pooh Corner" as a reading, you could use this image for your guests to sign:
|image from vcstar.com|
The risk with getting guests to sign an image is that they get "carried away" - and Piglet ends up with a moustache. We haven't worked out the answer to that one yet!