Do You Need a Wedding Guest Book?

Guest books are traditionally part of every wedding. But through your planning, you may wonder if you really need one? Read on to get this answer and more.

By Monica Mercuri

Wedding Guest Book
Photo by Zola

Decades ago, a wedding guest book was necessary for couples to keep track of every guest in attendance, while also giving guests the opportunity to leave a thoughtful and congratulatory message for the happy couple. Today, this tradition is no longer critical, and you may find that many guests forget to take the time to leave a note for you (or perhaps they skip it intentionally). However, despite the debate around its modern functionality, many couples still choose to have a guest book at the wedding reception.

What’s the Purpose?

A traditional wedding guest book is not much more than a sizable journal-type book with blank or lined guest book pages. Its purpose is simple: to give guests a chance to offer their warm wishes, congratulations, and advice for the happy couple as they celebrate with you. Many couples believe it to be a precious keepsake that they can look back on for years to come. However, it’s becoming increasingly common for a couple to opt not to have a guest book or to have a non-traditional wedding guest book alternative (more on that below).

Where Does It Go?

Typically, a guest book is given a place of prominence—usually an entryway table or enroute to the bathrooms—at the reception to ensure guests see it. If the guest book is particularly important to you, you may also consider asking a friend to walk the book from table to table about halfway through the wedding reception to ensure guests don’t miss it.

So, Should You Have a Wedding Guest Book?

Today, a guest book is by no means a mandatory detail. Ultimately, it’s up to you as a couple to decide if a guest book is something you want to have at the wedding. The good news is that a traditional guest book usually doesn’t require a significant financial investment, so you can always change your mind about having one last minute. Here are some reasons you may—or may not—want a wedding guest book at your celebration.

Why You’d Want One

Do You Need a Wedding Guest Book? | Zola Photo Credit // Unsplash

Perhaps the best reason to have a guest book at your wedding is the sentimental value it provides. This is where your grandparents and parents can write sweet messages with advice for you as a couple, where a friend from college can reminisce about the funny encounters you may have had on your way to find each other, and where your siblings can recall memories about the first time you spoke of your partner. While it is no longer the only one, a guest book remains a record of everyone who came to celebrate with you. If you are sentimental and know that you will enjoy flipping through pages of personalized messages on your fifth, tenth, or fiftieth anniversary, then having a guest book is an excellent choice for you.

Second, and far less sentimental, you may choose to have a wedding guest book, because some of your guests will expect you to have one. This is especially true if you have any older relatives in attendance who are accustomed to this tradition. As a relatively low-cost detail to include in your wedding planning, it may be worth having one, rather than explaining to your Nana why she has no place to write a message for you. Similarly, many guests will use a guest book as an alternative to sending or bringing a card for the couple.

Finally, your guest book can offer yet another detail to show off your creativity and personality. An increasingly popular idea for modern couples is to think beyond the traditional guest book of blank pages bound together. Instead, have your guests sign a coffee table book you’ll display in your home together or the pages of a customized photo book with pictures of you and your spouse throughout your time together. A well-traveled couple may decide to have guests sign a globe, while nature lovers could opt for a wooden bench. Another fun idea is to have guests write their messages on a postcard and then ask your maid of honor to hold on to them and mail them to you throughout your first year of marriage. The possibilities for wedding guest book ideas are endless—whatever you can write on is an option. Check out our list of wedding guest book alternatives here.

Why You Wouldn’t Want One

Though purchasing a simple guest book and laying it out with a few pens is an easy and low-cost detail to include, you may still decide it isn’t something you want for your wedding celebration. For example, if you will stress out about picking a book and pens that match the exact color palette of your wedding, it’s probably easier to take this item off of your already jam-packed to-do list.

Similarly, if you’re planning a wedding on a tight budget and every dollar counts, a guest book is easy to cut. Although cutting the guest book won’t put a ton of money back in your budget, it will be one less thing to pay for, and you’ll avoid any guilt about purchasing one if it doesn’t end up being used by your guests.

Finally, if you really don’t think your guests will use it, then you might decide not to include a wedding guest book. Unless guests know where to find it or you assign someone to encourage them to sign it, you might end up with a book that is mostly filled with blank pages. Likewise, and perhaps more importantly, if you know you’ll probably stuff the book in the back of a closet and never look at it again, a guest book may not be the right choice for you. Just note: This second scenario is why many couples choose to incorporate alternative guest book ideas into their weddings. These ideas aim to provide the couple with a more functional version of the traditional guest book, resulting in something they will happily display in their home or use throughout their marriage.

Simply put, you do not need a wedding guest book, but you may want one. Guest books are available for a rather insignificant cost, but if you’re particularly sentimental, can have a significant impact in the years to come. Our advice: Make sure someone encourages your guests to sign the book throughout the reception. This will help decrease the likelihood of you ending up with a book full of blank pages. However, if you think a guest book may not be the best option for you, please leave this detail out. The choice is yours.

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