Guest Book Alternatives

This month’s ‘rush item’ has been guest books. We stock a lovely variety of styles at The Corner Store, but even so, I’m not really surprised to hear that couples struggle to find the right one for their wedding.

I suspect the issue is less about the range of guest books available, [does a quick count – we have more than 20 different styles in store!] and more about the limitations of the traditional guest book – when it comes to creating a wedding keepsake, you’re hoping for so much more than just a list of names. So, here’s a few alternatives I’ve seen recently, and fallen in deep love with:


One of the simplest, yet most effective guest-book ideas ever. Rather than a formal guest book with measured spaces, use a blank page notebook, and encourage your guests to share their favourite quotes or advice for the newlyweds.

[inspired by Nelson based pottery artisans Pottering About]
Personalise the centre of a blank bisque platter with your names, date, colours or theme, and set it on a table for your guests to decorate with comments, pictures, etc, using a simple ink pen or pencil.  After the wedding, the writing is permanently inked, and the platter is then fired and sealed, creating a permanent, washable, celebration plate for use in years to come.
One of the things I love about this idea is that if anyone writes something stupid or mean [because sometimes people just don’t think], you can choose not to make it permanent. You can also select your favourite comments [or specific people’s comments, eg your parents] to be inked in another colour to highlight them – lots of ways to make it a really special memento.

[inspired by Sandra Johnson Boutique Photography] You’ve probably picked up, by now, that I’m a huge fan of the ‘engagement photo shoot’, as the perfect opportunity to test drive your photographer, and get the best value out of your practice hair and makeup. And now, there’s even more reason to make the time to get those photos: Using the photos from your engagement photo shoot, plus an assortment of your own photos [from your childhoods, when you first met, hen/stag nights etc] you can create a beautiful, conversation-inspiring photo-journal to use as a guest book.

DIY or order through The Wedding Whisperer’s Corner Store]

For the greatest ‘anti-guestbook’ – a directed journal to inspire your guests to write more than just ‘good luck’ or ‘congratulations’. Each journal is hand written with questions and comment prompts to inspire your guests to share from their wit and wisdom. Books can be customised on request, with a photo and page for each guest or couple, or with specific prompts relating to the couple’s specific situation.

[order through The Wedding Whisperer’s Corner Store]

A signature frame is ideal if you’re looking for something more than your standard guest book list of names, but don’t want the guest book to be a significant focus of the reception – guests can quickly and easily add their names, and a comment if they wish. After the wedding, you pop in your favourite photo/s, creating a visual reminder of your celebrations. Made in NZ, there are lots of options for framing, mattboard style, etc.


In New Zealand, we tend to let our Christmas trees go bare-legged, but I’m told that Christmas tree ‘skirts’ are a stylish way to catch dropped tinsel/pine needles and disguise the plastic bucket or three prong spike the tree stands in. If you’re planning a summer wedding, using a Christmas tree skirt as your guest book will create an heirloom which will bring fresh memories each year as you pull out the box of Christmas decorations and re-discover the signed skirt, just in time for your wedding anniversary. I’ve seen some simple white and red tree skirts with words such as ‘peace, hope, believe, joy’ etc., which are Christmas themed, but can still fit with a  wedding theme!


Put your table name cards to double use by encouraging guests to write their comments [tips?] on the back, and drop them into a jar. Of course, any cute cards will do. I like re-using the name cards because it’s elegant but un-fussy, encourages every guest to contribute, and their small size gives guests just enough room to write something meaningful without pressuring those less eloquent guests.

The Corner Store has lots of new [and very cute] designs of woodcut name cards in all kinds of shapes, which are perfect for doubling as guest book inserts:


Unaccustomed As I Am To Public Speaking…

While I’m picking apart traditions, shall we take a peek at the etiquette around wedding speeches? The speeches are an excellent way of thanking the various participants who have contributed towards making the wedding day a success, so I don’t recommend discarding the tradition of speech-making completely.
A carefully crafted and well presented speech is a thing of uncommon beauty. Unfortunately, wedding speeches are often neither crafted, nor well presented. All too often, they are dull, long-winded or alcohol fueled. The worst are all three, at once, but they don’t even need to be. The good thing about making a wedding speech is that the audience is on your side. Your guests want to enjoy your speeches, and they will if you let them!

Be clear in your expectations. Let your proposed speakers know whether you’re asking them to make a toast, specific thank-you, or a full-out speech.Encourage them not to trust their speech to memory – cue cards or notes are a good way to keep a speaker on track. If you ask, they may be willing to let you have a sneak preview of the speech, or even rehearse it in front of you.

Don’t insist on following the traditional rules for speeches, especially if you have a potential speech-maker who hates public speaking, or is painfully shy. You can leave their speech out completely, or have it made by someone else. For example, if the Father of the Bride can’t or won’t make a speech, perhaps the Mother of the Bride could speak in his place.

Don’t leave the speeches too late in the event. This is especially important if you’ve already had a long gap between the ceremony and the reception, with not much else to do but drink. Although a tipsy crowd might not care so much about the quality of the speeches, a speech-maker whose inhibitions are lowered by alcohol will usually make an extremely cringe-worthy speech, often at the expense of the bride and groom, and to their great embarrassment.
Having said that, don’t start the speeches too soon, either. Get some food in to soak up the afternoon’s champagne toasts. Guests who are impatiently waiting for dinner to be served will not be a good audience. Between the main and dessert courses is often a good time for speeches to be presented.

Make sure the speeches can be heard! Ask your venue, or the  band/DJ if they can make a mic available for the speeches

The traditional order of speeches is as follows. I’ve colour highlighted the speeches/toasts I think are most important, tradition or no.

The bride’s father [or in his absence, a close relative/family friend] proposes the first toast, to the bride and groom. [Traditionally: ‘health and happiness to the new Mr and Mrs’] If he makes a speech, he should address the groom’s parents, relatives of both families any other guests and welcome the groom to his family and say a few words about his daughter. Assuming that the relationship is close and loving, this can be quite moving.

The groom responds on behalf of his wife and himself, thanking all those involved in the organising of the wedding. The groom’s speech is the first official opportunity to use the phrase ‘My wife and I’. It’s important to put some careful planning into any individual thank-you to be included in this speech – while it’s nice to list specific people, you want to be sure not to leave anyone out. As well as thanking all the behind the scenes helpers, this speech should officially thank the groomsmen for their support, and thank the bride’s parents for, well, pretty much everything.  A small courtesy, but one that will be noted and treasured is to also offer thanks to the mother of the groom.

Finishing with a catch-all thank you to ‘every person who has helped make this day such a success” is a wise precaution.
Traditionally, at this point, the groom will thank the bridemaids for their support and propose a toast to the bridesmaids.
After the groom has finished, the bride may also wish to speak at this point.

I’m not sure why, but tradition dictates that the best man responds on behalf of the bridesmaids. Obviously, whichever of your bridal party is the most capable public speaker would be the best choice. The best man’s speech usually focuses on the groom, and his speech should be light-hearted and fun.  The best man then announces any messages, [traditionally telegrams, these days most likely to be e-mails] from absent guests, and makes a toast ‘to absent friends’.

You don’t have to have any speeches or toasts, but I hope you won’t miss the opportunity to speak out your gratitude, respect, and love for your family and friends!


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