6 Guest Books That Aren't Actually Books

How many books do you have sitting on a shelf right now? How many have you read? How many do you look at regularly? Probably not very many. What about photo albums—how often do you look through those? In a world as busy as ours, it’s easy for books of all types to get left behind.

The same thing happens to guest books. At my high school graduation party, my mom put out a notebook for people to sign and leave me advice. I read one piece of advice in it the night of my party, put it in a stack of books and notebooks, and forgot about it until after my first year of graduate school. On the other hand, I used my card bucket every day for years after my party. The party was Dr. Seuss-themed, and the card bucket was one of those giant cheese ball containers that we had painted in colorful stripes to mimic Oh, the Places You’ll Go! I took that bucket to college with me and used it every day. As a trash can, sure, but I still looked at it every day.

No matter how much we cherish the printed word, traditional books are being left behind. But that’s okay, because it means we get to update our idea of what “book” means – and find new options for guest books. Luckily, there are tons of options – the hard part is picking which modern guest book will work best for your wedding, engagement party, bridal shower, or other event.

Let’s think long-term. You want something that will be beautiful or fun or hands-on; something you’ll be able to use over and over again after the event but won’t look quite so practical at the event. I have a few ideas for you.


My personal favorite: a blank, wooden puzzle! You can use light-colored wood and just about any color marker to write on the pieces to match your wedding colors. Or, you can use a dark-stained wood and use silver, white, and gold markers. You can write on both sides, so a guest can write a message on one side and sign their name on the other side. The best part is what comes after. If you enjoy puzzles, you can put the puzzle together whenever you want and as many times as you want.

Make a tradition out of putting it together on your anniversary every year and sharing a memory of the person who signed the piece you just fit into place (bonus points if the memory is from the event!) Or, if you prefer the satisfaction of putting together a puzzle only once, you can do so and then glue and seal it, frame it, and hang it on your wall. It’s more decorative than a book and a better talking point because you don’t have to pick up a book and read through it – you can just glance at the puzzle and pick out a name. Another option, if you have young people in your family, is to leave it out for them to play with. It would be a good way for them to learn about family members as well. Check out one of these wooden puzzles here.


Source: Jenga Yard Game

If you prefer a more competitive type of puzzle, use Jenga blocks. You can yell at your friends later when you pull your name and they cause the tower to fall, because of course it was their fault! There are different sizes of Jenga games, too, ranging from travel-sized to giant (almost as tall as an adult), which makes for an exciting yard game.

Beer or Wine Growler

Source: Wine Cork Guestbook Growler

Here’s an idea that’s becoming more and more popular: a growler. Sort of like a shadow box, a beer or wine growler is an awesome alternative to a guest book for those who enjoy a good drink. Guests sign a wine cork (or bottle cap!) and drop it inside the jug. Unlike a shadow box, though, the growler can be reused. Take out the signed tokens and make your own wine, cider, or beer! If you’re not interested in investing that much time into a drink, though, it makes a great decorative item as well. A growler is big enough to sit on the floor in a corner but small enough to not overwhelm a coffee or side table, either. Put flowers or seasonal items in the top and use it as a centerpiece. Have a bar in your house (or wish you had one)? This is one of the best decorations you could find.

Sporting Equipment

Source: Surfboard Guestbook

For the more active, sporty couple, use a favorite piece of equipment. A snowboard, surfboard, or ski is a good surface for signing; then you can use it as it was intended, and remember your event every time you use it, or hang it on a wall and be reminded of both your favorite activity and your favorite event when you see it. Maybe you and your significant other met at a sporting event. Get your favorite player’s jersey and have guests sign that. Or, if the two of you argue constantly over which player is better, make a game out of it and get an answer once and for all! Get a jersey for each player and have guests sign their favorite. Later, count the signatures on each jersey. The loser has to wear the winning jersey for the rest of the season!

Shadow Box

Source: Shadow Box Guest Book

Of course, we can’t forget about the shadow box, an item that quickly became a favorite way to show off memorabilia. This shadow box offers cute wooden-shaped hearts as tokens for your guests to sign and drop in the box. The black frame sets off the silver and gold hearts in an elegant way that is sure to draw an eye or two.

Signing Stones

Source: River Rock Signing Stones

Signing stones have also become popular. I love this one because there are so many things you can do with the stones – before and after they’re signed. At the event, you can set them out in a bowl on the gift table so guests can sign as they’re dropping off gifts. Or, use the stones in your centerpieces or scatter them across the tables. Guests can sign them whenever they’re ready throughout the night, and you can leave a vase or bowl near the exit so guests can drop them off before they leave. Afterwards, you have tons of options for the stones. Put them in a vase and use it year-round. Spread them through a stone walkway or scatter them through your flower garden. Create a beautiful incense tray. Line the tray with the stones and succulents and place your incense holder on top.

Nontraditional Guestbook Books

Can’t seem to give up on a book? I get it. And you, book lovers, have some alternatives too.

Use a photo book instead of a journal. Get a polaroid camera and have guests take a quick selfie and write a message on the back.

If you and your significant other have a favorite book, set out a copy. Ask your guests to find a passage or phrase they enjoy and sign their name next to it.

Love to travel as much as you love the feel of a paperback in your hands? Use an atlas! Guests can sign on the page with their favorite place or somewhere they’ve always wanted to go. When you travel to one of these places, make sure you send a postcard to that person!

Source: Polaroid Guest Book, Atlas Guest Book

Your wedding, or any other special event, deserves an incredible memento – one that won’t get lost on a shelf or forgotten in a stack of journals.

Elizabeth graduated from The University of Findlay with a Master of Arts in Rhetoric and Writing. She now resides in Portland, Oregon where she is employed in the real estate business and is particularly enjoying the local cuisine. As a writer, Elizabeth believes in a quote from one of her favorite TV shows: "We have only two jobs on this Earth. The first: to learn. The second: to cope." A deep desire to learn struck Elizabeth when she was young, and now she hopes to help you cope by sharing information, and helping you apply the knowledge. Weddings and event planning can be overwhelming; sometimes it's okay to take a little advice from a stranger on the internet.

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