love thursday: a wedding guest book

Since Mark and Morgan are currently on their honeymoon in Africa and likely (hopefully) not online, I thought I'd share with you an idea I had that you might want to do yourself as a gift the next time a close friend of yours is getting married.

So. Several months before their wedding, Mark called me.  "Karen, you're creative ..." he began.

Based on what? I thought.

"We're looking for an unusual guest book for our wedding," he continued.  "We've heard of, for example, having guests sign a plain wooden chair for the wedding couple to incorporate with the furniture in their home."

Uhh ...

"Now, we don't want that," he added hurriedly.

Oh thank God.

"But Morgan and I figured you'd come up with something.  Do you mind?"  he asked.  And even though I was panicked about this, I immediately said "I'm on it."

Now, when it comes to arts and crafts, I truly am not a creative person.  But I figured I'd play to my strengths, and think about what I could come up with that would be fun, not require too much of the wedding guests, and would be something that Mark and Morgan would enjoy in years to come.  And so, inspired by a couple of things I'd seen on the web (specifically, this video made for Susannah Conway's birthday, and the awesome CRAZYbooth images done by this dynamic wedding photographer duo), I decided to grab some posterboard, take photographs of the guests sharing their thoughts on signs, and make a professionally-bound photobook from the results.

I'm so pleased with the images  -- not because they were technically brilliant (because they truly weren't, but it didn't matter -- more on that later), but because the wedding guests were so game for the entire experiment.  For example ...

... some of the sentiments were really heartfelt and sweet:


And some were quick and to-the-point:




Some gave great advice:



And some urged them to get a move on, already:



There was one that was made on behalf of someone who didn't even attend (thanks to Eyjafjallajökull):



And there were even a couple of inside jokes:



Interspersed among all of the wedding wishes, I included a few shots I took of Mark and Morgan when they weren't looking:




And then for the final "guest book entry," I included one from my family (taken by an accommodating guest):



Despite the fact that I didn't get everybody in all the shots, I'm pretty pleased how it all turned out.  And in the event that someone important to you is getting married soon and you'd like to give them with a photograph wedding guest book, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1.  For the signs, I bought some large posterboard, and cut them in half.  It is possible that something smaller would work, but I wanted to make sure that whatever was written on the board would be easily seen once printed.  Also, I think white posterboard is probably your safest bet for doing this; in any event, choose a very light colour.  And another thing:  posterboard is heavy.  We ended up taking two suitcases:  one for our entire family's clothes and toiletries, the other for just the posterboard, and we checked bags.  Something to consider if you're traveling to the wedding site (the good news, however, is that once you have the photographs on your camera, you can ditch the posterboard -- I left all of the signs in a large box with the gifts for them to do with what they will.)

2.  For the writing utensils, I chose Sharpie Poster Paint MarkersThis, actually, was a mistake:  in flying with them to Santa Fe, the air pressure (both from the flight and, I assume, the altitude of Santa Fe) caused them to leak horribly if pressed down too hard while writing (there were several instances when I thought some of the more beautiful of wedding-wear would be irreparably ruined).  Instead, I would use regular Sharpie markers -- but get fat-tipped ones, because you want to make sure that the writing is legible.

3. I generally encouraged people to take the shots with one sign representing each couple or family (if they were there with partners and/or children) -- taking photographs of each and every person would be frightfully time-consuming, and I wanted to get as many as possible done before we sat down for the meal (the shots were taken at the cocktail reception beforehand).  Besides, people are more likely to be silly and joke around if they're doing it with someone else.  Encourage the guests to write in large print, and let them write whatever they want.  As the champagne began flowing, a couple of them asked me, "Do you mind if we write something in bad taste?"  My response:  "I would relish it."  The freer they feel to write whatever comes to mind, the more entertaining the result.  Given a wedding is so festive (and guests are fed and watered well), it is unlikely that they will be moved to write anything tha actually insults the bride and groom, so you don't have to worry about that.  It's more likely they'll just be funny.

4.  Have the guests hold their signs just under their chins, and frame the shot as close as possible, so that you can maximize the legibility of the signs.  Also, I would recommend having them write their words on the board so that the short side is vertical, rather than the long side -- again, to maximize legibility.

5.  Try to use natural light if you can, but if you can't, don't be afraid to use your flash.  I found that this wasn't a time for me to worry about correct exposures or proper lighting.  Admittedly, at first I was a bit concerned, but then I realized that the only person who would care about the proper exposures would be me -- Mark and Morgan would only be interested in identifying who the faces were, and reading the signs.  Let the formal wedding photographer worry about the perfect picture.  This is just about fun.

6.  Once I got home, I used the fabulous iPhoto software that comes with my Mac to layout and order the hard-bound book that I plan on giving them; however, if you don't use a Mac and instead use a PC, there are some great online applications you can use to do the same thing.  Blurb is the first that comes to mind, and it's really very good.

7.  Don't freak out if you don't get portraits of everybody -- I mean, if you think about it, in most weddings it's likely that not every guest signs a traditional wedding book anyway.  Just get as many as you can.  At first, people were a bit shy about coming over and getting their photographs done; however, after they understood the concept, I found most were pretty eager to participate, and encourage others to come over.  I figure I got about 75-80% of the guests, and that's cool.

So that's about it!  On that note, happy Love Thursday, everyone.  As always, feel free to leave your stories or links to your words or images of love in the comments below.

And may you see signs of love all around you today.


Images:  Nikon D300, 24-85mm zoom.


SongBeautiful by G. Love & Special Sauce, featuring Tristan Prettyman. I love this song, but sadly, can't find it on any albums.  If anyone knows what album this appears on, please let me know?

Update:  Looks like it appears on the G. Love Lemonade album -- thanks for letting me know, Katrina!