I’m at a constant war with myself when it comes to tradition and innovation in weddings. Too much of tradition and you’re stuck with that which we all abhor: the generic wedding (TGW). But take away too much tradition and we might as well be at a ridiculously expensive double birthday party.

How do we strike the balance? Figure out which traditions are important to you. Maybe it’s the full religious ceremony, the multi-course Italian dinner, Pachelbel’s Canon as your bridal procession.

Mark those elements down. Those are the things you – and your planner, if you have one – won’t mess with. Everything else is fair game.

To that end, I present to you the number 1 thing to make your own: the guest book.

You’ve seen it: it’s there on the table, manned by reluctant ushers or junior bridesmaids, for guests to write down their names and maybe a message of congratulations to the newlyweds.

Have you ever been to someone’s house and actually seen the guestbook lying around? Did your mom pull it out when showing you her wedding album? It’s one of those things everyone buys, everyone expects, but no one really wants.

That, to me, is ripe for an update. And not the kind you see below.

The Platter:

I’m not the first person to consider the utter waste of a traditional guest book. Options like this one have been around for years: sign a platter or serving tray, which will hopefully be used by the couple when they entertain, or host holiday dinners.

A good idea, in theory. But again, I’ve never seen someone actually use one of these platters. If they’re lucky, these platters will be mounted over the stove in the kitchen. If not, they’ll be conveniently lost when the couple moves.

Also, they’re only big enough for about twenty signatures. Not okay for a larger wedding.

The Photo:

A better option: a large photo frame, with a mat big enough for signatures and notes. Usually these are done with an engagement photo of the couple. Again, this has been done.

Something a little different, and a touch more elegant, is a framed invitation and save the date card.

The Puzzle:

Wedding guestbook puzzle

If the framed photo or invitation still too generic for you, how about this? Print up a large photo of yourselves and create a puzzle out of it. Guests can sign the back of individual pieces. Keep the puzzle on your coffee table at home, or put it together on your anniversaries, if you so desire.
Bonus: If you have a really, super sturdy one made from wood, your kids can put it together in the future!

The Enhanced Album:

If you want something different, but not kitschy or completely useless…break out the photo printer and scrapbooking skills.

Put together a photo album – you know, with real, physical photos. We have yet to develop a virtual guestbook – that chronicles your relationship. Make it as DIY or professional as you like, so long as you leave plenty of space on the pages. Let your guests sign that.

Not only are you likely to actually look at the album, but the signatures won’t look so out of place as they would on, say, a platter.

Video Guestbook:

This is probably my second favorite. It’s not quite as romantic as the album guestbook, but is something you’ll be able to enjoy for years to come. It’ll also be more fun to watch in later years, when you look back and laugh at fashion from the “old days” and need reminders of who exactly came to your big day.

Set up a mac, buy yourself the Thrilled for You software, and you’re good to go! Guests will be able to record a video message for you. They can be uploaded to youtube or even incorporated into your official wedding video.

Say goodbye to the satin-covered waste of money and create something you’ll actually want to look at again. Better yet, come up with something that your friends will actually want to participate in.