Did you know that the wedding guest book originally served as a list of witnesses to legitimize your marriage? It’s also functioned as an easy roster for couples writing thank you notes to everyone who attended. Guest books are an old and evolving tradition, but their purpose today is ultimately up to you.

And if you ask any married couple whether they actually return to their guest book as a sentimental keepsake, most will shrug and admit they haven’t looked at it since the wedding. So, as you prepare for your own day, the question is: What kind of guest book would you actually pull out and revel in? Even if you’re only looking at it every five or ten years, it can capture young memories as you grow old together—you just have to plan it properly.

The Polaroid Trend Turns Your Guest Book into an Activity

In the age of Pinterest, loads of alternative guest book ideas have piled up. The Polaroid trend is one of our favorites because it mixes vintage charm with a hands-on guest experience that draws people away from their phones. You’ve spent (almost) a year (or more?) planning this celebration, so you obviously want everyone to be engaged. And when you ask guests to pose for photos and write personalized messages, you’re making it clear that their presence and input are valued.

Once your instant cameras have served their primary guest book purpose, they’re also a great way for guests to capture candid event shots. A professional photographer can’t be everywhere, so instant cameras give you the chance to see your wedding day through the eyes of friends and family. You’ll never know, until you dig through your stack of Polaroids, all of the little moments you didn’t catch in person—because you can’t be everywhere at once, either.

But it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the options for incorporating Instax or other instant cameras into your wedding, so we’ve boiled down a few of the best ways to put your alternative guest book in motion.

Let Guests Build the Guest Book During the Reception

Traditionally, all friends and family sign the guest book as soon as they enter the reception. Instead, ask them to snap a Polaroid as they enter, insert it straight into your book, and then write a message. This setup ensures everyone is included, and by the end of the wedding day the book should be filled—and will be a complete surprise for you to flip through.

To pull off this Polaroid idea:

  1. Set up a table near the reception entrance. It should be big enough for all photography supplies, with enough room left over for guests to work in the open guest book.
  2. On one side of the table, display the camera(s), extra film, optional props for guests to use in their photos (like funny glasses and hats), and a sign that directs them to take a photo and then move to the other side of the table. There, display the guest book, patterned washi tape or sticky dots to attach photos to pages, markers or pens to write messages directly in the book, and another sign with simple directions.

Consider having someone at the table to guide guests through the process, to take photos, and to load film.The creative possibilities for your book are endless. Rather than blank craft pages, for example, you could use an album with perfectly-sized sleeves for guests to slip their photos into. Just leave a stack of pre-cut cardstock so guests can write messages and slip them into the sleeves as well.

Ask Guests to Write Messages on their Photos and Drop Them in a Box

If you might not be happy with the way your guest book comes together when family and friends arrange things in their own ways, this second option could be your best bet.

Here’s the basic action plan:

  1. Set up a table where you’ll keep all supplies and display a sign with straightforward instructions for guests to follow.
  2. Include camera(s), extra film, optional props, and fine permanent markers for messages. Then, rather than a guest book, add a box or basket for guests to deposit their photos.
  3. If this is a free-roaming activity, be sure to give guests encouragement to participate. Maybe have your DJ or band remind them once or twice during the evening.
  4. Another option is to set a package of film at the center of each guest table, with instructions for them to grab a camera from the activity table, load the film, and share it amongst everyone at the table—and then return it to the main table for the next group when they’re finished! (It’s also a good idea to give guests some basic instructions for loading the film into the cameras.)

With this method, you’ll still get all of those great shots from your guests’ perspective but will have more creative control of the final product. The only downside is that messages might be a bit shorter since guest will be limited to writing on the white space directly below the photo.

Have Guests Incorporate Their Photos as Part of the Wedding Decor

Another popular alternative is to have a photo display that accumulates over the course of the reception so that it actually becomes part of your decor. The built-in advantages to this are that you can still do whatever you want with the photos when the wedding is done, but the display serves as a reminder in itself for people to take part in the activity.

Creating a live display of Polaroids at your wedding is a great way to get guests involved.

Here’s how to prepare:

  1. Decide how you want to show off the photos. This might be as simple as boards propped on easels, where people can stick their photos with tape or sticky tack. (To keep the photos intact, avoid pins.) Or you could stretch string across a wall or between two trees, letting your guests hang their photos with decorative clothespins.
  2. Again, set up a table to keep all supplies, including a sign with instructions, the camera(s), extra film, props for your guests to get creative, permanent markers if you want them to also include messages, and clothes pins or sticky stuff to use when hanging.

To keep the display from looking bare, you could also scatter photos of you as a couple throughout the display (maybe giving guests ideas about how to use your props), or even old photos of friend and family as an extra nod to vintage charm.

Polaroids Are Still Social Media Worthy

The disposable camera trend has lasted so long because guests continue to use them, love them, and capture uncommon moments with them. They’re not high-tech, but they offer a unique charm—and you could easily photograph or scan all your Polaroids and upload them to your wedding website or other photo sharing application to give your guests digital access.

So, get on board with a long-lived trend that’s here to stay. Instant photos present a ton of creative ways to engage your guests at the wedding and develop a lasting collection of the memories that you can cherish for the rest of your marriage.

At Kennolyn, we’re so excited about this and other trends that help to make weddings truly unique. Get in touch, so we can talk about all the possibilities for personalization and so we can start putting an action plan in place for your wedding.

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