Believe it or not, the wedding guest book tradition comes from a legal background. In the times before Instagram accounts, wedding hashtags, and even photography itself, guest books were a legal document affirming those who were witness to the event, in case it was ever needed in court.
We no longer need them for that function. Guest books gave way to marriage certificates, which now come with their own lines for witnesses to sign. By the time we switched to more official documents, guest books had already become a lasting custom for American weddings, and not just for the sake of tradition: the signing of the guestbook is still a very important ritual.
Guestbooks help you remember who was present when you said your vows, who partied with you late into the night, who laughed and told secrets with you in the photo booth, who traveled so very far to be there with you and your partner, who gave you meaningful gifts and sage wisdom as you embarked into married life.
It may not seem like you will need a guest book. You may look around your wedding and think to yourself, “How could I ever forget who was here with me?” But years down the line, that will change. While the most important people– your bridal party, your parents and grandparents, siblings and their families– will always remain at the forefront of your mind, you may forget the others: work friends that you love, cousins who you cherish, or even old friends from growing up who you thought you could never live without.
On top of that, your guest book becomes a literal document of love. Think about it: in twenty years, when your friends have scattered across the globe, your family has grown, and, most importantly, your eldest family members have moved from this life to the next, a simple signature and message from a loved one on the most important day of your life can bring tears to your eyes and a warm, beautiful memory to mind.
Each person named in your guestbook is someone who is close enough to your heart that you wanted to spend the money and effort to have them there. They are the people who you have laughed with, cried with, gone on adventures with, and spent the most important, white-stone moments with throughout your whole life. Whether they are an aging family member, childhood friends who have traveled from many miles away, or even coworkers who put up with the worst of human existence alongside you, they are important and they deserve to be commemorated.
And on an even more basic level– they help you remember where to send your thank you notes!