Alexis and John Roulette don't have to look far to remember the love that friends and relatives showered upon them on their wedding day. The 7-foot-long surfboard mounted above their living room couch says it all.
In silver Sharpie, guests wrote messages of love, congratulations and advice on the board that the couple used as a guest book at their wedding in Huntington Beach, California, last summer.
"It's a constant reminder of our special day and the love we had around us," says Alexis Roulette, 30.
As weddings have become highly personalized, the guest book, too, has come a long way. What was once a traditional white bound book has become elaborate and creative, often taking the shape of something that reflects the couple's personalities or wedding theme.
"What it's morphed into is more of a way of delivering messages and notes and keepsakes for the bride and groom, while at the same time it's become more interactive and creative in its display," says Darcy Miller, editor at large of Martha Stewart Weddings.
Guests might sign a giant wine bottle, a piece of sporting equipment, seashells or stones, maps, artwork, or fabric squares that get stitched together to form a quilt.
Miller has seen a vintage typewriter displayed for guests to peck out messages, a dictionary in which guests circled words relevant to the couple, and a globe on which guests signed near places they felt the couple should visit.
"If you love to ski, it's signing vintage skis," she says. "If you're into boating and the nautical theme, then it's a buoy."
Guests might snap an instant photo and leave it behind with a message, to be compiled in a scrapbook. Or a couple might offer a published book for guests to sign, Miller says, such as a book on birds for a nature-inspired event.
Because guest books are so individualized, they often become part of the couple's home.
"It becomes personalized decor you live with," Miller says. "These are no longer things getting stuck in a box and never looked at ever again."
The Roulettes' surfboard guest book fit the laidback feeling of their beach-themed wedding at Don The Beachcomber.
"It's a really nice piece that I appreciate that we have and can admire," Roulette says. "I like that we can see it every day rather than a book. Any guest book, you normally put it away and won't see it."
Jane Kernen, a wedding planner with Austin Busy Brides in Texas, specializes in events held in nontraditional venues. Most of her couples shy away from the traditional guest book, she says.
And while traditional guest books were often set out in church, her couples tend to display their alternative guest books during cocktails. "Couples want something for people to talk about and an activity during the cocktail hour," she says.
The nontraditional sign-ins also help guests get to know the couple better.
Kernan once worked with a pair of pilots who were married in an airplane hangar; they asked guests to sign a propeller that was later hung over their mantel.
A couple who married at a botanical garden put out self-addressed, stamped postcards featuring botanical prints, on which guests could write well wishes and marital advice.
Such alternatives to guest books can become "a keepsake of something that's personal to you, but made that much more personal because it's been touched and signed by people you love," Miller says.