Weeks, months, years, even decades after your wedding day has gone, you will stop, smile, and recall the day’s events. As the nostalgia hits you hard, you may have the urge to flip through your guest book. So, how can you make it extra special? You simply need the help of a camera and a little imagination.
Consider a Polaroid guest book as a way to remember your wedding day. Typically a hardcover photo album, the guest book contains both Polaroids of your guests and thoughtful messages to the married couple. Ahead, experts Jessie Whitfield, Natasha Miller, and EJ Dilley explain how to set up a Polaroid guest book—including inspiration from real couples!
Meet the Expert
- Jessie Whitfield is the founder of MISGIF, a Phoenix, Arizona photo booth rental company.
- Natasha Miller is a photographer and owner of Tashography.
- EJ Dilley is a Colorado-based elopement photographer.
What You Need for a Polaroid Guest Book
Setting up a Polaroid guest book is both affordable and easy to do. If you’re ready to DIY this part of your reception, you don’t need to buy a load of expensive gear. Here’s a quick shopping list to get you started:
- Polaroid camera and film. “The first item you will need is a Polaroid camera with film—two if you have a large wedding,” says Whitfield. For a wedding of 80 guests, two cameras are ideal with the addition of another camera for every 40 or so people from there. You should also get packs of film for your guests. Keep in mind that guests may make two (or three!) attempts at their photo so multiply that by the number of people to ensure you have enough film. Different brands provide differing quantities of photos per film pack, so make sure to read the description carefully and buy extra film just in case!
- Guest book. Next up, you will need a hardback guest book. Opt for a high-quality bound book as this is a memento you will want to keep for a lifetime. “Don't forget to stash some extra pages in case you run out of space in your guest book and need to add extra pages,” shares Whitfield.
- Display. If you'd rather arrange the photos yourself after the wedding, you have options. Provide mini clothespins for guests to hang their photos off of a clothesline for a sweet visual or set up a board with fun magnets and see how creative your friends and family can get with the display.
- Marker pens. Don’t expect your guests to bring their own pens. “You will also need a handful of markers for guests to use to write their message in the guest book or on their Polaroid photo, whichever you choose,” she says. “We recommend black permanent ones for a more nostalgic vibe.”
- Double-sided tape. Avoid messing around with glue. “You will need a couple of rolls of double-sided tape, which makes putting the Polaroids in your guest book easy."
- Hand sanitizer. “We also recommend a hand sanitizer station in case guests want to sanitize their hands after touching the items or if they get marker on their hands,” she offers. You could put a large bottle of sanitizer on the table or decant it into a cute dispenser so you don’t kill the vibe.
If you’re looking to add some pizazz to the day (and it suits your wedding style), you could also invest in a few photo props for the pictures. Think about how this will fit with your reception before choosing yours.
Where to Set Up a Polaroid Guest Book
Once you've gathered all your materials, it’s time to think about where to set up your Polaroid guest book. The exact location will depend on your venue, however, there are a couple of pointers to keep in mind. Put simply, your station should be in an area that’s easily accessible to guests, won’t get too busy, and has enough space.
“The best place to set up a Polaroid guest book is in an area that is well lit and that your guests can see throughout the night as well as in an area that is dry and not windy,” explains Whitfield. “Places not to set up your Polaroid guest book include next to the bar as it’s too congested, next to the band or DJ, or out of sight.”
Needless to say, your wedding reception is likely to be a busy affair. The last thing you want is for the photo station to be in the way of the soirée. Instead, guests should see it the moment that they walk through the door so they can wish you well, take a quick snap of themselves, and stick it in the guest book.
“Choose a location where the booth doesn’t get in the way of the party or doorways, but also where guests won’t miss the station,” Miller adds. “This could be next to the seating chart for the reception.” The choice is yours!
Polaroid Guest Book Tips
Ready to have your guests say cheese? Before you get to work, there are a few extra tips you may need. Let’s take a look at some expert advice to help you make your Polaroid guest book a recipe for success.
Appoint a guest book monitor.
Is there a specific person you can trust to oversee the photo station? “Guests that are not familiar with Polaroids could ruin entire packs of film, so that is something to keep in mind,” Dilley reveals. “Since the film is rather expensive, I encourage you to have a person or a couple of people take turns overseeing the guestbook.”
Write instructions for guests.
Don’t leave your guests guessing! While taking a picture and writing a message is hardly rocket science, your loved ones may need a helping hand. "Have a list of instructions for what you want your guests to do,” adds Dilley. “For example: ‘Stand 6-10 feet away from the camera, take one picture, glue the image in the guest book and sign a short message under the image!'"
Set up a couple of photo stations.
Worried that your photo station will get too busy? You may want to consider setting up a couple of tables where guests can do their thing. "If guests are taking their own photos consider having more than one station set up, as there could be a bottleneck,” says Dilley.
Use natural lighting.
Lighting can make or break a picture. When you’re choosing where to set up your Polaroid guest book, keep this in mind. "Indirect sunlight from a window is great if you are indoors at midday, covered shade if you are outdoors midday, and constant light if you are indoors at night,” says Dilley.
Or set up some lights.
No natural light in sight? Don’t panic. "You could set up a simple ring light for the station or face the booth opposite a window with natural light coming in if the reception is during the day,” says Miller. “Some couples set up lights on their backdrop with fairy lights or a string of warm white or colored lights.”
While creating your own Polaroid guest book may be more affordable than other alternatives, you still need to budget for the cost of materials. The camera itself can cost anywhere from $65 to several hundred—and you may require more than one depending on your guest count. Film packs start at around $15 and vary depending on the number of photos per pack and brand. (Luckily, these items won't go to waste as they can be reused after the wedding.) Plus, you will need to factor in the price of the guest book itself (depending on how DIY you want to get), markers, tape, lighting if necessary, and any additional accessories you choose.
Consider hiring an expert.
The most budget-friendly option is to have a DIY photo station at your wedding. However, should you have room in your budget, hiring an expert could make this memento look professional. "If you're able to hire a photo booth company to run your Polaroid guest book experience we highly recommend that because it will streamline things and ensure you have a high-quality guest experience,” says Whitfield.
Looking for some inspiration to help you along the way? We have you covered. Here are some of our favorite Polaroid guest book examples to get your creative juices flowing.
Frame Your Signage
Simple yet sophisticated, the Polaroid guest book station at this wedding is a classic setup. We love the addition of framed instructions, too.
Hang the Photos
Share the instant pictures with your guests by giving them somewhere to hang them. You can take the pictures down at the end of the event and create your own guest book. Simple!
Create an Installation
If you do plan to hang up your pictures, why not make a whole wall of Polaroid snaps? Weaving the photos between climbing plants makes for a cool, modern effect.
Match Your Decor
Keep things clean and simple. When you’re setting up your Polaroid guest book, ensure that the cameras you choose match the decor.
Provide an Example
Show the guests how it’s done! If you want to get the ball rolling, why not be the first to take a quick snap and add it to the front of the Polaroid guest book.
Style Your Station
Styling your Polaroid guest book table doesn’t have to be hard. You can add a mirror to help your guests perfect their selfie look and a couple of choice extras.
Mix Photos With Messages
Make your guest book into a real piece of art. Mix things up with message tags and Polaroids to create a cool framed keepsake.
Ask for Advice
Fun and creative, adding some colorful markers to your photo station is a sweet idea. You could also ask your guests for some helpful marriage advice to boot.
Make It Modern
Rather than writing out the instructions for your guests, take things to the next level. Getting a bespoke glass sign for your photo station screams of sophistication.
Try a Timeless Trend
Classic vibes don’t get much more elegant than this. For this wedding, the couple matched the Polaroid camera to their timeless theme.
Choose a Bohemian Set-Up
Feeling beachy? We love this bohemian Polaroid guest book setup for a romantic summer wedding.
Use Colored Films
Should you want to add a splash of fun to your Polaroid guest book, why not get some colorful films for the camera? It’s easy and super effective.
String Your Polaroids
Planning to hang your Polaroids up for all to see? You can use the venue’s features to your advantage and find the perfect place to hook things up.
Go Black and White
Encourage your guests to be as creative as they please with their poses. We love these shots from John Scheer and Tracy Nour’s sophisticated wedding day.
Keep It Simple
Whether you’re planning an indoor or outdoor soirée, setting up a Polaroid guest book couldn’t be easier. Try the no-fuss approach like this gorgeous but effortless aesthetic.