When you’re getting ready to hold a loved one’s funeral, you’ll be inundated with questions about caskets and urns, service types, how many guests, where to hold the service, and ensuring you fulfill the wishes of your loved one. Another decision you’ll need to make is what kind of funeral guest book to use for the service.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What’s a Funeral Guest Book?
- What Are the Different Types of Funeral Guest Books?
- What Should You Look for in a Funeral Guest Book?
- Where to Buy a Physical Funeral Guest Book
- Funeral Guest Book Table or Entry Ideas
- Funeral Guest Book Prompt or Question Ideas
- Online Funeral Guest Book Ideas
- Funeral Guest Book Signing Ideas
We know you’ll be making more decisions than you can imagine, and we don’t want the task of choosing a guestbook to be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve provided you with this handy guide to help you weigh your options and pick the best guest book for your needs.
What’s a Funeral Guest Book?
Funeral guest books are used in a similar way to guest books at a wedding. The book provides an opportunity for those who attend to sign in, share a sentiment or well wish, and record the fact that they were there. Guest books can also serve as a funeral memento to keep in a memory box of your loved one’s things, an address book for sending thank you notes, or something you can read through at a later date.
What Are the Different Types of Funeral Guest Books?
There are several types of funeral guest books you can use for your loved one’s funeral service, memorial service, or celebration-of-life service.
Personalized guest book
A personalized guest book is ideal for incorporating themes or a person’s “favorites” into this part of the funeral or memorial service. Personalization includes things like creating a guest book that incorporates the deceased’s favorite color, favorite flower, or another favorite item.
Most hobby stores have sheets of stationery you can purchase in a rainbow of colors, a wide variety of flower prints, and other themed images. Use the stationary to create a personalized guest book in much the same way that you would create a scrapbook.
Online guest book
An online guest book is perfect if you plan to have a memorial web page for bringing friends and family together who are unable to attend services in person. This also works well if there will be no in-person services but you want to create a memorial for your loved one and provide a place for family members and friends to share words of sympathy, messages of condolence, and memories.
Custom guest book
A custom guest book will take some time to put together but the result will be well worth the effort. Creating a custom guest book is a unique opportunity to provide guests to sign in to the event in a unique or special way. We provide several ideas for custom guest books toward the end of this article.
Generic guest book
If you’re running short on time or you don’t need a personalized, thematic, or custom guest book, you can purchase a fitting generic guest book from nearly any place that also sells event or hobby supplies. Generic guest books often have a very basic but beautiful layout and include lined space on each page for visitors to sign their name and write a short message of sympathy.
What Should You Look for in a Funeral Guest Book?
As you can see, guest books range widely depending on whether you plan on creating a custom version or if you pick up a generic guest book. In general, here are the things you should look for in any guest book you choose.
- Space for names: All guest books should provide plenty of space for your loved ones to sign their name or the name of their family.
- Space for a message: Guest books typically include space for those who sign to write a brief message of sympathy, condolence, or in memory of the person who passed away.
- A pleasing layout: Many guest books have space for writing on one page and an insightful quote or printed picture on the opposite page. There should be a natural layout to the book that makes sense and isn’t confusing to guests.
Where to Buy a Physical Funeral Guest Book
There are plenty of places where you can purchase physical guest books for your loved one’s memorial or funeral service. Here are the most popular.
Funeral homes often have supplies on hand for families who would like to purchase items directly. When initially working with the funeral director, inquire about supplies they have such as guest books. Many funeral homes offer funeral packages that include a guest book and a signing pen for services.
Craft supply stores
Craft supply stores like Michaels and Hobby Lobby keep ready-made and DIY guest book options in stock. If you have the time or desire to create a personalized or custom guest book, then your local craft supply shop is an excellent place to look.
Event supply stores
Some event-focused stores also carry funeral guest books. Hallmark, for example, offers several options for funeral guest books that are beautifully designed and reasonably priced. They have guest books to commemorate the lives of people, cats, and dogs.
Online is where you’ll likely find the largest selection of funeral guest books. The benefit to browsing online is that you can shop on your own time, at your own pace, compare prices, and choose just the right style and format you prefer. Here are several places where you can purchase funeral guest books.
Amazon: Amazon has several guest books to choose from that are all highly rated. Though “generic” and not customizable, they are beautiful and well-made.
Etsy: If you’re looking for something unique, personalized, and special, Etsy could have what you need.
Blue Sky Papers: This is a higher-end option with books ranging from leather-bound to linen options, but these books make for a keepsake that you can pass down through the generations.
Big box stores
Big-box stores such as Walmart also carry funeral guest books. Most of these are somewhat generic, but they’re beautiful, well-made, affordable, and can provide you with just what you need for your guests to sign in and provide a written message.
Funeral Guest Book Table or Entry Ideas
While space or the tone of service might dictate that you place the guest book on a podium for people to sign as they come in, you might decide you’d rather place it on a table with some appropriate decor. Here are several ideas if you want to go that route.
For a “memory lane” theme, set up picture frames that highlight important events and stages in the person’s life. Create a bit of a timeline from one side of the table to the other end and include pictures from their childhood, young adult years, marriage, family, career, travels, hobbies, non-profit activities, and other important things that defined their life.
Are you hosting a memorial or celebration-of-life service that has a theme to it? Perhaps they loved Hawaii and the theme is centered around the tropical island. Maybe they were a football coach or a fan of a specific team and you’ve asked attendees to wear jerseys. Consider extending the theme to your guest book table in the way you decorate it with decor and pictures.
An interactive table is one where guests can interact with items other than the guest book. Consider placing pictures with question prompts such as “Do you remember when…” so guests can browse and talk amongst themselves while waiting to sign the guestbook.
Funeral Guest Book Prompt or Question Ideas
Many guest books are blank on the inside with plenty of lined space for family members and friends to share messages of sympathy and condolence. Sometimes, however, providing prompts can help people know what to write. Consider placing these prompts for the guest book around the table or directly into the book itself.
My favorite memory with them was...
This is an excellent prompt for getting guests to share a memory with you that you may not have heard. Funerals and memorial services often bring together old friends and new ones alike. This prompt can provide you with a book full of interesting and unique stories from your loved one’s friends and family.
Something they taught me was...
Was your loved one a fountain of wisdom? Perhaps they loved to dispense knowledge they picked up during their journey. If so, consider using a prompt like this for the guest book and see what people say. You might be surprised by the wealth of wisdom others have lived by thanks to your loved one.
What I loved about them most was...
This is a great prompt that can be used by those who knew your loved one well and those who only knew them a little bit. If they’re there, they probably knew or know about your loved one. This question gives them an opportunity to share something special with you.
I’ll always remember them for...
This prompt works well for people who knew your loved one well and interacted with them regularly. Help your friends and family reach into their memories and pull out a lesson learned or a special moment shared with this prompt.
If they were here today, I’d tell them that...
We all have things we wish we would have said more when our loved ones were alive. This prompt might elicit responses from as simple as “I love them” to “They changed my life forever when they told me they believed in me as a child.”
Online Funeral Guest Book Ideas
If you’re hosting a virtual funeral or you’re using an online memorial site to bring friends and family members together that may be unable to attend services in person, then you’ll want to use an online funeral guest book. Here are a few ways to create an online guest book that engages the visitors to the online memorial page.
Online guest books often give signers the option to upload pictures or video clips. Consider asking each person who visits to upload a favorite picture with the description of what’s happening in the photograph when they sign. This will allow each person to make a unique contribution beyond the message of sympathy they include.
Similar to asking guests for a favorite picture, consider asking them to write about a favorite memory they have with your loved one. If they have pictures that accompany the memory, all the better, but many people have a memory with nothing visual to accompany it. This prompt will provide you with a wealth of stories and memories, many of which you may never have heard before.
Did your loved one enjoy gardening and have a green thumb? Consider asking guests to post a picture of their favorite flower in honor of your loved one’s enjoyment of all things gardening. In addition to uploading a picture, many online guest books provide a library of virtual flowers that can be posted alongside a message.
Funeral Guest Book Signing Ideas
Physical funeral guest books can be signed in many creative ways. Here are some unique signing ideas for those who want to DIY a guest book.
Memorial quilt squares
If your loved one was a quilter and you are too, consider placing fabric squares and fabric pens on the guest book table and asking guests to sign these instead of a traditional book.
Depending on how many guests attend, you could then use the squares to create a keepsake item such as a pillow or even a full-size quilt.
Memorial photo frame
A memorial photo frame is an extra-large flat frame with a picture of your loved one. The frame provides plenty of space for friends and family to sign their names along with a quick message. This idea works best if you provide multiple photo frames for guests to sign, especially for groups larger than 20 guests.
A thumbprint tree presents a beautiful visual picture of all the lives your loved one has touched. Each guest gets to place their thumbprint on a branch of the tree and sign their name. You can choose several colors of ink to use for the thumbprints or coordinate them with the colors chosen for the funeral or memorial service.
Vintage or travel postcards
Did your loved one enjoy a vintage era or did they love to travel? Consider collecting blank vintage or travel postcards and inviting guests to write their names and a message on a postcard. Each guest will have a postcard to sign at their leisure before, during, or after the service, making the signing process much easier than if everyone has to wait to sign a book.
Shadow box wooden hearts
If you want a simple but sweet memory, consider swapping the traditional guest book for a shadow box of wooden hearts. Each guest signs a blank wooden heart then places it into the shadow box. There won’t be room for a message, but you’ll have a keepsake item that can be displayed instead.
Sharing Memories of a Lifetime
When used well, a guest book gives guests the chance to share wisdom, relive memories, and demonstrate your loved one’s impact and influence on their lives. Far from merely an opportunity to “sign in,” guestbooks provide guests with one final opportunity to pay tribute to a friend or loved one in a deeply personal way.