How to Set Up a Memorial Guest Book
Losing a loved one can be one of the most difficult experiences anyone faces. Coping with the grief and emotions that come with a loss can be challenging, but having the support of family and friends can make all the difference. One way to honor a loved one's memory and offer support to those grieving is through a memorial guest book.
Traditionally, memorial guest books were physical books that were signed by friends and family at a funeral or memorial service. However, with the rise of technology, many people are opting to set up online memorial guest books as alternatives to–or in addition to–the physical guest books you used to find at some memorial and funeral services. These virtual guest books allow people from all over the world to share their condolences and memories, making it easier for anyone to contribute. Whether you're planning a memorial service for a loved one or simply want to create a space where friends and family can come together to remember and honor someone special, an online guest book may be the right choice for you. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to set up both online and in-person memorial books for funerals, memorial services, and celebrations of life.
What is a memorial guest book?
A memorial guest book is a physical or online collection of sentiments, messages, and memories shared by those who knew and loved the person being honored. For centuries, books have been used to commemorate special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and religious events. Memorial guest books are no different—they provide an opportunity for friends and family members to record their thoughts, feelings, and memories of the deceased.
Traditionally, these books were physical albums that were signed at memorial services or placed near the casket in a funeral home. Today, many people are opting to set up online memorial guest books as an alternative or supplement to traditional physical guest books. These virtual guest books allow people from all over the world to share their memories and condolences, making it easier to offer support, even if they can't attend the service in person.
Why should we have a memorial guest book?
Guest books provide an opportunity for those who knew and loved the deceased to record their thoughts, feelings, and memories. Depending on the type of memorial guest book you set up, guests can be invited to leave just their name, acknowledging that they attended, or simply leave a memory.
In addition to honoring the memory of a loved one, guest books can also be used as a source of comfort for those grieving. Reading through all of the tributes that have been shared in honor of the deceased can be a source of healing and peace for the bereaved. Having a memorial guest book is also a way to ensure that the memories of your loved one are recorded and preserved, so that they may live on in the hearts and minds of those who knew them best.
That being said, not having a memorial guest book doesn't mean that you are any less able to honor your loved one's memory or provide comfort for those grieving. Whether or not you choose to set up a guest book is entirely up to you.
What's the difference between a condolence book, a guest registry book, and a memorial guest book?
The terms condolence book and memorial guest books are typically used interchangeably and mean the same thing: a physical book or website where people who knew the deceased can leave their name, condolences, messages, and memories in honor of the person who has passed away. While they all serve the same purpose, some people prefer to use one term over another.
A guest registry book has a slightly different function in that it typically only includes room for a list of names, without messages or memories attached, as opposed to guest books/condolence books which allow people to share their thoughts, feelings, memories, and even photos.
How to set up a memorial guest book
Setting up a memorial guest book is a relatively simple process. Here's how to do it:
Step 1: Decide which memorial guest book you'll be using
If you are planning a funeral service, celebration of life, or memorial service, it's a good idea to set up a memorial website beforehand. Memorial websites are easy to use, easy to set up, and free if you're using Ever Loved. In addition to making it easy to share information about the funeral in advance, these function as excellent guest books because guests can visit the site at any time to share stories, post photos, and even contribute to a memorial fund, if you wish.
Online memorial websites also avoid the physical constraint of not having enough space on the page. Physical memorial books may run into this problem, especially if you're anticipating a large number of people attending. If you're opting for a physical memorial guest book, be sure to plan ahead and purchase one well before the service. Consider purchasing several so that there will be enough available at the service if you anticipate having a large amount of attendees. You'll also want to consider what kind of memorial guest book you're interested in by asking some basic questions:
- How many guests do you anticipate will attend the services?
- Are you trying to collect memories, condolences, or just attendee names?
- Are you using the guest book as a way to send thank you cards for attending the services? (If so, will
- there be space for people to leave their contact information?)
Set up an online memorial guest book
Step 2: Purchase your physical memorial book (if desired)
Once you've identified the type of content you'd like in your memorial guestbook, it's time to scope out your options. Memorial guest books generally come in a few different styles:
- A blank notebook where there's no structure. This will allow people to leave any kind of memory or condolence.
- Books with designated spaces for both the name of the guest and a space for them to leave their address or a small note. (The address section is so you can send out thank you cards, if desired.)
- A lined notebook. This is a great choice if you'd like some sense of structure in your memorial book and prefer people to stick to the lined format.
It's easy to find these books on sites like Etsy where you can have them customized with your loved one's name and important dates.
Step 3: Set up the space
Once you've purchased your guestbook and the day of services arrives, it's time to set up the space where people will be able to leave their condolences and sign the book. If you've already set up a memorial website, you don't need to wait until the day of services to start collecting favorite memories and photos of a loved one. Simply set up the site and share the link with your community, and people will be able to start leaving condolences immediately.
If you're setting up a physical guestbook at the celebration of life, memorial, or funeral, you'll need a few supplies:
- Pens (potentially multi-colored pens) for people to use to sign the book
- Something to hold the guestbook open like a clipboard or stand
- Optional but recommended: a sign next to the book saying something along the lines of “Please leave your name and/or fond memories of our loved one”
- An additional sign that includes the link to the online memorial guestbook in case folks want to leave longer memories or photos
- A designated table where folks can go to sign the guestbook
You can also ask the funeral home or funeral director to assist you with setting up the space. Many of them will already have a guestbook area set up, so you may not need to bring any supplies!
With these tips, you'll be well on your way to creating a memorable memorial guestbook for your loved one's services. Don't forget that it can also be a way for people to connect with each other after the services are over, so make sure to keep it in a safe spot!
Step 4: Follow up after the services (optional)
After the services are over and your community has had a chance to leave their condolences and memories, you may want to consider sending out thank-you cards. This is especially important if you asked guests to leave their address in the book so that you can track down their contact information. It's nice to let them know how much their words were appreciated and that you're thankful for their presence at the event (but if this task feels too burdensome in your grief, you shouldn’t feel pressure to send notes).
If you've set up a memorial website with Ever Loved, you can easily message anyone who attended the services (and those who weren't able to) with just a few clicks. This is often easier than handwriting notes and can help those who have a lot of attendees they'd like to communicate with and thank.
No matter which type of memorial guestbook you choose or how you set it up, it's a lovely way to honor the memory of your loved one and bring people together to remember them. Take time to look at the messages and memories left in the book—it's a wonderful way to reflect on their life and celebrate it with others. When you're ready to set up an online memorial book, you can do so on Ever Loved for free.