Wanderlust Wedding Chapter 1: The Guestbook

Back on the one year anniversary of our engagement, I hinted at our wedding plans. We still have quite a bit to do, but the whole thing is finally starting to come together! Because I watched my sister plan her wedding a few years ago, I wasn’t completely shell shocked at the money and time that go into it. And I know I’m very lucky that my parents are able to help us out with some of the expenses. Lots of it is on us though, and that combined with our somewhat rustic style has led to a lot of DIY.

We were at Michael’s, the craft store, when we came across a big world map, a black outline of the continents against a natural wood background, and we thought it would make a really cool piece for our guests to sign in lieu of a guestbook. We noticed a few issues with it though. At $85 it was pretty expensive, not to mention it seemed too small to fit the signatures of over 180 guests. The solution? Make one ourselves!


We used scrap wood to test out two different woods, three different stains, and three different paints. Australia, Africa, and Texas were fabulous models!

First we did a few test runs with all different kinds of wood, stain, and paint. Oak was the wood winner, the chalkboard black was the paint winner, and I have forgotten the name of the stain we chose because this category took the longest amount of time by far and they were all running together in my head. But we chose something! We also used that opportunity to practice our stencil making skills and see how the paint look with different kinds of detail. And then we had to gather the final supplies.


Hard at work nailing the boards together.

This involved buying wood, stain, paint, plastic, and markers, which ended up totaling somewhere around $60-$65. Then we set up shop in Chris’s family garage, where we measured, sawed, and nailed until we had a nice base. Well, Chris measured, sawed, and nailed, while I held the boards in place when necessary and made pencil marks 🙂 Next we smoothed the wood for what felt like ages. I spent so much time with the hand sander that my entire arm was shaking.


It was hard work to get everything smooth.

After staining the wood, we left it to set and got to work making a stencil out of the sheet of plastic that we bought. This was probably the most difficult part, but we made it work. Extensive Googling led to the realization that there are literally millions of world map images on the internet, so we combed through them and choose one with a high enough resolution that included all the details we wanted (most notably, the continent of Antarctica, which was absent on the Michael’s version). We hooked the computer up to a projector, taped the plastic sheet to the basement wall, and got tracing. Once it was traced, we double checked it for size over the wood, and then cut it out with an Xacto knife. Probably not the most perfect stencil you’ll ever find, but it served its purpose well.

While the dust from sanding was settling, we put our soon-to-be stencil to the test.

We put our soon-to-be stencil to the test before cutting it out.

We used it to paint the continents onto the boards, and we had to get innovative to include certain inland bodies of water like the Great Lakes. We cut the shape of the lakes out of a sticker and, using the map we chose out of Google Images for placement reference, pressed them on firmly. The seal was strong enough to keep our lakes clear!

Notice the stickers where the lakes will be.

Notice the stickers where the inland water will be.


Almost done!

In the end we were really proud of our final product. Of course it took a lot more time than purchasing one would have, but $20 saved isn’t bad at all. We also increased the size, and along with it our certainty that everyone’s signatures will fit comfortably. Plus we now have that added “we made it ourselves” cool factor!

All done!

All done!

We are thinking we may add the date or maybe our names in the empty spot above the map.

We are thinking we may add the date or maybe our names in the empty spot above the map.

That’s one thing checked off of our wedding to-do list! Lately we have been working on making flowers out of maps, I’ll post some photos of them soon!

8 thoughts on “Wanderlust Wedding Chapter 1: The Guestbook

  1. Pingback: Wanderlust Wedding Chaper 3: Map Flowers | the files of a traveling daydreamer

  2. Pingback: Travel Art: Our Wedding Guestbook | the files of a traveling daydreamer

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