DIY wedding guestbook tutorial: the drop top guestbook

Do you remember the DIY project for my 2015 wedding I was working on that was taking longer than expected? Have you already got an idea in your head of what this might be? When it comes to actually executing your idea, you realise it’s not as straightforward as what you imagined it to be and you have to make some adjustments. Or if you’re like me and your frame is in one place and you’ve left some things at home, it means you’ve got to finish it off another time.

I’m pleased to report that I’m finally finished with it though and here’s the reveal of where the inspiration for my DIY wedding project came from!

The OH and I have already thrashed out most of the details for our wedding and we knew we wanted to keep it minimalistic as much as possible. We’re also going to DIY a lot of the things we can do ourselves instead of paying more money for someone else to do it for us. It’s also an advantage that we’d be more proud of what we were able to accomplish and personalise our wedding as much as possible, added bonus if it means save money on things!

There are so many great (and fun!) ideas out there now for wedding guestbooks. This is one of the details the OH and I agreed on, that we didn’t want a traditional guestbook where guests write messages and sign their name in a book that we might never look at again. Knowing us, it’d be put aside in a box or bookshelf and won’t be looked at until we’re wrinkly, old and grey. As always, Etsy is a great place to look for those fun alternatives to a traditional wedding guestbook. If you’re looking for a beautiful personalised wedding guestbook, there are plenty of those available to buy as well!

Fingerprint guestbook tree, price starting at £16.06 from EverLovingAdelaide

Wooden photo frame guestbook, £28.90 from forlovepolkadots

Engraved wooden puzzle guestbook, prices starting at £102.13 from WoodenWeddingPuzzles

Signature tree guestbook, prices starting at £33.40 from PaperRamma

Mad-Lib wedding guest cards, £25.69 from TheTrendySparrow

I was thinking about getting the fingerprint guestbook tree last year, but then a friend of mine had liked a post on Facebook for the chance to win a guestbook from BspOak (also known as The Wedding Tree Company). I knew, when I saw that post, that’s what I wanted for our wedding: a drop top guestbook.

The idea is simple: each guest writes a brief message or add their names to a heart and drop it down the slot at the top of the frame. It’s a simple design and it’s also reminiscent of so many people’s childhood of token and coin machines where you watch it drop down a winding track till it reaches the bottom. Depending on what you’re looking for, there are lots of companies or independent designers who are offering different styles of the drop top guestbook.

Personalised Love Birds drop top guest book, £149.99 from Getting Personal

Personalised Simply Hearts drop top guest book, £149 from Well Spoaken

Unfortunately for us, we’re trying to keep our wedding to a small budget, we’re not too keen on spending the national average amount on our own wedding anyway. While it’s understandable that the oak used in The Wedding Tree Company’s guestbook will be using more expensive wood, we can’t justify spending £270 (or £235 for the mini size) on the guestbook alone.

Fortunately for those of us who like to work with our hands and do DIY projects, you can now make one of your own for less! A quick search for ‘DIY drop top guestbook’ brings you to various bloggers’ tutorials, like the ones below which is quick and simple to put together.

DIY drop top guestbook. Source: One Wall At A Time

Source: Mrs P and P

Trying to find sides of frames that will measure up and you can assemble together just seemed like too much work to me, so I decided to do it my way…which only cost me approximately £45.80 total, including P&P!

Luckily the OH and his dad have plenty of tools to work with, so if you know someone who’s got lots of tools you could work with and could help, this would be easier for you. Otherwise, you might find it easier to buy DIY assemble picture frame sides and follow one of the above tutorials.

The other thing you’ll need to remember when making your own DIY drop top guestbook is there’s a lot of measuring and calculating involved to make sure you get the right size of frame for the number of hearts you want to fit in the frame. I haven’t given measurements in the list of materials you’ll need only because it might be different for you depending on what materials you end up getting.

DIY Drop Top Guestbook

Will fit approximately 100 5cmx5cm hearts or shapes of your choice

1 Box/Shadow frame (I got a 24″x18″ frame that would fit 108 5cmx5cm hearts from Frame Company Workshop)
100 Wooden hearts/shapes (Mine were 5cmx5cm hearts 4mm wide from wooden_allsorts. If you want, you can try and get 2 larger hearts for your names and the wedding date)
Large pieces of cardboard (preferably the same size or bigger than the measurements of the frame)
Spare pieces of wood (for your spacers, I just took apart the wood from the spacer that came with the frame)
Paint and brush
Marker pen
Electric jigsaw (optional)
Electric drill (optional if you’ve got the electric jigsaw)
Needle and flat files
Sanding paper

1. Carefully remove the frame backing board and the coloured backing board and take out the fillet/spacer frame.

2. As I said before, you need to make sure you’ve got all the measurements first. This is so you can start cutting and assembling later without having to stop and work it all out, it’ll all become clear in time why you need these measurements if you’re using the same or a similar frame to mine I promise! Here’s what I needed to measure:

– Length of the wooden frame (48.6cm)
– Width of a heart (4mm)
– Width of front lip of the frame which will keep the plastic safety glass in place (4mm)
– Width between the lip of the frame and the back (38mm)
– Width of the plastic safety glass (2mm)
– Width of the coloured backing board and the frame backing board (5mm)

3. Now that you know that the width of the front lip of the frame and the width of the heart, you’ll need to mark a line at the top where slot will go. You’ll want the heart to be behind the plastic safety glass but the gap shouldn’t be wide enough for more than one heart – this is to make sure they stack on top of each other, not behind each other.

You’ll need the slot to be away from the edge, behind the lip and the plastic safety glass and for the heart to drop in, so you’ll need to measure and mark the measurement point on the frame:

Front lip (4mm) + plastic safety glass (2mm) + half width of heart (2mm) = 8mm

4. To keep the slot in the middle, make a mark at the halfway point (24.3cm) at the top (outside) of the frame. This will be the centre point of your slot and needs to be wide enough so that the wooden shape can fall through easily.

With the 5cm heart, we’ll need a 6cm slot, so I drew a 3cm length on either side of the middle mark.

With a longer slot, guests won’t be struggling to drop the heart into the frame. See?

5. Now you’ll need to cut the slot. It’s easier if you’ve got an electric jigsaw to do this, but because we haven’t got one, the OH marked the line with a drill before using a piercing saw to cut along the slot.

6. Next, you’ll need to make sure the slot is wide enough. Using a flat file, sand the sides of your slot till you’ve got a smooth flat surface. We used a needle file to keep the edges rounded.

The slot was wide enough, but the heart wasn’t dropping easily past the slot, so we had to make sure the inside parts of the gap were sanded straight

7. You’ll need to test the slot every so often so that you’re not filing to close to the lip of the frame. To do this, make sure you bring a wooden heart/shape with you and hold it in the slot. If it goes through easily, you’re done with part 1!

8. Normally the spacers/fillets that come with the frame are too wide (the one that came with the frame I got is 20mm deep) and I only wanted a gap of not more than 5-6mm so only one heart can sit between the plastic safety glass and the coloured backing board. Using one of the shorter lengths of wood from the original spacer, I drew a line for 45mm length and 6mm width pieces – you will end up with five 45mmx6mm pieces which will be the new spacers for the 4 corners of your frame.

9. If you don’t have a straight edge on either side of your piece of wood, cut off the ends so you get it straight first.

10. Then cut the pieces you need along the lines you’ve drawn.

11. Have a look at the pieces you’ve cut and choose the best 4 pieces. I’m not the best at cutting straight pieces, especially when they’re so narrow in width.

My jaggedy cut spacer pieces

Once you’ve decided on the 4 pieces you want to keep, file the sawn off sides and the top and bottom so they’re straight.

12. You’ll also need longer lengths for the middle sections of the frame. Keeping the width at 6mm, I drew the length at 90mm, you’ll end up with five pieces again, so choose the best 3. Now you’re probably thinking, if they’re to go in the middle of the edges between the 4 corner pieces, why only choose 3? Because you can’t have a long strip covering the slot, so you’ll need to cut one long piece in half to go on either side of the slot.

I wasn’t lying about my not being able to saw in a straight line!

13. Once you’ve chosen your pieces, sand the sides so you’ve got smooth edges so don’t have any splinters.

Don’t forget to check the spacer pieces on the frame to make sure they fit okay.

Now you’re ready to put your frame together!

14. Before you glue any spacers to the frame, remember to take off the safety film on your plastic safety glass, you won’t be able to take this off once your spacers have been glued in place!

15. To keep the spacers hidden as much as possible, if you bought a painted frame, you’d want one of the painted sides to be facing outwards.

It’s easier to hold wood in place with superglue so add a bit to the side that will face the frame and some on the side facing the plastic safety glass to hold this in place. Press down and leave to dry.

16. While your frame spacers are drying, you’ll need to think about adding more spacers for the back of the frame. Remember fillet/spacer that came with the frame is 20mm deep. The new wooden spacers I added to the frame is only wide enough for a heart (6mm). With a depth of 38mm from the lip of the frame to the back, using the measurements I’ve made above, I’ve still got to fill a 27mm gap so that the frame backing board can be held in place by the stoppers on the edges around the back.

To hide any unseemly fillers, this will need to fit between the frame backing board and the coloured backing board

So using the coloured backing board as a guide, draw around this on large pieces of cardboard.

17. Keep cutting pieces until you’ve got approximately the right thickness of spacer cardboard and stick these together. I just used brown tape to secure the edges for efficiency’s sake.

18. You’ll need to make sure your coloured backing board is stable and doesn’t sag in the middle, so add a generous amount of white glue (I used some of the leftover Modge Podge glue I bought before) to one side of the cardboard and the coloured backing board.

I had plenty of Modge Podge glue leftover, only used a small amount of it for the glitter court shoes I made to match my Chinese wedding dress

Like painting a blank canvas…but with white glue!

19. Let it sit for a minute before aligning these together carefully. Add some heavy weights on top to help the glue stick together.

Make sure you test it to make sure it’ll fit into the back of your frame easily when stuck together. You might need to trim some sections off the cardboard so it’ll come in and out easily. I added some finger holes to the back of the cardboard so I can pull this out without disturbing the setting of the spacers on the plastic safety glass.

The cardboard spacer is a bit of a tight fit (although it will go in), so it’s easier to take out with the finger holes

20. That’s the frame pretty much done!

Frame with the spacers in place from the inside

Testing the assembled frame with the backing boards to make sure it doesn’t cover the slot at the top and everything’s sitting as it should

Now you’ll want to decorate it with some hearts with your names and date of the wedding! I ended up using 2 of the same sized hearts, but you can get a couple of larger hearts so it’ll stand out more for this part. To paint the hearts, I bought some children’s craft paint from our local Tesco for 90p a bottle. I could hardly believe it when I saw both the 150ml and 300ml bottles were exactly the same price!

Using 2 of the wooden hearts, paint them in the colour(s) of your choice and let dry.

21. Paint a couple of coats on so the colour stands out more and the wood doesn’t show through as much.

Once they’re all dry, add your names (or initials) to one heart and your wedding date on the other.

22. To set the paint and writing in place, I quickly sprayed both hearts on their painted sides with the matte varnish I also bought for the glitter court shoes.

23. Taking out the coloured backing board from the frame, move your hearts around until you’ve decided where you want it to be. Once you’re happy, apply a small amount of glue (you can use white glue, but you might find superglue is better and stronger) to the back of the hearts and press down.

Once your hearts are glued on and you’ve replaced the coloured and frame backing boards, your DIY drop top wedding guestbook is ready to be used!

There was a lot of trial and error involved and I sometimes had to park the project for a bit because I forgot something or it wasn’t really working the way I thought it would, but I’ve only provided you with the steps that I followed and worked, so you shouldn’t need as much time as I did! All in all, it’s a pretty straightforward process and you should be able to finish it in one sitting if you’re really eager, or two if you want to finish the frame in one day and decorate it with the hearts on another.

I’m excited that the guestbook is ready for use at least and it’ll be safely stored in its bubble wrap until it’s ready to be taken out again in about 10 months time. I’m also pleased that in total, we were able to put the guestbook together ourselves saving on labour and only spending £45.80. For a more professional finish and expertise though, if you can afford to pay for the higher price, then I would definitely recommend it because the time spent by professionals perfecting the process does make the price of £270 from The Wedding Tree Company worth it.

What do you think of my DIY drop top guestbook? Would you use (or have you used) one of these guestbooks for your own special occasion?

If you decide to make your own DIY drop top guestbook, do share you photos and any tips/hints/stories about your experiences you’d like to share!

15 thoughts on “DIY wedding guestbook tutorial: the drop top guestbook

    1. I bought my wooden hearts on eBay so the size of each heart was listed (5cm x 5cm). I knew I wanted 100 hearts to fit in, so for 100 hearts, I would need the to be at least 100cm (20 hearts high) by 25cm (5 hearts across) for 20 rows of 5 hearts (total 100 hearts). If you know the size of your hearts, you can work out the size of the frame to see how many it would fit – so for my 24″ (60cm) x 18″ (45cm) frame, it would fit 12 rows of nine 5cm hearts, so I knew it would fit 108 hearts

  1. I really like this and would love to make one myself, Did you use a heavy duty drill or a small hand held one. Also what did you use the electric jigsaw drill for. If i have non of these drill else can i cut the slot for the hearts?
    IMany thank.

    1. Because of the size of the frame, the OH used a handheld drill. The electric jigsaw drill was more for cutting a slot out, but we didn’t have one so used an electric drill to make a line of holes so we can file out the required slot. You could always use a manual drill if you can source one, otherwise depending on the thickness of your frame, filing might take you a while to cut out the slot.

  2. For the readers in the USA, we also produce professional drop in guestbooks. It is a little more cost effective (no exchange rate, international shipping) compared to the UK sellers referenced in the post. We can also produce many drop in and center shapes along with taking custom requests.

  3. Hi! This is a great idea. I’m attempting to make this for my friend’s wedding. Is there a reason that you’re only factoring in half the width of the heart into your calculation?

    1. If you mean for the slot, it’s to make sure the heart fits exactly down the middle between the plastic glass and the backing. Your drill bit should be at least 4mm wide (no more than 5mm), so you’ll be leaving an exact amount of space for the heart to fit in between the glass and the backing (2mm in front of the line and 2mm behind the line gives you the width of the heart). If you went for the full 4mm behind the glass, you’ll have a big 2mm gap between the safety glass and the backing

  4. Cool , I’m a wood worker and have all the tools ,so it should’nt be very hard to make . Considering the price it cost to buy. This was one of my grand daughter idea.
    Thank you for the instructions…

    1. I haven’t used the guestbook yet, but depending on the measurements of your heart, you’ll need to calculate what size of frame you’ll need. I estimated mine to fit about 100, but we aren’t expecting that many to go in

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