Wedding guests can add the gift of gab when ‘signing’ an audio guestbook

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NEW YORK (AP) — The bridal couple can’t come to the phone right now. They’re busy getting married. Please leave your well wishes at the beep!

Capturing recorded messages on vintage phones is the latest twist to the wedding guestbook. Couples who have embraced them said guests had a ball, returning to the phones again and again as their weddings unfolded.

“It felt a little bit more personal. You could hear the inflection in people’s voices and they were genuinely having a good time. You can hear what they’re excited about and what they enjoyed about the wedding,” said Nick Gaines, who married last September in Chicago.

The market is crowded with companies offering the phones for purchase or rent, from fancy 1920s-era looks to rotaries from the ‘50s and ’60s. One vendor, FêteFone, offers a phone in the shape of pink lips and another shaped like a cheeseburger.

Some rental companies provide related services like noise reduction, and mini speakers and vinyl records for playback.

Gaines and his wife used LifeOnRecord, a rental service that’s been around since 2006. Its prices range from $99 for a toll-free, call-in number and online portal open for a year, to $299 for a phone on site with a battery pack good for 12 hours. Guests need only pick up the handset, listen to an introductory greeting from the couple and leave a message.

The phones play into a broader interest in recent years in all things retro in fashion, decor and housewares.

For several years, weddings have been LifeOnRecord’s most popular events, though people also use the company for an array of things, from terminally ill patients whose loved ones want to record memories to birthdays, bar mitzvahs and retirements.

Alaa El Ghatit, founder of LifeOnRecord, notes that people can talk a lot faster than they can write in a paper book.

“The phone is very approachable to people,” he said.

Sean Taylor and her husband married last year in Richmond, Virginia. They set up a blue photo booth adorned with flowers to offer guests some privacy while leaving messages. She first heard of the phones on TikTok and used a rental service called After the Tone.

“My husband is really into collecting records so we had them press the messages into vinyl,” she said. “I encouraged people to leave messages throughout the night. After a few drinks, the messages toward the end of the night are definitely a little more chaotic, but in a fun way.”

Taylor also offered guests the chance to put pen to paper in a traditional guestbook.

Andy White, founder of The Telephone Guestbook, offers phone rentals in the U.S. and England. He was providing photo services for events when he hit on the idea of audio guestbooks.

“I would say 95% of our business is now weddings,” he said. “Our business has grown significantly over the past two years.”

White provides cards with prompts in case guests have an attack of the shys or are otherwise stumped on what to talk about. The cards suggest things like funny tales, relationship stories, marriage advice and cherished memories.

“People love to talk. It’s easy to pick up a phone,” White said.

Some couples listen to their messages on their anniversaries or other special occasions.

East Coast wedding planner Danielle Rothweiler, whose clients spend a minimum of $100,000 on their nuptials, has been swamped with requests for audio guestbooks over the last two years. Most of her bridal couples don’t bother putting out a paper book as well.

“Guests coming to weddings want to see things that are different. No one is asking, where is the traditional guestbook?” said Rothweiler, who is based in Verona, New Jersey.

LifeOnRecord also offers QR codes for scanning if people want to use their own phones

“You’re able to tell stories and that’s what our guests liked about it,” said Abbigail Bliss, who got married in December 2022 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and used one of LifeOnRecord’s phones.

White, Rothweiler and others suggest doing what Taylor did and setting up the phone in a nook or booth slightly off the beaten track so people don’t feel rushed and have a bit of privacy.

Add-on kitsch like audio guestbooks aren’t for everybody. Several high-end wedding planners said they’re not getting a lot of requests.

“The audio guestbook trend is still fairly new, but we are seeing the activity pop up at more and more weddings,” said Hannah Nowack, senior editor at The Knot, an online wedding vendor marketplace.

“Over the years, we’ve seen couples leaning into personalization with their guest books,” she said. “In the past, guest book alternatives ranging from Polaroid guest books to vinyl records for signing have popped up at celebrations in lieu of traditional guest books. Audio guestbooks are the latest.”

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You can find Leanne Italie at http://twitter.com/litalie.

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