Caryl Burtner's collection of brides' signatures began in 1978, when her cousin Sherrie Jackman married a man with the surname "Punko." This was during the heyday of punk rock, and Caryl thought that Punko was a very amusing last name. At the wedding reception she asked Sherrie to sign her new name, right on the paper tablecloth, so that they could see what it looked like. They realized then that this small obscure act marked a momentous transition - in this case, from living in the safe, familiar world of "Jackman," to the newer, wilder shores of being "Punko."
Caryl began collecting these brides' first signatures as a way of recording this important moment of change. In some cases this metamorphosis would be taken in stride. But on other occasions the significance of this small event would surprise the bride herself - in the act of writing her new name she would realize that now, in a sense, she was somebody else.