A PLACE CARD is just that: a card with a guest’s name on it that is positioned at a specific place setting on a table. If you are using place cards at your reception, then each individual guest at the table should receive a place card.
Traditional place cards are tented cards. But ANYTHING that can be written on can be used as a place card. Sand dollars, magnolia leaves, small mirrors, even ping-pong balls (which I did for a fabulous bar mitzvah last year). A wedding favor with an individual guest’s name on the tag can do double duty as a place card. The sky is the limit.
An ESCORT CARD includes the guest’s name AND their table assignment (either a table number or a table name). Escort cards are used in lieu of a table seating chart. If you’re having a large reception, using escort cards will prevent a log jam of guests trying to find their names on a single seating chart!
Escort cards are displayed alphabetically near the entrance to the reception venue. Guests retrieve their card to find out their assigned table. Tented escort cards can be displayed on a table top. Flat escort cards or tags can be pinned or clipped to a decorative board. I’ve seen whimsical displays of escort cards pinned to clotheslines, and elegant displays of escort cards dangling from tree branches and large floral arrangements. Many brides affix their escort cards to their wedding favors – which are displayed creatively. Just like place cards, anything that can be written on can be used as an escort card! Brides are very creative these days.
You can use individual escort cards – one for each guest. Or couples (or even families with young children) can be included on a single escort card. Both types of escort cards (individual or couples) are considered “proper.” As a professional, I personally prefer the look of individual escort card displays because the names on the cards are more uniform & balanced.
Some clients use small envelopes as escort cards – with table assignment cards tucked inside. The beauty of this type of escort card is the table assignment cards can be switched around as often as necessary before the event. How brilliant! If you have table assignments written on the bottom or on the back of an escort card, or on the inside of a tented escort card, then a few of the cards will have to be redone if there are some last-minute changes to the table assignments.
If you use escort cards, then you do not have to use place cards. Your guests may sit wherever they wish at their assigned tables! However, some clients wish to assign seats and, therefore, also use place cards. Some reception venues require place cards to indicate entrée selection. Keep in mind that escort cards with individual names (not couples) can be used as place cards as well! Your guests can put their individual escort card at the place setting where they wish to sit at their assigned table – and the escort card then essentially becomes a place card. Individual escort cards can indicate entrée selection, just like a place card.
What’s the best format for the names on place cards & escort cards?
In my professional opinion, the very best format for a place card & escort cards is first & last name only (no titles): “Samantha Jones,” “Donald Draper.” Not using titles is not considered less formal. If you are having a very formal reception, then I recommend using “Benjamin” instead of “Ben,” “Rebecca” instead of “Becky,” etc. The names are much easier to read without titles, and are easier to balance on the cards, making them very appealing to the eye. When your escort cards have been displayed alphabetically, it is much easier for your guests to spot their names without titles. If you are including couples on the same card, then I recommend for couples with the same last name that the woman’s name appear first (“Mary & John Wilson”) – per traditional etiquette. Another bonus if you forego titles: instead of “Mr. & Mrs. James Jones,” your card will reflect the woman’s first name as well as the man’s first name: “Sarah & James Jones.”
For couples with different last names, you may put the person to whom you are closest first on the escort card (your best friend, family member, etc.). However, escort cards can look cluttered with multiple first & last names. So if you’ve invited lots of couples with different last names, then that’s another reason to consider individual escort cards. Aesthetics are important! Yes, escort cards serve a very important function (getting guests to their table), but they are also a way to show your fabulous style to your guests!
For smaller affairs, first-name-only place cards (“Judy,” “Thomas,” etc.) add a very personal touch.
My venue requires place cards with entrée selection. What’s the best way to indicate entrée selection on a place card or individual escort card?
Use no special designation for the most popular entrée (usually beef)—no added bling or indicator; just the plain card with name (and table assignment, for an escort card).
Then, for other entrées (chicken, fish, vegetarian), you can affix some bling in the corner of the place card or individual escort card. Examples of bling: very small flat metal squares or circles (from your local scrapbook store); or small crystals or other decorative element. You can affix one bling for chicken; two blings for fish, etc. I have found that using a single bling in different colors to indicate entrée choice (blue for fish, green for vegetarian, for example) is far less effective than the “1-bling, 2-bling” method. Wait staff can more readily read the number of blings than the color of blings (especially in candlelight).
Some clients have affixed different colors of ribbon to their cards to indicate entrée. You can also use different colors or patterns of paper for place cards (or individual escort cards) in order to indicate entrée choice – as long as the color or pattern differences are easily discernible.
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I hope this information on escort cards & place cards is helpful to you! If you have any questions, please let me know. – Calligraphy by Carrie