What they are and what you actually need
My couples and I talk a lot about seating at wedding receptions and what the best possible way to communicate seating to guests is.
The good news: Styling your seating arrangements can be really fun.
The bad news: It can also be easy to let this be an underwhelming detail and it does take a little work to make this a standout detail for your wedding.
First, let’s talk about exactly what all of this is.
What Exactly Are Place Cards, Seating Charts, and Escort Cards For Weddings?
Let’s talk about place cards first. Place cards are exactly that, cards—or another item—that are at every single guest’s specific place setting. These are generally left on the plate at the table they are assigned.
These don’t have to be cards necessarily and can be something else as it relates to the wedding. They can be made out of leaves, marble, slabs of wood, acrylic, etc. But they all have the guest’s name on them. I have even seen the menu personalized with the guest’s name so that the two are combined.
A seating display is a chart that shows your guests where and with whom they will be seated.
To personalize you can make them out of wood or glass, use picture frames, and coordinate them with your wedding color palette and design. The options are endless.
Escort cards are items that your guests are physically taking with them to their designated tables. These “cards” usually have their name and table number on them. The guest can place them on their plate to claim their seat.
Escort cards are fun! You can keep them super simple or combine these with favors. I have seen mugs, candles, magnets, and blankets as escort cards. I even had clients who gave their guests copper mugs to use all night at a Moscow mule bar—this is still a fan favorite.
When Do You Need Place Cards, Seating Charts, and Escort Cards for Weddings?
Let’s talk for a moment about assigned seating at receptions. Should you have assigned seating or not?
Assigned Seating Vs. Assigned Tables
My opinion is that at most weddings, with the exception of very small, intimate ones, you should have assigned tables, not necessarily assigned seats.
You can do assigned seats for the wedding party and close family if you would like but generally, assigning people to a table is good enough. Assigning exact seats can be a bit extreme and may cause frustration with guests.
Why is it necessary to assign tables? Because people don’t like to NOT know where they are going.
Think through what your guest’s experience may be when entering a reception without an assigned table…. You are at a 200+ person wedding, you know about 15 people (maybe), and you walk into a large room and are told to pick your table.
It’s going to feel overwhelming. And inevitably, the table where your friends are sitting is going to be full or you and your boyfriend will have to be split up because there are no double seats remaining.
Don’t do this to your guest.
Even beyond your guest’s experience, when people don’t have assigned tables, they are more likely to move seating around to fit more people in or groups of friends/family may have to be split up. Without assigned seats, people will tend to sit unevenly around the room which just leaves a less cohesive look to the reception.
Not having assigned tables just causes more chaos for both you and your guests.
So take it from my experience, assigning tables is the way to go.
When You Need What
Now let’s talk about when you need what in terms of place cards, seating charts, and escort cards for weddings.
First, you don’t need all three.
Generally, if you are doing assigned seating, you’ll want place cards along with a seating chart that directs guests to the right table. You can’t expect guests to wander from table to table looking for their seat, so make sure you have a seating display.
If you are just assigning tables you can decide between a seating chart or escort cards. You don’t need both necessarily. For assigned tables, the seating chart will just list who is sitting at what table. If you are using an escort card, the escort “card” will have their name and table number on it, allowing them to take it to their table to reserve their seat.
How to Design the Perfect Place Card, Seating Chart, or Escort Card
This is an area I see skimped on time and time again when, in reality, it’s a design piece that, with a little bit of thought, can be really impactful and fun. It gives your reception a statement and your guests just one more glance at the overall look and feel of your wedding celebrations.
The rules are pretty simple when it comes to how to design the perfect place card, seating chart, or escort card for your wedding.
Make it fun and unique to you!
Think big, think fun, and think you! Throw the boring out the window for this one. I promise it is worth the extra work.
Don’t just have a big board for a seating chart.
It’s easy to just make a big board for the seating chart and call it a day. Don’t do this, please. Challenge yourself to make this something special and beautiful. It can be simple and elegant, just put a little effort into it.
Combine your favor with it.
I have another blog post about wedding favors and in it I talk about how favors are so often forgotten at weddings.
One way to avoid this is to make your favor your place card or escort card! This is such a fantastic way to make a statement and give your guests something they will actually love.
Look on Pinterest
Like all wedding professionals, I have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. But I definitely agree you should look on Pinterest to get ideas if you are stuck on what to do.
As your browse Pinterest, think about how you can enhance the overall design you have already put into play.
Now Go Have Fun!
This really is one of my favorite details to design for a wedding and I know you are going to have a blast with it!
Let me know, in the comments below, what your favorite design for place cards, seating charts, or escort cards for weddings are!