Updated: Sep 7
One of the most common questions I get asked is how seating should be displayed. How will guests find their seats? Do I need place cards? What's the difference between a place card and an escort card? Many brides often don't realize they may need place cards up until right before the wedding and then find themselves scrambling or paying more for a rush order.
My favorite rule: Catered = Card.
How seating should be displayed really all depends on how your meal is being served. Is it being catered? You need a card (place or escort) because these have meal choice indicators on them. Catering staff needs to see which guest gets which plate.
So, what's the difference?
Located: outside the entrance of the reception hall or in the cocktail hour area.
Contents: first name, last name, table number, meal choice indicator
Table assigned: yes
Seat assigned: no
Guests will find their card and take it to their assigned table. Think- the card is "escorting" them to their table.
Located: on each person's place setting. Usually in front of plate or on top of the actual plate/napkin
Contents: first name, meal choice indicator
Table assigned: no
Seat assigned: yes
Guests will find their card at their table and sit in that seat. Think- the card is at their "place" setting.
Located: outside of the reception entrance or in cocktail hour area
Contents: first name, last name, table number
Table assigned: yes
Seat assigned: no
As you can see, escort cards are basically place cards and seating charts combined. This is a great option for people on a budget.
A lot of brides get bummed because they're on a budget but like both place cards and seating charts. BUT, you can make a gorgeous escort card display- they do not need to be boring cards on a table! There are SO many ways to get creative with this.
Catered and on a budget= escort cards
Catered and not on a budget= seating chart and escort cards
Buffet and on a budget= seating chart
Buffet and not on a budget= seating chart and place cards (place cards just for looks and to elevate your tablescape- just put their first name only on it!)
Tips & things to consider-
If you want to assign seating, you MUST do place cards
If you are totally against assigning the seats but you're catered, just do a pretty escort card display
Do you guests have a lot of allergies or food sensitivities? Mark this on your place card/escort card OR if buffet make it clear on the food labels. (Don't forget to include this question on the RSVP card!)
Keep in mind- You cannot JUST have place cards unless it's a micro wedding/event under 25 people. Otherwise, all 200 of your guests would be looking for their name at every single table and it would be a madhouse. Therefore, if you want place cards, you'll need a seating chart OR just turn the place cards into escort cards.
If your guest count is over 130, it is best to list your guests in alphabetical order. This will prevent a line forming because it will take people a minute to find their name. They can find it quickly when in alphabetical.
One con of having an escort card is that when people take it to their seats, they may not realize it needs to go in front of their plate so catering staff can see. Many times they get put in pockets or are underneath napkins, appetizer plates, etc. I would suggest a small sign with the escort cards requesting to take the card and put in front of their plate.
Is your reception outside? Make sure your place card isn't paper or they'll be flying away. Great options are acrylic place cards or some other heavier material.
MAKE THE MEAL CHOICE OBVIOUS! Catering staff does not want to be squinting looking for a small C in the corner of a place card. There are SO many ways to get creative with meal choice indicators to really catch catering staff's attention.
Make the place cards pretty with hand-lettering and other fun add-ons that go with your wedding aesthetic. Guests LOVE seeing their name in hand-lettering/calligraphy and most people take them home as a little keepsake.