I often get a blank stare when I mention “escort card” and “place card” in the same sentence.
It’s understandable. Unless you grew up attending formal soirees (or had a grandma who was a stickler for formal customs at holidays), you likely have never heard of the difference. If you’ve heard both phrases mentioned before, you may have believed the two to be synonymous. Each serves a very different purpose, however.
From escort card etiquette to place card ideas, scroll on for my exclusive Escort and Place Cards 101!
What’s the difference between an escort card and a place card?
For the record, it’s easy to get confused here. Some sources state that an escort card and place card are the same thing – but with different implied formalities. These sources describe both escort cards and place cards as a means to tell guests at which table they’re sitting and are placed near the reception entrance. Furthermore, these sources state that escort cards are more formal and may have an outer envelope with name and inner card with table number, while place cards are less formal and are usually tented cards. The level of formality at your wedding would dictate which to use.
However, I’ve long understood escort cards and place cards to be two totally different things, and I’ve written this post with the following in mind:
An escort card serves the purpose of telling guests at which table they will find their seats, while a place card tells guests at which seat they’re sitting around the table.
When in doubt in the future, consider the names! Escort cards escort you to your table, and place cards show you your place at the table.
When do I need escort cards and place cards at my wedding?
You only need escort cards and place cards if you’re hosting a medium to large reception with assigned seating. First, decide which guests you’d like seated at which tables, and then create the place cards and escort cards to reflect your plans.
Hot tip: Write the table number in small print on the back of each place card so that it’s easy to divvy up when prepping the reception tables.
Do I have to use escort cards and place cards at my wedding?
You can avoid using either if you plan to nix assigned seating in general at your wedding. However, I only suggest foregoing cards if your wedding reception will be small – think 50 or fewer guests. Otherwise, I do suggest escort cards (and place cards!) for a number of reasons. To name a few, escort and place cards take the drama and uncertainty out of finding a seat for your guests, help control who sits nearest to you on the big day (Mom and Dad will want the best seats in the house!), and encourage guests to find their seats quickly to prepare for your grand entrance to the party.
Where should I place my escort cards and place cards?
Escort cards should be arranged near the reception entrance and very easy to spot. If you believe guests may arrive at generally the same time, do not place your escort card arrangement so close to the reception entrance that it causes a line to form outside the building!
Place cards should be set at each place setting around your tables to indicate where each guest should sit.
How should I arrange my escort cards?
Make it easy for your guests to find their seats by arranging your escort cards in alphabetical order by last name. While this is a fabulous area to decorate for your guests, try not to clutter your escort card table with so much that it takes a long time to find guests’ names.
How should I address my escort cards?
Rather than create an escort card for every guest (like you would with place cards), create an escort card for each party if seated at the same table. Use the following for examples:
Married Couple: Mr. and Mrs. John Smith
Single with Unnamed Guest: Miss Jane Doe and Guest
Unmarried Couple: Ms. Jane Doe and Mr. John Smith
Family: The Smith Family
I only want to assign tables. Do I have to use place cards too?
I suggest place cards unless you’re opting for a very small wedding with 50 or fewer guests.
In theory, as long as guests know which table they should sit at, you can be fairly confident that everyone will sit at the appropriate place. Do be prepared to have a few seating mishaps if you leave out the place cards, however! Mistakes happen, and Aunt Gertrude might just plop down at Table 6 instead of Table 9 and not realize her blunder until another guest arrives for his or her seat. And then there’s always the unexpected guest who RSVP’d with regrets but shows up and takes a seat promised to someone else (yet doesn’t know it because you left out the place cards!). In any negative scenario, you risk putting your guests in an embarrassing situation.
Are there alternatives to using escort cards and place cards for my wedding reception?
Weddings are ultimately a reflection of who you are and what you want your guests to experience, so you can always nix the formalities of cards and opt for something more creative! The most popular alternative to escort cards is a seating chart. Do be mindful that this could cause a traffic jam at the reception entrance, though, since guests won’t be able to find their names quite as easily as with an alphabetized escort card list.
What other questions do you have about escort cards and place cards?
Ask me in the comments below!
Featured image courtesy of Christen Jones Photography.