Wedding escort cards vs. place cards: at first glance the two terms appear synonymous, they're actually not — and for anyone planning a wedding, you'll need to understand the difference.
What are Wedding Place Cards?
While both escort and place cards designate where each guest will be seated at a wedding reception, place cards are more specific — and also more formal — than escort cards. A place card not only directs guests to the table where each will sit during the reception, but also points each guest to his or her particular seat at the table.
If you're having a sit-down dinner reception and serving different menu options, most venues will require you to have place cards. Why? You'll need to subtly mark them (by color or accent) to indicate who's getting chicken and who's getting fish.
What are Wedding Escort Cards?
Escort cards are the more informal sibling of place cards, and direct guests to a table rather than a seat. Once guests get to their table, if there are no place cards, they're free to choose their own seats. Oftentimes, couples have both escort cards and place cards, but it's totally fine to skip place cards and only opt for escort cards if you'd prefer guests to seat themselves once they get to their table.
Do I Really Need Either?
While it's theoretically possible to skip both escort cards, table cards and a seating chart altogether, it's not necessarily a good idea. Why? You'll end up needing more tables, as guests will tend to seat themselves unevenly — with no guidance, even as to what table to sit at, people will tend to spread out and leave a few empty seats at most tables. This, of course, will necessitate having extra tables — and more tables means more chairs, more centerpieces, more linens, and, of course, more money spent. On top of the increased cost, you'll still end up with tables peppered with empty seats, which isn't the best look for wedding photos.
Still, if you're having a truly informal backyard-style wedding where seating is ample and scattered, forgoing both escort and place cards can work. But for sit-down and buffet receptions in a venue with a traditional layout, it'll likely end in seating confusion that could have easily been avoided.