Congratulations! You finally finished the dreaded seating chart. While you may have thought that figuring out the seating arrangement for your reception was going to be difficult, you probably just realized that tackling the wedding signage comes with its own set of nuances and challenges. Like maintaining a delightful visual continuity while still coming up with refreshing ideas. Or, here's a good one: What the heck is the difference between a wedding escort card and a place card? They're exactly the same, right? Right? Well, actually the answer is that they're a little bit the same but actually quite different. Still confused? Don't worry, we're here to help.
Read on for our breakdown of place cards and escort cards as well as when, and if, to use each one. Once you understand the difference, you can kill the signage game once and for all.
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 it also points each guest to his or her particular seat at the table. To achieve this, they are traditionally placed at each table to denote each guest's, you guessed it, place.
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. Place cards can be purchased along with the rest of your wedding stationery, sourced from independent stationers or calligraphers, or found on marketplaces like Etsy. You can also take the DIY route and either print out pre-made templates or write out your own. Place cards (as well as escort cards) are usually sold in sets ranging from $1 to $6 per card, with larger sets contributing to a smaller price per card.
What Are Wedding Escort Cards?
Escort cards are the informal sibling of place cards. They direct guests to a table rather than a seat. Once guests get to their table, they're free to choose their own seats if there are no place cards. Escort cards are usually all placed in a grouping just before the entrance to the dining area so guests find their table for the night. Similar to place cards, escort cards can be purchased as part of your wedding stationery suite, sourced from marketplaces like Etsy, or handcrafted for an extra-special touch. Neither escort cards nor place cards need to be cards, and many unique couples opt for alternatives, such as flowers or fruit.
Oftentimes, couples have both escort cards and place cards, but it's totally fine to skip place cards and only opt for escort cards.
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, people 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.