Once you've decided on your wedding guest list, collected R.S.V.P.s, and — the most intimidating part — put together your table assignments, it's time to let guests know where they'll be sitting. That's where escort cards come in.
Unlike place cards, which you leave on each table to let guests know exactly which chair to sit in, escort cards are all placed on a single table (or hand-written on a mirror or printed on a sign, among other creative ideas) and include each guest or couple's name as well as the table they'll be heading to for your wedding reception dinner. Sounds easy, right? Well, it can be! There are a few unexpected bumps you may find along the way that can make the wedding escort card process way harder than it needs to be, so we turned to Rachelle Schwartz, co-owner of Wiley Valentine, for some straight-from-the-stationer tips.
Meet the Expert
Rachelle Schwartz is the co-owner of Wiley Valentine, where she works with brides and top planners to provide high-quality finished products for weddings.
Quantity is Key
While you would need a place card for every one of your guests, escort cards are typically per couple or per family. "Plan on the number of cards being approximately half your total guest count, plus a few extras for guests that were invited solo," says Schwartz. "If you're having a calligrapher write the names and table numbers on each card, check with them to see how many extras they require [to cover smudged cards or spelling errors] — typically 10-15% of your total." An easy way to get your total number of cards needed is to create a spreadsheet of each couple (instead of each individual guest) with their names in one column and the table number in another, then count from there.
You should also have some blank cards on-hand once the calligraphy is done to allow for any last-minute changes, such as a guest whose date can no longer attend or a change in table number.
Keep it Legible
"When you're choosing a font or calligraphy style, make sure the writing on the escort cards is legible," Schwartz advises. "You don't want to end up with everyone crowded around the table, trying to find their name written in tiny, overly-decorative script!" She also advises choosing a card design where the names are easily viewable, so guests can swing by the table and grab their card.
Alphabetize by Last Name
While you might be inclined to group your escort cards by table assignment instead of name, this can actually make things a little harder. Provide your calligrapher with a list of names and tables sorted by last name so your cards come back in as close to alphabetical order as possible. This will make it much easier to arrange the cards on your wedding day! "I also advise having larger seating charts organized by last name, as well," says Schwartz. "If you have over 50 guests, it will be much easier for them to find their table if they can spot their name alphabetically instead of trying to read who is seated at each table." However, for a smaller group (where you'll have many fewer tables to deal with), putting together a seating chart sorted by table, with the list of names at each table in alphabetical order, can work great.
Whether you're short on time or money, digital calligraphy (i.e. having the cards printed instead of hand-written) is a great alternative. "Check with your stationer to see if they offer this option, and if they can help you design something that coordinates with your invitation suite," Schwartz suggests. If you're hoping for something more involved, like letterpress or thermography instead of just flat printing, you may need to make this decision earlier on in the process so you can allow enough time for printing and cutting.
Cut Down on Clutter
"Sometimes venues require place cards in addition to escort cards so they know what each guest has selected as their meal," says Schwartz. "You could have a second card, in the same design as the escort card, placed at each guest's seat, but that can turn into a lot of things on the table." Instead, she recommends having the menus double as place cards, with guests' names written or printed at the top of the menu, with an icon indicating their meal choice in the corner.