Escort Cards vs. Place Cards And Why You Need Them
So what's the difference between an escort card and place card anyway? If you're confused, you're not alone when it comes to differentiating the two. Often, these terms are used interchangeably on wedding blogs and sites like Pinterest, but they are different and serve important roles. We are breaking down the significance of both, plus detailing seating chart and meal indicator etiquette as well.
Place Cards versus Escorts Cards:
Although place cards and escort cards function similarly, they are used for different reasons and reflect the formality of the wedding. So what is the difference?
Escort Cards are used to only assign a guest to a specific table, but not to a specific seat. These cards notate a guests' name and corresponding table number only, allowing the guest to choose their own seat at the table assigned when they get there. These are used for informal or intimate weddings when guests are already familiar with one another.
Place cards are a bit more formal as they assign guests to a specific seat at a particular table. These cards allow the host to arrange the location of each guest at their table within the reception and are typically used for formal or large weddings when many guests are not acquainted with one another. The host will still need escort cards in addition to the place cards in order to direct guests to their assigned table. Place cards are pre-set above each place-setting and notate the guest's name and meal selection if applicable.
Seating charts have become pretty trendy over the last few years in place of escort cards. Personally, they are my favorite! They provide the same information as escort cards (guest name and table number), but are just a bit easier for guests to read since the board is larger, looks much more organized, can be less expensive then printing individual cards, and can create more stylish continuity with your wedding theme.
Word of advice...list guest's names alphabetically instead of by table number since alpha-order is how our brains have been trained to quickly scan information. Instead of guests searching 100 names to find their exact table, they will be able to find their name in a matter of seconds when in alpha-order.
Escort cards, seating charts, or place cards...which one do I need?
Do you have assigned tables?
If yes: You will need escort cards or a seating chart.
If no: Escort cards, a seating chart, or place cards are not necessary.
Do you have assigned seats?
If yes: You will need escort cards or seating chart + place cards.
If no: You will only need escort cards.
If you are serving a plated meal, your escort cards or place cards will need to notate each guests' meal selection in addition to the the guests' name and table number on the card. Even though your caterers will have a breakdown of the meal count and type of entrees at each table, a meal designator at each place setting allows servers to easily identify each guests' entree choice. This allows for smooth and quick serving and prevents guests from changing their minds on the spot.
If you aren't writing out the entree choice on the card, I suggest using symbols or bold colors to indicate meal choices clearly. Try not to use a combination of similar colors, for example gold, silver, and rose-gold, as servers won't be able to tell the difference in a dimly lit room or a reception under the stars. The notations can also be stickers (think mini carrot, mini cow, mini fish), symbols or shapes), or a completely different escort cards to associate with entree choice, such as the photo below (starfish versus sand dollars to notate which meal selection the guest requested).
What kind of card should I use with our serving style?
Plated: You will need escort cards or seating chart + place cards.
Buffet or Stations: You will need escort cards or seating chart only.
Cocktail Style: No escort cards, seating chart, or place cards are necessary.