A Guide to Escort Cards

Escort cards take the place of a well-heeled usher and guide your guests to their tables. This guide will break down how to use escort cards to the fullest.

By Emily Forrest

A Guide to Escort Cards
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

  • Escort cards direct wedding guests to their intended table. Less formal than a place card, they don’t assign guests to specific seats but are often placed on a table near the wedding reception entrance.
  • It helps to ensure the table signage is legible and the escort card table is placed in a highly visible area.
  • You can fold the escort cards into tents or even origami shapes. You can also attach escort cards to useful items like a packet of wildflower seeds, wine glasses, or sunglasses.
  • Get all the help you need with escort cards (and so much more) with Zola, the wedding experts!

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After all of that conferring with your partner about who should sit with whom, you want to make sure your guests find their seats with plenty of ease (and no confusion at all).

So, how do you bring your seating arrangements to life so that everyone knows where to go? This is where escort cards will come in and save the day. If you’ve never used escort cards, we’ll go over:

Allow us to (ahem) escort you to the ways and wonders of escort cards.

What Are Escort Cards?

Escort cards are little cards displayed at a wedding reception (usually at a table near the venue entrance). They feature a guest’s name and designated table assignment so wedding guests know where to go right away.

Think of escort cards as a well-heeled usher who will guide your guests to their tables. Almost as if they’re escorting the guests to their assigned seating arrangements (get it?).

Escort Cards vs. Place Cards: When to Use Them and How

Escort cards and place cards are sometimes used interchangeably when talking about wedding arrangements, so the terminology can get confusing. While they more or less serve the same purpose (getting your guests in their seats and ready for a good time), there are a few differences between a place card and an escort card.

Let’s break them down.

Escort cards:

  • Direct your guests to their table number and not a specific seat.
  • Are more informal than place cards, since they don’t assign an exact place.
  • Can usually be set up on a table or display near the entrance to the wedding reception.

Place cards:

  • Indicate the exact place the guest will be seated.
  • Are usually set up on a place setting at the table or by a specific seat.

Depending on the specificity of your seating arrangements, you can use either escort or place cards. If your seating chart describes who sits next to whom, you can use wedding place cards (and escort cards, too). If your seating arrangements have guests sitting in specific groups (and not specific chairs), you can just use escort cards.

If you decide to use both, an escort card can be helpful in directing your guests to their table before they figure out their specific seats. That way, you can avoid a traffic jam of guests stopping at every place looking for their name by redirecting them to their own tables first.

Are Escort and Place Cards Really Necessary?

If you’re having a smaller or more informal wedding, you might decide to eschew the headache of a seating arrangement altogether, but even tiny gatherings can use a little direction. That’s where the more flexible organization of a wedding escort card may come in handy.

Organizing your guests by tables can be useful for:

  • Evenly dispersing your guests for balance in group photos and wedding videos.
  • Figuring out exactly how many tables, chairs, linens, and place settings you need.
  • Avoiding the added cost of empty seats and underpopulated tables.
  • Helping your wedding venue caterers figure out who ordered what if you provided different meal options.

On this last point, some venues may require you to have place settings so that their catering service can unobtrusively carry out their jobs without mixing up meal choices. Imagine if you were served your Aunt Rosa’s vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and salt-free meal choice instead of the filet mignon you’ve been looking forward to for months. That tastes like a disaster that can be easily averted with place cards and escort cards.

In the end, whether you use escort or place cards is up to you, but if you have a seating arrangement, they’re indispensable to carrying out your plan flawlessly.

How to Use Escort Cards to Effectively Execute Your Seating Arrangement

Escort cards are your chance to direct your friends and family onto the path to a wonderful night, but if they aren’t used effectively, they can be a source of confusion instead.

Here are some pro tips to making the most of your escort cards:

  • Clearly label escort card paper with first and last names: Avoid any mix-ups between Riley from work and Riley, your eight-year-old niece by listing full names on escort cards.
  • Make sure that your numbering system is easily understandable: Nix the Roman numerals and always underline your 9’s so they don’t get confused with 6’s.
  • Alphabetize your escort cards: Make it easy for your guests to find their names by arranging them on a table alphabetically.
  • Provide clear signage: Your tables should have clear corresponding signage that shows exactly which table number or letter it is. If your guests include relatives or friends whose English is a little rusty, make sure that the signage is offered in all of your families’ languages.
  • Use in conjunction with place cards: If you have a more formal seating arrangement, you can use both place cards and escort cards so that people can double-check that they’re at the right table.
  • Take advantage of your seating arrangement: Blow up your seating arrangement into a larger display so that people can refer to the floor plan when consulting their escort cards to figure out where their tables are.

Keep these tenets in mind, even if you go out of the box with your inspirational escort cards. Don’t let your imagination get in the way of all the work you put into perfecting your seating arrangements.

Tip: Elevate your escort cards with a lovely holder. The little detail will make the escort card feel extremely chic. Find your perfect holder (and all kinds of other beautiful wedding decorations) at Zola’s boutique.

15 Ways to Get Creative With Your Escort Cards

Once you’ve finalized your seating plan, you can transform it into beautiful displays that are as decorative as they are useful.

#1 Tented Escort Cards

Tented escort cards are a popular go-to format because they provide a bit of multi-dimensional intrigue as well as the fact that they are easier to pick up off the table than a flat piece of paper. You want to make sure traffic moves quickly in the reception area and keep people from holding up the line as they try to grab their card.

Tented cards are also useful because you can have useful information, such as the table number, tucked inside without interrupting the beautifully designed names on the front. You can dress escort cards with elegant calligraphy or colorful designs that match the theme of your wedding. Add gold trimming for the Roaring ‘20s or glue tiny sprigs of lavender for springtime weddings.

Tip: Do you have a design you absolutely love and want present from your Save the Dates to your Thank You notes? Zola’s wedding stationary builder allows you to upload your own designs onto a variety of paper styles. Create a paper suite devoted to your special day (and don’t forget to add a little sparkle with our custom foil options!).

#2 Raise Your Glasses With These Escort Cards

This escort card display makes clever use of beautiful glassware by doubling as escort cards. Hang decorative flags with your guests’ names and table numbers off empty champagne flutes that they’ll use for the many toasts to the happy couple in the night ahead.

You can tie the card to the glass with:

  • A bit of twine for a rustic feel.
  • A delicate strip of lace for a classic wedding day vibe.
  • Brightly colored ribbon to tie in your wedding colors.
  • Braided copper wire for an edgy modern wedding.

Wine glass tags or markers can also double as escort cards. Bonus: with these, you’ll never have to worry about drinking out of someone else’s lipsticked glass by mistake.

#3 Wax Sealed Thank You Letters

Address envelopes with your guests’ designated tables and decorate them with wax seals for a unique finish. If you have monograms designed for the wedding, use a custom stamp to show it off.

These envelopes also make the perfect opportunity for you to get a head start on your thank you notes for the attendance of your nearest and dearest on this special day.

Tip: With a little help from Zola, your Thank You notes can feel as touching as your wedding vows. Browse our hundreds of customizable designs to find a Thank You note that speaks to your day. You can even upload favorite photos of the wedding space (or yourselves) to the notes for a thank you note that feels more like a treasured keepsake.

#4 Strike a Match With Your Guests

Personalized matchbooks are a unique way to display your escort cards, but why not turn up the heat and make this a two-part wedding favor? The matchbooks will lead your guests to the candle favors at their designated seats personalized with each of their names.

Take home your wedding’s signature scent and reminisce over good times with the strike of each match.

#5 The Name in the Bottle

For a beach wedding or nautical-themed wedding, these tiny glasses with slips of the guests’ names and table numbers are the perfect little memento. Fill them with grains of sand, gold leaf, beach glass, or seashells for some extra decoration.

#6 Make a Wish With Origami Cranes

According to Japanese tradition, the completion of folding 1,000 paper cranes, or a senbazuru, will grant good fortune, happiness, or a wish by the gods. While you might not have 1,000 wedding guests, strings of origami cranes with your guests’ names and seating numbers can make a stunning hanging display.

Origami cranes make beautiful and colorful decorations that can be a part of your larger wedding decor, as well. If you like, you could arrange a fun activity by providing stacks of origami paper and instructions and encouraging your guests to fold one to make a wish for the happy couple.

#7 Keep Your Guests Refreshed with Escort Bottles

In long, exciting events like wedding ceremonies and receptions, it’s important to keep hydrated. Why not make sure your guests always have some liquid on hand with personalized bottles of refreshment?

Colorful bottles of sparkling water or cider make attractive displays, and you can always hang little tags off the neck if you don’t want to go through the effort of designing and creating individual name labels.

#8 Plant the Seeds for a Happy Future

Plants are all the rage these days, and every plant parent has a hard time adding another member to the family. They make the perfect wedding favor, but can they escort you to your seats, too? Use plant markers or wooden labels to indicate your guests’ names and seating assignments. Are potted plants too unwieldy for your venue space? Small packets of seeds provide the perfect surface for seating assignments without taking up as much space.

Here’s a tip: Pick hardy plants that can survive the drive home, or that require minimal care for new plant parents. Ivy, pothos, or spider plants are excellent no-fuss options. If you have a desert-themed wedding, succulents or cacti are popular gift choices, too.

#9 Set Up a Hanging Light Display for Your Escort Cards

Avoid traffic jams at the wedding venue entrance by setting up a hanging display along a long stretch of wall or empty area so that guests can spread out while they look for their escort cards. Use twine and wooden clothespins to hang your cards for a more rustic look, or ribbons and rose gold clips for something more elegant and romantic.

Light up your entire aerial display with tiny fairy lights for an extra bit of twinkling allure, and turn it into a gorgeous backdrop for photos and selfies.

#10 Photo Seating Arrangements

Are there tons of photos floating around of you and your loved ones? Repurpose them into a charming visual display by writing each guest’s name and table number on the back or bottom of their photo.

Print all your photos in black and white so that they match better, or use a printing service that can turn them into polaroids for a retro aesthetic. There are lots of ways to display photo seating arrangements, from colorful binder clips to tiny metal stands and recycled wine corks. If you frame them, they also make special keepsakes.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and what better way to bring up happy memories than to have physical prints of those captured on film?

#11 Personalized Coasters

Coasters are a popular choice for wedding favors, but if you inscribe them with your guest’s name, they become a much more special gift.

Extra bonus: with just a little sticker or removable label on the back, it can also do double duty by pointing your friends and families to their respective tables.

If you choose geometric shapes or something that fits together like a puzzle, the coasters can be organized into an aesthetically pleasing display that welcomes your guests in.

#12 For Destination Weddings

If you’re having a destination wedding or travel works into the theme of your reception, escort cards are the perfect place to bring out the jet setting theme:

  • Turn your escort cards into paper airplanes and suspend them as a part of the decor.
  • Include escort cards as a part of mini-wedding passports that will include important information to the day’s festivities, including your seat number, the wedding program, and the wedding menu card.
  • Print custom postcards focusing on one particular landmark or view for each table. Then, write the name of your wedding guest on the cards. That way, guests can send these handy little escort cards to their friends to say “Don’t you wish you were at this awesome wedding?”

#13 For Outdoor Weddings

Whether you’re having your wedding on the beach or in a garden, outdoor weddings mean sun. Give your wedding guests direction and a fun way to beat the heat or glare with a few thoughtful versions of an escort card:

  • Hang colorful sunglasses with your guests’ names written on the side of the frames at their table.
  • Make fun paper fans labeled with the table number and you and your partner’s names and wedding date.

#14 Preserve Between Glass

If you’re an artsy DIY type, pressed flowers and leaves on paper are a great way to add more flora to your wedding stationery. Add the guests’ names and table assignments to the bottom and put them in decorative frames to turn them into creative escort cards.

#15 Sky Lanterns

Sky lanterns are used in festivals and celebrations in Asia and other parts of the world and they make a breathtaking sight glowing against the night sky. Give each of your guests a sky lantern kit with their names and table assignments, and a marker so that they can write their own wishes for fortune or happiness on the side.

Check your local laws before you plan on a lantern lighting ceremony, since they are illegal in some areas due to fire hazards. If you do incorporate sky lanterns, make sure that you follow safety protocols.

Guide Your Guests to Your Incredible Wedding at Zola

With so many elements to a wedding, it can be easy for something to slip through the cracks. Don’t let your carefully laid seating plans go to waste. Add escort cards to your to-dos on Zola’s wedding planning checklist so that you can figure out which options are right for your special day.

Still figuring out the guest list? Use Zola’s guest list manager to keep track of everyone you need to seat. When you get to making up your escort cards or place cards, that list will come in handy to ensure that everyone has a spot, so that you don’t have to worry on your big day about finding an extra chair. Your guests will have a blast and you’ll be able to sit back and soak in the victory of a conflict-free night surrounded by the company of your loved ones.

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