No wedding planning is complete without figuring out the seating, and the best way to stick to the seating arrangement is with wedding place cards. Wedding place cards, while physically pretty small, are an incredibly important part of a wedding reception. Not only do place cards serve as sentimental decor and sometimes even double as favors, but they act as crowd control and a home base for your guests during the after-ceremony festivities.
If you’re wondering how to make wedding place cards, what your place cards need to include, and the best way to go about selecting your wedding place cards, you’re in the right place! We’re breaking down every single thing you need to know about place cards so that you—and your guests—can celebrate stress-free on the special day.
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When you think of wedding etiquette, you probably know not to wear a white dress to the event, and that it’s customary to bring a gift, but you might not have considered place card etiquette too. From how to address names on your cards, to where to place them, to whether or not you should even have them, here’s all the wedding place card etiquette you could ever need to know.
Need a refresher or you’re here to learn the basics of wedding place cards? Below, we’re outlining all the wedding place card details possible so that you can make the best—and most beautiful—seating choices for your special day.
A wedding place card is essentially a name tag for a seat. Traditionally, it’s a piece of stationery that goes on reception tables to let guests know where they're sitting. Typically, there's one place card at every reception seat with a guest's name. This card serves as a way to direct guests to their seats and let them know where they can drop their purses and coats, and where to expect dinner to be served.
Essentially place cards serve as a way to tell guests where to sit. This helps ensure that you have the right number of seats (and you don’t pay for extra chairs or, worse, don’t have enough seats and force some of your guests to stand), plus it gives your attendees a place to sit back and relax. Place cards can also help facilitate traffic for buffets and separate any family or friends that need to keep their distance from each other.
No matter how formal or casual your wedding celebration is, wedding place cards are always a good idea. They help you plan, they help your guests feel at ease knowing where to sit and whom to sit by, and they can even help your vendors when it comes to delivering food/beverages and directing traffic. In general, wedding place cards might be small, but they serve a big purpose that can help your celebration run much more smoothly.
Allowing guests to seat themselves can be tricky since people naturally spread out. This might mean more open seats or lost meals, which can not only add up the cost and but create frustration as well.
Now that you know all about wedding place cards, it’s time to learn how to create them! Here, we’re breaking down everything to consider when choosing and designing your cards.
The more formal the venue, the more formal you’ll typically want your cards to be—think rich stock paper, fancy script, and elegant cardholders. Regardless, you’ll want to make sure that the cards are not only well-placed so that the guests can find them, but that they are easy to read and are sturdy, so they don’t blow away from a gust of wind or AC.
We love when guests lean into their theme for their place cards since these can double as part of your tablescape decor. Think of including designs with gold or glitter for flashy events, pressed flowers for garden celebrations, or even the pages of old books for literature lovers. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
While wedding place cards are traditionally done on paper or cardstock, there are many options out there to consider. Items such as shells, tiles, rocks, potted plants, candles, and even mirrors can all serve as place cards, so have fun with it! As long as your guests’ names can be attached to the item, it’s safe, and it’s easy to read, it’s fair game!
Place cards are a great chance to add a pop of your wedding colors, so experiment with different color backgrounds, fonts, and embellishments. Your vendors might prefer that you opt for different colored ink or borders for different food options to make catering serve the meals seamlessly.
In general, fonts with serifs are more formal than those without, as are cursive letters. Whatever font you choose, make sure that it’s legible enough so that your guests can read their names, even in low lighting.
While you’ll want to make sure that you have plenty of time to get your place cards, you don’t want to order them too soon and risk ordering too many or having to make changes. It’s a good idea to order the cards as soon as your RSVPs arrive and your seating chart is confirmed, so that you have time to adjust, if needed. Typically, this happens about a month or two before the wedding, but you’ll want to hire your calligrapher, if you’re using one, at least four to six months before your big day.
There are so many options when it comes to ordering place cards, depending on your preferred style and budget. From DIY options that you can print yourself to Etsy sellers and even Zola, your options are endless, so take your time perusing and comparing so that you find an option you love.
If you do choose Zola, you’re in luck because our paper suite can be matched across the board, so that your place cards can match your menus, your signage, your invitations, and beyond. Additionally, with our one-time export option from your Zola guest list, all personalization paper goods can be completed efficiently and in one fell swoop to save you time and stress.
Finally, with five different paper types including smooth, eggshell, linen, pearlescent, and felt—all of which come either printed or unprinted—there’s something for every style, setting, and budget so that you can check off your paper goods easily and expertly.
While you can absolutely DIY your place cards, writing them by hand is not only tricky—even if you have artistic talent—but time-consuming too. Do a few trials if you’re considering making your own to see how much time and resources they take before committing to creating them all yourself.
After receiving your place card order or finishing creating them all, store them in a cool, dry place where there’s no risk of them getting spilled on or messed up. Have a plan for how the place cards will get to the venue for the wedding, who will place them on the tables, and when they’ll be placed on the tables to avoid any confusion or in-the-moment scrambling.
Before you can make wedding place cards or escort cards, you need to create a seating chart. Below, we’re outlining all the seating chart basics that’ll help you get ready to make your wedding place cards.
A seating chart, as the name suggests, is a chart that outlines where everyone at your wedding will sit. This is a very important planning tool, as it will determine the number of tables and chairs that you need, plus help the caterer serve meals and help you pair (or separate) different groups of people.
A seating chart is like the overall seating map, while the place card is like a marker for a person. The escort card reflects the seating chart but is person-specific, as opposed to an overview of the entire reception floor.
Most venues and celebrations run much more smoothly with seating charts. Unless you have a very small and casual event, a seating chart will save you money and relax your guests. Additionally, some venues and caterers require a seating chart, so check with your pros before omitting the project.
There are many great resources to help you make a seating chart, from websites to apps to printables. Additionally, if you have a planner or coordinator, they’re pros at figuring out where to place people to ensure that the celebration runs smoothly and that your guests feel cared for.
Some couples choose to display their seating chart by turning it into a giant map, while others would rather list guests’ names with their table numbers next to them. If you choose not to showcase your seating chart, make sure that your table numbers are easy to see so that your guests don’t have to do extensive searching to find where they’re supposed to sit.
Now that you know what place cards are and how to make them, you’re probably looking for a little bit of inspiration. Luckily, Zola has options for every wedding preference, whether formal and fabulous, or casual and chic. Check out some of our favorite options below:
Think clean lines, marble backing, and clean fonts when selecting place cards for your modern wedding.
A formal wedding is a fun chance to really lean into the drama, so don’t be afraid of fancy calligraphy, jewel tones, and glamour when choosing your formal-themed cards.
Feel free to lean into the vibe of your outdoor venue for your place cards, but just make sure that they are sturdy enough, so that they don’t blow away.
We love when couples really showcase their destination wedding theme with fun, environmental touches.
You could also consider writing your guests’ names on sand dollars, starfish, or even large tropical leaves for a fun decor option that’s both appealing to the eye and sturdy enough to withstand the weather.
As with everything wedding-related, it’s your day to make your own! While place cards are recommended to make your guests comfortable, help you plan, and manage the crowd, there’s no rule that that says you have to have them. If you’re having a tiny very small celebration (such as a casual backyard event), you might not need to assign seating, in which case, place cards aren’t entirely necessary.
Essentially, escort cards assign your guests to a table, while place cards get them to their actual, specific seat. Wedding place cards are placed on the table in front of each place setting so guests know which seat is theirs. Escort hards, however, help guests know which table to go to when entering the reception venue. Wedding place cards simply feature the guest’s name and sometimes food option, whereas escort cards usually include the table number and serve as a well to help your guests find their assigned table.
Wedding place cards go at the place setting where you’d like each guest to sit. Sometimes the cards are placed in holders just above the place setting, and sometimes they’re placed on the actual setting. Either way, to cut down on confusion, make sure that it’s clear which card goes to which seat.
If you’ve assigned your guests’ specific seats at specific tables (or just specific tables where they can choose their own seats), escort cards are a must. This helps get your guests from the entrance of the reception area to their seats. Place the escort cards in an obvious place at the entrance of the reception area. It helps to have the escort cards listed in alphabetical order to make it easier for your guests to find. You’ll also want to ensure that your table numbers are visible so that your friends and family can easily find the table(s) they’re looking for.
Finally, if you decide to just have place cards (which are already placed at each setting) instead of escort cards, make sure to have a large diagram of some sort so that your guests can figure out which table to go toward. These can either be done by listing each table number and the names of the guests assigned to that table below, or by listing all the guests’ names in alphabetical order with each person’s table number written next to their names.
Whether you opt for an elaborate seating cheat, elegant escort cards, simple wedding place cards, or a mixture of all three, finding a cohesive, cost-effective, and stress-free solution for your paper goods is where Zola comes in. Not only can you simply select your favorite place cards from our site, but you can also coordinate all your other paper goods so that everything complements each other. You can also order favor tags, thank you notes, and table numbers that appear cohesive with your place cards for one seamless aesthetic.
Let Zola do the work, from creating the design to printing the products to shipping them to your door so that you can do what’s really important: celebrate this next exciting milestone of your life surrounded by the people you love! That’s what we’re here for, after all!