Today I am going to talk a little bit about two cards that generally get used interchangeably: escort cards and place cards. What is the difference? When do you use either an escort card or a place card at your wedding or event? We will walk through this as a part of our etiquette series!
Similarities: They Both Show You Your Place
The first thing we need to establish is that these two cards are used in weddings and larger (formal) events, where there is arranged seating. This means that the host, the bride and groom or organizer of the event, have taken the time to not only collect RSVPs as to who is attending, but also took the time to create a seating arrangement. When you are attending an event with arranged seating, your place was picked for you intentionally. This means that most likely, there is already an added formality. You cannot just wander around the room and sit down somewhere else.
At first sight, place cards and escort cards look super similar: they both have your name on the card. Sometimes even a meal choice if there is a plated dinner with preselected meal choices. They either are tented or flat, and they have a similar size to a business card. I think the main reason the two usually get used in the same sentence, is because they serve the same function: they both show you to your place.
Arranged Seating: 2 Different Methods
When you are planning your wedding or event, you have a few different options for serving dinner. There is buffet, family style (large plates of food that the table will share from), or a plated dinner: similar to a restaurant, you meal will be served by a server at the table. You don’t have to get up, there are no second servings. Usually there is either only one dinner choice (everybody gets served the same thing) or there is a preselected menu, which often you have to choose when you RSVP – “Would you like the chicken or the beef?”. Escort cards and place cards will usually only show up with that last option of a plated dinner.
When you are planning a plated dinner, especially with meal choices, you want to make it as easy as possible for the catering. They need to find out whether a guest gets the chicken or the beef, or maybe is vegetarian or vegan. You don’t want the servers to have to ask every guest what meal choice they RSVPed 3 weeks ago. This is where arranged seating comes in: you as the host will give everyone their place, complete with a card that will tell the guest where to sit, and the server which plate to give them.
Seating Chart with Place Cards
Easy enough right? You just place some cards at a table, and guests just find their place. Well, in theory this works. In reality, when 200 guests flood the dinner room, you don’t want them to check 18 tables for their name before they find their seat. That is why you can put a seating chart at the front of the room. This is basically a sign that will have everyone’s name on it, along with their table number. From there, guests can find their seat at the table by finding their name. Saves a lot of time and chaos when they only have to go around one table to find their seat.
Now I hear you think: what the heck is an escort card then? This is an easy solution right? True, but there is another way to lead guests to their seat, and it has its own perks. Escort cards are displayed in a group at the front of the room, at the same place as the seating chart would be displayed. Escort cards are individual cards. Just like the place cards, but with the addition of a table number, to show a guest to their table. From there they are free to choose their seat. It makes the overall atmosphere a little less formal, and gives your guests the freedom to choose who they sit next to! From a coordinator’s perspective, having escort cards can also be handy. This because, as they are taken away, you can see exactly who hasn’t claimed their seat yet or isn’t present.
This is how you can remember the difference between escort cards and place cards: and escort card ‘escorts’ you from the front of the room to your table, and place cards are ‘placed’ at your plate and show you your seat at the table. Here is an overview of the differences between place cards and escort cards:
- The first obvious difference is the placement. Escort cards are placed at the front of the room, and place cards are placed at the designated seat.
- The second difference is the mention of a table number. A place card shouldn’t have the table number on it, whereas an escort card always will have that written or printed on the card.
- The name can also be a point of difference. Since you most likely won’t have five Henry’s at one table, you can just use first names on place cards. For escort cards, having the full name on the card will avoid confusion between the five different Henry’s attending.
- The last difference is one in formality. Usually escort cards are used at semi-formal weddings or events, since they only indicate the table number and not the specific seat. Place cards are used at formal events and weddings.
Escort Cards or Place Cards?
When you are thinking about your wedding, what do you want your guests to experience? It is a formal, black tie affair, or would you like for the feel to be more laid back? Is it important for people to be free to choose their own seat? All of these can help you decide whether to have escort cards or place cards at your wedding. Or, if you like the look of them equally, have both! There are also plenty of examples of a creative use of escort cards. A popular choice is having an escort card attached to the wedding favor (for example a koozie, a shot glass or a cookie bag)! Don’t be afraid to do something unique to your wedding theme or you as a couple. And most importantly: have fun!
Charlotte Rosales is a calligrapher and wedding stationer in San Antonio Texas. Her studio, CalliRosa, handles everything from custom invitations, to placecards, envelope calligraphy and wedding signs. Charlotte serves the San Antonio, Boerne, Fredericksburg, Spring Branch, New Braunfels, and Texas Hill Country area. You can learn more about Charlotte and CalliRosa here, and you can click here to say hi!