All You Need to Know About Your Wedding Day Paper and Signage
Know the difference between an escort card and place card? Fear not; most brides don’t! In addition to your standard paper items (invitations, RSVP card, map with directions and any other inserts, and thank you cards), you’ll likely also need some paper items for the day of your wedding. I’ve gone through each type of day-of paper item and explain what it is, the pros/cons of the item, and variations or other ideas. In addition, I also include my personal pro tips for each type of paper & signage. Most of the paper items below can be purchased through your invitation person or online along with your invites so everything matches. Many of these can also be done by yourself if you have the time, patience and sense of adventure. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
Definition – Cards which contain the following information: guests’ first and last name, and table number. You will need 1 escort card per couple/family (as long as they are all at the same table). They can either be printed, written by hand, on a sticker, or calligraphy.
Pros – They keep things organized, guests don’t have to worry about finding a seat, you won’t have a situation where couples can’t find a seat together, you can seat people together who you think would get along well.
Cons – It’s more work on the bride & groom to figure out table assignments. If you don’t have place cards, you may have a situation where 1 seat is open at several tables and couples can’t find a seat. Super casual affair? It’s fine to let guests select their own seat, but don’t be surprised if guests end up moving chairs & table settings to sit next to friends, etc. If you opt for no assigned tables, you may consider over-setting the tables a bit knowing that there will be some open spots.
Variations – Telling guests where to sit, don’t have to be relegated to cards only. Many brides find creative alternatives to cards such as poster boards, frames lists, notes hung on clotheslines, photos, etc.
Dina’s Tip – The cost per card is generally fairly low. Instead of waiting for all your RSVPs to come in, print your escort cards a bit earlier and just remove the guests who can’t make it. It will save on the last minute stress of getting these done and often you avoid expensive shipping charges. Always get a few extra blank cards for last minute add-ons or changes! Also, escort cards should be organized in alphabetical order by last name (NOT by table number!). This will save your planner a ton of time the day of the wedding.
Definition – Place cards are name cards that are set at each person’s place setting. They tell guests which exact seat is theirs. The card can contain either just first name, first and last, or “Mr. Jones” for the most formal option. You will need 1 place card per guest.
Pros – Guests don’t even have to think about where to sit as it’s already been determined for them.
Cons – Far more work for the bride and groom. Extra cost associated with the additional piece of paper for the place card.
Variations – Instead of using a traditional tent-fold place card, you can also use tags, tuck a card into a pocket-fold napkin, tie on to a wine glass or silver roll, tie on to a favor (if you are doing one) and place on napkin. There are tons of fun ideas for place cards.
Dina’s Tip – Make sure to use a spreadsheet to track your guests seating so you can give this to your day-of planner. She will need to know where each guest is sitting to set out your place cards the day of the wedding. Be sure they are grouped by the following: In stacks by table, in order, clockwise, starting at the top right seat (on a diagram).
Definition – A dinner menu explains the various meal courses. Generally associated with a plated or family style dinner.
Pros – A bit more formal in nature, guests likely have forgotten or don’t know what will be served, so this is a nice way of reminding them and showcasing your meal.
Cons – Adds cost. Also, be sure to get exact wording from your caterer so there are no typos or mistakes.
Variations – Some create a menu and place in a frame and set it on the table for everyone to view. The downside of this option is it’s hard to read and the menu can block the view. If you are having a buffet, having 1-2 large printed dinner menus on an easel are helpful or having small labels/signs on each meal item. Have wine parings? Include the names of the wines you’ll be pouring too.
Dina’s Tip – Print guest’s name on the top of the dinner menu and it can serve as both the menu and the place card.
Definition – A ceremony program explains who is in the wedding party and a special part of the ceremony. It also explains what happens when, what songs are played, and what readings are read. Sometimes they contain a prayer or song guests can join in on. You can print 1 per couple, plus a few extras.
Pros – It’s nice for guests to have something to follow along with. Especially helpful to explain family traditions, or ceremonial/cultural things that guests might not be familiar with.
Cons – Often unnecessary and gets thrown away afterwards. Extra cost.
Variations – A large program on an easel can be an alternative. If there are traditional things being done during the ceremony, have the officiant take the time to explain them as they are happening so guests know what’s going on.
Dina’s Tip – If you are doing programs, include some fun tidbits of information on the couple or wedding party on the program to make it more interesting and personal.
Definition – A menu set at the bar which shows which drinks are available. Also may help explain which drinks are hosted and which are not. The menu may also feature “signature cocktails” which fun names and a description of each drink.
Pros – Clearly explains what type of drinks are available at the bar. If part of the bar is hosted, the menu can say that and explain which drinks are non-hosted (and possibly also pricing). For example, “beer, wine and soda hosted by the bride & groom. Cocktails available for $8 each.”
Cons – Additional thing to take care of.
Variations – Bar menus can be on a chalkboard, framed on the bar, written on a mirror behind the bar, or enlarged an on a easel next to the bar.
Dina’s Tip – Make these early on your own. Buy cheap 4×6 or 5×7 frames at the craft store and have 1-2 per bar.
Definition – Various signs which may be there to welcome guests, provide location direction/arrows, provide instructions on what to do, etc.
Pros – If something is not clear, having signage is helpful. For example, “ceremony this way” or “write down your recipe for a great marriage on these cards.”
Cons – Extra work and extra cost.
Variations – Signage can come in a variety of forms including paper, poster board, chalkboards, painted wood, banners, mirrors, old window panes, etc.
Dina’s Tip – If you do signage in wood or any material that can be re-used, try selling the item online after the wedding. If the sign is generic (no names or dates), chances are someone else will like them too for their wedding.
Definition – Signs which have the table number written or printed on them. The paper is often selected to coordinate with the invitation or other paper items at the wedding. Table numbers don’t actually have to be numbers. They can also be letters, names, or words.
Pros – There should be table numbers if there will be assigned tables for seating. Table numbers should be clear and easy to read. If you are doing long feasting tables, you may need to print more than one per table to make tables easy to find.
Cons – Other than a small cost, there aren’t really downsides to having table numbers.
Variations – Table numbers/names don’t need to be printed on paper. They can made with house numbers, painted on wood/metal/glass, printed and placed in a frame, painted on a bottle, etc.
Dina’s Tip – If you opt for table names, choose things that are significant to you and your fiance. For example, names of cities you’ve traveled together. You can even include a little story under the table name sign to explain why this city is significant.
Definition – Other paper items can include name tags, custom welcome bags, personalized favors, or other gifts with guest’s name on them.
Pros – These only apply if you are doing personalized or custom favors/bags.
Cons – Extra work and extra cost.
Variations – There are tons of variations and ways to personalize items.
Dina’s Tip – When things are personalized, guests tend to take them home and may use them. Also, if favors have names on them, guests will only take theirs and not extras.
I hope you find these tips helpful. For more tips and advice on stress-free wedding planning, sign up to become a member.
Article originally posted on July 30, 2015.