Wedding stationery 101: place cards

Be they place cards for wedding receptions or place cards wedding-free (for a dinner party, baby shower, Christmas party, corporate event, or something else entirely), place cards are a huge part of your on-the-day stationery and warrant a careful choice. Here’s everything you need to know when making place card decisions.

When to use place cards, and why

A place card (sometimes referred to as name cards, table place cards,or name place cards)  is used to mark where someone is supposed to sit, so they are best used at a wedding or other event where there will be a full sit-down meal and there is assigned seating. High quality, stylish place cards also frequently serve as a small souvenir for guests to take home with them to remember the event by.

Place cards are usually placed on the table before the event begins, but an alternate use for place cards is to have a wedding seating chart to guide them at the door with a number on them to indicate which table a person should head to. Guests can them arrange themselves on their assigned table as they choose. Cards used in this way are often called escort cards. This method of seating keeps people to specific tables, which helps make sure every seat is filled, while still giving people some freedom to choose their arrangement and to switch around and chat as the event progresses.

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Professional vs printable place cards

Place cards can be printed professionally by a stationery company, or they can be created at home. Both these options have pros and cons.

If you’re creating your own place cards you can use a place card template you buy or find available for free online to create printable place cards. This is cheaper up-front (a wedding place card template can cost under $30), but costs time and money in printing, and will cost you that twice over if you mess something up and need to reprint. You might also have trouble finding the perfect template for your event, especially if you’re looking for a freebie, and you won’t have access to print options like letterpress and foil.

Having a professional stationery company print your place cards will cost more upfront, but is much easier for you. You choose the perfect design, have the designers personalise it for you, and you can have them in your hands within a couple of weeks. Professionals can do print options like letterpress and foil, and you are usually covered in case of any errors. Many companies (like Paperlust!) don’t charge you for shipping.

Weigh up your budget and priorities, and make sure you take all hidden costs into consideration when you choose between the two.

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Place card holders

Place cards are usually made from a piece of card that is folded in half which enables it to stand on its own, but there are other kinds of place cards. Some are just flat pieces of card which cannot stand alone. These kinds of place cards require place card holders to hold them up. These can be purchased online or fashioned by hand from decorative bits and pieces. Wedding place card holders are particularly common, since people tend to be spending a lot of money and are looking for something to add to their tablescapes. If you’re thinking of purchasing or DIY-ing place card holders wedding or other event, just remember to check with your venue first. Some venues will have their own available for you to use.

Some of the most popular forms of place card holder are:

Silver or gold place card holders

These are usually just a thin metal pole on a base with either a little clip or peg to hold the card, or two overlapping metal wires like a keyring that you can slip the paper between. They are usually silver or gold, but a similar design can be found in any colour you like.

Wooden place card holders

Wooden place card holders can be purchased but are also very easy to DIY. They consist of a small piece of wood, either shaped or left rough like a stick or small branch, with a slit cut into it to place the place card into.

DIY trinket place card holders

Whatever the theme of your event, it’s possible to create DIY wedding place card holders (or just general place card holders) to match. Pretty much anything can be made into place card holders with the addition of a clip or a slit. Think little trinkets like vases, crystals,  toy animals… whatever you like! You can also have these things double as souvenirs for your guests.

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Place card ideas: styles

If you’re looking for place card ideas – be they wedding place card ideas or ideas for another event – the style of the card is the best place to start. It’s best to match your place cards to your event style or theme. Some of the most popular include:

  • Rustic place cards
  • Geometric place cards
  • Floral place cards
  • Vintage place cards
  • Typographic place cards
  • Patterned place cards
  • Art deco place cards
  • Calligraphy place cards
  • Folded place cards

You can also look at incorporating different print types in your wedding place cards

What if I don’t want to use place cards?

If place cards aren’t your thing but you still want to have a sit-down meal, you might choose to let people choose their own seats anywhere in the room. If you’re thinking of going with this option, keep in mind that people don’t tend to fill tables when given the option. People group together and look for places to accommodate a group of their size, rather than filling single places on tables with other groups, so you’ll need more seating than if seating is assigned.
You might also choose to serve food cocktail style and not have a sit-down meal. This lets people mingle throughout the event without you having to worry about seating or place cards.

So whether your place cards are for a wedding or another event, think carefully about what you want them to be in terms of type, style, holder, and whether you DIY or order them professionally. Your place cards play a huge part in setting the mood for your day, since they are a focal point of your tablescapes. Choose wisely!

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