Traditionally, place cards have been a must at any wedding reception where guests will be eating dinner. Someone who is not planning a wedding may think it is silly to dictate where guests sit, and as the bride-to-be quickly learns, families and wedding guests come with a lot of quirks that makes seat arrangement quite difficult. A distant cousin isn’t speaking to an aunt, a neighbor doesn’t get along with a family friend, or the politics of two outspoken guests would clearly clash. Close family members will quickly weigh in on who should sit with whom, quickly creating a puzzle for the bride and groom. How do you fit in everyone while not offending?
Once the map is drawn, it’s time to create a way for guests to figure out where they’ll be sitting. This has typically always entailed the creation of place cards or escort cards. Place cards are small cards upon which each guest’s name is written that are placed at the table at which they’ll be sitting for the event. Escort cards, on the other hand, are cards arranged in a display at the cocktail hour. Guests find their cards with their table numbers on it and – when the time is right – make their way to their assigned seating. At most weddings, actual seats at the tables are not assigned, however, at some venues it is recommended that assigned seating is arranged ahead of time.
Place cards and escort cards remain the most common way to relay seating to guests. However, as digital design, digital printing, and poster printing become more available to the general public via online printing services and connections to designers via the internet, a new trend is emerging in guest seating assignment. Behold: The seating chart.
A seating chart is a large poster or poster sign, typically printed on foam board or another sturdy substrate, which is displayed at the wedding venue. The poster displays a chart that lists each guest and his or her corresponding table number. Some seating charts are displayed alphabetically so that a guest can easily locate his or her name, while others list guests by table so that guests can quickly become aware of with whom they are (or are not!) sitting with. Some brides choose to also have place cards at the table, but with a seating chart, they may not be necessary.
The benefit to a seating chart is that it allows a bride and groom to create one element for all of the guests. Managing many small place cards or escort cards can be a headache and can be costly, depending on how they are created. Seating charts also offer the opportunity for a designer to embrace the theme of an event. Since the seating chart is displayed where everyone will see it, it almost becomes an art piece that contributes to the overall styling of the event at large.
The drawback to creating a seating chart is that because the poster must be printed at least several days in advance of the event, last-minute changes become difficult to make while maintaining the beauty of the display. It’s not like throwing out a place card if someone doesn’t arrive. This drawback is of course not an insurmountable obstacle, but it can pose an issue should a guest change his or her date at the last minute, decide they are not attending, or should a table switch become necessary for any reason.
Though place cards will likely remain a wedding staple for many reasons, the seating chart poses an interesting possibility by way of styling and guest organization.
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