Do you really need either? Find out!
Cheers! You have finally finished the dreaded seating chart. While you may have though that figuring out the seating arrangement for your reception was going to be difficult, you probably just realized that tackling the wedding signage comes with its own set of nuances and challenges. Here's a good one - what is the difference between an escort card and a place card? They're exactly the same, right? Actually, they're a little bit the same, but actually quite different. Still confused, we're here to help!
W H A T A R E E S C O R T C A R D S ?
Essentially escort cards are the sibling of place cards. They direct guests to their table, rather than a specific seat. Once guests get to their table, they're free to choose their own seat IF there are no place cards. Escort cards are usually all placed in a grouping just before the entrance to the reception so guests can find their table for the night (pro tip: alphabetize escort cards). Neither escort cards, nor place cards need to be cards, and many couples opt for alternatives.
W H A T A R E P L A C E C A R D S ?
While both escort and place cards designate where guests will be seating, place cards are much more specific, and more formal than escort cards. A place card not only directs guests to the table where each will sit during the reception, but it also points each guest to their designated seat (as assigned by the couple) at the table. To achieve this, place cards are traditionally placed at each table to denote each guests', you guessed it... place. If you're having a plated/sit-down dinner and serving different menu options, most venues will require that you have place cards so you can indicate beef or chicken, so the waitstaff know's who to serve what.
W H A T I S T H E P U R P O S E O F A S E A T I N G C H A R T ?
When planning your wedding, one thing *most* couples tend to struggle with is their seating chart. Where to seat everyone can be a daunting task, and let's face it, it's not the most fun activity. However, the pros most definitely weigh out the cons (if any, we can argue against any con you may have). The biggest perk/pro is that everyone has a place. There is nothing worse than being a guest at a wedding where you only know the bride and/or groom, and with a seating chart you have the opportunity to put like guests seated together. With that freedom, you're able to separate any family members that are better not seated near each other. Lastly, there are no empty tables. With a seating chart, guests arrive and are greeted by your Wedding Planner/Coordinator/Event Staff and helped to their seat. So what happens when uninvited guests or someone didn't RSVP shows up? Rest assured, your caterer will likely already have prepared a percentage over your guaranteed numbers for this exact reason, but also your Wedding Planner/Coordinator/Event Staff will be right there to take lead on finding a space for them.
D O I R E A L L Y N E E D E I T H E R ?
In short answer, ABSOLUTELY! While it's possible to skip escort, or place cards, or a seating chart altogether, it's not necessarily a good idea. Why? You'll end up needing more tables, as guests will tend to seat themselves unevenly - with no guidance, people tend to spread out and leave a few empty seats at most tables. More tables, means more chairs, more centerpieces, more linens, and of course more money spent. On top of the increased cost, your photos will be peppered with lots of empty seats, which isn't the best look for photos. Not to mention, if we're being honest it will likely end in seating confusion that could have easily been avoided if you just had a seating chart. Personally, we require all our couples to have at minimum a seating chart (with the exception to our intimate/elopement weddings).