How to Make Easy Modern Place Cards

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

This How To is so easy it’s almost criminal. By which I mean, it’s less a How To, and more a suggestion. Because if we know one thing about wedding place cards, it’s that you inevitably end up making them three days before your wedding during the time you hoped to be relaxing. But, you either suddenly decide that you need them (so your solo friends will be seated with people they’ll like), or you’ll have planned to do them weeks ago, but never quite got to it. So there you are, three days before the wedding, and you need a project that’s easy and damn affordable. Thank goodness, making something out of nothing is the APW specialty.

In this tutorial, we used manilla folders for our place cards because they are super cheap, they fit with our overall aesthetic, and you can get them anywhere, but obviously this works with any card stock that suits your fancy. If you’re, say, four days before the wedding, maybe you have time to run down to the art store instead of just rummaging around in your drawer. That said, we got slightly fancy and used a paint marker (make your partner run out and buy you one). They offer that great saturated look of paint, but provide the control of a pen. Also, Sharpie makes them in metallic finishes, which is FAB. And finally, you’ll notice that the original style of writing we tried didn’t end up being the style that we went with. Assume that you’re going to have to practice a few different styles of lettering, layout, line width, etc. before you get what you want. We left those photos in here so that you can rest assured that it doesn’t always turn out the way you want the first time, but that it doesn’t have to be perfect to look good.

Photos by Emily Takes Photos, Crafting by Elizabeth of Lowe House Events, Graphic Design by Michelle Edgemont (all APW advertisers). Chairs, linens, glassware, dishes, silverware, all provided by Encore Event Rentals in Petaluma, CA, who were awesome.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit #NASTY

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  • kayakgirl73

    Quick and easy idea. One thing we did for our escort cards was to use the business card card stock from Office Depot or Staples. They are perforated so you just punch instead of cutting, since I can’t cut straight to save my life. We printed names and a little colored maple leaf using word and printed them on an ink jet printer.

  • Sarah

    I’d love to hear from people who didn’t do place cards at all… I’m thinking of skipping this part, under the assumption that one way or another, some people end up sitting near people they don’t hit it off with, no matter how much careful thought and effort the organizers put into who should sit where. For our wedding, we’ve pretty much decided to just let people choose where they want to sit. However, a few people we shared this idea with seemed a bit horrified…and it’s making me second guess our decision. Any thoughts on this?

    • meg

      I actually vote pretty strongly for place cards always (unless literally everyone at your wedding knows each other, or it’s mix and mingle stang up style). There is nothing more anxiety provoking than walking into a room set for a meal, where you no almost no one, and having to pick a seat… it feels like middle school lunch time. So when you walk in, and your hosts have picked where you’re sitting and who you’re sitting with, you just feel really taken care of. And yeah, if you don’t like who your sitting with, you’ll switch (people always do some switching). But you take away a huge piece of social anxiety, and do your job as host virtually (while you’re off getting hitched). It’s a pain to do seating cards and escort cards, but I think worth it. (And people made friends at our wedding, and old friends caught up, thanks to our seating chart. It was lovely to see.)

    • We designated by table only, but let people choose their own seats at those tables. We had different numbers of seats at each table, specifically so different families could sit together, and then all our dancer friends sat in groups they liked. Also, and most importantly, the dancers’ tables were removed after the meal to make space for a dance floor, and we didn’t want to have to make our families move since they wouldn’t have done much dancing.

      • +1 to this idea. I don’t think you need to assign actual seats unless you are doing a plated dinner where they’ve chosen their entree in advance. we did a buffet so we just assigned tables, for pretty much the exact reason Meg gave above. We had a lot of people scoff at the idea of assigning tables at all (just so you know, you will get flack for either decision), but it ended up being kind of fun planning out the tables and then watching the magic happen. My cousin and my new bro-in-law may never have had a conversation if I hadn’t made them sit together, and they really ended up hitting it off. as an example..

        • We did a plated meal with chosen entrees in advance, and we didn’t assign seats. My mom and my husband’s mom did set up a few tables at the rehearsal (for families and their friends they invited) so that there were enough tables for folks. Our friends figured out tables on their own. We did do place cards, but we had them on a table right at the entrance. Folks picked up their place card and used it to reserve their spot at tables. To designate entrees, we had different pictures on all the cards that matched the season of our wedding. It took me a little bit to make the cards, but I basically used a business card template (in publisher, I think, so I could add the photos easily). I cut the cards apart with a paper cutter I already had.

        • kayakgirl73

          We assigned tables only, other wise I was worried that we would have a family of five arrive last and three seats would be available at one table and two across the room at another table. I didn’t want church supper seat saving going on this. This way I could keep the elderly relatives away from the speakers.

      • meg

        This makes sense, if you have smaller tables! We basically had three room long tables, so this strategy would have left everyone to their own devices with our layout.

    • We didn’t assign seats. Our venue (a bar/restaurant) was a mix of couches, two-tops, high-tops, and larger tables, with outside seating if it didn’t rain, and since we didn’t know exactly what the setup was going to be, there really wasn’t any way we could assign seats. And it worked out fine. But it was kind of a casual setup with tons of kids running around- if it had been a room full of round tables, we definitely would have assigned. Just know your crowd.

      • I definitely think that it depends upon the type of wedding you are having – if it’s a cocktail hour where people are doing a mix of standing, sitting and walking around the whole time, or a small wedding where everyone knows each other, then perhaps it isn’t necessary to have escort/seating cards. However, if you are have a sit down brunch/lunch/dinner and it’s a semi-large group, I definitely side with Meg. My sister and I were guests at an out-of-town wedding for a former neighbor and the only people we knew were the bride and her immediate family. The bride didn’t do any sort of assigned tables or seating. My sister and I ended up arriving late because we got lost and the only spots left were at a table with an older couple. We quickly realized why their entire table had been open – they were the grumpiest, most negative people! Needless to say, it made for a very awkward dinner and we scarfed our food down so we had an excuse to get up. At least I had my sister as a buddy so I wasn’t the only person stuck at a table with them!

        At most weddings I’ve been to, people have just used escort cards (the ones that assign you to a table with no specific seat) and that has been great – never an awkward experience, even when I didn’t know anyone else. Even if you have a non-buffet sit-down dinner, you can always indicate which meal each individual should receive by marking their card with a colored dot, colored gemstone, or a picture (i.e. cow pic for beef, hen for chicken, carrot for vegetarian…you get the point), which could eliminate the need for making seat-specific cards too.

        • Emily Rae

          I have actually never been to a wedding with any sort of assigned seating (beyond a few “reserved” tables for family), but thinking back on it now virtually every wedding I’ve been to was eat-and-mingle or buffet. I guess my people aren’t seated meal people! We also apparently embrace the round tables. One thing I kept in mind was that the people I invited were HORRIBLE at returning rsvp’s. To this day, there are 60 people out there that I’m not sure ever knew we had a wedding. I knew that trying to control seating in any way would just be a huge uphill battle, one I didn’t have energy or social pressure for.

          • meg

            We had a buffet, with place cards. But I think you really have to when guests don’t know each other. And most of our guests did NOT know each other. They were coming from all over the country and all over our lives. Sitting them in a way that made sense calmed their anxieties, AND let them meet people they’d love.

    • Jamie

      We did a table number board. We made our design and assigned the tables then we took it to FedEx Office and used their poster printer. After that, we spray mounted it to a form board and put it up on an easel that we placed right by the door. No cards, no assigned seats, but assigned tables and a big poster. No one had any issues finding where they went (use a good sized font though).

      If you google ‘table number board’ you’ll see examples.

      We chose to do this because, like Meg said, it can be kind of anxiety provoking. Plus, this way no one feels left out or forgotten and you can avoid the following scenarios: “You didn’t save me a seat? Where am I supposed to sit?”, “Just steal a setting and a chair from that table and come over here, we can make room”. It makes it less chaotic for everyone.

    • Lturtle

      I am still in the planning stages as well, but we are not doing any assignment of seating at all. Then again the ceremony and reception are outside at a farm, with a buffet picnic-style lunch. A few tables for those that need them but mostly picnic blankets scattered around. This is a total lazy girl wedding, and I have gotten some comments about it. Like, it won’t really be wedding-y without a formal meal, or dancing, or a bouquet toss, or a white dress (I’m wearing green, my favorite color). I say “Feh.” I am getting married, and having a big party, it’s a wedding even without place cards.
      On the other hand, I do see Meg’s point. If we were having a plated dinner we would probably at least assign tables.

    • If you do this, at least make it clear when there are “special” tables. They didn’t do place cards (or table cards or whatever) at my cousin’s wedding so we ended up sitting at the head table, then we had to move when someone who knew that came along and told us. We went to the next table which maybe some closer family members would have liked to use, but since we didn’t know who was supposed to be where, we just stayed (also the person suggesting that was really obnoxious, and we’d moved once already, so we weren’t particularly compliant anymore haha).

      I really like these place cards and it wouldn’t be too hard to put a table number on the back if someone wanted to!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      See, to me, the junior-high-lunchroom is an important aspect of attending a wedding. I don’t know if it’s enjoyable (though for social butterflies, it certainly is). I wish life put me in those situations more often. So we’re not assigning seats in any way.

      Also, the one time I was assigned a table at a wedding, it was the most awkward. I was put with a family with 3 preschoolers, so, at a table for 6, there were only 2 other people I could converse with, and usually only one other person at a time, because one kid or another needed to go to the bathroom or be changed or run around outside. The fact that I was assigned to the table also made it unclear to me when it was polite to escape, especially because, if I got up, I’d be leaving the only other adult alone, and it’s usually rude to leave someone alone at the table.

      More details: I knew both parents, as well as 100 other people at the wedding. I think the bride and groom half-planned to seat someone else at my table, but there were no-shows.

      PS: Post is still super-great, as I just gave it to my sister, who needs to make place cards for a non-wedding dinner party.

      • meg

        Just be careful! This is great if you have extrovert guests, but check with your guests. When we did a poll of guests people were actually really UPSET that we might not assign seats, it clearly made them really anxious. So! Answer right there! I was not thrilled about place cards, trust me. But it was one decision that wasn’t about ME at all… it was about hosting. So, know your crowd (and ask them what they need) is really my message.

        • Kat

          At a cousin’s wedding last summer there wasn’t any assigned setting, the aunts and uncles ended up sitting waaayyyyy at the back of this huge church gymnasium and felt really kinda upset that they weren’t in a more up at the front cuz we’re family position. VERY awkward.

          • Janet

            A similar thing happened at my cousin’s wedding. The entire exteneded family was asked to stay for pictures as all of us cousins were very close growing up, so by the time we got to the reception all the tables that were suppose to have been reserved for the family up front near the bride and groom were filled with other guests! We weren’t sure if there was suppose to be an offical reception coordinator or what who should have made sure those tables stayed open for the family members, but we didn’t want to create a fuss so we all wound up sitting in the back of the reception hall.

        • YES. My mother is a total social butterfly, and loved the idea of not assigning seats-because every family wedding we go to, she sits with her brothers and sisters and doesn’t get to meet new people. While I could not cope at all with that- I used to try to get out of having a lunch period in middle school just to avoid that! So we assigned tables but made sure they were pretty mixed- each person knew at LEAST one of their table-mates, but usually not more than half of the group.

    • Jenn’s Mom

      We didn’t do assigned seating at our wedding except for the two parents tables. With a few last minute no shows we ended up with 2 couples sitting alone at a large table for 10. As a result I’m a big fan of assigning tables (but not seats) and having tables of different sizes so you can do last minute shuffles.

  • Hannah

    If our venue was larger, I wouldn’t be planning on doing place cards. But we don’t have much wiggle room, so it feels like a way to help our guests avoid having to figure out some human version of Tetris.

    This tutorial is making me re-think finding someone on Etsy to make the card though….

  • Sarah

    Assigning tables rather than place cards is a good way to take the tedium out of assigning actual seats, but still give your guests some comfort in knowing that they have a place to go. We did this and it worked really well. I am have definitely been that girl who knows no one and felt some anxiety about a wedding with no seating assignment.

    If you assign tables, you just have to have some sign to label the tables and then put up a chart at the entrance instead of making individual cards.

    • Kat

      I’m ALL for the chart at the entrance. Currently I’m trying to convince my sister that she’ll probably have less of a last minute headache/stressed out/freak out situation if she goes with the chart instead of carving up 135 wine corks and inserting 135 handwritten and numbered placecards.

      Also, I have NO idea who is going to set that whole shebang up before the wedding or during the hour long cocktail hour between ceremony and reception when the hall is being turned over for party time.

  • Lucy

    This is interesting. My wedding is in 9 days, and my partner and I just started talking about tables. It turns out he assumed we would assign actual seats, and I assumed we would assign only tables. I kind of like the idea of assigning seats, since we have long rectangular tables arranged end-to-end in rows. We could seat people next to a potential buddy at adjoining tables, which takes some of the pressure of having a good combination of people at every table… but basically it seems like more work and I’m not sure how we would indicate to people which table they are seated at, and this all is happening in 9 days.
    I told my fiance we can do it if he does all the extra work.

    • meg

      This is where we were nine days out :) We did it. You basically make two name cards for each person, and then have a board (ours was foam board with fabric pinned over it) where you put the table number, and then everyone’s name under their table number. Also, hot tip for seating charts: blow up a copy of your table layout BIG, and then use post it flags (professional party planner tip).

      • Kat

        even better pro party planner tip: use paper plates as the table (write # in the middle) and put names on post it notes around the edge. That way if you need to shuffle a whole table to another spot you move your pie plate and not 16 or 20 names. When you have it all settled then write it down on the final plan in pencil for yourself (that way you can update it at a super last minute and pen on another one for the venue who needs a setup chart sooner.

  • Lynn

    I really want to do place cards. But, I’ve been told to expect a lot of people to just show up…invited or not. They will hear that my soon-to-be-husband is getting married at the house, and assume it’s like every other party there. Trying to account for that gives me knots in my stomach.

  • We assigned tables but not seats. The tables were for 8-10 people, so this worked well. I had planned to make my own place cards but ended up ordering some from Etsy. For any other occasion I would have been happy to make them, but ordering them gave me one less thing to think about, and it added a little bit of additional color to the tables, since the only other decorations were the centerpieces. These are so cute though, I kind of want to offer to make them for someone else!

  • Megan2

    I’m wondering – Did anyone have a Kid’s Table?

    Do I seat the kids all together & give the parents a break? Or will they worry & the kids should be with the adults? Maybe tables of people who all have kids?

    I was trying to opt out of doing a chart, but you’re all making so much sense … table assignments it is!

    • Emily Rae

      My opinion: It depends on the age of the children. I would “seat” the children with their parents, because they will be worrying about them and checking on them no matter what. And it’s very possible that the parents that DON’T check on their kids end up being the kids that need it the most.
      If space allows have some sort of “kid’s entertainment” table. I had a table set up with watercolors (it was supposed to be in lieu of a guest book, but we forgot to make a sign explaining that…) and I know it was a great option for the kids, giving them something to do, something to take home, and a creative outlet. For myself, I would only consider a “kid’s table” if they were all about 12 or above, and even then, if most of them don’t know each other well, they may rather sit with people they know than strangers.

    • We sort of did this – if there were a bunch of cousins or kids who knew each other and were old enough to eat alone, they got their own table. We kept little kids with their parents because we figured they’d have to cut up their food etc. I honestly don’t know if it worked out OK but no one complained to me and there were no obvious incidents!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Putting parents+kids with other parents+kids is a good idea, IMO. When we were little, my sisters and I were too clingy to eat at a separate table from our parents, and my parents were just a bit the helicopter type. Also, I did very well at “grown-up” events from a very young age, and that’s helped my overall maturity throughout my life. I’m really grateful to all my parents’ friends who “put up” with me as a preschooler instead of assuming I’d make a mess/scene.

    • Kat

      Keep kids under about high school age with their parents! Otherwise you have this insanely wild corner of the room to deal with.

      Also a few weddings that I’ve been to the bride made up activity packs for little kids (colouring books and crayons… dollar store) and they were sanity savers for the parents.

      An idea I came up with for my own wedding is for kids who are out of the colouring book phase but not in the teenage category (heck I might even do it for some of the teens). I’m going to make up a list of things to “spy” as in a game of I Spy and include a disposable camera (I’m a photographer so it works for my situation I think). Even if they don’t choose to use the list they can still run around and be a paparazo.

    • Irene

      We didn’t have a kid’s table – there were 2 babies at our wedding and no other children – but when I was little I went to a wedding and sat at a kids table, and it was AWESOME. I think it probably depends on the age range of kids though… my siblings and cousins were all in a 4-16ish range and so the older kids slightly kept track of the littler ones without feeling like they were just there babysitting. Also we had pizza, and balloons, and well it was just pretty great. So if it feels like it will work for your crowd I say go for it!

  • Caroline

    In college, we called that feeling tray anxiety. We’re having a buffet, and we’re planning on doing table, but not seat, assignments.

    • meg

      TRAY ANXIETY. Totally. And we would have done tables, had our tables not been HUGE.

  • Mara

    I’ve seen the same thing done, to adorable results, with paint chips. Just as cute, and just as free. Just to throw another easy/crafty(ish) idea out there.

  • LPC

    I think if I wanted simple budget placecards I’d be inclined to get an alphabet stamp set and do it that way. Would take a little longer, but I like the sameness of stamped text.

  • Sarah

    Just wanted to say also that we did do long banquet tables (sounds like this is what Meg is talking about), so we had 4 groups of three long tables placed end to end. We still assigned tables only and not seats and it worked fine. Each individual table had a name and people figured it out. This made it a little easier for large families to all sit together and also for all our friends to mingle without being weird about it.

  • The “hipster names” captions made me laugh out loud. Keep up the great DIY work!