The What and Why of Wedding Day Paper Elements
We calligraphers spend a lot of time addressing envelopes and designing invitations. Many couples choose not to focus as much time and energy on their wedding day paper elements. But, these elements are the memorable, special pieces that send your ceremony and reception above and beyond the normal realm of beauty. That's great. But, the more important factor is that paper elements can be helpful to your guests.
The wedding program is often the first day of paper element that your guests will see. Make sure the program matches the rest of your day-of designs very well. Fans are popular for outdoor weddings, and a classic bi-fold program is elegant and effective. But, that’s not all! You might have the program's printed on a bag of rice for guests to throw. Or, you might go paperless and have a sign with the ceremony information.
I won’t go too much into the different customs because they vary fairly widely from ceremony to ceremony, but I can tell you one thing: it is always helpful to list the wedding party and order of events as a courtesy for your guests.
How Wedding Programs are helpful:
Guests who are hearing impaired will be able to keep up with the schedule. If you have guests who speak a different language, you could provide a translation. I went to a wedding where the bride and her maid of honor spoke French as their first languages, so the maid of honor's speech was in French, but they provided a translation for all the English speakers in the house.
Guests can figure out who is who in the bridal party. Relatives and friends of the groom might need a little reminder of the bride's family members.
Seating Charts and Escort Cards vs. Place Cards
Escort Cards take your guest where they are supposed to go. A couple might have a fun display of all the cards, listed alphabetically, at the entrance to the reception. They give the table numbers alongside the guest’s full names: “The Clarke Family- 6” or “Anna Peterson - 2” or “Mr. and Mrs. Richard Lawson - 12” or “Mr. Frank Lee and Ms. Eloise Richards - 4”
A seating list/sign serves the same function. You probably wouldn't want both. But having one or the other is very helpful to guests.
Place Cards are those cards already at the table. If you have escort cards or a seating chart, the place card might only have guests’ first names. Place cards are very useful for caterers if there are several options for a plated meal. Color or an illustration can indicate which entree the guest is supposed to have. You might also have a small letter in the corner of the card which indicates the meal option.
Having both place cards and some form of escort card adds a degree of formality to the event, but is not necessary. A buffet dinner might only have escort cards or a seating chart, for example.
Just place cards is not good for a large wedding
Will your reception have more than 5 tables? If so, help your guests out by having a seating chart or escort card, not just a place card. You don't want people spending so much time looking for their seats.
Not all couples provide menus. And, that’s just fine. Often, for plated dinners, the guest has already chosen their option with their RSVP. For buffet or family style dinners, a menu can be very helpful. If you have guests with dietary restrictions, the menu might provide helpful insights into what they can and cannot eat. Not to mention, they can add beautiful styling to the tables or to the reception space with signage.
Favors and Thank You Cards
Some couples choose to include favors and thank you cards at the guest’s seat or on a table to take after the reception. These are a great way to remind your guests how much you appreciate and love them. Sometimes, they include a paper note. Sometimes, they don't. But, it’s the little elements like well thought out favors and thank you notes that make your guests feel extra honored to be a part of your wedding day.