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Dear Arrighi,

Someone asked me to do escort cards for an event and when I went to the stationery store to choose them, the woman there said that I didn't want escort cards, that I needed "seating cards". Could you tell me the difference between the two and what the definition of the various kinds of table cards are?

Signed,

Confused Seating

Dear Seating,

These terms are used interchangeabley and they shouldn't be. I will try to unravel the terms and put them in a way they can be remembered.

I am referring to the Crane's Blue Book of Stationery for my information along with some comments from people who deal with them all the time.

The "place card" is a small flat card or tent card to be placed at the individual seat each person should occupy. It should be written with each person's name on it. It should say Mr. Johnson. Or Mr. William Johnson if more than one Mr. Johnson will be seated at that table.

"Table cards" are usually an envelope with a card inside with the couple's name ("Mr. and Mrs. Johnson", for example) on the outside and the table number that they are assigned to on the inside card. If more than one Mr. and Mrs. Johnson are attending, then add the husbands first name to the outside. If it is an individual attending, of course, Miss Johnson or Ms. Johnson could be used. These cards are at the entrance to the dining area to inform the guest which table and the table number inside. Each table should have some kind of identifying number on them easily seen from a distance. One advantage to using an envelope with the card inside is that you can change them around right up to the last minute and not have to rewrite the cards. One friend calls these cards "table assignment cards" to make it easier to identify which card it is.

"Seating cards" are the same as table cards and can be used interchangeably.

"Escort cards" and envelopes tell your guests who they will be escorting to dinner. The gentleman's name is written on the envelop. The name of the lady he is escorting to dinner is written on the enclosed card. They are placed on a table outside the dining area. This is an outmoded term and is rarely used.

It is easier if we would all use the same names for various cards so we could not be confused as to what we need to buy and what card we are actually going to write. As for the formality of the event and how the names should be written is up to the person having the event. We in Southern California have a reputation for being more casual and may want to add the first name of the husband to all the table cards or just the first name on the place cards. They may not be acceptable to East Coast people. It really is an individual choice.

Signed,

Arrighi

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