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Seating Card Displays

Martha Stewart Weddings, Spring 2002

Your seating cards are your wedding-reception ambassadors, making your guests feel welcome and helping avoid confusion or misunderstanding over seating arrangements. The manner in which you display your seating cards can give your guests their first impression of the party to come -- will it be dignified or playful? Elegant or whimsical? Understated or full of surprises?

Seating cards are normally displayed on a table near the entrance to the reception. Traditionally, cards containing only table numbers were presented in small envelopes bearing each guest's name. Nowadays, many couples prefer tented cards with the guest names written on the outside and the table number on the inside. But if you are having your cards calligraphed, using envelopes is actually easier than using tented cards, since it allows you to rearrange your seating plan up to the last minute without having to get any cards rewritten, which can be costly. Either way, the purpose is the same: to guide your guests to their proper seats. In fact, as long as the cards accomplish this goal, they can be as creative as you like. For example, you might script guests' names and table numbers on paper leaves displayed on a wreath, or on tags attached to individual flowers, or even on colorful boxes filled with small wedding favors.

Whatever their form, seating cards should generally be arranged in alphabetical order in a format that's easy for guests to scan quickly. The guests' names should be neatly written or calligraphed, and table numbers should be clearly readable. Furthermore, your seating card display should be sized in proportion to the number of guests you have. If you're having a large reception, make sure you have a big enough surface to display all the cards, so your guests can easily retrieve theirs without disturbing neighboring ones. To save space on the table, or if you want to use fewer cards for a compact display, address one card per couple (even if they're unmarried) instead of using individual cards for each person. Also post an attendant or waiter with an alphabetized master list at the seating-card display to assist your guests should anyone's card be misplaced.

Typically, your cards should be set out at least one hour before the reception. Of course any display using perishable items, such as food or fresh flowers, should be put in place as close to the hour of the reception as possible. In this case, be sure to arrange for your wedding planner or a friend to handle the task.

Some of the projects on these pages involve only a few steps and can be completed shortly before the wedding. Others will require a little more work and therefore an earlier start. Map out a preliminary seating arrangement a few weeks ahead of time, and begin working on elements of your display. Then, update the seating plan as your response cards arrive; you should be able to finalize it a week or so before your event. This will leave you plenty of time to attend to the last-minute details.

A lovely seating-card display will make those beginning moments of your reception even more enchanting for your guests as they pick up their cards, discover whom they'll be sitting next to, and wonder what other delights are in store.

Tented Seating Cards Tented seating cards are elevated to new heights atop a pillow of carnations. Cut several standard bricks of floral foam in half horizontally, soak in water, and place in shallow plastic flower-box trays. Snip off the carnation heads, leaving a little bit of stem on each, and insert into the foam; each half-brick should hold about two dozen carnations and four seating cards.

Ribbon Tapestry A novel way to display seating cards at a formal wedding is to hang them gracefully from a wall in a ribbon tapestry; guests simply slip their envelopes out from the sides. Cut 6-inch-wide satin ribbon into 56-inch-long strips for the background; each strip holds 12 seating-card envelopes. On each strip, lay two 15-mm-wide satin ribbons down each side, one envelope-width apart, and pin in place. Lay a 5-mm-wide satin ribbon down the middle, and pin. Stitch across the thin ribbons, sewing at intervals the height of the seating-card envelopes. Hem the ribbons at the bottom. Fold over the tops of the ribbons, and sew to create a channel for a wooden dowel. Slide the dowel into channel, tie a cord to the ends of the dowel, and hang.

Wreath Display A wreath display for any season: Using our template, trace leaf shapes onto sturdy colored paper, and cut out. Trim edges with decorative paper edgers. Glue 22-gauge cloth-wrapped floral wire to the back of each leaf, and insert into a 14-inch-diameter boxwood wreath, in alphabetical order. A 14-inch wreath will hold about 60 cards. Use multiple wreaths or a larger one for more guests. Hang with ribbon.

Seating Chart Display Guests skim the alphabetized list at the right of this elegant seating chart to find their table number, then locate their table on the floor plan; place cards at the table remind them where to sit. Create the map using a computer design program, and have a copy shop print it in color onto poster-size paper. Or create it by hand. Mount on foam board, and edge with grosgrain ribbon. To avoid a bottleneck at the entry, place several maps in different areas of the room.

Favor Boxes Here, favor and seating card function as one. Place small favors, such as truffles or small soaps, in rectangular boxes, and wrap in colorful solid and patterned papers. Print guests' names and table numbers onto adhesive-backed paper, cut out, and affix to the top of each box. We arranged these favor boxes in porcelain trays, elevating some on painted wooden boxes, and securing them with floral putty to add visual interest.

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