While in the States the best dressed weddings may have both Escort Cards and Place Cards - don't worry ladies, I will explain both terms in just a minute - in Israel we are happy with just Place Cards! Or at least what we call Place Cards.
Unless you are planning the next Belz wedding, Place Cards are not just a 'nice-to-have' wedding enhancement; I believe they are a courtesy you show your guests.
First off, what is the difference between Escort Cards and Place Cards? Simply put, Escort Cards are the personalized name cards guests should find on a table in the entrance to the Hall. These cards indicate the guest's name and their dinner table number. They are usually set up in rows in alphabetical order either by last or first name. (Yes, I have seen it arranged according to first name. I disagree with it, but I will live with it if I have to.)
Place Cards, on the other hand, are found on the dinner tables and they indicate the guest's specific seat. I think Place Cards are overkill and totally unnecessary in the world of Israeli Wedding Halls. Most Halls set up the venue, especially the dining tables, only an hour or two before the wedding (Kabalat Panim) is scheduled to begin. There is simply not enough time to place these cards and then double-check that they are ALL positioned correctly.
If a table number is misplaced it can be changed, but changing around the cards of a 10-or 12-seat table and then checking separate seating cards for 150, 200 or 400 or more guests is just absurd. These cards will add more pressure and create more problems than it was ever meant to solve.
Wedding business is BIG business here in Israel. Weddings in Israel have become big, expensive productions and I would have thought that by now ALL Wedding Halls would provide Escort Cards (in Israel we call them Place Cards and I will continue to use this term as well), but they do not. Thankfully this is one item that you or your friends or your family can create as an easy and cheap DIY project!
While you are creating these Place Cards, don't forget to create RESERVED table cards for the band and photographer (they can usually sit at the same table), Family of the chatan, Family of the Kallah and for Meshanchim, if you are having this arrangement. Some weddings also have one or two tables simply listed a Friends of the Kallah and Friends of the Chatan, as these guests may come and go at different times.
Reserving a table for a group such as "friends of" can be very cost effective, especially if these friends may only stay for part of the celebration. This arrangement is especially worthwhile when the bride and/or groom are relatively young and their friends tend to arrive and leave in droves depending on school, army and baby schedules.
This Reserve table arrangement enables you to seat these groups at one or two tables and will alleviate the need to 'open' a "reservee" table for just a few guests.
An explanation of the Reservee table concept: The "reservee" table concept enables the Hall to set up a definite number of tables for guests while reserving anywhere between one to three tables that will ONLY be opened in the event that "unexpected" guests arrive. The idea is that of the 100% of guests who RSVP they are attending, some 5-10% DO NOT attend at the last minute. Therefore, if you have a guest list of say 100 attendees, you can tell the Hall to set up for 80, for which you will have to pay for 80 meals and one reservee table that will only be opened if some of the 5-10 percentile (="unexpected guests") actually show up. The rule is simple: once a table is opened you pay for all the seats on that table – whether there are bodies sitting on the seats and eating or not.
If you do not have a Wedding Planner helping you on the night of the wedding, then appoint someone to observe what is going on vis-à-vis the tables and ensure that a) reservee tables are not opened up without reason and your permission (!) and that b) guests are not mistakenly sitting at these tables – as this will COST YOU!
So back to place cards: Here are some original place card ideas: http://sweetvioletbride.com/2013/05/nature-inspired-escort-cards/?goback=%2Egde_1777060_member_243612144
Here are some formal place cards I have designed, repeating themes found on the wedding invitations:
Want personalized place cards? Contact me today! firstname.lastname@example.org