It’s been a little while since I wrote a bunch of place names for Ms Claire Foster and Mr Danny Klein. In fact, the last time I did, my clients named every female wedding guest as Ms something on the place name cards. (See the end of this blog post!)
It’s all got me to thinking about the etiquette of how to write names for place settings. And having been a wedding calligrapher for 17 years, I know just how it’s done! I can also tell you my favourite way.
Every wedding is different. Some weddings have two people. Some have just four or five (the couple and their witnesses). Others have 30 or so – the increasingly popular micro wedding. And some have 80, or 100, or 300, or 500 plus. (African weddings are delightfully huge!)
As a general rule, the smaller the wedding, the more informal your place names can be. If you’re celebrating with close family around a single table in your fave local pub, you’re unlikely to need formal name cards for Mrs. Angharad Mortimore and so on.
Having said that, playing with formality can be fun at a cosy wedding – so if you’d like to have posh, full length place names that’s fine!
Most often, weddings with 70 guests or fewer will have first names only on the place settings. When it comes to your Steves, Daves and Hannahs, you can add an initial (Hannah B, Hannah Q, Dave Q for example).
Weddings with over a hundred guests might follow more traditional etiquette elsewhere (with a church service maybe) and it suits in this case to have full names on the place name cards.
You can opt for names and titles (Mr. Neville Carter, Miss Saira Ismail) or just names (Julia Fletcher) – whichever you’re more comfortable with. Sometimes it’s nice, if there’s a bride and she’s changing her name and title, to have those on a place card: Mrs. Jessica Charlton. The other place names can follow on from this with full names and titles for continuity.
It’s lovely for special wedding guests to have their titles for the day on their place names – “Grandmother of the Bride” is a proud little moment, and we guarantee she’ll keep it!
Equally lovely is a more informal nickname, especially those names we’ve held in our hearts since childhood. “Grampy Barney” or “Anti Claire” make me smile.
And when it comes to nicknames on wedding place cards, as a calligrapher these make me VERY happy to see (and write!) I’ve seen it all, from cheeky nicknames (‘Tequila Spice’ along with another 4 Spice Girls) to ‘Two Poos’.
How NOT to write your wedding place cards
There are only two things I would advise you not to do:
1. Don’t go overly formal if it feels weird. If you’ve known your friend as ‘Abbs’ all her life, don’t suddenly start calling her Abigail on your wedding day. Lots of people shorten their names for very real reasons: you don’t want them to sit and feel uncomfortable if they hate their name!
2. Don’t assume titles. Not every married woman is Mrs. Not every married woman changes her surname. Some grooms change their surnames; others don’t; some combine the two. So if your friend Charlie Pink from university is married to Siobhan, don’t assume her name is Mrs. Siobhan Pink. It could be Miss Siobhan Blue.
Wedding etiquette has come a long way since the 1990s. We’re making our own traditions and choosing which of the old etiquette works for us. Every couple is different. Above everything else, do things YOUR way – enjoy your planning and have fun!
You don’t even need wedding stationery – a wedding website is always a lovely alternative. You can omit on the day stationery if you’re having informal dining (nothing will make your guests happier than a pizza truck instead of a three-course sit down meal!) – but if you DO want pretty wedding place names, you’ll find all of our best-selling slimline wedding place cards right here.