THE DAY OF THE WEDDING
There are quite a lot of paper goods that come with planning a wedding, and many of them cannot be planned or printed until the very last minute. How stressful for the bride! Here are some of the day-of paper details you may need, and what should be included on or in them.
PLACE AND ESCORT CARDS
Programs include an outline of the wedding ceremony, including any cultural or religious traditions, readings, and a list of the members of the immediate family and bridal party. You also have the option to include a thank-you message, reception information for those who may have forgotten to bring their invitation, a statement honoring those who have passed away, or details about any traditions with which your guests may not be familiar.
A program will traditionally include a listing of the following moments that will happen during the ceremony:
The Processional, which includes the seating of the bride’s and groom’s grandparents and parents, and the bridal party entrance, in that order. You may indicate music choices in the program for all entrances and exits, if you’d like.
The Bridal Entrance, which should be set to a different tune than the processional of the family members
The Welcome or Blessing, provided by the officiant.
A Declaration of Intent, in which the couple agrees that they have come to be married of their own free will, and that they choose to marry each other.
Any special Prayers, as decided by the officiant and the couple.
A Message, Homily or Sermon, read or presented by the officiant.
Scripture Readings or other Selected Readings; it is fine to list the title of the reading or Scripture only (ie. 1 Corinthians 13), though you can also include the name of the person reading each piece, or the full written piece elsewhere in the program.
Any special ceremonies; for example, the Lighting of the Unity Candle or the Presentation of Flowers to the church altar.
The Exchange of Vows, in which the couple either recites or repeats traditional vows as prepared by their house of worship, or reads their own vows to each other.
The Exchange of Rings; the groom places the wedding ring on the bride’s left-hand ring finger. In the event of a double-ring ceremony, the bride does the same for the groom.
The Presentation of the Couple, in which the officiant declares the bride and groom to be husband and wife. (While the first kiss is not listed in the program, this would be the time in which it would take place.)
The Recessional, in which the bride and groom, recess back down the aisle together, followed by their bridesmaids and groomsmen, their parents, and their grandparents.
The programs should not be printed until all the details of the wedding ceremony have been worked out between the couple and their officiant. This should be completed in the week(s) prior to the wedding, and there should be no surprises during the wedding rehearsal.
If you are serving a plated meal at your reception, and have not asked guests for their preferences in advance, you will need to provide a menu so that guests may order their meal. Even if you are not serving a plated meal, you may wish to have menus printed so guests know what their options are at the buffet.
Menus should be printed after you have given the caterer the final guest head-count, and after the caterer has provided a finalized menu based on what will be available.
You may include meal, appetizer and dessert options, as well as drink options if they will be brought to the table. In the event of an open bar or cash bar, do not include these items on the menu unless they are to be served during the meal. The menus should be coordinated to go along with all your other paper goods.
THE SEATING CHART
If you are planning to have guests sit at specific tables, you will need to create a seating chart, even if you have no intention of displaying it at the reception. This step should be completed after all RSVP responses have been received.
Consider where you, as the bride and groom, will sit. Will you have a separate sweetheart table, or will you be sitting with your bridal party or family? While you will not spend much time at your own table — you will be busy mingling with your guests! — you want to ensure you have a dedicated place to sit and enjoy your wedding meal.
You should reserve at least a table or two for the bridal party members, as well as immediate family members for both the bride and groom’s sides.
Then, when it comes to friends, extended relatives and family friends, try to group people together by social circle. Consider how many chairs your venue has at each table. If there is a couple who does not know any other people at the wedding, you can fit them into seats that are left over after you’ve fitted the larger groups. Try to seat lone individuals or couples with people who may be of similar age or have similar interests, to ensure all guests will have a good time at the celebration.
You also have the option to decide how to name your tables. While the traditional numbering system works well, many couples choose to name tables using colors, or items of mutual interests; an example of such would be naming each table after a different color, or a different classical musician.
Each table, regardless of its name, should have some kind of marker indicating its name so guests will not be confused. If choosing a printed table sign, the design and style should correspond with all other printed materials.
PLACE CARDS AND ESCORT CARDS
There are two ways that couples traditionally utilize place and escort cards. The first is that the bride and groom create a seating chart, and once all the guests have been organized into tables, escort cards are printed. These cards have each guest’s name and the table number at which he or she will be seated, and should be arranged either by last name or by table. At some weddings, this is as far as the arrangement goes, and guests are allowed to sit at their assigned table in any seat they choose.
The second option, which is used more often for plated dinners, is that a second card, called a place card, rests at each seat, specifying where each guest should sit at the table to which they are assigned. It is typically a folded card that has the guest’s name on it.
Whether you have need for just one or both escort and place cards, they should be printed in the same style, and coordinate with all your other paper goods. In addition, some people also choose to forego escort cards altogether, instead having a larger, formal seating chart with all the guests’ names and table information on a single display. If you go this route, the style should also match the rest of your paper goods.