For their May wedding reception in Bourne, Mass., Jason and Amelie Neese turned to their shared love of literature as inspiration for table names and homemade escort cards.
Guests sat at tables named after the couple's favorite books, such as The Great Gatsby, A Movable Feast and Sophie's World. And the escort cards, which tell guests which table they've been assigned to, were made of old-school library cards and pockets that the Neeses ordered on Etsy.com and decorated with vintage paper.
"We met at a poetry reading in 2007 and fell in love with each other's work, which led to us falling in love with each other, so we wanted to represent that part of ourselves and our relationship in the little details of our wedding day," Amelie Neese said.
Many couples are incorporating homemade themes to help guests navigate seating assignments at wedding receptions. Everything from wine corks and fruit to seed envelopes and clothespins can be repurposed as place cards at individual table settings, or escort cards at the front of a reception area.
"Couples are getting increasingly creative," said Christina Friedrichsen, founder and editor of IntimateWeddings.com. "For a barn wedding, for instance, they might tie a place card to a pear or apple. For a literary-themed wedding, they might use Scrabble tiles as place cards. For a destination wedding, luggage tags might be used."
Friedrichsen details a number of playful do-it-yourself ideas on her website, including one using vintage fashion illustrations and another using found sea glass.
"Place cards can be the perfect way to infuse a little whimsy or add the element of surprise," she said.
One couple featured on her blog fastidiously spelled out each guest's name using Legos.
Friedrichsen favors place cards that are multifunctional.
"For instance, you can pin vintage brooches to card stock, add the guest's name and voila, you have a favor and place card in one. Stamp or stencil the guest's name onto a linen napkin, and again you have something that is multifunctional," she said.
Kelsie Evans and Douglas Woodhouse, who got married in Antrim, N.H., made seed packets that doubled as escort cards for their 110 guests. Woodhouse handmade the packets and decorated them with copies of 16th century botanical illustrations. They were marked with the guests' names and assigned tables, filled with assorted wildflower seeds and hung with clothespins in an empty picture frame, which was displayed in a tree.
"We wanted to plan a very intimate, detailed wedding," Evans said. "Getting married at a family member's farm where we — along with many of our friends and family — had devoted time and energy to getting the space ready already made it a very personal experience."
Wedding blogs and Pinterest contain many ideas for turning just about any found object into a place card or escort card. These include: small rocks, painted with colors that correspond to the assigned table; names and table numbers written onto leaves or seashells; and little name cards held in place by wine corks or pinecones.
"One of the biggest trends we're seeing is edible escort cards," said Anja Winikka, TheKnot.com's site director. "From mini basil leaf pots and jam jars to full fruits like clementines, apples or pears and cutely packaged containers of candy, they're pulling out the stops to get creative and have guests well fed before the ceremony has even started."