How to make place cards

The wedding season is now fully upon us, interspersed with huge summer parties of all kinds, from barbecues to more formal affairs. To avoid confusion as guests take their seats at the table, place cards are essential. Here are a few simple tips to ensure they are easy to read and elegant:

Make place cards out of neatly folded stiff paper or thin card, so that they stand upright to create a triangular prism. They should be easy to spot but not ostentatious – I have seen some raised up in those crocodile clips on wire, but they get in the way of passing the butter.

White or pale card is best – silver on black is stylish, but not so easy to read.

Handwritten place cards may take a bit of time and effort, but look so much better. If you have any offspring with neat handwriting, do press them into service.

Use a sufficiently dark colour to write the name – gel pens come in all sorts of pretty colours, but shimmery green will be impossible to read. Classic black is simplest and best.

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If you have a decent fountain pen with a calligraphy nib, do use it, although avoid any over-the-top flourishes as they can make letters unclear. The point is to be able to see the name at a glance, preferably without having to lean over and study it.

Make sure you leave enough space for the name – there’s nothing worse than seeing a double-barrelled surname squashed up at the edge of the card because the writer started too big. Use two lines if necessary and, if it goes wrong, start again.

Ensure the name is horizontal – rule a line in soft pencil first if you need to and rub it out later. Although remember to make sure the ink is completely dry first!

Write the name on both sides – although the initial point is to tell the bearer of the name where to sit, place cards are enormously useful in finding out who all your neighbours are, particularly at a wedding where you may not have met them before. And especially if you, like me, are terrible at remembering introductions! A whiz round the table at the beginning to introduce everyone seldom sticks in my mind, but if I can see the names written down it saves the embarrassment of having to ask again.

A tiny flourish or trailing flower in a corner that reflects the mood of the event can be an attractive touch, although again, simplicity is the key to a stylish look.

Be careful to put all the place cards in the right seats. Some unscrupulous guests might move them in order to secure a spot next to that gorgeous cousin, but knowing that you’ve done your best to keep warring factions of extended families apart will give you peace of mind – at least for a while!

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