You picked your save the dates, you budgeted for invitations & postage, and everything's in the mail--yay! But then you realize that you forgot to plan for the day-of stationery items that you may need. Have no fear! In this blog, I'll be sharing my best advice for stress-free planning for the stationery items you may need on your wedding day. In four years of working with engaged couples, I've found that the day-of stationery items (programs, menus, seating cards, etc.) are the most likely to be overlooked. Many couples end up making last minute decisions on these items, which can lead to a ton of extra stress, mistakes, and even rush fees.
Of course, there's a range of need: if you're having a higher-budget wedding or a black tie ballroom celebration, you'll probably opt for more day-of stationery items. A new trend in minimalism and fuss-free planning has led to more couples skipping some of the traditional stationery items, but I strongly caution couples to consider the logistical needs of their day before they go totally free of signage and stationery.
Day-of stationery doesn't need to be a bunch of "fluff" that will eventually get thrown away. Rather, day-of stationery often communicates the most important logistical information guests need to enjoy their experience and feel comfortable and informed along the way. Day-of stationery also gets tucked away for keepsakes: programs and calligraphed seating cards especially!
As a wedding professional, I never my clients to make wasteful decisions or choose something purely to meet a trend. In fact, I have found that some couples take signage too far, and their celebrations end up looking like a mish-mash of words splattered all over their ceremony and reception space. However, the opposite is problematic; too little signage/print information in your wedding can make the experience stressful for you and your guests. Read on for my recommendations for day-of stationery, and click on the link at the bottom to download an easy checklist. And take a deep breath, because a supportive stationer or planner will help you make sense of it all. ;)
Rehearsal dinner stationery is often overlooked. My best advice for the host of the rehearsal dinner is to finalize details as far out as possible so that invitations can be ready around the same time as the wedding invitations. As guests are planning their travel, it's helpful for them to know if they are invited to the rehearsal. If guests don't get this information in advance, key attendees may miss this vital practice run and fellowship time.
- Rehearsal dinner invitations
- Place cards, if desired--or if necessary to direct serving staff to a certain meal choice
- Menu (large sign or individual menus)
- Welcome sign (can be repurposed and used for the wedding day as well)
If you are creating welcome bags for out-of-town guests, you may want to include a printed itinerary for the weekend. One of my favorite ways to organize this is to use a 5x7 card with a weekend itinerary on one side and local recommendations on the other. It's also very wise to include transportation, shuttle, and/or parking information on this card.
- Itinerary cards to share wedding weekend events and other important details
- Tags or stickers for welcome bag/box
- Branded stickers or treat bags for any goodies inside the welcome bag/box
The most common day-of stationery item for ceremonies is the wedding program. In recent years, individual printed programs have somewhat fallen out, in favor of a larger program sign that is placed at the front of the ceremony space. While I appreciate this idea, it can be problematic, as people are less likely to notice it and read it fully--in some cases, people may be distracted by greeting loved ones and finding their seats that they don't pay attention. In that case, if you had an important note added on the program sign such as a request for an "unplugged" ceremony, your guests may miss this crucial information. The program also provides a keepsake element that many family members and close friends will want to keep. Printed programs do not need to be elaborate. The simplest designs are often a long half-sheet or a printed 5x7. Additional touches such as silk ribbons and wax seals can be added to create additional design flair, but the bottom line is that they can be very simple.
My best recommendation is to print slightly less than one per person. Programs can be left at a table near the entrance of the ceremony space as an easy distribution method. If critical information is included, ushers can distribute to guests or place programs at every other seat in the ceremony space.
- Printed programs: Two simple options include a 5x7 card or a long half-sheet
- Program sign as alternative to printed programs
- Unplugged ceremony sign: Ask guests to keep phones tucked away until the ceremony is over (can also be printed in program)
- "Choose a seat not a side" sign, if applicable (can be communicated via ushers instead). This seemed unnecessary to me until I attended a wedding where there was some family fussing over who was sitting where. :)
- Simple reserved signs for family seating within the first few rows
- "Please sign our guest book" sign: if you are using the ceremony space as a place for guests to sign a guest book/guest book alternative
- Welcome sign: This can be used at a variety of events; my best recommendation is to avoid the word "Welcome" and use something like "Sam & Brian + Date" in order to be able to repurpose the sign as home decor.
- Bar signage (one per bar area, at least 8x10 is helpful for guests): These are commonly presented as bar menus and/or signature drink signs. Discuss with your caterer for more details--and make sure your final vendor meetings are far enough in advance to allow for these signs to be produced.
- Escort cards / seating chart: Be sure to create a plan for the display before you contact your stationery designer, as you may need access to a table, etc. Escort cards/seating charts do not have to be used with place cards; once guests are assigned to a table, they can choose their own seats if you prefer that route.
- Place cards: Place cards should not be used without escort cards unless you are having a TINY wedding. Place cards may be necessary in situations of long family-style tables that are set together with no space in between, as it's possible to place families next to each other but at two different "table" sections. Place cards are also vital if your serving staff needs to know dietary restrictions and/or specific meal selections per guest.
- Table numbers: Before discussing with stationer, have a general idea of your table design/ centerpieces so you know if numbers should stand alone as tented cards or can be displayed in frames/holders.
- Sweetheart table signs: A recent trend is to use chair-back signs (ex: Mr./Mrs.) and so on...
- Reserved signs if you are not using a seating plan and want to reserve certain tables for family or honored guests
- "Please sign our guest book" sign if applicable - very much optional if the guest book station is obvious and/or self explanatory
- "Please take one" sign: if applicable, for favors or any takeaways, if needed
- Flavor cards: Small cards to indicate flavors for dessert bars/any food options that are not obvious. This is one of my FAVORITE but often overlooked signage items.
- Hashtag sign: totally optional, but many weddings now include this. I wouldn't go overboard here and would also consider printing this information on the program, if informal, or on the welcome bag notes. Expect that word of mouth will work here, too.
- Cocktail napkins: Your stationery designer can often help you order custom cocktail napkins if desired; this is one of my favorite ways to debut a married monogram. If you don't have the budget for all of your napkins to be monogramed, choose a coordinating solid color napkin for half.
- Welcome sign: These can be the same sign that was used at rehearsal/ceremony; see notes above about welcome signs.
- Thank you notes: These can be used for non-wedding circumstances after the big day, too!
THE BOTTOM LINE
While it's important to consider the breadth of all the signage you need with plenty of time to prepare and budget, it's truly up to you to decide what is necessary for your day. Whether you're hosting a minimal wedding with zero frills or a lavish celebration with no detail spared, you can use this free resource as a starting point.
Click here to download the FREE Wedding Day Stationery & Signage 101 printable. The best way to utilize the resource is to use a permanent marker to black out all the lines that don't apply to your wedding and proceed from there. If you have questions about wedding day signage, leave a comment below or send us a message through my contact form. We'd love to hear from you!