Can Aunt Jeannie sit at the same table as Aunt Mary and not start a fight? Wouldn’t cousin Josh be thrilled to sit next to Sharon’s pro surfer boyfriend? Should Andy from work be seated as far as possible from the open bar?

Planning a seating chart for your wedding involves countless questions like these. Hours can be eaten up figuring out the proximities of friends and loved ones that are most likely to spur a festive reception and least likely to spawn a yelling match. But the public face of all that wrenching decision-making is an innocuous little item: the place card.

Look beyond its function as a place to record names and table numbers, and use the place card to wring a little fun out of all those afternoons spent scribbling on a seating chart. How you choose to present your cards will give your guests a sense of what to expect from the big event – sophisticated or funky, adventurous or classic, rustic or ornate.

Hanging place cards on a line with clothespins has become a go-to presentation, for good reason. It’s affordable, playful and perfect for an outdoor wedding. And if there’s no place to string up a line at your reception site, try running twine across a tabletop and attaching the cards with mini clothespins.

Judy Pak Photography

Judy Pak Photography via Style Me Pretty 

Or ask friends and family to save up wine bottle corks to use as fun place card holders. With a few strategic slices from an Exacto Knife, you’ve got an earth-friendly display that won’t break the bank.

Laura Faherty Photography

Laura Faherty Photography via Weddings Online

Postcards make for another playful approach, especially for world traveler types. Write guests’ names and table numbers in place of an address, and continue the theme after the wedding with postcard thank you notes. Hit up antique stores for cards with a vintage look.

Jen Huang

Jen Huang via Ruffled

While you’re there, keep an eye out for old bookplates as another option. Once used to identify a volume’s owner in the pre-Kindle era of literature (think “From the Library of…), bookplates typically feature whimsical sketches that can add an old world touch to your wedding décor.

A La Vie

A La Vie via The Knot

Or steer clear of paper entirely and write guests’ names on flat stones or even seashells. Lay them out on a table or nestle them in a bed of sea glass. For a tropical feel, try using cocktail umbrellas speared into foam board covered with sand, a la Martha Stewart. (The Domestic Diva has devoted a section of her wedding website to place cards, which includes helpful templates and a charming, wish-I’d-thought-of-that wreath display.)

Mrs. Stellato on EtsyPhoto by BetsyMartha Stewart

Mrs. Stellato on Etsy, Photo by Betsy via Ruffled, Martha Stewart

So even if Aunt Jeannie winds up lobbing a few insults at Aunt Mary over the crab cake appetizers (hopefully not the crab cakes themselves), take solace in the creative presentation of your place cards. Sigh, it all gives new meaning to the phrase “know your place.”

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