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Etiquette & Protocol

Proper Place Cards

Place cards help guests find their seats at tables and add a touch of elegance to both formal and informal gatherings.

For a formal occasion, place cards should be about three quarters of an inch tall and about two and one-half inches long, of stiff stock that is plain white or eggshell color. It is acceptable for them to have a gilt or colored border or to have the university seal or other logo (such as a capital campaign symbol) embossed or printed at the top of the card. Cards that are otherwise decorated should not be used for a formal occasion. Lay cards flat on the table; place them in a card stand; or make free standing "tents" by folding larger-sized cards in half.

The most correct way to complete the cards is to hand letter them in black ink. Use only the guest's title or honorific and last name (Dr. Brown, Ms. Rogers). When two guests have the same last name, add the first names for clarity (Ms. Diane Rogers, Ms. Tracy Rogers). Be certain the lettering is large and bold enough for people to read from a distance.


Persons who have rank or who are current or former elected officials must have their rank indicated before their names. (Governor Black). Refer to an etiquette book under "proper forms of address" for guidance.

If the party is large or most guests are strangers, it is acceptable to use people's first and last names.

The place card belongs on top of and in the center of the folded napkin, or put them on the tablecloth at the top of the service plate in the center of the place setting.

It is never acceptable to rearrange place cards in order to secure a "better" seat.