There’s something special about cold weather meals. It’s the feeling of being inside a warm house, your belly getting comfortably full, when the weather outside has a chilly edge. With a couple of small touches, you can make meals extra special: light candles, use the nice plates, and consider making place cards for people or label cards for food.
Why Use Place Cards?
Your use of place cards depends on the people and the occasion. I like to make place cards if I’m in a situation where I need a little help remembering people’s names, like calligraphy workshops. I have students take their place card when they come in and place it in front of them. Those place cards help me to learn and remember names, plus participants get a fun souvenir to take home after the workshop. Win-win!
At home, we don’t use place cards for people. My family’s gatherings always include very young children, so parents and kids just sit wherever (and end up switching seats as the evening progresses). As a result, I use place cards to label dishes. I also whip up place cards when we go to potlucks and parties. It’s a good idea to bring your dish with a label so people know what they’re eating!
Obviously, there are many events that warrant place cards as a way to organize people. Weddings come to mind, as do formal meals and meetings. Whether you’re perusing place card ideas for an event like that or just as a way to make a home-cooked meal feel a little special, the ideas below aspire to inspire!
The time investment for this place card is significant (15-20 minutes per card), so reserve this concept for intimate occasions. You can find a tutorial for making a place card like this one here.
This vintage postage place card concept is great when you’re pressed for time. You just write your guest’s name, draw some embellishments in the corners, and center a vintage postage stamp in the negative space. You can learn how to make place cards like these in this tutorial.
If you’re looking for a spin on classic tented place cards, try making these fruit-themed beauties! In this tutorial, you’ll find a free traceable template and instructions.
For an extra special aesthetic, try incorporating some of the outdoors into your place card design. Go outside a couple of hours before the big meal, snip a few sprigs, and slip them into simple slits you’ve made in watercolor paper. Find a tutorial here!
5. Two Tone Food Label Cards
Try making these for your next buffet-style dinner! You write the dish’s name in white ink, then use gold watercolor to write an explanation (or a label like “Gluten-Free” or “Vegetarian”). Any style of calligraphy works for this concept, but I especially love the Janet because it’s festive and fancy.
6. Simple Hand-Lettered Place Card
If pointed pen calligraphy doesn’t suit your event (or your mood), then simply hand-letter your guests’ names on a tented card. I like to use George Style lettering for pretty but impactful place cards like the one below.
7. Flourished “Black Tie” Place Cards
If you’ve got lots of time (and intermediate/advanced pointed pen skills), consider making flourished place cards. I like to DIY place cards like this one out of black cardstock (affiliate link), then I use white ink to write flourishes and guests’ names. Once the white ink dries, you can use gold watercolor to reinforce flourishes and add more dimension to the card. This isn’t a super easy concept, so there’s a bonus tutorial video in the Intermediate Modern Calligraphy Online Course that explains how to make a place card like the one pictured below.
8. Illustrated Food Label Card
To make this food label card, I folded a 4″ x 6″ piece of watercolor paper into thirds in order to make a triangle (secured in the back with tape). Then, I used Kaitlin Style calligraphy, iron gall ink, and a Brause EF66 nib to write “Gazpacho Dip”. I switched to a Nikko G nib to write the ingredient list. After all my ink had dried, I used Ziller ink and watercolor to add festive illustrations. Feel free to switch up my process to make your own food label card!
9. Faux Calligraphy Escort Cards
When I first started selling my calligraphy, faux calligraphy escort cards were my most popular commission. I hadn’t yet mastered the pointed pen, so I just used Pilot G2 05 pens to write a person’s title and name in upright Amy Style-esque cursive. Then, I’d go over the name again with the pen to reinforce the stroke. It wasn’t quite faux calligraphy, but I’ll bet these would look even more polished if you have a mastery of the faux calligraphy concept.
10. Autumn Watercolor Place Cards
To make flat place cards like these, cut out 2.5″ x 3″ squares of watercolor paper. Then, use a size 2 paintbrush to write the guest’s first name using Beth Style calligraphy letterforms. As you write, alternate dipping your brush into yellow, brown, orange, and red watercolors. Finish up by using the watercolor calligraphy technique and a Blue Pumpkin nib to write the guest’s last name and, if applicable, their meal selection.
On the Topic of Dinners …
I’m so excited to host cold-weather meals with friends and family, and to be back in the kitchen after an extensive remodel. After three months of construction, our appliances will be installed later this week! I cannot wait to be able to make the things I took for granted before, like pasta, cookies/cakes, and roasted anything. If you also love being in the kitchen, you might like the kitchen conversion chart that I posted last week.
I hope that this collection of place card concepts encourages you to get festive next time you host an event or take a dish to a potluck! There’s no doubt that making place cards or creative food labels takes time, but it’s so worth it when you see guests’ reactions. Choose the idea on this list that resonates most with you, and give it a go yourself!
Thanks so much for reading, and happy (almost) holidays!