Oh, Etiquette, you funny, funny creature! I've had -and been witness to - so many conversations about the multiple cards needed at a wedding reception, here's a blog post to hopefully help clear things up.
(Photo courtesy of Stewart Harvey Photography. Lettering - monoline flourished formal script)
Let's start with the easy one - place cards are what's set at the place setting where one is required to sit. The place card may also be used to cue a server what entree to serve a guest - suggestions for that are another post for another day :-) Today, here's a place card from one of my most darling brides
Now, how do you get the guest from the door to their place setting? This is where seating cards/table cards/escort cards come into play.
(Photo courtesy of Paul Rich Studio. Lettering - monoline formal script)
These card direct people to their seats. My preference is to call them "seating cards." Some people call them "table cards" but I've had a couple clients confuse them with "table markers."
As for the phrase, "escort cards"... boy howdy, you haven't lived until you've witnessed an elderly stateswoman in the calligraphy world straighten out someone's hash on the subject! Officially & historically, escort cards are what one receive is one were a single woman attending a dinner unescorted. Back in the day, they had to be escorted to the table by a singe gentleman. There would be a little envelope addressed to the woman, let's say "Miss Elizabeth Bennett." Inside there would be a card that said "Your escort is Mr. Darcy."
Today, call them an escort card and I know what you mean. I won't use the phrase in case I slip someday in the presence of a calligraphic doyen and accidently bring their wrath down upon me.
Huh. I used the phrases "boy howdy" and "straighten out someone's hash" in the same post. Apparently I'm channeling my inner Southerner today!