In lieu of place cards for a black tie wedding, we will have guests’ first and last names written by a calligrapher at the top of each menu card. Many of our guests are southern and go only by their middle name. Is it proper to use their middle name or is it more proper to use their given first name in this application?
–C. J., Mobile, AL
The purpose of the place card is dual. To show the guest their appointed seat and to help guests learn the other guests’ names. If the person is known as Didi and not Edith (my real name), then use the name Didi Lorillard on the place card/menu. With the intention of helping guests socialize comfortably, you would use their nickname or middle name (if they use it as their first name socially). Nonetheless, there are people who are known by both, but the nuance is that you only use, say, a childhood nickname such as “Muffy,” if you’ve known her forever. In this case, when you’re most likely seating her next to someone she may not know, you would use her given first name, Meredith instead of Muffy.
The short answer is that you use the name you think the person wishes to be called. If you know that Muffy, who is a hot shot lawyer, would rather be introduced as Meredith, put Meredith on her place card/menu.
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