To cut confusion and add personality to your next Thanksgiving, holiday dining affair, or family feast, you can always turn to highly creative and unique name tags to guide and delight your family and friends. If you’ve never considered or otherwise haven’t had the opportunity for custom name tags, presenting place settings will be sure to amuse, please, and impress your guests.
If you always use the same name tags year after year, or need another new idea, these will hopefully spark your imagination. Don’t worry—these ideas are beginner level, highly customizable to your tastes, and fairly inexpensive! These 15 ideas also double as favors for your guests to bring home to remember their wonderful dinner by.
(Consider using chalk board paint on some of the options to re-use for different events!)
15. Fancy Menu Card
This one is all in the wording. Find out or decide your meal’s menu in advance. Optionally, for each guest, come up with a stately sounding “title” for them. Such as, “The Honorable,” “The Esteemed,” “The Illustrious,” etc.! Use this “title” to address them in the menu.
For example, “This seat reserved for the worthy Miss Jane A. Doe.” Get fancy and creative with describing your meal and event, including the “Estate” on which the gathering is held and the date. Next comes the arrangement of the actual menu. Here is where a thesaurus might come in handy to “fancify” otherwise common appetizers and entrees.
“Mashed potatoes” becomes “Velvety Creamed Potatoes,” “Bread and Butter” become “Fresh-Baked Crusty Rolls accompanied by Whipped Butter,” “Vegetables” becomes “Selection of Herb-Roasted Vegetables…” Get the idea?
See how you can give the seemingly ordinary menu the royal treatment. Type this up in an ultra-posh font, add an elaborate border, and print up on some pretty paper or elegant cardstock, and voila! Guests have a pretty memento and get to read over the meal that’s planned.
14. Wrapped Candy Bars or Cookies
Nothing says “family dinner” like offering guests more tasty food! By using candy bars or cookies, you’ll provide guests with a tasty dessert to enjoy after their feast. Wrapping a large, flat chocolate bar (or other candy of choice) in printed paper, maybe with a ribbon, will add a touch of class to typically garish candy wrappers.
Add any stickers or embellishments as well as a label with the guests’ name. You can also use other desserts, such as custom cookies iced with your guests’ names or cupcakes with picks showing guests’ names or initials. Individual, personalized desserts after your feast will surely be a hit and be a super-easy way to offer dessert right after the meal.
13. Baby or Childhood Photos
This is an especially adorable and nostalgic idea to designate where your family members will sit. Collect baby, toddler, or childhood photos of each family member (or friend) that will be attending the dinner. Resize if needed and print to a desired size, such as 2×3 inches. Purchase small matching frames in your chosen photo size and place at each person’s assigned seat.
Family will have fun finding their photo, matching baby faces to relatives, reminiscing, and seeing everyone else’s childhood photos. They also get to take home the photo—and frame—as a small gift to remind them of that specific holiday event, and when they were that age in the past.
12. Candle Holders
This may sound simple, but votive candles are one of the most elegant and pretty little gifts for your guests. Find some small candle holders that you like, that fit the theme of your dinner, or the theme of the holiday. In order to label them for guests to know where to be seated, print names on decorative paper, see-through paper, or sticker paper.
Then adhere to the votive with glue or other adhesive. You can provide battery-operated LED tea candles if, for example, there will be young children present, there are unsafe conditions for fire, or you plan to pass food items over the table. Otherwise, real, lit tea candles will work as well. These are sure to be treasured and add a warm and cozy atmosphere to your meal.
11. Wood Letters
These are one of the most customizable ideas out of these ideas, and all it starts with is a simple, wooden letter. There are dozens of types and sizes of wooden letters in craft stores out there, so find the style, width, and size you like of each attending guest’s letter of their name.
The opportunities to decorate these letters are limitless: you can all a twine ribbon to an unfinished letter, paint them your guests’ favorite color, spray with glittery, holiday-appropriate spray paint, apply buttons, pebbles, beads, or magazine cutouts of things that remind you of that person.
Brainstorm ideas and keep your eyes open for cool paints and interesting appliques that will adorn your guest’s letter for them to take home and hang in memory of the event.
Speaking of highly customizable ideas, this is the other most customizable (and probably cheapest) item on the list. Research the plethora of options for origami for name tags.
You can cut out butterflies with your guest’s name on the wing to perch on the rim of the glasses, add a name to the wing of an origami crane, fold something that has to do with the holiday, such as a turkey or snowflake, or, label folded paper boxes with candy or treats inside.
There are a wide range of origami creations to explore, ranging from beginning to advanced. And typically, all you really need for this is squares of paper, know-how, and time. Search for what you want and can make for the occasion.
9. Teacups or Wine Glasses
These present dual functionality: informing guests of their seats as well as being used for drinks! Search secondhand stores, thrift stores, or antique stores for mismatched tea cups or wine glasses, (or other drinking cups such as mugs, mason jars, tumblers, even shot glasses.) Often these types of stores have a plethora of glassware.
It’s also fine that you not find a whole matching set of cups or glasses; rather the mismatched quality will stand out and feel more personal and charming than a matching set. Attach tags to the stem of wine glasses or handle of tea cups, and optionally fill each with things like candies, mints, mini bottles of wine, or a selection of tea bags, cocoa, or honey.
This favor will live on and be used throughout the year in the receiver’s house as well as being used for this years’ dinner drinks, or after dinner tea and coffee. As opposed to a simple slip of paper, gifting each member of your meal with this very functional, inexpensive gift will be something to remember.
8. “Survival” Bag
Usually at family get-togethers or holiday dinners, relatives and friends plan to stay over for a few days in someone’s house. If this is the case, provide them with a Thanksgiving/Holiday Meal “Survival Bag.” These are a small investment but will surely come in handy to house guests over the holiday stay and after any feast.
Choose small decorative paper bags, or, decorate plain small bags with stickers or other designs, and, of course, each guest’s name. Include things like antacids or mints, tissues, tea, cocoa, or coffee, candies, small toys and games, Wet Wipes or hand sanitizer, floss, toothpicks, pain reliever, lip balm, cards, headphones, washcloths, etc.
Anything you think someone would find useful staying together at your or someone’s house, or something useful to have before, during, or after a big holiday meal. These goodies are sure to be appreciated by any house guests.
7. Paper Tablecloth
You may be asking, “How can you incorporate a disposable tablecloth into name settings?” Well, if you use a heavy, brown paper over your table, (like kraft or butcher paper,) you’ll be able to write and draw on it, outlining “place mats” with drawn-on plates and silverware with your guests’ name in the middle.
You can really draw any design for the names you like on the table, let guests design their own drawn-on name and “place setting,” and even put out crayons and markers for young (or grown up) children to draw on their “place mat” before or after dinner. The best part is, after you’re done with dinner, there is an easy cleanup of the table since you can roll everything up and toss it!
Everyone enjoys plants. They make great gifts, and are a great addition to anyone’s home. Why not provide your guests with living mementos of their holiday dinner? Succulents are small, tough, easy-to-take-care-of, and fairly easy to travel with. Select adorable baby plants and matching pots, writing each invitee’s name or initial on the pots.
Or, using alphabet stickers to spell out names, stick labels on to write on, hot glue small wooden letters, etc. The labeling is up to you! These will liven up the table with color immediately, and give everyone a small parting gift that will just keep growing.
5. Postcards to Future Self
This is an easy, cute idea to do even in addition to other name place settings. Select postcards for everyone attending the dinner, and optionally devise some sort of stand or holder, if you desire. Write their name on the back of the postcard, in larger print so everyone can spot their seats more immediately.
Add their mailing address and a postcard stamp, provide pens, and before, during, or after the dinner, have guests write a postcard to their future selves.
It can say anything: a cheery greeting, a list of goals they hope they’ve accomplished, memories about the dinner or holiday, what they are feeling right now, what they think life will be like in several months—whatever they want to say to their future selves. After everyone’s done, collect the postcards and keep in a safe place.
A few months, many months, or even a year later, pop them in the mailbox and let everyone enjoy a piece of that event re-surface to remind them of the memories.
4. Mini Easels and Canvases
We’ve all seen these novelties at craft stores: the tiny canvas with an accompanying easel. These have a surface and stand all ready for your name tags; all you need to add is some creativity. These are especially fun for the artistically inclined out there, but anyone can paint on names and designs on that small of a surface, so don’t worry!
Use any kind of common or acrylic paint; it needn’t be anything special, and a small brush to design your guest’s names or initials on the little canvases. Visitors at the holiday event will delight in their minuscule creations that you made, and will be able to continue displaying them all year long.
3. Wooden Letter Tiles
This is a common idea that is an almost too-easy way to display guest’s names. Literally all you need to do is glue word tiles, like from a Scrabble game, onto a letter tile holder, and voila! These are especially cool for a family or group of friends that love word games or board games in general, with its nod to the infamous Scrabble.
Search craft stores or, with more luck, online for the letter tile supplies to make these awesome-looking name displays. Arrange tiles in order, center on the stand, and simply hot glue, (or super glue,) the tiles on.
2. Compliment Sheet
These are also something that can be easily done in addition to any other name tags, and also can be done year after year. Design a sheet with each guest’s name at the top. Under, write something along the lines of “What are your favorite things about John Doe?” or “I’m thankful for John because…” or any sort of “kindness prompt” about the person that you’d like.
The idea is to start a “compliment” sheet for each person. Provide different writing utensils, and before, during, or after the event, have everyone pass their cards one direction and have everyone write something nice on the sheet about the person who’s name is at the top.
Keep passing the cards until they return to the owner, and let everyone read all the nice things the friends and family has to say about them. You can also do a version of this by using each guest’s name as an acronym for compliments, for example: “John: Joyful, Organized, Handy, Nice.”
1. Personalized Souvenir
This one also takes a little time and investment, but is a fun tradition to start and requires no crafting. Start collecting souvenir’s with guest’s names personalized on them. These can be, including but certainly not limited to, things like keychains, magnets, pens, pins, shells, bracelets—you name it—and are commonly found in local tourist and gift shops.
If you end up having people with too unique names to find, try going with initials instead of full names. These will be fun to collect throughout the years, and various family members can also take turns in order for other friends and family members to get a souvenir, literally with their name on it, from where each relative lives.