To Set a Great Table (Part 1): Table Linens play an important role in creating the ambiance of a meal; as I stated in the Tablescapes post, once guests are seated, the top of the table is the view for the rest of the meal. Whether you use standard hotel linen, or rent upscale specialty linens, you should consider the color and texture that they add. Take control of the look of the room for your meal events by discussing linen options with your caterers.

The entire linen package for the table includes:

  • Table cloths
  • Napkins
  • Overlays and Runners
  • Skirting
  • Chair Covers and Sashes


Color is important as it sets the mood. Nancy Stoltz, Director of Marketing & Design for Creative Coverings, Inc., says, “As an event planner, not only is it necessary to stay on top of the current trends in special event planning, but one of the first questions you should ask any client is: what colors will play a key role to the success of their function? And, as equally important, what colors are inappropriate? For example, a Chinese New Year party should never incorporate the color white!” (White is the funeral color in China).  

Pantone is the leading authority on color, and each Fall and Spring they announce the following season’s color trends. Stoltz recommends the following sites to find hot color trends and to mix and match color palates: My Personal Artist ,The Perfect Palate Blog and Style Me Pretty.

Type of Cloth

Standard hotel linen is usually momie-woven cloth, which is a cotton/polyester blend. There are many specialty linen companies for renting damask, satin, brocade, organza, lame, and even velvet linens. They also offer a variety of prints and patterns to fit every theme, and can ship from anywhere in the U.S.


I prefer a 90-inch tablecloth for a 72-inch table (Round of 10), as it provides a 9-inch drop all around which should just graze the top of the chair. Floor length cloths for this size table would be 132 inches. While floor length tablecloths look elegant, far too often I have walked into rooms where the setup crew has pushed the chairs in too far, so the cloth does not fall straight. This ruins the effect that was intended by spending the extra money.  

Napkin folds can also set the tone of the event. Avoid napkins fanned out of drinking glasses: Lint can fall into the glass, and there is more handling of the glass, onto which guests place their lips. The Napkin Folding Guide has many great folds with instructions.

Kathy Baldieri, CPCE, Director of Food & Beverage/Catering, Spanish Trail Country Club in Las Vegas, cautions, “The outside linen company that I work with does only linen rentals. Consistently using such a company insures that the linens are maintained and readily available for last-minute revisions. When I order linens through a rental company that has a full line of rentals, not just linens, often times the linens are wrinkled, dirty and not well maintained.”

For more ideas on how to make your event stand out, check out the photos from Cvent's Great Event Photo Contest: Inspiring Ideas from the Great Event Photo Contest: Week 1Photos to Remember from The $10,000 Great Event Photo Contest: Week 2Gems from the Great Event Photo Contest: Week 3Honorable Mentions in the Cvent Great Event Photo Contest (Drum Roll, Please)And the Winner of the Cvent Great Event Photo Contest Is...

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