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Living Well

Summer Wedding Table Linens

[Edited version - originally posted on June 11, 2014]

Earth tone runners and napkins on a wood table at a garden wedding by Sonia Hopkins of XOXO Bride; flowers by FlowerwildAllyson Magda Photography.



The napkins and placemats from our Matouk Casual Couture Table Collection are the epitome of summertime chic. Made from Irish linen, they’re crisp, fresh, and pulled together without a hint of formal fussiness. The fun shapes and color accents inspired us to think about entertaining. (If you’re planning a party, check out our “Setting the Table” board on Pinterest.)

We called Christine Altieri and Jana Gimenez, partners in Boston-based AE Events, to talk wedding linens. They walk us through the design considerations surrounding the choice of tablecloths and napkins for weddings or other social events, hitting on current trends in tablecloths and rules for sizing and such.

Burlap tablecloths are used at an outdoor fundraiser for a “green” organization, by AE Events; flowers by Marc Hall Design; photo by Elevin Studios.


What are some current trends when it comes to tables and luxury table linens for weddings?

The natural look is very popular. We just did a wedding on Cape Cod using long barn tables topped with a modern silvery linen runner and slate square chargers. It’s rustic but elegant. Burlap style linens are popular.


Barn tables?

Instead of using the usual banquet tables that get covered with floor length tablecloths, couples are opting for wooden tables, called barn tables.

No tablecloths with barn tables?

Since the point is to see the wood top, we either go bare or use a runner on top, instead of full-on tablecloth.

Picnic style 90th birthday party with wooden tables by AE Events; flowers by Michael O’Brien for Winston Flowers; photo by Genevieve de Manio.
A burlap runner adds a rustic, textural element to a modern museum wedding. Photo by Rebecca Wood

Are there rules for how wide a runner needs to be?
For a 36-inch wide table, you want about twelve-inches covered in the center. You don’t want the runner to cover all of a beautiful wood tabletop or entirety of the undercloth, if you’re using one. However, you don’t want it to interfere with the chargers either. Chargers are generally 12-inches. If you’re using a 42-inch wide table, you can go a little wider with the runner, if you want.

How long should a runner hang down at the ends of the table?
You want a runner to hang down at least 12-inches on both ends.

What size tablecloth should be used with round tables?
Standard rounds are 60-inches and 72-inches, so which you need 120-inch and 132-inch tablecloths respectively. You want to be sure they touch the floor.

Do you ever use a mixture of table shapes and sizes?
If you want to mix it up, you can definitely mix table sizes and shapes in a room. We did an event recently with all oval tables.



Do you mix colors or work in pattern at all?

You can layer colors and patterns, with multiple tablecloths, runners, napkins, and seat cushions. Working in odd numbers, you might use two solids and then add a pattern that pops, like a chevron, which was really popular for a while. You can do the same mix on each table, or, do a variation of tables in the room. We recently did an event at which we used patterned tablecloths on the tables in the center, and solid tablecloths on the tables around the edges.

On the left, Courtney Thomas Arnold of Stellar Events used a sage green tablecloth as a solid ground for square chargers and patterned black and white plates, Mille Holloman Photography. On the left, a more casual event by Stellar features green and white gingham tablecloths.
Laura Olsen Events designed this feminine table scheme for a bride who requested a soft, sweet aesthetic. A pastel blue satin slub linen tablecloth on an extra wide table is a strong base for an ivory lace runner and sweet vintage accessories.



Is there a move away from traditional styles? 

The trend with social and fundraising events is to do something unique. When it comes to weddings, we’d say 80 percent of clients want to include at least one traditional element on the table.

What are examples of traditional wedding table linen elements?

You might use that a patterned tablecloth, but add an hemstitch napkin for a touch of traditional.

At what stage of designing the overall wedding tablescape does the tablecloth decision come in?

The linens on the table make such a statement. The tablecloth is the largest element; it grounds the design, like a rug in a room. In that sense the linens dictate and reflect the design vibe of the space. Sometimes the centerpiece and linens are determined in concert with one another. A client recently picked a burlap type of linen for their tablecloth, along with plants in wooden boxes as centerpieces.

A California wedding designed by Sonia Hopkins of XOXO Bride features traditional white table linens; photo by Erich McVey.
Napkin tied with twine at a wedding in a historic schoolhouse; photo by Rebecca Wood.



What are some other considerations for wedding table linens?

You’ll have to decide on the fabrication. Are you a natural weave person, or do you like sheen? How will you fold the napkin? Will you use napkin rings? Do you need chair cushions, and should they match or contrast with the linens?



Please tell us nobody has napkins folded to resemble swans anymore?

No, but we recently did an event for which we used napkins with onyx stripes, folded like a men’s tie. The current trend is for napkins to hang down from under the charger.

Left: A yellow runner sits atop ivory along with vintage style botanicals and gold accented tableware. Concept and photography by Rebecca Wood; styling and planning by Laura Olsen Events; flowers by Sweet Woodruff. Right: Taupe linen napkins are tucked under chargers with a beaded edge at an elegant ranch wedding designed by Sonia Hopkins of XOXO Bride; photo by Joy Marie Studios.
A wedding with natural, organic elements and crisp white linens planned by Nicolette Weddings; flowers by Babylonstoren; photo by Catherine Mac.



Any final words of table linen wisdom?

Use a good quality napkin. Guests don’t want to use polyester napkins that don’t actually absorb liquids. Also, be sure to use a silencer pad. It makes the cloth sit more uniformly on the table.

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