A good understanding of table linens can help hosts save money while making a good impression on their guests. Several types of cloths are usually included in a discussion of table linens. Cloths for formal dining occasions that are often considered together with table linens, although they are not strictly for use on a table, are chair covers and chair sashes. Tablecloths, the most common and essential type of table linens, are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from the usual rectangular cloth to square, round, and even oval, according to the shape of the table. Common sizes range from 60″ by 102″ to 90″ by 156″, long enough to extend to the floor on all sides of the table. Tablecloths are available either with or without seams in the fabric. A seamless design is often preferred for formal occasions. Strong, washable polyester fabrics are chosen by people looking for relatively inexpensive tablecloths; on the other hand, stain-resistant and wrinkle-resistant fabrics are especially appreciated by busy event planners choosing wedding tablecloths.
Elegance can be added to a formal banquet by using table overlays, which may offer an interesting contrast in color and material to the tablecloths which show beneath their edges. Overlays may be gathered near the tabletop, with decorative imitation flowers among the folds, or may hang down halfway to the floor below a table. Sometimes table skirts, cloths which encircle but do not cover the top of a table, are a comparatively economical alternative to full tablecloths beneath table overlays. They are easily recognizable by the large number of folds running down the table along the fabric. Table overlays often range in size from 60″ to 90″, according to the size of table available. Embroidered overlays can be especially attractive. Organza, crinkle fabric, and satin are only a few of the enticing choices of material available. A rainbow of extremely attractive colors is available, to complement any other design choices made for a special occasion, ranging from flowers to clothing to other types of linens.
Table runners highlight the center strip of a long table in a color contrasting with the tablecloth. They may not be on all the tables that are used at a banquet. Table runners can be an especially attractive feature of a place setting. One example could be satin runners in a pronounced, warm color contrasting with tablecloths in cooler and lighter colors.
Placemats are table linens that are needed in significantly larger numbers than tablecloths, table overlays, or table runners. Each guest needs a placemat. Napkins are another type of table linens that must be provided for each guest. Their presentation can add to their decorativeness. Napkins can be folded in the shape of a fan, wrapped into a rosebud or bishop’s hat, or used to create more complex designs such as a bird of paradise. The colors and kinds of cloth used can significantly add to the attractiveness of a banquet, together with those of all the table linens.