Weddings require you to do a lot of things you’ve probably never done before, like figuring out how many tablecloths you need to order, and what size they need to be. I’m here to help!
Almost every table at your wedding will need a tablecloth, unless you are using nice, wood farm tables, which shouldn’t be covered up. In the wedding business, we refer to tablecloths and napkins as “linens,” even though they are rarely made of linen. The most common material is a polyester blend because it’s fairly easy to clean and maintain. You can get linens in actual linen, or silk, or cotton, but they are more expensive.
Who orders the wedding linens?
In some cases, your venue or caterer may provide linens for your event. But if they do, you are likely to be limited in color choice. Often they have white and maybe one other option, like ivory or black. But if white is what you want, and they’re included anyway, then go for it!
It’s also possible that your caterer will manage your linen rental as part of their larger rental order of plates, flatware, glassware, etc. Most full-service catering companies will do this because they have relationships with rental companies and can get discounts not available to you as the average consumer.
Your wedding planner can also manage your rental order and potentially offer you a discounted rate. This isn’t the type of service that a coordinator usually provides, but a full-service planner will.
But if you are the one who has to figure out your linen situation, you basically have two choices: rent or buy. Tablecloths can be found on the Internet for not a lot of money. You might be tempted to buy them thinking you will be able to resell them after the wedding. (Because let’s be honest, what are you going to do with 15 120” white polyester tablecloths?)
Buying vs. Renting
I recommend NOT buying your linens for several reasons. First, you have to place your order with sufficient lead time to receive it before your wedding. Which means you need to know how many you need, which is based on how many guest tables you have, which is based on how many guests are coming. People are notoriously bad at RSVP’ing to weddings on time, so you could find yourself in need of extra linens with no time to get them. A rental company will generally let you make changes to your order up to 3 days before your wedding.
Another problem with buying linens is that they will be folded, wrapped in plastic, and shipped to you in a cardboard box. They will arrive heavily creased from being folded for who knows how many months. If you want your linens to look good on your tables, you’ll need to find the time to remove them all from the plastic bags and iron them before the wedding. (Trust me when I tell you that you are not going to have time to do this.) Rented linens will be delivered to your venue freshly laundered and pressed, on dry cleaning hangers to prevent creases. Much better.
Then you have to worry about the end of the night. You’ll have to gather up all the tablecloths, take them home, launder them, press them, package them, list them for sale, and ship them to whomever buys them (if anyone does). This is a lot of work! Not to mention that linens take a beating at a wedding. People spill wine and drinks all over them. You’d be amazed at the amount of cake that gets ground into tablecloths. You may not be able to get some of them clean enough for resale. If you rent, you just bag up the linens at the end of the night, the rental company picks them up, launders and presses them, and gets them ready for the next client. No fuss for you!
Which tables do you need linens for?
All guest tables
Head table or sweetheart table
Cocktail tables (low or hi-tops)
Favor display table (not applicable if you’re putting favors out at the guests’ place settings)
Escort card table (not applicable if you have a large seating chart on an easel)
Guestbook table (might be combined with card/gift table)
Buffet or hors d’oeuvres tables (check with your caterer)
Bar (check with your bar manager)
DJ (check with your DJ—some have booths as part of their set up, some use regular banquet tables)
What size tablecloths do you need?
There are a few standard table sizes: 60” round, 72” round, 6’ banquet, 8’ banquet, 30” round cocktail, 36” round cocktail. Here are the linen sizes for each, keeping in mind that you want the linen to go all the way down to the ground. You never want your tablecloth to be too short, exposing the table’s legs!
60” round — 120” linen
72” round — 132” linen
36” round — 96” linen
36” hi-top — 132” linen (a hi-top is further from the ground, so you need a longer tablecloth)
6’ banquet — 90” x 132”
8’ banquet — 90” x 156” (the width of the table is the same as a 6-foot; only the length changes)
Here’s a link to even more tablecloth size recommendations.
TL;DR here’s a video link
This post was written by Sacramento wedding planner Risa Weaver-Enion. If you're feeling overwhelmed by planning your wedding, we are here for you! Read more about what we do on our Welcome and Packages pages. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or want to inquire about getting help with wedding planning. And if you'd like to have future blog posts delivered to your inbox, please join our Insider’s Club on the Welcome page.