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Just like guests, tables at important events are expected to dress for the occasion. Their presentation starts with table linens, which serve both a functional and an ornamental role. In this article, we’ll discuss event tablecloths and table linens, their available varieties, and how you should rent and set them for your event.

The Role Table Linen Plays In An Event

Table linen is defined as a fabric article used to either cover or keep a surface clean during a meal. Unlike your average dollar-store plastic sheet and cups, these items are made of materials such as cotton, linen, and nylon and can be reused many times.

While they’re first and foremost relied on to keep dining areas tidy, upscale events use table linens to embellish the atmosphere. You can easily take your event to the next level by choosing appropriate colors and patterns for the occasion.

Outdoor table with wedding cake

Exploring Types Of Table Linen

‘Table linen’ is a broad term that describes multiple items at an event dinner table. The following is a breakdown of the four main types and what purpose each serves.


Runners are a smaller version of a table line, generally 15-18” in widths. While they occupy the same place on the table, they usually only cover half of its surface – usually centered in the middle. They’re typically used to add a pop of color and texture to a table or to visually connect dining areas.

Runners can be made of the same materials as table linens, though they’re often made from more delicate fabric. They come in various shapes, colors, and designs like draping sheets but will always be narrower and longer than a full sheet.


Napkins are a necessary item for any event that involves food. They are used to protect clothing from messy meals while also preventing table surfaces from getting stained. Depending on your chosen material and design, they are also a great way to introduce more colors or textures into your event.

Colored napkin at a dinner setting

Napkins come in various sizes and materials, from cotton to linen.  Some napkins may be designed with a pattern or logo to add character to the setting. Larger, decorative napkins can be used for formal events, while smaller, plainer napkins are more appropriate for casual occasions.

Renting The Best Table Linen For Your Gathering

Table linen is a pivotal yet often overlooked element of event planning. In a culture where we’ve become so used to ‘setting and forgetting’, it can be easy to under appreciate these items’ value on a special occasion.

But there’s really a lot to be taken advantage of. Aside from their functional purpose of keeping dining spaces clean, table linens come in a wealth of varieties and options that make the possibilities of what you can do with them virtually infinite. From weddings and anniversaries to reunions, they can elevate any atmosphere and give guests a memorable experience.

Let’s look at the options you’ll have when renting table linen and how you can pick the best set for your event.

Consider Context

As you shop for table linen, the most important thing to consider is the type of event you’re hosting and its setting. Larger, more formal events like weddings and business gatherings will require greater sophistication, while smaller, casual get-togethers can settle for more plain options.

Be sure to also consider the available space and how many people will attend. A small coffee table might require a single placemat, while long tables require a combination of sheets and runners. 

Different colorful linens

Choose The Right Material

Table linen comes in a range of materials, from cotton to silk. Depending on your event and budget, you’ll have to decide whether you want to go with a more durable option that can withstand frequent use or one designed to be more delicate and visually appealing. 

For events expected to last a long time, it’s best to opt for materials that have good resistance to wear and tear. For those that involve a lot of food and drinks, materials like vinyl and leather are great for keeping spills and messes at bay.

Add Some Color

Table linen should be appreciated for the splash of color and personality it can bring to a room. Knowing what colors match your event theme and table settings ensures everything looks cohesive. 

There are a variety of colors and patterns you can choose from to match the aesthetic of your event. If you want something more formal, classic colors like navy and white are always safe options. You can go with something bolder and more vibrant for casual events to create an eye-catching display.

Beautiful pink velvet tablecloth

How To Properly Set And Style Table Linen

Renting the individual pieces of table linen you’d like to use for your gathering is only half of the process. The other is planning how they should be arranged and styled.

While event planners should always have the final say, there are some general conventions people are expected to follow when setting their tables for a formal event. This section will explain the basics and what you should know when coordinating your table spreads. 

Always Use A Tablecloth

While this may seem like a no-brainer, some people hesitate to commit to tablecloths. This is especially true in the case of events with wooden or glass furniture that can be quite a sight to behold on its own.

But it’s important to remember that tablecloths are the base layer of formal table dressing. Without them, guests will be left with an incomplete and somewhat unprofessional look that can detract from the overall experience. Not only that, but if your tables are truly special, tablecloths will add a layer of protection.

Layer On Placemats And Runners

Depending on the size of your tables, you may need to add placemats to the mix. These are ideal for keeping food and drinks away from the tablecloth, reducing the chances of staining or otherwise damaging it.

Runners are also popular for large tables, as they can draw attention to the center of the table by framing the centerpiece and other decorative elements. Just be sure to do it sparingly, as too many layers may oversoften your table’s surface. 

Finishing Touches

When all the pieces of your table setting are in place, you can add the finishing touches, like silverware and fabric napkins. Be sure to consider the colors of your tablecloth, placemats, and runners when selecting them to make sure everything ties together.

Napkins can be styled in many ways, including a knot shape, or folded over the charger plate. You can also tie them with ribbons or place them inside a ring for added flair. Ultimately, it all comes down to the type of event you’re throwing and the impression you want to make on your guests.

Pink Tablecloth

Event planning is a multi-step process involving much decision-making and careful thought. Table linen is just one element of that process, but it can greatly impact the overall feel and aesthetic of your event. Hopefully, this guide has given you some insight into properly selecting and styling table linen for your next gathering. Good luck!