Top Tips: Choosing Table Linens

by Marta
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Poor, abused table linens. As though wiping your face with them weren't bad enough, making fun of their unimportance is a wedding planning cliché. “Two days after your wedding, will anyone remember what color the napkins were?” I say it all the time, it's shorthand for, focus on what’s important. It’s even one of OneWed’s truths: “Truth #3: You can ask for his opinion, but your fiancé does not care about table linens.”

But, after I had a little talk with Howard Spiro, owner of Chicago’s Windy City Linens, I felt a little sheepish about the bad (w)rap I’d been giving those chair-ties! I asked Howard to help me help you think about your table linens, and in the process he explained why I should stop being so mean to those poor napkins!

Here are Howard’s top tips for renting table linens:

1. Don’t put it off
Table linens are usually one of the last details to be decided. Sometimes, by the time you get around to thinking about it, you’re running low on time and you pretty much just need to go with what your caterer or the venue has to offer. But, with a little forethought, you could rent the table linens directly yourself, and save yourself a little money.

2. Do your research
The fabrics used in table linens can be called by any number of names. What one company calls a “classic solid” another company may call a “poly blend.” Before comparing prices, make sure the fabrics are the same, and processed the same way. Most rental table linens are going to be some sort of polyblend, the difference is in how they’re processed. There are cotton/linen blends, but they are very expensive, and really not needed for a wedding. Remember, this is not the tablecloth on your wedding gift registry! Of course, a large part of doing your research is investigating the vendor. That’s why OneWed lets you rate and review vendors, and read ratings and reviews of vendors.

3. Make sure you understand the costs
When getting prices, make sure you have a complete understanding of what the costs entail. Are there delivery pick-up costs? Is there a surcharge for weekend delivery? If you live in a smaller market, you may be dealing with a company shipping you the linens, are there shipping costs? These extra costs are all something to consider when thinking about whether to rent cloths yourself or go through your caterer or venue.

4. Make sure you understand the delivery and pick-up procedure
If you’re renting your own linens talk to the company about their delivery and pick-up procedures. When will they deliver the linens? Will the linen company be setting up the cloths, or do they expect the caterer to do it (make sure to ask your caterer the same question!) If you’re having your ceremony and reception in the same room, is there a “turn-over” fee? When will they pick the linens up after the event? What are the charges for lost linen? (Hotel waiters are somewhat notorious in the business for accidentally throwing out napkins during clean-up).

5. Go visit the showroom
If you’re renting from a local company, go and talk to them in person. A real customer service rep (as opposed to someone who just takes orders) will ask you questions about the venue, the look and feel of your wedding, your colors, etc. You want to feel like this person is working with you, not working you!

6. Compare swatches
Even if you’re ordering online, you should ask to see actual fabric swatches. If you’re trying to match or compliment your bridesmaids’ dresses, or flowers, you want to see them against the actual fabric, not a screenshot. When thinking about your colors, don’t forget to consider the colors of your venue. If your wedding colors are purple and gold, but the room has red carpeting, well you may need to get creative to get it all to work together. This is one of the reasons that using a company that has customer service reps can be a big help.

7. Colors may vary
If you’re renting 100 red napkins, you want 100 red napkins, not 80 red, 10 slightly less red, and 10 pink. Rental cloths are in fact rentals, there will be fading but you need to be comfortable that the company takes good care of its linens. Ask questions about how cloth is cared for, how often it is turned over, etc.

8. Know what you need
When thinking about your linen order, make sure to count all the tables, including those used for serving. If you’re using non-standard-size tables make sure you have exact measurements. If you’re getting married at a traditional wedding venue, such as a hotel make sure to ask for a room layout. Howard recommends that you count up everything you need, then add one more of each size, in case of spills, or other accidents.

9. Spend wisely
Many wedding venues have linens that come with the cost of renting the venue. Usually these linens are a plain white or black. If you’re trying to save money, use these tablecloths and napkins, but consider renting overlays from a linen company, or chair-ties, or even just a runner. A few small pieces can make a big difference in the overall look of the room!

10. Give them some WOW!
As I mentioned, Howard was not pleased with my dismissal of tablecloths! He rightly pointed out that while your guests won’t remember what color they were, they will be in your photographs forever. What’s more important – linens can provide a lot of “wow” for very little money. When you walk into a room that’s wonderfully decorated, you feel like the event is special. You won’t remember what created the impression, but you will remember that initial feeling.

Thanks again to Howard Spiro of Windy City Linens for sharing his expertise!