Tablecloth Shopping Guide

It’s tempting to think that when it comes to buying tablecloths, the only thing that matters is the size of the tables you need to cover. While it’s absolutely true that you can blindly purchase linens without any sort of knowledge regarding table linens, knowing just a few things about textiles will help you better understand your own needs as a consumer when buying a tablecloth–or, more likely, enough tablecloths for an entire party.

outdoor wedding inspiration

What is a Table Linen?

First of all, it’s important to know the difference between all the various types of table linens available. Most people are familiar with the tablecloth, a table linen that is big enough to cover an entire table. Basic shapes like round tablecloths, square tablecloths, and rectangular tablecloths are available and fit most tables out there. Want something a little more dressy? Try a table skirt, a linen that is decorative and frilly, and hangs all the way to the ground. Want to ensure the tablecloth stays on for the duration of the event? Meet the stretch tablecloth and fitted tablecloth.

If you want to top off your tablescapes with even more elegant fabric, table runners and table overlays are icing on the cake. A table runner is a long table linen that can be used on top of a tablecloth, or alone on a bare table for a clean and classic look. Table overlays offer an extra layer to your tablescape which is great for broadening your event color palette or adding depth with an interesting pattern like polka dot, animal print, or even a textured fabric like burlap.

Burlap table runner

Navy tablecloth with a burlap table runner

Selecting the right table linens for an event is predominantly based on personal preference and aesthetic taste, but depending on the type of event, following the canon of selecting certain table linens for certain types of events is an advisable option. For weddings, any kind of tablecloth whether round, square, or rectangular is just fine. Brides are completely free to choose whatever kind of table linens they fancy–it’s entirely the bride’s (and sometimes the groom’s) decision and it should reflect personal taste. For non-formal events like birthday parties or family gatherings, rectangular polyester or economy tablecloths work well because a rectangular table allows for a whole host of guests to sit shoulder to shoulder and mingle. At night or in a dimly lit room, satin tablecloths shimmer splendidly and can make the night feel magical. Table skirts and fitted tablecloths are ideal for corporate events and trade shows, as these table linens are a bit more formal and are perfect for display tables. When eating at a restaurant or cafe, customers prefer to feel the softness of cotton while dining or people watching. With a soft texture and high durability, cotton-feel or ambassador table linens are ideal for restaurants.

Which Tablecloths Suit Your Needs?

When shopping for tablecloths, the most important attributes to look out for are tablecloth size, fabric type, and fabric weight.

Sizing tablecloths to fit your tables before you buy is absolutely crucial, as the size of a tablecloth greatly affects the look and feel of your tablescapes. Also, when buying tablecloths online, you want to avoid this:

tablecloth sizing

“Honey, I think this tablecloth might be too small for our wedding tables”

What kind of style do you want to present to your guests? As a general rule of thumb, long tablecloths that nearly touch the floor look more formal than tablecloths that hang about halfway to the floor. It can be difficult to imagine what sized tablecloth should be used on what table, but thanks to LinenTablecloth’s tablecloth sizing tool, finding the perfect fit for your tables has never been easier! Simply input the size and shape of  your table and view what different sized tablecloths will look like.

Tablecloth sizing

The difference between 90 in. and 120 in. tablecloths on a 60 in. round table? Huge.

When deciding on tablecloth fabric type, ask yourself, “What do I really need?” Set a budget for yourself if necessary, because table linens rise in price exponentially depending on the quality of materials used. For instance, many argue that satin is only satin if made with real silk, so it’s a good idea to buy 100% silk satin table linens, right? Wrong. For one, a material like natural cocoon silk is very expensive. Genuine, 100% silk table linens can cost hundreds of dollars depending on the weight of the fabric. Buying a tablecloth made of real silk may seem like a great way to bring elegance to your event, but the reality is that you’re very likely to only use the table linens for a single event. Why spend lots of money on a tablecloth material like silk when satin made from polyester shimmers all the same, but at a fraction of the cost?

Polyester is the go-to, affordable material that is highly wrinkle resistant and not very absorbent. It’s these properties that make polyester the best tablecloth fabric for most consumers. Everyone knows that aunt Judy or little Mikey will inevitably spill their drink on your nice, new tablecloth, and you’ll be very happy to have chosen polyester instead of super absorbent (and super expensive) genuine linen or silk.

wine spill on tablecloth

“Everybody spills, aunt Judy–it’s totally fine. I have plenty of genuine 100% cocoon silk tablecloths lying around the house”

The quality of fabric material is a very understated part of shopping for table linens, yet it’s very easy to feel the difference between high and low quality table linen products. Even when shopping for standard polyester tablecloths, quality varies greatly. Essentially, you can determine quality by a table linen’s weight or GSM. The higher the GSM (grams per square meter), the higher the quality. We are proud to say that our standard polyester tablecloths are made with 180 GSM, a number well above the average table linen retailer. Even our economy table linens measure up to our competitors standard tablecloths, weighing in at 160 GSM.

Where Should I Buy Tablecloths?

No matter the shape, style, or fabric of the table linens you intend to by, it’s best to be cautious when shopping online. Many online table linen companies advertise their table linens’ GSM as higher than it actually is. Make sure to read reviews of a company before making a purchase to ensure their products will meet your expectations. If you don’t do your homework, you might just end up with something totally different from what you expected.

cat in a box

“Look, I’m not saying it’s not a tablecloth…I just don’t think it’s going to fit my table”

Yes, we might be a bit biased telling our readers to buy tablecloths from our online table linen store (it’s really the best, we swear!), but we’ve grown thus far as a result of our loyal customer base and glowing reviews. When shopping for table linens, check out sites like weddingwire.com and amazon.com to confirm that the store is credible. Also, be very weary if a store is listed on RipOff Report.

Do I Need Anything Else?

Tablecloths are a great start, but definitely not the only thing you will need for your special event. Polyester or cotton-feel napkins are a great alternative for paper napkins for both aesthetic and environmental reasons, and they also look a lot nicer. Placemats are also great accessories to have because they have two important functions: adding depth to your color scheme and protecting your table linens.

Like to keep everything in place? It can be very frustrating to see the napkins you so carefully selected folded asymmetrically. That’s exactly why we have napkin rings to hold those napkins in place! Have a table skirt trying to skirt off the edge of the table? Try table skirt clips! You can also pretty up your event with doilies, ribbons, fabric rolls, and confetti. Decorate your tables and venue with what’s appropriate for your event–a little intuition about these things go a long way!

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Credits: Vineyard wedding photo by Lindsay Madden Photography, featured by Style me Pretty || Tablecloth sizing tool by LinenTablecloth || Burlap and navy tablescape pinned here || Wine spill found on mynslc.com || Cat package found on cheezburger.com