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Choosing the Perfect Fabric for Your Wedding Tablecloth

Updated on December 18, 2012
Add lights and sparkly elements to matte tablecloths for a wedding that truly shines!
Add lights and sparkly elements to matte tablecloths for a wedding that truly shines! | Source

Sheer, matte, chiffon, linen, silk, lace, satin, velvet . . . the list goes on. In choosing the perfect tablecloth for your wedding, you’ll be faced with a whole gamut of decisions. Determining the colors is difficult enough, as most event linen rental establishments offer endless variations on a simple color, not to mention prints, patterns, sizes, and shapes. Once you have that down, you’ll need to think about what fabric to use, whether or not you want an overlay, whether you want to alternate the colors of your tablecloth rentals, and so on.

Pairing tablecloth fabric isn’t as difficult as you might think. Just as you could wear a lacy top with dark jeans, you can add a lacy or filmy overlay to nearly any tablecloth and get away with it. What becomes difficult is balancing matte finishes with the shiny ones. A little shimmer is to be expected at weddings; a lot can look garish. Likewise, matte finishes are elegant, but an event with nothing but matte will look unconscionably boring.

Elements like glasses, plates, and silverware will reflect and refract light, but remember that these will be removed once your guests are done eating. Once you’ve moved on to dancing, the wedding tablecloth rentals and other elements of décor will still be there, so don’t think that you can just keep it safe with matte linen tablecloths and expect your dinnerware to pick up the slack. Either switch it up by adding a touch of shimmer to your tablecloth rentals or add other reflective elements to your table.

Since this article deals primarily with shine, you don’t really need to consider the sizing aspects of your venue. You can rent rectangular tablecloths or specialized banquet tablecloths for longer tables, or stick with round or square tablecloths for smaller tables. You don’t need to temper or enhance levels of reflection for different table shapes.

You should, however, consider the coloring and lighting of the room. Ideally, the wall will be white and the lighting adequate and not fluorescent, as everybody looks terrible under fluorescent light. If this isn’t the case, either switch venues or consult with the owners to replace the lighting with something a little more flattering. You may also consider using candles (or safer alternatives, like LED candles) to add to the level of shine.

As for the fabrics themselves, for the sake of this article, we’ll say there are three basic types used in the tablecloth rental industry: shiny, matte, and filmy. We won’t discuss color in this article, but you can read my article on color coordination if you need further tips.


Here, you have your satins, certain silks, and tablecloths that incorporate sparkly elements like sequins, metallic thread, and so on. Of course, there are different levels of “shininess.” You can have a shiny black tablecloth and have it look kind of drab and funereal, or you can add a celestial overlay and make it look magical. It comes down to the difference between gloss (satin) and sparkle (sequins), but the effect is similar in that both will reflect light and add visual interest.

A basic, satiny party tablecloth is hardly overwhelming on its own. The shine is subdued and elegant, meaning that you won’t need to worry about adding metallic or glass elements to the table. You’ll be able to find satin tablecloth rentals in nearly every color and print, though it should be noted that the shine will be more noticeable on darker tablecloths like cobalt and black. Satin finishes are appropriate for any occasion, no matter how personal or professional.

There are very few drawbacks to using satin, but it isn’t without its risks. Food and drink stains are more noticeable on satin, as they can dull its finish. A satin tablecloth shows marks of fraying more than its matte counterpart would, so be sure you’ve researched your wedding tablecloth rental service to ensure the quality of its pieces beforehand.

Sparkles work best as a highlight rather than as a primary tablecloth, but there are exceptions. It really depends on how sparkly they are. If it’s solid gold, be sure to use matte napkins and chair covers, or guests might find the whole look overwhelming.


There isn’t much to say about matte finishes. They include your most basic linen tablecloths and look . . . fine. They form a solid backdrop for the other elements of, including any sparkly and shiny elements. This isn’t to say that matte finishes are boring. Like any banquet tablecloth, a matte tablecloth will come in a variety of colors and prints. But since this article is about finishes and fabrics rather than colors, there is really only one hazard to discuss: boredom.

Consider the matte white tablecloth. You’ll find it in nearly every restaurant. It’s functional, it’s elegant, and by itself, it’s completely drab. If you’re celebrating an important milestone, your choice of wedding tablecloth should reflect the importance of the event rather than banality. This isn’t to say that a matte white tablecloth should be avoided, but that it requires a few accessories to be considered festive. This gives you a lot more freedom in terms of choosing sparkly accessories, but it also puts pressure on you to add visual interest.

In short: few items look out of place on a neutral matte tablecloth rental. You’ll just need to work a little harder to make the setting look special rather than boring. Look to the photo for an example of how to make a basic, white, matte tablecloth look stunning and unique.


These are your laces, your chiffons, and other sheer fabrics. They can exist as overlays or as primary event tablecloths, but they work best as accents. In many cases, they showcase the color beneath to brilliant effect, and form the perfect amount of visual intrigue. That said, filmy tablecloths are not without their drawbacks.

Consider lace—it’s elegant, but it can also look old-fashioned. If you’ve chosen a floral as your primary event tablecloth, the addition of lace can appear nearly Victorian. It’s anachronistic and fussy. Conversely, white lace over a shiny white tablecloth can simply appear wedding-appropriate. It depends on the specifics, but you should be careful with lace in general.

Chiffons are slightly transparent, so your only concern should be how the underlying color looks. If it includes detailing like embroidery and other embellishment, just make sure it goes along with the general theme of the event.

Filmy fabrics are unique in that they can comprise of both shiny and matte elements. Though they often serve as accents, they can form a balancing effect as well. Imagine basic white chiffon over a shiny, pale blue tablecloth—it mattifies the portions it covers but still allows for a touch of sheen and color.

Likewise, a lacy overlay with details like sequins and metallic thread will add much-needed visual interest to a matte tablecloth rental. Due to their usefulness and general beauty, filmy tablecloths are becoming increasingly popular—they are almost a “must” when it comes to wedding planning.


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