How to Use Linens to Take Your Wedding to the Next Level

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Photo by Ashley Sawtelle

You’ve got the flowers picked out, the music selected, and a mouthwatering menu, but there’s still something missing. Looking for that finishing touch, the one that will take your wedding design to the next level? We’ve got a secret for you: it’s the linens. More than basics that cover rented rounds, the right linens can help tie all of those other details together to create a cohesive and immersive experience for your guests. But don’t take it from us; we’ve turned to some of the top linen companies in the business to share why linens matter and how to use them to make your wedding really shine.

“If you think about the design of your wedding reception, what’s the biggest surface area you have to play with?” asks Sarah Granger-Twomey of La Tavola Fine Linen. The answer? “The tables, of course! And tables are also the place where your guests will spend the most time at once, so choosing the right linens is actually pretty crucial.” Think about it: you’ve got a captive audience through dinner, so it’s your chance to really make a statement.

“With so many moving parts in your wedding, all the details become a great opportunity to show your personality as a couple throughout the night," says Zaira Vallejo of Nüage Designs. "Those details are what make your design a full experience, one that your guests will talk about long after the night has ended." Adds Rebecca O’Dea of BBJ Linen, “The napkins, tablecloth, and runner are additions that can showcase your creativity. You can mix and match colors and fabrics to create a customized look.” Ready to make your wedding design your own? Follow these expert tips.

Know What You Need

When you’re working with a rental company, get an understanding of which linens you’ll need before you start making selections. Confirm table sizes and counts, the number of guests you’ll have, and whether you’ll need accent linens for cocktail tables or the cake table.

Think Big Picture

“Begin with a color scheme or inspiration board, and have a sense of which color you’d like to see most throughout the room,” says O’Dea. “And think about how you want the room to feel, because the right linens can go a long way in making that happen.” Adds Vallejo, “Linens can create an atmosphere for your event by transforming a room. Think of the linens as a canvas for the rest of your décor.”

Err on the Side of Formal

Even if your wedding will be more relaxed, there are a few formal details that keep the day feeling special. “We always recommend a floor-length linen to give a space a finished and polished feel,” says O’Dea. And don’t forget the napkins! “An easy way to punch up your design is to upgrade your napkin selection, whether it’s something with a contrasting trim or a patterned fabric.”

Don’t Be Afraid of Color

Envisioning a more refined and subtle palette? Don’t limit yourself to white linens and napkins. “A colored runner or napkin can add a splash of contrast that will help brighten the room,” says O’Dea. It could be as simple as a dusty blue napkin on an ivory tablecloth, or a stronger contrast with deep navy.

Look Beyond a Single Linen

“We encourage couples to bring in two to three different, complementary styles to really add dimension to their design,” says Vallejo. “We love bringing in color—everything from beautiful neutrals to deep jewel tones—but also recommend adding different textural elements, such as sequins, velvet, and tulle fabrics to give guests a tactile experience.”

Get Inspired by Other Design Elements

Finding the right fabric isn’t too hard if you keep the rest of your wedding in mind. Suggests Granger-Twomey, “Did you use a textured, hand-made paper for your invitations? Look for a fabric with a similar feel. If you’re wearing a lace wedding gown, mix in a lace linen to echo that texture.”

Include Your Other Vendors

The inspiration goes both ways, and linen choices can go a long way in creating a totally seamless design. “Oftentimes, we’ll get requests for swatches from invitation and cake designers so they can incorporate the colors and patterns into their work,” says Vallejo. “It’s these kinds of details that create a fully immersive experience for your guests.”

Practice Mixing Patterns

Just like in fashion, mixing linen patterns and textures can really enhance your wedding’s design. “Think in threes: dominant, subdominant and neutral,” says Granger-Twomey. “Start with a bold (dominant) pattern to define your palette. From there, choose a smaller-scale (subdominant) pattern with the same colors. Finally, pull in a neutral solid to allow for a visual rest.” The same goes for textured linens, too. Adds O’Dea, “Mixing two different textures together can add depth and dimension to a room.”

Make It a Progression

Turn each portion of your wedding (the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception) into distinct moments with your choice of colors and linens. “Start with a more neutral palette for your ceremony, then start to bring in bold colors and vibrant patterns as you move through cocktail hour and the reception,” Vallejo recommends.

Pick a palette to tie it all together, but play with those mixed patterns you just worked on to add visual interest.

Highlight Key Details

You don’t have to fill the entire room with pattern or texture, but using it judiciously can make those important pieces really stand out. “Make the head table, cake table, and escort card table stand out with a pop of color, pattern, or different texture,” says O’Dea. “The wow-factor accentuates those tables, making sure guests know they’re important.”

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