The Trouble With Table Linen

I suspect I’ve put a lot of people off reading today’s post with that title.

Suffice to say it’s not the most exhilarating aspect of wedding planning, the table linen. But lordy knows, it is one of the only aspects of planning so far to have completely and utterly driven me round the bend. If you follow me on Twitter you’ll likely be sick to death of hearing me go on about it (if that’s not an advertisement to click that ‘follow’ button, I don’t know what is), but if you’ll allow me- just this once- to write more than 140 characters on the subject, I promise not to mention it again. Ever.

The trouble with table linen is that there’s just no choice. Not here in the UK anyway. The choice we have is limited to your standard white or ivory, with your twenty or so ‘block’ colours and the odd gingham, tartan or leapord-print (?!) thrown in for good measure. All bound in a polyester/cotton hybrid which contains no actual ‘linen’ whatsoever. As such the ‘linen’ of choice for most brides-to-be is usually white because, well, there is no choice, and the UK companies don’t create more lines because there is no demand. It’s a vicious circle, innit?

The other trouble with table linen is that then go on Pinterest or your favourite American wedding blog, and you see the most beautifully decorated wedding tables you’ve ever seen, with unusual charger plates and gold cutlery and mismatched chairs, all aboard swathes of textured linen in beautiful grey, or gold sequins, or the perfect shade of soft peach.  Spoilt for choice those darn Americans. And they continue to rub it in our faces by taking beautiful pictures of their beautiful tables and plastering them all over the internet, whilst I’m resigned to sobbing in a corner clutching yet another lurid, fluorescent peach fabric swatch that has been sent to me. Harumph.

And then, of course, there’s the leap of faith you’re expected to take by choosing a colour from a CGI’d image on the computer screen, which then looks nothing like the tiny square of fabric that is sent to you in the post. And then trying to work out how that tiny square of fabric would actually  look when it was a much larger square (or circle) of fabric and was draped over a 6ft table.

My name is Sama, and thanks to nasty table linen, I have become a fully-fledged, bonafide, linen-obsessed moron.

White is not right (for me)

Done well, white table linen can look AWESOME. Elegant, crisp, modern, fresh and classy are just some of the ways to describe a white clothed table.

linen3

Image via Style Me Pretty

Image via Snippet & Ink

Image via Snippet & Ink

I don’t have a problem with white table linen… when it is chosen for a reason.  White is the perfect backdrop to a neutral colour scheme, or even pops of colour, and teamed with a hessian or vintage floral runner it can look trés chic. But for me, in the surroundings of an imposing, rustic, wood-built barn (like the image below), white table cloths can look a little… stark.  Simple, modern and elegant, yes. But stark. And a little cold.

The whole point of my wedding (er, other than the getting married bit) is that I want it to be warm and full of life; a veritable feast of colourful blooms, mis-matched table runners, festoon lighting, paper lanterns, streamers galore and quirky bits and bobs. White just ain’t gonna cut the mustard.  I need something that’s going to blend in to the surroundings; be the perfect, subtle backdrop; let the decor do the talking.

My Peachy Dream

Image via Martha Stewart Weddings

Image via Martha Stewart Weddings

Not only is peach the perfect, summery compliment to the coral and gold accents I plan to incorporate, but it looks warm and inviting in the evening too, like the candle-lit setting above shows.

Sadly, the peach swatches I’ve been sent so far have been a bit more like this:

Argh!

Argh!

Blend beautifully with these very blog pages, don’t they??

But whilst I am a big fan of peach (obviously), and I know they wouldn’t look quite so lurid when dressed (see candle-lit image above), I think I’m after something even more subtle still.  Something a bit more… natural.

Linen, the way nature intended it…

Natural linens are the epitome of rustic elegance I think.  Neutral and classy, they provide both subtle warmth and texture, which, in my humble opinion, makes a table so much more interesting to look at.

And just look at how these tones of sand/taupe/grey/mushroom let the spicier colours shine!

natural2

Image via 100 Layer Cake

http://joielala.com

Image via Pinterest

natural4

Image via Style Me Pretty

It took me- quite literally- an entire day of trawling through Pinterest, Google Images and linen hire websites, but I think I’ve finally identified that natural linen is going to be the best compliment to the colourful blooms, glittery jars and mis-matched table runners my Deputy Wedding Planner (my Mum) and I have been working on for the last however many months.  I’ve already received a nice swatch selection from one company, and have a few more to receive still before making the final decision and TICKING THE DAMN THING OFF THE LIST.

The bad news for natural linen lovers is that it is more expensive than it’s white/coloured/poly-cotton competitors. But if you have a reasonable portion of your budget assigned to décor and styling, or if you do  manage to make savings elsewhere (erm, like the £15 shoes I just bought! More on those next week…), then I implore you to think outside the white box and explore the many other table linen avenues. The more demand there is, the more competitive rates will become.

For those wondering which UK companies I’ve found, they are as follows:

Northfields– London based, wide range including four natural linens. Prices seem reasonable (though more expensive than non-natural).

88 Events Company– Their depot is in Glasgow but they deliver nationwide. Huge selection but their natural linens are extortionate.

Options Hire– London based again. I’m awaiting delivery of their grey flax and thatch linen swatches. A really nice touch is that they provide images of fully-laid, themed tables which then detail exactly what products they’ve used. Much more useful than a colour close-up!

Just 4 Linen– Deliver throughout the south-east. No ‘natural linens’ as such but some of their Indian Cotton range has potential.

I think I need a lie-down after that. Well done if you’ve stayed with me for the whole post- I know ‘linen’ isn’t exactly the most thrilling of blog rides, but I hope it provided some interest for those considering doing something different.

Anyone else in to the natural look? Or going bold or bright? Know of any UK company recommendations that I’ve missed out??

Have wonderful weekends one and all, and I’ll see you next week! One word: Miu-Who..?

Sama xxx

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21 thoughts on “The Trouble With Table Linen

  1. Yass for this post…. I also wanted coloured linen and have considered that I may have to invest in white and die it to get what I want, not ideal but may have to be done, I know a woman in Hereford who does some coloured table linen but it was gaudy,
    I going to have a look at all the companies you’ve listed. Have a good weekend lovely cxx

  2. Love this post! The natural linen will look lovely. And I can totally relate to your search because I recently had a bit of a meltdown about table runners. I found the most lovely sequinned red table runners in a sale – they had exactly the number that I needed, perfectly embodied my ‘red and sparkles’ theme, if such a theme exists, and they were half price. Yay! Unfortunately I had already received and fallen in love with them before checking that they were the right size for the tables. And they weren’t. They were a couple of inches too short. So I then came up with around 50 different plans in an attempt to make the stupid things work, just because I loved them so much and the idea of hiring normal, boring table runners after I’d seen these lovely sequin ones broke my magpie heart a little bit. So… my current idea is to buy some nice red fabric to make my own table runners – the right length – and slightly wider than the sequinned ones, and lay the sequinned runner on top so it looks like a sequinned panel of sorts. I REFUSE TO GIVE UP.

    Well, there’s an essay all about table runners. Sorry about that…

    • Haha- I know your pain! Have my Mum working on some gold sequin runners which weren’t long or wide enough! She’s added a gold ribbon ‘border’ to them which has kind of worked. What about just adding the red fabric on either end to lengthen them?

      • That was one of my other ideas – I’m going to experiment and see what works. But I’m using those sequin runners even if it kills me…

  3. I think in a way our inspiration was similar,with the chinese lanterns and the outdoor feeling. Though I did pick two main colors (lemon green and pinks) I was not crazy strict at all , and for instance our flowerswere in those shades but including everything in between.

    This photo gave me the key for the table setting:

    The key being, if you can’t find a colorful linen that goes: look for printed napkins in a pattern that can fit with your scheme . There are a million colors and patterns in napkings that can suit the vibe you want. Then you just place each napkin over your plates to bring out the pop of color.

    In this picture you can see the ones we used.

    (As a side note cheap lace used as linen can look real nice if that’s the style/ vibe of the wedding, I think you can buy it by the meter and it doesn’t matter if it’s not fancy, since it’s for the look).

  4. Ooo a subject that I think woulod only bore those not in this magical mystery word of wedding plannning. Though a subject I hadn’t allowed to much thought as the venue comes with white linen so it would make no sense to spend my buget hiring. So instead I had thought of making my own hessian runners ect ect. Recent change of venue and theme means this is probably all out the window and I must start from scratc.
    Great inspiration! and love your peaches!

    • Absolutely agree about that Stephanie. Unless you reeeeeally want to hire in linen there’s no point when it’s already provided. Def go for the runners though! A change of venue and theme- eek! All for the better? x

  5. Hi Sama,
    Love how many comments you’re getting for a post about table linen, as always your post is timely! Ive been boring my bridesmaids this week with fascinating emails about table runners! I think the natural linens you’re looking at are gorgeous and will look amazing with your theme. One thing I found interesting was your comments about white in the barn as we have deliberately gone for white linen and white chairs because I love the contrast of the light against the dark wood of the barn (ok so maybe the budget had something to do with the “linen” but the chairs were defo for that reason). Hoping it doesn’t look as stark as the pictures above as going to town with the rest of the decor to make it pop.
    Hope you get this one nailed soon, have a lively weekend. x

  6. Couldn’t agree more with your about Pinterest! Amazing for ideas…if you’re American! Usually hard to execute here in the UK. You somehow made table linen interesting though. Well done! 🙂

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  9. Planning for my mother’s 50th I have been struggling with the perfect table linen for the event. The above is very useful and hopefully not too old to be of use. I have found a site which seems to some good pieces and am waitying for delivery of the white table cloth which I am hoping should be perfect. Could be of use to others in the future? http://www.thecinnamonwardrobe.co.uk/kitchen-table-c-12.html?page=2&osCsid=96a0ce292f69cbc87244a9995f746370

  10. I am just loving this blog and all your comments! I offer bespoke, handmade linens in many, many beautiful fabrics. I am a wedding stylist who was, like you all, totally fed up with the lack of choice. So I decided to make my own! I now use them for my own clients, mostly made to order, and also offer coloured, patterned & floral linens such as napkins & runners for brides and clients who don’t need the whole styling package. Take a look at my website and give me a call if you’d like a quote. I’m based in Gloucestershire but travel well!

  11. I know this is an old post but who did you go with in the end? I’m finding it really hard to find pastel linen and I think I want to copy you and go with a peach hue. Any help HUGELY appreciated!!

  12. Oh Sama, thank you very much for this post. I feel so identified with it. It is kind of a relief knowing that I am not alone on this crazy idea of getting a bright table. I cannot express with words how much I HATE the typical white linen.

    Just image, I am Spanish, living in London and having a Indian wedding in Spain. Within 2 months to my wedding I get to know that the purple overlay with the white skirt that I saw in one of their venue pictures it was actually hired from a supplier at 8 Euros per piece. 8 Euros for hiring a piece of polyester that doesn’t even cover the whole table? Are we crazy or what?

    Unfortunately the city where I am hosting the wedding is so small that choices are very limited so, I am trying to make up my mind that either I take the old-fashioned brown tablecloth and white overlay with a yellow awful swirl that the venue provide or I have to buy my own tablecloths.

    To be honest, If I pay 300 Euros for hiring 15 white table skirts, 15 overlays and 150 sashes (I don’t even like sashes), I would feel like I have been ripped off, so I am going crazy trying to get a reasonable priced floor length purple tablecloth with turquoise napkins. Is this to much to ask for?

    Most of the websites for linen I discovered online are in the U.S. and though the pricing looks good at first sight, they rip you off at a later stage with their shipping charges on your cart.

    So, as I said, it was nice to find your blog. That list of UK providers is being very helpful!

    By the way, my wedding shoes are just £1 more expensive than yours, hehe.

    Cheers!

  13. I just wanted to let you know that unfortunately the tides have not changed for natural linen – it is still non existent in the UK market! I think it’s a massive gap in the market, I don’t want white polyester!!
    Has anyone found any other suppliers of natural linens for weddings? Im personally looking for 108″ round tablecloths in a mushroom / stone / taupe colour 🙂

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