Everything You Need to Know About Renting Wedding Linens

Consider this your ultimate guide.

Silver Tablecloth
Photo: Emily Ann Hughes

Linens are an important part of your wedding, both in terms of function and aesthetics. Tablecloths, napkins, chair covers, and table runners protect guests and furniture from stains and spills. But even more than that, the linens act as decorative elements, contributing to the overall look of your big day. Many event venues provide the tablecloths and napkins, but if you're looking for something a little more special (or your venue doesn't happen to have their own supply of linens), your only options are to rent or buy them. Since buying linens is expensive (and because storing and cleaning dozens of fabric products can be a hassle!), many brides prefer to rent. Whether you're getting married in a beautiful ballroom or secluded rustic lodge, here's all you need to know about renting linens for your wedding.


The Basics of Linen Rentals

A bride and groom may choose to rent a variety of fabric goods, including tablecloths, runners, overlays, drapes, chair sashes, chair cushions, and napkins. When choosing which linens you want to rent, think about what you'd like your ceremony and reception to look like. Each table at the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception will require a tablecloth and, if desired, a table runner or overlay to add a pop of color. This includes tables for your dinner buffet or those that will be used to hold the cake, gifts, guest book, wedding favors, or escort cards.

In addition to linens for the table, many couples rent cloth napkins for dinner and dessert. Make sure to order five- or ten-percent more napkins than you'll need, to account for any spills and accidents that may happen throughout the night. Other popular linen rentals include chair decorations like sashes, cushions, covers, and ribbons.

Determining the Details

Linens come in a variety of colors, designs, and fabrics-polyester, satin, cotton, taffeta, damask, and organza, to name a few. Table linens can also include decorative elements like lace, sequins, and tulle. Research all available style options, and choose the products that best match your wedding theme and personal preferences. Perhaps more important than style is the logistics of the linens. Naturally, you'll want to determine the size and shape of your ceremony and reception tables before reserving the rentals. Use the exact measurement of your tables to find the perfect tablecloth size. Or, if you prefer, order a slightly larger tablecloth size to create a pooling effect of fabric on the ground.


Finding a Rental Service

As you're searching for a wedding location, ask each venue about included rental services. If your venue doesn't offer linen rentals-or if you want something other than the linens your event space offers-then start looking for a reliable rental company. Most wedding rental companies are full-service and will also be able to supply other necessities like tables, chairs, flatware, glassware, and tents. Search for reputable businesses near your wedding location, or ask for recommendations from your friends, wedding planner, caterer, or florist.

Like other wedding vendors, rental companies tend to get booked in advance. Therefore, brides and grooms should aim to reserve their linen rentals four to six months before the big day. When reserving your linens, make sure to ask about a company's policies on delivery and return. Most customers place an order online, over the phone, or at a company's showroom, and then the company will deliver or ship the linens to your desired address. After the wedding, they will likely send employees to pick up the linens, which usually don't need to be washed beforehand.

Figuring Out Pricing

The price of linen rentals varies between services. Call your specific company for a quote, or check the website for exact pricing information. Tablecloths can cost anywhere from $5 for a small circular or square linen to $20 for a floor-length banquet table linen; specialty fabrics and details can substantially raise that price. Expect to pay $3-$8 for a table runner and $3-$5 for a chair cover. Remember to factor in additional costs. Some rental companies charge fees for delivery and set-up, while others require a minimum order cost for delivery. You'll likely pay a deposit when placing the linen order as well. Deposits differ between companies, but most tend to hover around 50% of the total order cost. Damaged linens, whether they're ripped or stained, may also set you back some money. Always read the company polices for more information about payments and the rental process before placing an order.

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