Linens can be absolutely gorgeous, but also ridiculously pricey. Select how you use linens strategically. Need to rent them anyway? Then perhaps opt for a slightly more elegant linen in a bright color and let that serve as your main décor, saving on other decoration costs. Does your venue include linens? Then use those and accent them with centerpieces. Your linen costs can be as much or as little (almost) as you want them to be, but think about these ideas to maximize the impact of your linens while minimizing their costs.
1. Use the house linens! They should be included in any standard hotel, country club, conference center, or ballroom rental for no additional fee. Typically, the house linens are a white or cream, which makes them perfect for weddings, but some venues also have a few other choices in different colors that you can use at no cost. Make sure to ask each venue about their linen options when you are visiting/venue shopping. If you can get tablecloths and napkins at no additional cost, the best method may be to use those and add color and personal touches through other details.
2. Rent? If you would like a different type of linens, or if your venue does not include linens (which is typical in a place that does not have in-house/full-service catering), your main option may be to rent linens from a rental company. Make sure to price shop different companies in your area, being sure to consider shipping costs, cleaning costs, and when the linens need to be returned in addition to the basic per linen cost. Some rental companies may have affordable options at only $5 to $10 per table, while others may cost you as much as $75 for a tablecloth and napkins. Select the more basic options and solid colors for the best price.
3. Mix and Match. It’s still possible to create that wow factor with house linens! If your venue offers a few different colors or types of tablecloths, try having half the tables in the standard white and cream and half in another color (or if your venue only offers one color, rent half the number of tables and mix and match). The effect will be a trendy reception area with splashes of colors. Another option? Have the basic white/cream tablecloths and add color by using house napkins in your wedding color, if available, or renting only napkins. Since napkins typically start as low as 50 to 60 cents each, renting napkins and using house tablecloths could easily save you half the cost of renting all linens. Still not doing it for you? Try renting (or buying- see below) special tablecloths for only a few key tables, like the head table(s), cake table, cookie buffet table, etc. This will create some depth to your overall look and break up the house linens for only a small price. Sticking within house linens or limiting the number of linens you need to rent will definitely help with your bottom line.
4. Share. An alternative to renting may be joining forces with another bride-to-be and purchasing linens. This may actually end up being cheaper than renting, depending on what kind of linens you would like and if you can purchase them at a discount or sales price. Of course, this will require a little more work on your part- finding a bride to pair up with and then jointly deciding on linens, then purchasing them and laundering them later, but with paying only half of the price, you could definitely come out ahead! And bonus? When both of your events are over, you can sell the linens or donate them and take a tax donation, which will help to defray your overall costs.
5. Shop after Christmas! If you are interested in white, red, maroon, green, cream, or blue linens, you may just luck out in after-Christmas sales! Many stores carry plain, striped, or flowered tablecloths and napkins n these colors specifically for the holiday season. Although these don’t have any particular Christmas or winter designs, these linens are considered holiday merchandise and go on clearance with other holiday items, typically the day after Christmas. So grab a shopping buddy and hit stores like Target, Walmart, or Kohl’s early on December 26th. At 50% off and up, you can easily score a nice linen tablecloth for under $5, making these cheaper than rentals! Choose your favorite, buy the store out, and if you still need more have fellow shoppers in your family on call to look at the same store in their area. (For Kohl’s- their holiday items usually go up to 70% off before Christmas. So check out their stock and if you find something, combine it with a savings pass (emailed out every few weeks) or a Kohl’s cash promotion to stretch that budget even farther!)
6. Look at both color and material. Both color and material can make a huge difference in price when renting linens. While neutral colors are often the cheapest, the material of the tablecloth can have the biggest impact on price. If you want something different than the basic white cotton tablecloth, think about that cotton linen in a purple, blue, green, etc. Many rental companies offer those more vibrant colors in the same basic tablecloth for the same price as the white! This means you can upgrade color and impact without upping the price! If you can’t live with the basic cotton, look at all the fabric choices your rental company offers. There are often a few middle of the line materials that cost a little more than the basic cotton, but a lot less than the silks and satins.
7. Make your own table runners. Want the tables to look more exciting than the basic white house linens but can’t afford to pay the premium linen price? Instead of changing the whole tablecloth, try adding a table runner to the basic house linen. This will give you a splash of color while keeping that free house linen price. Even better- have a friend or relative with sewing skills make the table runners for you. Select your show-stopping fabric (hopefully from the clearance section of a fabric store or with a coupon) and then have your friend make basic rectangles that will cover the center of the table with an overhang on each side.
8. Think strategically about your table layout. The size, shape, and configuration of your tables can have an impact on your linen budget. Larger tables will require larger, more expensive tablecloths, but since they will seat more people, will require fewer tables (meaning fewer linens and centerpieces). Some companies charge more for square and rectangular table linens than for round ones. Work with your event manager or rental company to weigh all the options and what will come out to the most cost-effective combination in the end.