A Quick Guide to Wedding Linens

A Quick Guide to Wedding Linens

Unfortunately, there is quite a bit more to choosing a wedding linen or tablecloth, for your big day.  Also, despite them being called wedding linen they come in a myriad of different cloths and materials, from man-made polyester, to raw, natural silk, to hand woven lace. Choose well and they can set the scene. They are literally a small detail that can make your big day.

What are the fabrics that I can use as wedding table linen?

Let’s start with our quick guide to the different types of fabrics that are available for you to consider:

Cotton table linen

Cotton cloth is a plant-based textile. Cotton is soft, cool, and absorbent and can stand up well against abrasion and rough handling. Cotton based fabrics can withstand heat, detergents, and bleach, though they do crease easily and can be difficult to iron.

Due to cotton’s durability, it is most often used for outdoor events or parties. It can be dyed, patterned, or embroidered, and heavier cottons can have an embossed texture. 

Cotton is popular, cheap compared to other cloths you may consider, and is highly absorbent, so can easily mop up accidental splashes and spills which other fabrics cannot. 

Damask table linen

Damask is a patterned textile, that derives its name from the fine patterned fabrics produced in Damascus (Syria) in the European Middle Ages. 

Damask was originally applied only to silk, but it now refers to a type of pattern, regardless of the fibre of the underlying fabric. Damask is normally seen on heavy weight woven fabrics and works well at formal weddings and events looking towards a more traditional feel. 

Because they focus on the design woven into the cloth itself, damask cloths tend to be offered in single or reduced colour schemes. Unlike Cotton, damask tends to repel moisture, and due to their intricate designs damask cloths normally have to be hand washed or on a cool cycle in a machine.

Brocade table linen

Brocade fabrics are made of silk threads that are woven to create an embossed or multi-coloured embroidered look.

Brocade originated in China and like damask, it sets the scene well at a traditional or formal wedding.  

Lace table linen

This delicate, open fabric is made by looping, twisting, or knitting threads and yarns in weblike patterns. Then name ‘lace’ originates from the Latin to ‘ensnare’ or ‘entrap’. Not what you want at a wedding we hope!

Originally linen, silk, gold, or silver threads, were used in the making of lace, and lace was originally made by hand. All of this making for a very expensive textile. 

These days lace tends to be made by machine using a cotton thread, although linen, silk and synthetic fibres can also be used.

This means you can find a multitude of laces at different price points and to suit any pocket, from the mundane to the dizzying. 

Linen itself as a table cloth

Linen like cotton is another plant-based textile. And like cotton, it is highly absorbent and needs to be ironed. 

Linen cloth is simplistic and has a rustic charm all of its own. It has a rougher texture than cotton and can hold dye well and can be died in a multitude of different colours. Despite its natural organic freshness, linen is often perceived as a better-quality alternative to cotton

Organza table linen

This thin, sheer fabric is perfect for everything from a single cake stand to draping over the tables in an entire ballroom. It can be made from cotton or silk and is available in both plain and embroidered varieties. It is a thin, plain weave, sheer fabric traditionally made from silk and originated from China. The name itself originates from an old Central Asian city, Urengench, mid-point along the fabled Silk Road. 

Silk organza can still be found being woven by a number of mills along the Yangtze River in China. A coarser silk organza is can be found from Bangalore in India, and European Silk Organzas are woven in France and Italy. [1]

Many modern organzas can also be found woven with synthetic filament fibres such as polyester or nylon, so if you want a silk organza, check it is the real thing.

Polyester as a table linen

Polyester: Much derided, this versatile fabric is a great budget-conscious way to brighten up any table.

Polyester fibres are sometimes spun together with natural fibres to produce a cloth with blended properties. Cotton-polyester blends can be strong, wrinkle- and tear-resistant, and reduce shrinking and retain their shape and crispness for longer than pure cotton.

Silk Noil table linens

Silk Noil (Raw Silk) is the short fibre left over from combing spinning silk. Silk noil, is also called “raw silk.  Fabric made from noil is weaker and less valuable than ‘pure silk’. It tends to have a very low lustre, which makes it appear more like cotton than silk and is often used to dress tables at formal dinner events.

Silk noil can also blended with heavier fabrics like velvets and satins to create varied luxurious textures.

Satin table linens

Satin: is a smooth, glossy fabric typically made from silk. Though to be honest, Satin refers to the weave of a fabric rather than the actual material. It typically has a glossy surface and a dull back.

The satin weave is characterized by four or more fill or weft yarns floating over a warp yarn. This structure gives Satin its four warp yarns floating over a single weft yarn. Floats are missed interfacings, for example where the warp yarn lies on top of the weft in a warp-faced satin. 

These floats explain the high lustre and even sheen, as unlike in other weaves, the light reflecting is not scattered as much by the fibres.

If a fabric is formed with a satin weave using fibres such as silk, polyester or nylon, the corresponding fabric is termed a satin, although some definitions insist that the fabric must be made from silk to be considered a satin. Sateens are similar to satin but they are made out of cotton.

Tafetta as a table linen for your wedding

Taffeta: Taffeta is crisp and smooth, and woven from natural silks or mand made materials such as polyester, rayons and acetate. It is a stiff fabric that holds its shape much better than other materials. 

You can also get a very woven from silk or rayons. It is structured and has an iridescent, sleek surface. You can use taffeta on its own or paired with an overlay. The finish makes it perfect for modern, clean designs. 

Velvet the ultimate table linen

Velvet is woven on a special loom that weaves two thicknesses of the material at the same time. The two pieces are then cut apart to create the pile effect, and the two lengths of fabric are wound on separate take-up rolls. This complicated process meant that velvet was expensive to make before industrial power looms became available, and well-made velvet remains a fairly costly fabric. 

Velvet is difficult to clean because of its pile, but modern dry-cleaning methods make cleaning more feasible. 

Velvet can be made from several different kinds of fibres, traditionally, the most expensive of which is silk. Much of the velvet sold today as “silk velvet” is actually a mix of rayon and silk.

Velvet made entirely from silk is rare and usually has market prices of several hundred US dollars per yard. Cotton is also used to make velvet, though this often results in a less luxurious fabric. Velvet can also be made from fibres such as linen, mohair, and wool.

This closely-woven fabric with a soft pile gives the table a distinctive, luxurious smooth feel. 

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Written by Steve Williams
I am a published writer, journalist and photo-journalist. I have an MA in Creative Writing and Journalism from the University of Wales and my journalism has been published in a number of UK national newspapers including 'the Observer'.