Wedding Napkins…Everything you didn’t realize you needed to know
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Wedding Napkins…Everything you didn’t realize you needed to know!
By Amanda Stout

Whether personalized or plain, linen or 3-ply, napkins for your wedding reception are a necessity! All your wedding napkin questions and concerns are tackled here.

Let’s be honest, napkins probably aren’t at the top of your wedding planning list, but when it comes down to it they are not something you want to forget about. A wedding reception is a time of celebration and merriment…and a time to party! Like any party, a wedding reception can get messy. Whether used for dinner, drinks, cake or other clean-up, your wedding napkins will get you through your reception without too much mess or mishaps.

So now that a reminder has been given, not to forget about the ‘all important’ wedding napkins, let’s talk about the basics. Where will you need napkins at your reception? How many should you get? Should you get cloth or paper napkins? Should the napkins be personalized? What should they say? So many questions to think about, just for napkins! Don’t worry, all these questions can be answered and all of your napkin worries can be solved with just a few easy decisions. First off, here is a run-down of the different types/sizes of wedding napkins available:

Cocktail Napkins – (also known as beverage napkins) are the most popular sized paper napkins for a wedding reception or party. Typically they measure around 5 inches square. Cocktail napkins are used for serving drinks at the bar during your cocktail or social hour, preceding the reception. These paper napkins can be placed at the bar for the bartender to include with each guest’s drink. If you are having any passed hors d'oeuvres during your cocktail hour, it may also be appropriate to place cocktail napkins on the serving trays to be handed to guests with their appetizer. For later in the reception, a stack of cocktail napkins should also be placed at the cake table for your guests to grab with their slice of cake.

Luncheon Napkins – These medium sized paper napkins are typically used for brunch or luncheon wedding receptions. They typically measure around 6 ½ inches square. Luncheon napkins are typically placed at the reception tables at each place setting or at the head of a buffet table along with plates and eating utensils.

Dinner Napkins – Can be either cloth or paper. If you go with paper dinner napkins, they are the largest napkins you will use at your reception. They typically measure about 8 ½ inches square.

Where will the different types of napkins be used at the wedding reception? Dinner napkins are placed at the reception tables at each place setting. Cloth dinner napkins are usually folded intricately on top of the plate or can be wrapped neatly around the silverware. If you are choosing to use paper dinner or luncheon napkins, these can also be placed at each table setting. They can be laid across the dinner plate if a special design, message or monogram is being displayed upon them. If you are having a buffet meal at your reception, it can also be appropriate to stack your paper dinner napkins at the beginning or end of the buffet table. Your guests can grab them on the way back to their seats.

How many napkins should I get? It is recommended that there be 2-3 cocktail napkins per guest for the bar area. Cocktail sized napkins are also appropriate for the cake table. Here it is acceptable to have 1 napkin per guest since most will only eat one piece of cake. So a total of 3-4 cocktail napkins are needed per guest. If you aren't using cloth napkins at your meal tables, plan for 1.5 dinner or luncheon napkins per person. So if you have 100 guests, plan for 150 dinner napkins.

Should I use cloth or paper napkins? Whether to get paper or cloth napkins can depend on the formalness of your reception and the location. Your reception venue may include cloth napkins with your table settings. Or if you are renting your table cloths and other linens for your event, the cloth napkins may be part of the deal. If it is a formal reception, cloth dinner napkins are recommended.

For a more casual affair, like an outdoor or backyard reception, a more casual approach may be appropriate. Paper dinner napkins would definitely suffice for this type of event. Another thing to remember; if you are having a messier food at your backyard reception (like BBQ ribs for example) more napkins will be needed!

Even if you are using cloth napkins for your reception dinner, it is advisable to have paper cocktail napkins on hand for the rest of the night. When the tables have been cleared after dinner, the cloth napkins will be taken away as well. Later in the night, guests might use a napkin when having their cake or might need to soak up a spilled drink, so having paper cocktail napkins on hand will be useful.

Should I personalize my napkins? If you are using paper napkins at any point during your wedding reception, should you get them personalized? Well this is totally up to you. Customizing your wedding napkins can add another personal touch to your wedding day which after all, is all about the bride and groom. If you don’t want all of your napkins personalized, consider just customizing your cocktail napkins that can be displayed on your cake table or at the bar.

When choosing what to put on your wedding napkins, there are many ideas to choose from. There is always the tried-and-true monogram that will showcase the couples new names or initials together. If this sounds too traditional, consider having the couple’s favorite song lyrics or lines from a favorite poem printed on the napkins.

If the marrying couple has a creative side, they should consider creating their own artwork or design that represents them as a couple to be printed on the napkins. This special logo or artwork can also be used in other aspects of the wedding, on the ceremony programs, invitations or take home wedding gift or favor bags. Make sure to save some of your personalized napkins you designed to include in your wedding scrapbook or keepsake box.

Well now that you know everything you’ve ever wanted to about wedding napkins, it is time to make some decisions. Choosing your wedding napkins isn’t the biggest decision you will come across when planning your wedding day, it is just one little detail that you will not want to forget about (you don’t want your guests wiping their dirty hands on the table cloths). And please, no napkins tucked into your collars at the wedding!

About the Author - Amanda is a writer and product developer for My Wedding Reception My Wedding Reception Ideas specializes in personalized wedding favors inlcuding wedding napkins for wedding rehearsal dinners, wedding receptions, engagement parties and other special occasions. You can find morehelpful wedding tips, advice and ideas from Amanda and other wedding experts here.

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