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20-40-60 Etiquette---Place mats or tablecloth?

by Helen Ford Wallace Published: July 14, 2013


By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace

QUESTION: I am having a seated dinner party. Should I use a tablecloth or place mats?

CALLIE’S ANSWER: Do you have a nice wood table you would like to show?

If so, place mats.

What is your decor? What atmosphere are you wanting? More casual? How long have you had these tablecloths and place mats? Do they need updating?

These are questions you should ask yourself before choosing which ones you should use.

Good luck!

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: It depends on how formal you want to go and who your guests are.

The more traditional guests might like tablecloths, but everywhere I go these days, people use place mats.

With place mats, beautiful or interesting dining room tables can shine through.

Set the tone with your own decor and plan accordingly. I don’t think you’re going to go wrong with either.

HELEN’S ANSWER: If dinner is formal, then use a lovely tablecloth. Always have white or pale linen-color ones on hand. We also have several vintage colorful tablecloths that require hand-washing and ironing, but we also have some that you can just throw in the washing machine and dryer. All of them look great for special occasions for family members and friends.

Sometimes themes or holidays can call for a themed tablecloth. My favorite tablecloth is a green felt one covered with beautiful Christmas appliques and sequins created by my mother. I have favorite place mats too, but when I pull out our Spode China, which is white, then we use the white linen place mats. Also in our linen drawer are fun, lacy, plastic place mats in green, white and red, and I try to use them for everyday meals during the holidays. They are easy to clean and look festive. We also have some monogrammed place mats and napkins in various colors and use them with a more formal table setting.

GUEST’S ANSWER: Linda Miller, author of Fashion Matters blog: I think either would work. It’s about personal preference. A white linen tablecloth adds a formal touch to any table, but I love the look of place mats and all the different styles, including perforated leather, metallic fabric and grass cloth. Depending on the color, print and style, they can be formal or casual and can help create the mood and even play into the theme of the dinner

by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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