The Unsung Heroes: Tablecloths

in Table

            What's one of the most popular supplies found at parties around the country?  No, it's not the helium tank.  Instead, look down at what's right below your hands.  That's right – we're talking about the tablecloth here.  I think we almost mentally brush past this tool, thinking it's a part of the table itself or an extension of the centerpiece decoration.  But that's really giving the tablecloth short shrift, isn't it?  At a wide range of parties and events, tablecloths grace our banquet displays, visitors' tables, and much more, protecting the surfaces while adding a decorative touch to them.  It's always good to have a few tablecloths on hand, especially if you operate a business in the party industry.  And like any good consumer, it always pays to have a little knowledge under your belt before you go shopping.  So read on to discover a few details to consider about tablecloths.

            One of the first things to think about is size.  While there are many differently shaped tables out there, the ones most commonly used at receptions and other hospitality events are either rectangular or round shaped.  These shapes are some of the easiest ones to work with, so it makes sense that many halls and banquet rooms keep these sizes on hand.  Knowing that, there are many commercial table covers out there that are designed to fit these popular models.  Some common sizes for round tablecloths are ones with 10' or 11' diameters.  Rectangular shaped tables are a little different.  While you may have tablecloths that are cut to fit 6' or 8' long tables, the long designs of these covers means that you can use a series of them to cover up awkwardly sized tables.  You can even line up a group of tables and use the coverings to keep them all covered, creating a cohesive table that looks like it's one smooth surface.

            Many tablecloths, especially commercial styles that are meant to be used in more public venues, are made from polyester.  Before the knee-jerk reaction kicks in, hear me out.  Polyester isn't as bad as you're thinking, especially when it comes to table coverings.  One of the biggest benefits of polyester over other fabrics is that it's flame retardant, which is vital if the cloth is going to be used around candles or food burners.  Many places prefer that flame retardant materials are used, and a good polyester table covering should have a fire test certificate to back up the statement.  Aside from its fireproof capabilities, polyester has a few other things to recommend it as well.  It's wrinkle resistant, so it'll still look fresh even if it's been sitting in a closet for a while.  You won't have to worry about the fabric creasing or getting crumpled up.  Another nice benefit is that polyester is also machine washable.  As it's inevitable that things will get spilled or dropped on a tablecloth in the course of a party, being able to machine wash the covers saves a lot money on dry cleaning bills.  You can easily toss them into your own washing machine to clean them up instead.  In general, polyester is a highly durable material that will allow you to use these tablecloths for years to come.

            Just because an item is made out of polyester doesn't mean that it can't be pretty too.  A good tablecloth has a smooth and sleek appearance, which protects and conceals the tables below.  However, they can easily be enhanced with items like table skirts and decorative overlays.  The decorative overlays are usually made from satin or organza, helping to bring an extra touch of color to black or white tablecloths.  Organza is a sheer material and lets you see some of the tablecloth below through the weave, while satin is a more opaque fabric.  These are especially good for events with dedicated color schemes such as weddings.  Table skirts are equally as decorative, but they have an additional practical application as well.

            A table skirt is designed to wrap around the edges of the table, creating a covering that is able to hide the legs and other structural features.  Clips are used to keep the skirts in place while being used.  Given their wrap around design, you can use as many or as few as you need to in order to cover up an extra-large table, or cover the legs of that long line of tables to create the appearance of one structure.  By keeping the legs hidden away, you also are able to create a useable space beneath the table, which is a great spot for keeping extra food or drink.  You can restock the bar in just a few seconds instead of having to run off to another room to get new supplies.

            And finally, the important question: price.  For any business, being budget conscious is an important factor.  If you've thrown or planned parties before, you know just how expensive renting tablecloths from a commercial supplier can be.  A small upfront investment in a tablecloth kit (one that comes with all of the supplies you need to create a complete display that's ready for use) that you can reuse multiple times without any wear and tear will recoup its value pretty quickly.  This is especially good if your company is the type that throws parties frequently, or if you want to restock supplies for your party planning business.  And it's not just kits that are for sale either.  You can pick up a wide variety of toppers, skirts, and overlays as well so that you have a fully stocked supply on hand for whenever you need it.

            Just because we don't always pay attention to them, doesn't mean that tablecloths aren't a vital part of any party planning business, banquet hall, even backyard parties.  They're the foundation pieces for any good display, provide protection to older pieces of equipment, and still manage to look good in the process.  How can you go wrong?

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Elizabeth L. Iacono has articles online

Elizabeth L. Iacono is an employee at George Patton Associates, Inc., in the marketing department.  To view the products mentioned in this article, please visit Displays2Go.

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The Unsung Heroes: Tablecloths

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This article was published on 2012/05/11