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How Do You Set Wedding Napkins?

How Do You Set Wedding Napkins?

Posted by The Ichcha Team on 11th Jun 2024

It's your big day, and you want to make sure everything is perfect, from the décor to your music playlist, seating arrangements, menu selections, and oh... your wedding napkins. Setting your wedding napkins properly can not only wow your guests but also add a touch of elegance to your wedding photos. But, what's the right way to do that?

To set wedding napkins, choose an appropriate napkin type and material, fold them creatively, and place them either on the plate or beside it.

Typically, wedding napkins are placed on the dinner plate, but they can also go underneath it or to the left of the plate and forks.

We'll get into the details and even recommend some elegant wedding napkin folds to wow your guests.

But before you run off to buy a bunch of linen....

Choosing the Right Napkins

There are different types of napkins, and not all will be ideal for your event.

Dinner Napkins

Dinner napkins are large-sized napkins measuring anything from 18 to 26 inches across. Because of their size, dinner napkins are meant to be placed on the laps to prevent food from staining your guests' adorable outfits. You can also use them to wipe your hands and mouth after meals.

If more than two courses will be served at your wedding, you definitely need a dinner napkin. Their large size allows them to be used from course to course. Not to mention the touch of elegance they add to your wedding reception.

How to set dinner napkins at your wedding reception

Fold your wedding dinner napkin and set it elegantly on the plate. For a more traditional look, you can also place it to the left of the forks or under the forks.

For a more sophisticated texture, fold your wedding napkin into a rectangle, set it under the plate and let the longer end overhang from the table. This wedding napkin placement idea is known as "the waterfall" and considered one of the most elegant wedding napkin folds.

When placing napkins directly on the plate, add ribbons or greenery for an extra touch of elegance.

Note that your wedding napkin, plate, and accessories should be in contrast so the napkin stands out. But whichever option you choose, have fun -- be creative and base it off of the mood you want to set for your event.

Luncheon Napkins

If you're doing a lunch reception, you ideally need luncheon napkins.

Luncheon napkins are smaller than dinner napkins and measure 14 to 16 inches across. Guests can also place them on their laps.

Basically, if you're serving only one or two courses, such as a lunch or picnic, luncheon napkins are ideal. You'll need one to two luncheon napkins per wedding guest.

How to set luncheon napkins at your wedding reception

Set one napkin for each guest and keep additional napkins in easily accessible areas, such as the buffet or dessert table.

Cocktail Napkins

If you're doing cocktail hour on your wedding day, you'll want to make cocktail napkins available.

Cocktail napkins are of the smallest sizes because they're for serving drinks and appetizers. Not main meals. Since attendees usually make multiple visits to the drink station during the wedding, you'll need 3-4 cocktail napkins per guest.

How to set cocktail napkins at your wedding reception

Cocktail napkins don't need any unique folding technique. In short, they generally measure only 5 inches across.

Simply place stacks of cocktail napkins on each cocktail table or the bar where drinks are served. If convenient, use small decorative holders to keep the napkins nice and tidy.

You can also place cocktail napkins in the empty cocktails!

Choosing the Material for Your Wedding Napkin

Cloth napkins are more eco-friendly and elegant than paper napkins, making them more suitable for the wedding reception. However, using paper cocktail napkins can help you save costs, as you need many of them in small sizes.

What about your dinner and luncheon napkins?

Cloth napkins for wedding dinners are usually made of linen, cotton, and polyester. Linen napkins are often used for weddings due to their posh, sophisticated texture, but they can be quite expensive and harmful to the environment.

While linen napkins are a favorite choice for wedding receptions, napkins made of 100% natural cotton are generally more eco-friendly and absorbent. So, if you're eco-conscious, you'll want to use natural cotton over linen and polyester for your wedding napkin.

How to Fold Cloth Napkins for Wedding

The square, knot, triangle pocket, and waterfall napkin folds are some of the best napkin folds for weddings. We don't want to overwhelm you with options, so here are the classiest wedding napkin fold ideas to consider:

1. Square Fold

 wedding reception square napkin fold


If you're unsure how to fold napkins for your wedding reception, you can't go wrong with the square fold. This elegant wedding napkin folding technique exudes a sense of sophistication, neatness, and order, perfect for formal weddings. Simply fold your wedding napkin neatly into a square and display it directly on the dinner plate.

You can place the menu, guest name card, or a sprig of greenery on your wedding napkin.

2. Rectangle Fold

Rectangular wedding napkin setting

Photo Credit: ERICH MCVEY

The rectangle fold is also great for weddings and is a classic for formal settings. Set a rectangular folded napkin on the plate so its length runs parallel to the table and guest.

Another way to go is to place the wedding napkin to the left of the plate underneath the forks.

3. Bow'd Up Napkin Fold

Bow'd up wedding napkin fold

Photo Credit: Ichcha

The Bow'd Up napkin fold is ideal for adding a touch of playfulness to your wedding table setting.

Create this look by folding your wedding napkin into a bow tie. Complete the look with a decorative ribbon. Simple, playful, and stylish.

4. Angled Pocket fold

Pocket fold wedding napkin

Photo Credit: Ichcha

The pocket fold is an elegant napkin folding technique for weddings. It is sure to wow your guests and get them talking about how neatly the cutlery is tucked in the napkin's pocket.

Place greenery on the napkin to add color to your wedding table setting.

5. Waterfall Napkin Fold

Draped napkins at place settings at wedding guest table


If you aren’t planning to have plates at each place setting (as is often the case when you have a dinner buffet), then you’ll need to come up with another way to mark each guest’s spot. This is a simple solution: Drape each napkin off the edge of the table—this will help demarcate each place setting while adding a pretty pop of color. If you want to throw your guests into a frenzy at the glamour of your reception, set your wedding napkins into a waterfall fold.

Fold a large dinner napkin into a rectangle, place one end under the plate, and let the excess overhang from the table. Not only will your attendees marvel, but your wedding photos will be like those from a palace—supremely elegant!

6. Knotted Wedding Napkin

kiersten ruairi wedding place setting


One of the best napkin folds for wedding is to tie your cloth napkin into a knot. Lay a square napkin flat. Gather two diagonal corners together, and tie it into a knot as you would a rope. Effortless yet graceful.

Place your knotted wedding napkin on the edge of the plate, with the two ends curved along the sides of the dish.

Coordinate with Your Wedding Planner

Even though you decide to do your napkin folds DIY, you want to be on the same page with your wedding planner and catering team. Your napkin fold is a critical piece of your wedding table setting, so it has to work into the overall table décor.

Where to Get Bulk Cloth Napkins for Wedding

Buy affordable bulk cloth napkins at Ichcha to save money on wedding napkins. With these 100% organic cotton napkins, you can remain committed to saving the planet even on your big day.

Shop now.


How Do You Place Napkins at a Wedding Reception?

Fold and place the luncheon or dinner napkins on or beside the plates at the wedding reception. Keep additional ones on the dessert table. Then, place packs of cocktail napkins at the bar or dessert table.

What Size Napkins are Ideal for a Wedding?

Use dinner napkins measuring 18" to 26" for a wedding with multi-course meals. For 1-2 courses, use luncheon napkins of 14" to 16". The ideal size of cocktail napkins for a wedding is about 5".

How Many Napkins Are Needed at a Wedding Reception?

You need one dinner napkin per guest at a wedding and 3-4 cocktail napkins per guest. If you're using luncheon napkins, multiply the number of guests by 1.5. That's 150 napkins per 100 guests.

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