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Tablecloth Guidelines for Formal Dinners

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

We just bought a new table for our dining room with beautiful marquetry. Instead of a tablecloth, I was planning to only use placemats for the holiday dinners, so that I could show off the lovely design on the table top. My sister tells me that dinners in the dining room should have a tablecloth for proper etiquette. Is that true? Also, does it matter how far the tablecloth needs to hang off the table?


What is proper?

Dear What is proper,

Either a tablecloth or placemats are fine, it depends on how formal you wish to be. If you want to be very formal, then tablecloths are normally used. On the other hand, while you do have a beautiful inlaid wood table top, you may want to protect it with a tablecloth when dining.

Here are some guidelines for using a tablecloth for very formal dinners:

1. A white or ivory damask tablecloth is best.

2. The tablecloth length can be anywhere from 8" to 18".

3. A tablecloth pad should be underneath the tablecloth.

4. Floor length tablecloths are only for buffet tables, not for tables where people need to sit down and dine.