Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Q & A: Making Your Own Napkins

Reader Question: So, my question for you is really silly because they are not important (I keep telling myself) but I had been thinking of making my own napkins. But now that it is time I should get started on the project, I am wondering if I really should do it.

I'm not planning on doing a lot of decorating in the reception area. It is already beautiful on its own, but a little dark, so some brightly colored napkins would be a nice way to add color without having to come up with a separate additional item on the tables, etc.--napkins need to be there anyway.

However, renting napkins would probably be less expensive and certainly less time consuming, and I won't have to transport them to and from the wedding location, clean them myself, etc. Unfortunately, I will probably only be able to find boring solid color napkins.
Also, if I do make them, what do I do with them after the wedding???
Clearly I am stressing too much over this unimportant detail, but I want to be sure it is worth it before I undertake such a large project. My sewing skills are not the best, so I'm sure there will be some frustration involved too.
Have any other ideas for adding color to the room without adding unnecessary stuff?

It's great that you're carefully thinking through all your decisions and options before undertaking any large projects!

I think the key to figuring out the best answer to your question is to analyze your motivations (which you already started to do).

If your primary reason for making your own napkins is to inject your reception space with color, then the time, energy, and potential frustration involved with undertaking this major DIY project may not be worth it.

The truth is, your wedding will not be any more meaningful or memorable because of the color that is or is not on the tables. Hopefully, your guests will be too engaged in interesting conversation with each other to notice. Or they'll be be busy watching the giddy newlyweds. Or they'll be looking in their own significant other's eyes, inspired by the ceremony to proclaim their own love.

I don't mean to dismiss the power of aesthetics and the effect they have on the emotions of an occasion. Beautiful spaces and places certainly make me feel more blissful. But, from what you said, it sounds like your location is already beautiful. And we can't underestimate the extent to which community, connection, and fun do more to make us happy than physical beauty does.

Plus, I'm sure you could find some brighter rental napkins (although I doubt they would be patterned).

There are definitely reasons to make your own napkins. I found that making our own napkins was way cheaper than renting them.

If you do decide to go the DIY route, this wonderful tutorial from Design*Sponge might help. But be forewarned that double-folding (to prevent fraying) and hemming four edges of fabric for every single napkin is a major undertaking. Although, this tip about sewing a line around the napkin first--from Chara Michele--will definitely make the process easier. (And, one of the readers suggested sewing long 14" strips first and then cutting out the squares.)

By the time Matt and I started working on our cloth napkins, I didn't have the stamina to make professional-looking napkins. Instead, we simply used pinking shears to cut the fabric and prevent fraying, rather than sewing anything.

After the wedding, we donated lots of them to the B&B where the reception was held. We've also been passing out stacks of clean ones at dinner parties we've had since the wedding.

If you do go the DIY route, I would definitely recommend delegating the day-of responsibilities associated with napkin duty. Napkins are the last thing you need to waste mental energy on as you immerse yourself in your wedding.

As for your question about how to add color to a room without adding unnecessary stuff, I'll leave that one to our lovely readers...

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Anonymous said...

For my sister's wedding 10 years ago we had sort of a lovely picnic theme in pink and white, complete with picnic basket centerpieces and pink and white gingham checked napkins. The napkins were hand made by my mom, my other sister and my sister-in-law and they did turn into a pretty big chore even though the work was parcelled out. But they did help to set a lovely tone on the tables and carry the picnic theme out. My mom has been the keeper of the bulk of the napkins all these years (we each got an original set of them after the wedding) and they sometimes make an appearance for Springtime family events such as Easter, mother's day and sometimes even Valentine's day meals. They always spark some family reminiscing ("Oh gosh - remember sewing the endless napkins!?") which is fun for us.

If you are using the napkins to lighten up the room, perhaps you can choose more than one coordinating fabric for a whimsical touch.

Marte said...

Maybe it is easier to make the tablecloths out of a bright patterned fabric, and adding matching rented solid color napkins to that? If you cheat and use pinking sheers to make the tablecloths, hardly anyone will notice since the sides are hanging down the table anyway. That will increase the cost of fabric, because you need a lot of yards, so you could consider just making table runners, or just using the homemade tablecloth on every other table (oh! Then one table could be patterned tablecloth-solid napkins, and the other table solid tablecloth-patterned napkins! Then you cut the napkin-making time in half, and the rental cost as well)

Elizabeth said...

You could also just add a ribbon to existing napkins. Maybe use a really cool ribbon as a napkin ring/sash, like these guys did?

Yivinns said...

Marte, thank you!! I love the idea of diy table runners! Great cut on amount of fabric, easier to make, and they can be accessorized without looking too busy! We're doing an outdoors reception and wedding, so I think table runners would look simple, yet elegant on picnic tables!

Autumn said...

Our venue is a bit dark also but since our wedding is in the evening we're going with it, dimming the lights, and using candles and maybe Christmas lights for a glow. We're going to incorporate pops of color by using a lot of ribbon on things-- it's very inexpensive and easy to work with (no sewing expertise necessary!). Some ways we're using it:
-wrapped around the vases for flowers (which are random shapes and sizes since we're borrowing ones people already have, this will give them some cohesion)
-tied around our votives (some also borrowed and not so pretty)
-long ribbons criss crossed on the tops of a few tables on top of our boring white tablecloths
-wrapped around our cupcake stands
-pinned around the edge of the buffet tables

We're also buying brightly colored paper cocktail napkins as we see them on clearance. Not 100% eco-friendly but I'm not even sure you can rent cloth cocktail napkins.

Marte said...

Oh, using broad ribbon could also work very wel instead of table runners! Imagine putting to or three bright patterned ribbons nest to each other. Fun, but still not too busy. And very simple. You can secure them to the tablecloth with doublesided sticky tape (my, and my grandfathers, favorite solution to every diy project ;-)

here is a picture, it's a bit blurry.... http://nibsblog.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/opt-table-setting-easter-de.jpg

Anonymous said...

You can also make cute napkin rings, like these tissue paper puffs from Martha Stewart.

They're really simple -- and I'm not at all crafty. Or use brightly colored ribbon and tie an interested bow.

To echo Marte and Autumn -- laying different color ribbons on top of a white tablecloth does a lot to bring color into a room. Here's a good example.

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