Recently I had the pleasure of talking with Eileen Saliba, owner of Table Toppers in Newton, MA.  Table Toppers is a table linen rental service with an inventory of linens for tables of every size, shape and occasion.  They feature an array of high quality sophisticated, whimsical, casual, and exotic fabrics.  If a particular table cloth is not available, Table Toppers can source the fabric and custom manufacture the cloth.

When I toured the Table Topper facility, it was like walking into a backstage costume extravaganza.  Events are theatrical, and Table Toppers had fabric colors, textures, and patterns to “costume” tables for every imaginable event – polka dots, plaids, stripes, solids, florals, embroidered taffetas, cottons, sheers…

Their inventory is extensive, and Eileen Saliba and the team at TT know how to help others choose the best table linens for each occasion.  Given Eileen’s expertise and experience, it was particularly beneficial to get her advice.  Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:


Debbie:  Why should a host be concerned about the choice of table linens?

Eileen: Table linens are an important element in the overall design of an event.  Dining table linens are the backdrop for the china, flowers/centerpiece, flatware, glassware, and any other table items.  When you think about designing your room, it’s important to remember that there are more than dining tables to consider.  For example, a buffet or place card table will reveal more of the table linen than a table set for dining because there are no chairs in front of the table to block the visual.  Introduce a complementary fabric on these “non-dining” tables.  Mix up the patterns and design the room to personalize your look. 

There are so many choices today. It’s possible to be effective with cost savings and not sacrifice the look.  There are options for every taste, theme, and budget.   

Debbie:  What are the most important considerations when choosing table linens?

Eileen:  Here are 3 basic tips:

Do the math.  What are the table measurements: width, length, and height Do you want table linens that reach the floor?  How many tables will be used?  If utility tables are needed be sure to include them.  Don’t forget tables for the bar, storage for the bar, clearing tables for the wait staff, place cards, cake, registration, coat check, etc. 

Establish the look and feel of the event.  For example, do you want an elegant, understated look appropriate for a 50 person dinner party, honoring a colleague who is retiring from a corporation?  Do you want a fun-loving atmosphere with bright colors and interesting design, reflecting the high energy of a family member for his birthday?  Are you searching for contemporary, traditional, or romantic?  What is the setting?  What are the other design elements (flowers/centerpiece, china, flatware, etc.)?  Do you want to cover the entire table or do you want to use runners or placemats to feature a fine wood farm table or glass tabletop?  Is the room getting optimal lighting for the desired mood?  Months before an event, when all of the table elements (linens, centerpieces, china, flatware, lighting, etc.) have been chosen, set a sample table.  If changes are needed, there’s time to make alternative arrangements. 

Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Even with the most detailed planning sometimes there’s an event “curve ball.”  For example, once just before guests were due to arrive, a centerpiece fell on the table, and water poured all over the linen.  Organizers were prepared.  They had a hair dryer on hand to quickly dry the fabric.  Another time, a guest at a party was coincidently dressed in the same fabric as the table linen.  Fortunately, she had a sense of humor and didn’t mistake her dress for her napkin.  In short, if all tables and planning details are well covered, and the host likes hosting, guests will have a good time.

Debbie:  I can tell that you enjoy helping people choose table linens.  Your enthusiasm must make the process fun.

Eileen:  I like opportunities to be creative, resourceful, and supportive.  We frequently collaborate with the host, event planner, florist, lighting, and rental services.  Like any artistic endeavor, all elements of the whole complement each other.  Each event brings new challenges.  Our staff enjoys accommodating our customers’ requests.  One customer requested that we make party hats for dogs that matched the napkins for a doggie party.  We became milliners.  The hats were custom made, each one uniquely styled and shipped off to the event.  It’s unclear if the dogs were as delighted as the appreciative host. 


Eileen provides a wonderful service for people who attend a wide variety of events.  Thanks to Eileen’s input, more hosts choose wisely by doing the math, establishing the look and feel of the event, and not sweating the small stuff.  Enjoy choosing table linens for your next celebration!

Life is short.  Celebrate!

Good Celebrations, LLC