Napkin Folds & Table Settings: Creative ways to Dress up your Reception Tables

You've probably seen hundreds of photos on Pinterest and online of wedding reception guest tables with all the unique details and decor elements that really showcase the particular taste of the couple. One of the traditional elements of the classic table setting is the linen napkin. Such an unassuming and basic item, right? Wrong! If you saw many of those tables without a napkin at the place setting, you would really notice something missing. This key component adds a touch of elegance and class to any table, especially when it is presented with individual style!

The art of napkin folding has been around since the 1800s, beginning with royalty and bourgeois society and has increased in popularity over the last century and ever growing with the wedding industry. After hearing from a few of the Snohomish Wedding Guild event professionals who put together dream weddings around Snohomish and the greater Seattle area, I've come up with a short list of some of our combined favorite napkin folds and how different they can look in various settings.

1. Waterfall Fold: this simple statement fold will add interest to the table with an easy three folded linen napkin draped over the edge of the table and can be topped with silverware, favors, or even just a sprig of rosemary or whatever you like!

Joanna Monger, of Joanna Monger Photography shared that Chip and Olivia's wedding gave homage to the bride's Mexican heritage with brightly colored linen napkins in a cheerful coral and highlighted with airy succulents and blush colored blooms in bud vases on terra cotta plates from Flowers by Tiffany. Mexican wedding bunting flags were waving from the rafters of Swan Trail Farms, adding to the distinct feel of the space. The couple chose to add a personal touch for each guest with a favor box on top of each napkin that were filled with little Mexican cookies that were made by the groom. This style would work perfectly for buffet dinner service where the guests would grab their food then take a seat at a table with their silverware and napkin ready to go.

{Photos by Joanna Monger Photography}

I've loved to see the various ways that waterfall folds have been used to decorate a table. No need for a table runner with this style, the fold completes the look very simply. Here is a setting we saw at one of Twelve Baskets Catering's weddings where we provided a family style dinner so the dinner plates were set on top of the waterfall folded napkin for an elegant look. Photo by David Lai Photography.

Try it slightly different with the napkin tucked between the dinner plate and the salad plate for family style service. Vintage mismatched china from Twelve Baskets Catering.

{photo from Green Ginger Photography at Dairyland)

2. Knotted Napkin Fold: a great option for that loose, casual but stylish look.

This modern napkin fold trend is on the rise. Jill Redman from Grand Event Rentals has noticed this cheeky fold popping up in more weddings and they have also used it to add some flare to their display booth at a wedding show recently. She personally likes the messy knot tie with a sprig of greenery tucked in as it brings a little nature to the table, especially when surrounded with gorgeous pieces such as Grand's copper and rose gold table settings.

{photo from Alante Photography}

3. Pocket Fold: perfect for tucking those lovely printed menus or silverware into.

{photo from Aya Tiffany Sato} Linens, cutlery, and glassware from Cort Party Rentals, napkins folded by Twelve Baskets Catering

{photo from Joanna Monger Photography, Petal and Posy floral} Rentals from Sweet Buffet Lady

4. Pyramid or Triangle Fold: one of the more romantic classic folds, it has been around since the early 20th century; this style adds depth and character to your table as well as interest.

This bride of ours chose to do alternating bright colors of sherbet and coral to mix things up a bit. Napkins from Cort Party Rentals and folded by Twelve Baskets Catering.

{photo from Angela and Evan Photography}

Another one of Joanna's couples picked a more muted palette at Hidden Meadows with the same beautiful outcome.

{photo from Joanna Monger Photography}

5. The Bow Tie Fold: this fold is bold!

Add a little glitz and glamor to your table with a statement piece like a flirty bow on the plate. Make the look your own with sequined or studded ribbon around the middle. This look would go perfectly with a Gatsby theme or Hollywood elegance.

{photo from Grand Event Rentals}


Jaffrey Bagge is the Social Media and Marketing Manager for Twelve Baskets Catering. Being the owner's daughter means she's been in the business for all of her 34 years of life. When she isn't organizing open houses or snapping photos of food and setups, Jaffrey loves to travel with her husband, watch films, and cut paper snowflakes.