Tricks of the Trade: Napkin Math & Methods

We often get asked how many napkins are necessary for a successful, well-planned event. This is an aspect of special event coordination where it’s better to be safe than sorry – you never know how many spills, drops, or last minute guests could require extras, so you never want to run out!

While it is easy to generalize a 10% overage on your count, the type of affair should determine the amount of extras that are necessary.

Here are some tips form experienced industry professionals who know how to count their napkins:
Dinner Napkins
Take into consideration the nature of the dining style, the size, and the length of the event.

  • For a seated dinner, add 5% additional napkins to determine the total amount of napkins that you will need to be safe. Keep in mind, you may need one napkin per table for bread baskets to coordinate with your linen colors.
  • If you are planning for a buffet style dinner with napkin rolls, a general rule of thumb to follow is to multiply your guest count by 1.5.
  • For a particularly long event or one with multiple food stations, you may even consider having up to 2 dinner napkins per guest.

Cocktail Napkins
For linen cocktail napkins, we generally suggest having 2-3 per guest at minimum. As always, keep in mind the nature of the event when adding your totals and follow these tips:

  • If their purpose is only to be used as napkins for cocktails at the bar, make sure you have 1.5 times the amount of guests.
  • For an event with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at the bar use 2.5 napkins per guest.
  • At times, you may just end up using paper napkins at the bar and save your linen cocktail napkins for passed hors d’oeuvres. In this case, make sure you have about 2 napkins per guest for a standard 1-1.5 hour cocktail reception. For longer receptions, increase your quantites.
  • Cocktail napkins also come in handy for your dessert station. If you are using them for cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a large dessert spread, increase your count to 3 per person.

Having cloth napkins certainly adds to the décor, provided you don’t run out. The cost of having a sufficient amount of extras on hand outweighs the stress of being ill-prepared. You’ll be surprised as to how many you end up using!

Stay tuned to learn tips and tricks on our favorite napkin fold trends!

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