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Monogrammed Napkins 101

You can never go wrong with a monogrammed napkin–it’s the uber napkin: classic, stylish and always appropriate. It’s also very easy. Just follow our Monogrammed Napkins 101 guide.

With traditions, sometimes there are rules to follow. You can be as careful or as relaxed as you want to be: it’s your dinner party, wedding reception or family dinner, after all. Here are some of the traditional rules for how to use monogrammed napkins.

Monogram Basics

Let’s start with defining what exactly is a monogram. A monogram can be any combination of letters that symbolize a name. In a typical three-letter monogram, the order goes like this:

  • Middle position (center) — last initial
  • First position (left) — first initial
  • Third position (right) — middle initial

So, Stephen Charles Johnson’s monogram would be S-J-C.

There’s also such a thing as a couple’s monogram. Here, the order goes like this:

  • Middle position (center) — shared last name
  • First position (left) — husband’s first initial
  • Third position (right) — wife’s first initial

Obviously, these rules are modified in the case of a same-sex couple, or if the spouses do not share the same last name. Monograms can also have two letters, four letters or more. Read more about monograms in our 3-part blog series on monograms.

Where do you put the monogram on a napkin?

Traditionally, the monogram can appear in the lower left corner of the folded napkin or in the center third of the napkin. We monogram our napkins in the center third — we like the proportions better. The monogram is front-and-center. Plus, many of our napkins have what’s called a “coin” edge, a horizontal band of embossed lines at the bottom of the napkin. The coin edge gives the napkins a nice touch.

How big should a monogram on a napkin be?

The phrase “the bigger the better” works sometimes, but in the case of a monogrammed napkin, it doesn’t. If you fill up an entire napkin with a monogram, then when you fold it, you’d lose the effect. Looking at random parts of letters is not elegant! You’ll confuse your guests and waste your money. The monogram on a napkin should be a couple of inches wide and tall, but usually no bigger.

Formal Parties

Monogrammed napkins are the classic choice for a very formal dinner party — a wedding reception, memorial dinner, 25th anniversary dinner and so on. According to the definitive guide, Emily Post’s Etiquette, the napkin color should match the tablecloth — white or ivory are typical. The napkins should be folded into a rectangle, similar to our guest towels. Place the napkins on the plate, with the monogram facing the chair.

Informal Parties

The rules loosen at informal parties — things like baby showers and larger birthday celebrations. First of all, Emily Post says that the color scheme can be more relaxed and colorful. Mix a white tablecloth with colorful napkins. Use place mats — any material or texture will do: lace, straw, bamboo, etc. — and choose a coordinating napkin. Or, use a patterned tablecloth, choose a color from it, and make that your napkin color.

Here, the napkin placement is a little different: put the napkin to the left of the forks. (We know…many of us put a fork on the napkin, but that’s not traditionally how “it’s done.”)

Here again, use a dinner-style napkin described above, folded in a rectangle with the monogram in the center third of the folded napkin.

For a casual luncheon — maybe you’re having your a few of your BFFs over to celebrate the kids going back to school — you can use a napkin that’s folded into a square, similar to our napkins. Place it on the plate, diagonally, so that the monogram is pointing toward the chair.

Family Meals

In many families, it’s hard to gather everyone for a meal around the table. But when you do, it’s time to make the most of it. Setting the table is one way to make it special. Spending those few minutes to clear off papers, lay utensils and napkins, place glasses and dishes for every diner can help bring everyone’s stress levels down and look forward to catching up on the day.

Here, monogrammed napkins can be placed on the plate, under the fork, or where-ever you like. Help younger children learn how to unfold the napkin and place it on their laps. Then delve into the topic of the day, some words of gratitude, or however you like to get the conversation going.

Using monogrammed napkins regularly is a wonderful way to build routines and traditions in your life. Your friends will ooh-la-la. Your family will be impressed. And you’ll be pleased that you’ve created one more routine in your life that you won’t have to think about. Check out our selection and get started now.