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Cloth vs. Paper Napkins for Your Madrigal Dinner

Updated: Jan 21

Comparing cloth versus paper napkins for a Madrigal Dinner.

When hosting a Madrigal or Jazz Dinner, you want to save on costs anywhere you can. This could include affordable desserts or public-domain music. Even small items, like napkins, can add up. You may be wondering if it is better to buy paper napkins each year or to invest in reusable cloth napkins. We ran the numbers on cloth vs. paper napkins, and here is what we found out:

Mid-Tier Paper Napkin

Vanityfair napkins for your Madrigal Dinner.

Say you’re hosting a Madrigal Dinner for 300 guests. Let’s look at the cheapest “banquet” paper napkin out there:

Vanityfair is absorbent and has the right amount of imprints to make it feel fancy. At a big department store, these napkins run about $.026 per napkin. The total cost for 300 napkins is $7.79.

High-Tier Paper Napkins

Gold colored paper napkin.

If you want the next tier of paper napkins, something with color and a bit more weight, you can buy them in bulk online. For this gold paper napkin, it costs $0.11 per napkin, for a grand total of $33.54 for 300 people.

Cloth Napkins for Your Madrigal Dinner

Folded Cloth Napkin which is an option for your Madrigal Dinner.

Now, let’s look at cloth. Obviously, there are low to high-tier cloth napkins to choose from, but let’s look at a basic polyester napkin. The cost for a beige pack of napkins is about $0.44 per napkin. For an expected audience of 300, that will total a $132 investment.

Adding It All Up Cloth vs. Paper Napkins

Fork and knife placement on a napkin.

Let’s look at the totals again for cloth vs. paper napkins. This is for a single event of 300 people at your Madrigal Dinner.

Low Paper Napkin $7.79

High Paper Napkin $33.54

Cloth Napkin $132

Is cloth worth the investment? Here is how many dinner theaters you would have to host to break even with the cloth napkins.

Low Tier Paper: 16.94 events

High Tier Paper: 3.93 events

If you host several dinner theaters a year, cloth napkins are worth the investment. However, if you are just starting, it may be safer to do paper napkins the first year or two until you know if the Madrigal Dinner will be a permanent, reoccurring event.

Besides cost, here are some other factors to consider:


A line of trees in the sunlight.

Reusing cloth napkins means less waste and is better for the environment. Paper napkins can’t be recycled and are left to biodegrade in landfills. However, paper napkins mean you don’t have to store them year to year. And cloth napkins must be washed, which may feel overwhelming if you have a small production team.


Folded Blue Cloth Napkin on Plate.

Obviously, cloth napkins are a more authentic look for a Madrigal Dinner. Just like a compelling centerpiece, cloth napkins add to the table décor and help transport your guests to a simpler time. But there’s no getting around how easy it is to clear paper napkins from tables and dispose of them.

Which Napkin for Your Madrigal or Jazz Dinner?

When you weigh budget, time commitment, environmental concerns, and ease, which napkin will work best for you? Paper napkins are definitely cost-effective short-term and easy in almost every respect. Cloth napkins are cheaper in the long run, more authentic, and better for the environment. Depending on which categories are most important will help you choose which napkin is best for your dinner theater.

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