Generally one would use either a tablecloth or a placemat depending on the formality of your event. However, there is nothing to say you can’t use both. You will not be breaking an etiquette rule if you do choose to use both. Just make sure they both match the level of formality required for your event.
Let’s first talk about placemats. Placemats come in a variety of shapes, colors, and materials. They are generally used on a daily basis and can add character to your table depending on the occasion. Placemats should be placed in front of each chair at the table, and the table setting is placed directly on top of it.
Now let’s talk about tablecloths. You want to use a tablecloth that is the appropriate size and shape for your table. You do not want to put a round tablecloth on a rectangular table or a rectangular tablecloth on a round table. The tablecloth should drop off the side of the table about 12 inches all around. Just like placemats, tablecloths come in a variety of patterns, colors, and materials. For a formal event, you would want to use a fabric tablecloth. For a fun, festive event, a plastic or paper tablecloth is appropriate, and it makes cleanup easier because you can throw out the tablecloth.
Once you lay the tablecloth on the table, you place the table setting directly at each chair. If you choose to use the tablecloth placemat combination, you will place the placemats directly on the tablecloth directly in front of each chair, and then place the table setting on top of the placement. Using this combination, you want to make sure you choose a solid color placement with a patterned tablecloth or a patterned placemat with a solid color tablecloth.
Video Tutorial: KAI Leather Placemat Rotary Cutter