If you, like me, want to set an attractive tea table but think it's a lot of work I have some suggestions to perhaps make it a little easier.
If you are just starting to acquire tea linens, here are a couple of suggestions -
For tablecloths, white is great - you can bleach it. Or something with a lot of pattern, it hides the inevitable stains. If bleach doesn't work, Oxiclean usually does. Most grocery stores have it or most of the big box stores like Sam's, BJ's and Costco carry it. Works wonders on restoring old stained stuff as well, if you like to collect old linens. They all work best if you zip the cloths off the table as soon as you can and wash them. If your tabletop is pretty, use placemats or nothing at all, which is the easiest of all.
If you really love something that has stains that refuse to come out, either make sure that's where you put a table decoration, live with it, cut it up for something smaller, embroider over the stain, applique something over it or make a point of it by telling a story about how it got there. I have my mother's old lace tablecloth that has finally gotten too grotty to use, but I am going to take the good parts and applique them onto some pillows that are embarrassing.
If you like to iron, get cotton or linen. If you are like me, I like some polyester because I hate to iron. Although I have found that if you dry a tablecloth on its own and either hang it up carefully right away or put it back on the table, you don't need to, even linen. If you hang them outside and carefully smooth them out, you don't need to either unless you're really fussy. If you're really fussy, why are you reading this? It's for lazy people. If you are ecologically minded, buy old linens at yard sales or antique and junque shops. They'll be of good quality and softened with use. I got a beautiful handmade lace tablecloth for 25 cents at a yard sale. No stains or holes, either!
If you go to put a cloth on the table, you haven't much time, and it's wrinkled, here's a quick trick - fill a squirt bottle with hot water and very lightly mist the cloth, on the table. pull it and smooth it until the wrinkles come out and let it dry. Usually this works. If not, get out another one.
I do the same with napkins. I fold them and smooth them very carefully right out of the dryer and they are fine for the sort of entertaining I do. Most people are still hyped if you use a tablecloth and real napkins anyway. Besides, it is ecologically a good idea. Mostly I use patterned ones so if they get stained, it's not too big a deal.
I admit I do have some very nice old linen tablecloths and napkins. I use them for special things like Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I iron them carefully and I enjoy them, as they make me feel close to the people they came from, like Gramma Duffee's immense 24" square heavy linen dinner napkins. But I am lazy and I don't want to do that all the time.
Which brings me to silver. Both sterling and plate. Of which I have a goodly bunch. Forget those hours of tedious polishing. Line a plastic dish pan with aluminum foil. Boil a kettle of water. Add a cup of baking soda to the pan, pour in the boiling water, add your silver, swish it around after 10-15 seconds, repeat swishing. When it looks pretty clean, take it our, rinse well and polish with a soft cloth. It works! It looks good! It doesn't harm the silver. It doesn't add toxins to the air or your skin. Then put it in something so it doesn't get tarnished so quickly. or use it a lot. Or save yourself some work and buy something else. I like silver, so I untarnish it every now and then.
It used to be everything on a table had to match. Very nice, but unless you have beaucoup bucks or have been collecting for a while, it isn't going to happen. Besides, what we liked at 20 we may not like at 30 and positively hate at 40. So don't bother. Get what you like and can afford. Some one wise once said, if you like things, they will go together. I've found that to be true for me. Or else they don't go together so well, they're striking.
The real point is, better a cup of teabag tea in a paper cup with a friend than the very best of everything and no friend. Your real friends won't care and the others may be so happy you asked them for tea they'll never notice. Just have a good time with the best tea you can afford.