Before it became the blinged-out decorative centre of your plate at weddings, the humble napkin ring had a very practical purpose.
Back in the day, regular folks would use plain cotton or linen napkins at every meal. But over time, they were replaced by disposable paper napkins (and paper towels). Using a real piece of fabric to wipe the vinaigrette from your chin had an obvious downside: eventually, it had to be washed, folded, and maybe even ironed before being put back into service. Score one for paper napkins. Yeah, they're easy, but they're also super-wasteful, expensive, and use up a lot of resources (namely trees and water).
Cloth napkins are even easier than paper when used with engraved napkin rings. This way, each napkin can be identified and used by the same diner on multiple occasions until it’s ready to be laundered again. Usually for a week!
It may sound gross to keep a used napkin in a drawer to use all week, but if you're eating like a grown-up (and using your cutlery correctly), there probably shouldn't be that much pesto on your chin! I freely admit that when we're eating something saucy or messy like ribs or tacos, I'll grab paper napkins. But for most family meals, we're using a good quality, absorbent cloth napkin. Even with sandwiches.
Back to napkin rings: Somehow, they went from being strictly utilitarian household objects to flouncy, superfluous decorations at dinner parties.
That's not the point of them at all. They're meant for used napkins at the family table, not at dinner parties or weddings (where your guests should expect to be given a fresh napkin).
I want to encourage you to invest in some monogrammed napkin rings and swap out paper napkins for real ones this year. They're an easy upgrade that will make everyday dinners feel more civilized and nicer. And who doesn't love that?