As you start wedding planning, you might be surprised to learn that tables and chairs, eclectic vintage glassware, and even the dance floor aren’t typically stored in your venue’s basement. Whether it’s a glamorous reception hall or a tent in your own backyard, it’s extremely common to rent both necessities and decorations for your wedding. Here are some of the basics to help you navigate the world of wedding rentals and event design.
Even if you’re working with a venue that already provides things like tables, chairs, linens, and place settings, rentals might still end up on your wedding checklist. Ask your site contact if you can see their items first hand, in case you want to upgrade — for instance, splurging on real silver utensils or linens in a finer fabric.
Of course if you’re hosting a wedding where the venue isn’t outfitted with even the most basic furnishings, it’s up to you to procure every last champagne flute and salad fork. That can be overwhelming. You can buy these pieces, but remember that if you own these items, it’s up to you to press the linens beforehand and wash the dishes afterward. Renting and working with a professional event designer will relieve a lot of stress.
Choosing a Rental Company
Your site coordinator should be able to recommend their preferred vendor who has dressed your wedding space in the past. No site coordinator? Ask one of your other vendors, perhaps your florist or caterer, if there’s a company they’d recommend.
If you don’t have a trusted industry professional to consult, meet in person with multiple rental companies in your area. Visit each company’s showroom so you can compare not only price, but quality. While costs can be surprisingly similar, quality can vary greatly. Make sure you’re seeing actual pieces from the company’s stash and not just pretty samples on parade.
What to Rent
No two brides will have the same rental needs for their wedding day. Your venue might include nearly all the basics, leaving only fun stuff on your rental wish list, or you might have friends and family who are willing to loan items.
In general, these are the main furnishings you’ll need: tables, chairs, linens, plates, flatware, serving pieces, utensils, and glassware. Other large rentals might be a dance floor, band stage, portable toilets for an outdoor wedding, a free-standing bar, or lounge furniture. Also consider any heating or cooling needs, depending on your venue and time of year.
Now let’s dig a little deeper into your most basic rentals, as these are, for the most part, non-negotiable for all weddings.
Tables, Chairs & Linens
At most weddings, you’ll see round tables, long family-style tables, or a mix. You may also need buffet tables, a sweethearts table, taller cocktail tables, and tables for things like cake and the guest book.
Rustic wood or glass-top tables are on trend these days. But if you’re not planning to show off the tables themselves, tablecloths for dinner and cocktail hour are a must — cloth napkins, too. If you have the choice between cotton and polyester fabric and the price is comparable, go for cotton; it lends a nicer, higher-quality feeling. Hosting a breezy outdoor reception? Make sure you have table weights, hidden tablecloth clips, and napkin rings.
You’ll need seating not just for dinner, but possibly the ceremony and cocktail hour, too. Have high chairs or booster seats for any little ones. Chair covers add color and texture to the space, however, stylish Chiavari chairs and fresh, white folding chairs work wonderfully, no covers necessary. Decorative chairs are a fun way to add a dash of décor to a sweethearts table.
Plates, Glassware & Utensils
With all the delicious food at a wedding, it’s no wonder so many plates are required. You’ll need plates for cocktail hour, salad, dinner, and dessert. Today, you’ll see lots of plates with gold rims or colorful patterns for an eclectic table. A mix of silverware is also in fashion. Always order about a dozen extra place settings in case a plate drops, shows up chipped, or you realize later that your vendors also need to eat.
For glassware, you might need champagne flutes, glasses for water, beer, wine, cocktails, and cups for non-alcoholic drinks like coffee or tea. The number of glasses depends on whether or not there will be a dishwasher at your wedding. Think about how many glasses you go through in an evening out; you need to keep the clean glassware coming. So either hire a dishwasher, or work around it. Calculate three or four glasses per person, or make it clear that guests should reuse their one glass the entire evening.
Tips & Tricks
See if you can coordinate with your venue and consolidate any rentals into one order. Odds are your venue is renting something. If you can rent from the same company, it usually means one flat delivery fee and one drop-off and pick-up time.
If you have to place your rental order before your final guest count is confirmed, it’s best to round up. You can always remove a dozen place settings or a couple tables, but adding them at the last minute might prove tricky.
Thoroughly read your rental agreement and the itemized list of goods coming your way. Make sure the amounts and times of drop-off and pick-up are all correct, and understand the state in which goods are to be returned. Do dishes have to be washed? Chairs folded? Also be aware of added fees, such as a service charge or tip, as this can sometimes turn a seemingly-inexpensive rental into a pricy one.
Ask for the company’s direct contact information for the day of your wedding, in the event that you need to get a hold of someone.
Fun & Decorative Rentals
No matter what inspires you online and in magazines, working with your venue is key. A community center will not magically transform into a rustic barn wedding — and that’s okay. Embrace the best of our venue. Perhaps it’s a blank slate, or maybe nature will be doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Think about what you can afford and what will actually look good in the space.
Consider antiques, bird cages, vintage books or board games, chandeliers, a disco ball, neon or marquee lighting, vintage vases, or gilded mirrors. Want fun on a bigger scale? Popcorn machines, cotton candy makers, lawn games, photo booths with fun props, arcade games, or outdoor fire pits are just some of the ways to add an unforgettable touch to your wedding day — and they’re all available to rent.