4 Tips for Using Rentals to Decorate Your Big Day

Whether you’re seeking forks or fire pits, these pointers will help you create a singular look for your ceremony, reception, and after-party.

Photography by: Gideon Photo
A fully outfitted seating area, like the one above, is among the most requested.

The idea of “something borrowed” gets supersized when you start hunting down rental items for your celebration—and these days, chairs are just the beginning. From the unique and quirky to the strictly practical, there are more choices than ever. Here, get the lowdown on finding the best loaners.

Assess Your Needs

If you’re having a wedding at home or in a park or backyard, you may have to bring in everything—from chairs and tables to generators, bathrooms, and tents. Most full-service venues and event spaces, on the other hand, supply all the basics, plus linens and tableware. “That doesn’t mean you have to use them, though,” says Sarah Westervelt, of New England Country Rentals, in Hanover, Massachusetts. If you want to order those essentials, see if your venue will charge a fee for working with outside goods (some do, some don’t), then peruse the wares of local and national businesses, like Classic Party Rentals and Party Rental Ltd. If you see something you love, ask your caterer to rent it—she might get a better deal. As a general guide, you’ll spend about 50¢ per plate, $5 for a standard chiavari chair, and $10 for a linen tablecloth.


Think Big for Basics, Small for Special Effects 

The larger national operations are best for stocking up on the usual suspects, including tables, chairs, and tents (they generally carry a wide, and deep, selection). Smaller local companies sometimes specialize in single categories, like lighting or antique china, and typically deliver only within their area. The Vintage Type, a rental shop in Minneapolis, for example, has an impressive collection of vintage napkin sets. Just remember: If you can dream it, you can probably rent it—and for a fraction of the cost of buying it. “People are often surprised by the quality and style of what’s available,” says Megan Proby, owner of 12th Table, an event-design and rental company in Nashville that carries specialty items, such as fur throws and leather-topped coffee tables.


See 11 Surprising Things You Can Rent for a Wedding

Spend Wisely

With so much variety, it’s easy to get carried away. But put your dollars toward items guests will actually touch, like napkins and glasses, suggests Proby, and scale back on things that blend into the background, such as tablecloths. Keep in mind, less is more: “Beautiful foundation pieces, like sofas, are far more important to the overall aesthetic than a thousand tiny knickknacks,” she says.


Get It in Writing

Sign a contract that clearly spells out the drop-off and pickup times, who is responsible for washing dishes before returning them, and the company’s policy on broken or stained goods. “Damage is common. Many a guest has stumbled, merlot first, into the white linen couch,” says Proby. “Usually the client pays a replacement fee only if an item can’t be repaired.” And that’s peace of mind when the wine starts flowing.