Tips To Utilizing Rental Inventory On Your Wedding Day

Tips To Utilizing Rental Inventory On Your Wedding Day

Rental items such as linens, plates, and seating can drastically impact the look and feel of your wedding day. Dependent on the couple’s budget, venue, and overall feel, it’s helpful to plan your big day with rental items in mind. The important part is knowing which rental items to save on and which ones to splurge on! 

Photo credit: Dawn Derbyshire Photography

Jenny McDonough, owner and lead planner for Stargazed Weddings and Events is here to help guide you through the rental inventory process. She designs stunning events to help couples tell their love stories and specializes in weaving personal details throughout her weddings. Stargazed Weddings and Events serves couples in Aspen, Vail, and throughout the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, but no matter where you’re choosing to say, ‘I do,’ her tips and tricks will apply to all couples planning their dream wedding.  In conjunction with this interview with Jenny, the following details are excerpted from her blog post here.

“When it comes to rental items for your wedding, make strategic choices to create the biggest impact on a limited budget. I always tell my clients: when your wedding is in Colorado, it’s going to be stunning whether or not you choose to upgrade your dishes/glassware/linens from the basics. If your venue comes with everything you need for your wedding, you don’t have to rent a thing. If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this post, it’s that you don’t need a huge budget to add some rented fabulousness to your wedding day. You just need to make smart choices.”

WHERE TO START

The first question Jenny recommends couples should ask themselves is ‘what items can your venue provide?’ Restaurants and hotels often will have everything you need and more. “If, for example, your barn venue doesn’t come with any items, you’ll have to rent everything, down to the tables and chairs. Do yourself a favor and keep this in mind while you conduct your venue search. You’ll need a quote from a rental company to truly make an apples-to-apples comparison between a hotel venue and a non-traditional venue.”

If using a wedding planner or coordinator, Jenny recommends couples ask them for their preferred rental company first. Or check to see if your venue requires you to use a certain vendor. If you don’t have a planner, check out companies’ online reviews and go to the showroom to see everything in person before booking.

“For linens, in particular, you’ll want to see these items in person. Computer monitors display colors differently; the light can shift the color of certain fabrics. “Matchy-matchy” looks aren’t really my vibe, but if your bridesmaids’ dresses are a warm rust, rather than a cool burgundy, you’ll want to see that “merlot” napkin in person to decide if it fits into your chosen color palette.”

Everything ultimately comes down to budget, to help familiarize yourself with the average rental price, see Jenny’s estimator checklist here when planning. (All price ranges listed are for an estimated 100 person wedding).

Photo credit: Emily May Photography

WHY RENT

Many venues come with all the “hardware” you’ll need for your wedding: tables, chairs, china, glassware, flatware, linens, etc. So while there is often no compelling need to rent any of these items, rentals offer endless options to personalize your wedding, no matter what your budget is.

Budgeting Tips:

  • If your budget is limited, upgrade one or two items that will make the biggest impact.
    If your budget is less limited, you can upgrade more items and customize them to your heart’s desire.
  • Pro/Cons to Renting: 

“Clients often ask me whether they should just buy some rental items. They’re sometimes surprised at the cost of a rental, and they’ll find linens or chargers on a discount website for less than the per-item cost of the rental, and that doesn’t even take delivery fees into account. While my answer will be different for each couple or item, it always starts with the same handful of questions.”

  • Do you and your partner love to entertain at home? I.e. Will you ever use these items again? If you love to host dinner parties for 30, sure! Go ahead and consider buying. But always buy a sample before committing to the full purchase! Let’s take napkins for example. A $4 rental napkin has a heavy texture that feels expensive in your hand, is often lined, and is the sort of fabric that withstands repeated washings. Your discount site napkin may or may not.
  • What will happen to the items afterward? Are you going to be happy about washing 150 sticky champagne flutes after your wedding? What about before the wedding? You’ll have to wash off the dust before your guests drink out of them. Do you have the space to store them? Do you have the time and energy to try to sell them on the Facebook Marketplace after the wedding? What happens if they don’t sell? The cost of rental items has more to do with the labor and warehouse space required to wash and store large quantities of items, than the actual cost of the item. 
  • Have you already taken on some DIY projects? If yes, then maybe it’s best to outsource this piece of the puzzle.

WHAT TO RENT

“Start with an upgraded napkin and/or a pretty water glass with a pop of color. It’s often helpful to think of rentals from a “cost per head” perspective. Just as you’d spend $xx on catering per person, you may want to think, ‘If I have “$20 per person to upgrade my rentals, which items would I choose?’ If you’re looking at a $75 table linen, that’s already $7.50 per person towards your $20 allotment. But you could do a $4 napkin, and a $2 water glass and still have room left over.”

Jenny believes the following rental items will give you the biggest ‘bang for your buck:’ Listed in the order which she considers will make the greatest impact for the smallest financial investment. 

NAPKINS:
“Nothing makes a bigger impact for a smaller investment than a stand-out napkin. To achieve your design goals, you may choose to add a pop of color with your napkin, a fun pattern or floral print, or an upgraded texture with elegant detailing (like a white linen hemstitch napkin, for example).  Napkins are one of my favorite places to start in personalizing your wedding design. There are literally thousands of options for color, texture, print, or pattern to choose from. I kid you not; I have designed entire weddings around a napkin fabric I’m obsessed with.”

Photo credit: Emily May Photography

*bonus tip: a fun/unique napkin fold can add an additional level of sophistication to your tabletop design.

GLASSWARE:
“If you have a little more wiggle room in your budget, you may want to consider an upgraded water glass for your place setting. Because glasses rise up off the table, they give your tabletop design some height, meaning they’re noticeable. They draw the eye and give you more bang for your buck. So choose one that draws attention to itself and complements your design either with color or style. Color will pop, but a uniquely designed glass can evoke a modern or elegant tone. If you stick to upgrading just the water glass, and keeping your wine glass(es) basic, you can accomplish this upgrade for an estimated $150 to $375.”

CHAIRS:
“Chairs also make a huge impact. They take up a lot of visual real estate (compared to a fork, for example), and the opportunity to replace an often unsightly banquet chair is huge. At the same time, this is a bigger investment, so when you think about it as a cost-to-impact ratio, this is lower on my priority list. If a banquet chair doesn’t look too bad, I’ll encourage my clients to embrace them and design around them. You can also opt to find just the right chair to suit your wedding vision. Want to evoke a Colorado barn in your hotel banquet room? Choose a rustic cross-back chair. Want to keep your visual weight to a minimum in a crowded space? Choose a clear acrylic “ghost” chair. Going for a more modern or industrial style? A metal chair is perfect.”

Photo credit: Emily May Photography

CHARGERS:
“In my humble (and admittedly biased) opinion, I find that a place setting without *something* between the fork and the knife just feels naked. But chargers, especially glass ones, can be expensive. I always have to order a few extra to account for breakage during delivery (which should be covered by your damage waiver) and rental companies are pricing accordingly. They also take up a lot of room (standard chargers are 13″ in diameter.) I solve both of those problems with this little trick: find a lovely 10” dinner plate to use in place of a charger. They’re generally priced at half the cost of the charger, and you can squeeze guest #11 into that table for 10 if necessary.”

Photo credit: Emily May Photography

*bonus tip: Want an insider tip for keeping your costs down? Skip the charger, and choose a beautiful dinner plate instead. The larger the better. It will be less expensive than a charger but serve the same basic purpose. Chargers are typically 13”, so look for a 12” dinner plate. You can also skip the charger and opt for a unique alternative like a mini charcuterie board.

LINENS:
“Many venues use a service like Alsco that delivers laundered and pressed linens because they don’t have the capacity to launder in-house. These services generally don’t offer linens that reach the floor. Be sure to ask your venue about these specifics when making your decision. Now, assuming your venue owns linens in the appropriate size and shape for their tables, I recommend upgrading table linens only when there’s a generous rental budget available. The white linen your venue already provides will make a perfect blank canvas for your other details. So while linens are one of my favorite things to play with, I would prioritize quite a few things ahead of upgraded table linen.”
Photo credit: Emily May Photography

*bonus tip: To stretch your budget further, choose a few high-end specialty linens for focal areas like a sweetheart table, a cake table, an escort card table, or your cocktail tables, and keep the dinner table linens basic.

FLATWARE:
“Circling back to the idea of impact, flatware is a high-touch item. Guests literally put these items in their mouths, so yeah, they’re going to notice these items! A bit of advice on flatware: (have your caterer help you) think through your menu in order to select these items. Are you serving soup? Don’t forget the soup spoon! Not serving beef? Then you don’t need a steak knife. One reason you might choose to upgrade your flatware is that the metallic accent in your design is gold or rose-gold rather than silver.”

Photo credit: Emily May Photography

TABLES:
“These are usually the lowest on my list of priorities since the cost per guest is high. That said, a long King’s table certainly does make a big impact in a reception design!”

TENTS:
“Tents are always more expensive than people think. If you’re on a budget, it’s not your best option. And if you do choose to go with a tented wedding, you *need* a wedding planner. Trust me.”

LOUNGE FURNITURE:
Lounge furniture might seem like an obvious one to skip if you’re on a budget but it’s becoming increasingly popular for obvious reasons. Lounge furniture can offer a unique and cozy setting for your guests to enjoy during cocktail hour or to break away from the dance floor.

“Consider the guest experience. Will you have some older guests who won’t be on the dance floor all night? Lounge furniture gives them a comfy spot to enjoy some conversation with a friend. Sure they could sit at their table while waiters clear around them, but if you want to upgrade your guests’ experience, lounge furniture is a nice way to do it. It has the added benefit of adding texture and softness to a reception space, and it can help define and divide large venues. I like to strategically place some lounge furniture away from the dance floor and away from bottleneck areas, next to bars, for example.”

DELIVERY & FEES

When shopping for rental items, don’t forget to take delivery and pick-up fee’s into consideration.

“You’ll have to work with your rental company to factor that cost into your budget. Your party rental company will calculate your delivery and pickup fees based on the amount of labor required to accomplish the job. A variety of factors can cause those labor hours to vary significantly. Here are a few examples of factors that affect delivery costs:
-How far is your venue from the rental company’s warehouse or their standard delivery area?

-Does your venue require that your delivery arrive at a certain time? 

-Does your venue require that your rental items be removed immediately after the conclusion of your wedding?

Photo credit: Emily May Photography

THE TAKEAWAY

One must-have rental: “An upgraded napkin. They can go such a long way to communicate a style. Shantung says elegant, while a slubby cotton says relaxed.”

One unique item to consider splurging on: “if you have the budget for it, you can’t go wrong with a beautiful dinner chair. We see the rustic cross-back chairs so often in the mountains, so I’m drawn to anything different and new lately.”

One thing not to forget: “Don’t forget a utensil for dessert! Since it doesn’t sit on the dinner table (usually,) it’s often forgotten. Another nice touch? Order a few extra white poly linens to wrap any visible trash cans.”

Ready to start designing your dream wedding or learn more about maximizing your budget with rental items? Learn more about Stargazed Weddings and Jenny’s budget tips here.

Photo credit: Emily May Photography

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Photographer: Emily May Photography

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