{Wedding}: Renting versus buying

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Snippet of our invite. Copyright Dennis Thompson 2012.

Renting equipment for your wedding day will be one of your larger expenses. And the more people you invite, the more expensive it gets. (That’s a not so subtle hint to keep your guest list under control.) But you don’t have to rent everything. Sometimes it’s better to purchase items rather than rent. The most frustrating aspect of this was that most rental places don’t have their prices posted online so you will have to call, email, or make an appointment with them.

Tables + chairs
Since we were getting married outside at my parents we were going to have to rent tables and chairs so we decided to make an appointment to check out the pretties, too. Tables are surprisingly affordable and chairs can be, too, if you leave your option open. Of course those bamboo chairs are gorgeous but they’re also twice the price of the folding wooden garden style chairs. And let me tell you something: people won’t remember the chairs. The folding garden chairs are a perfectly nice and affordable seating choice and they come in four color choices: white, black, pine (blonde) and a darker stain along the lines of walnut or cherry depending on where you go.

Ceremony seating
I struggled with this one. Our ceremony and reception were both held on my parents property but in slightly different areas adjacent to each other. I absolutely did not want to pay for another set of chairs for seating purposes. But since our guest list ended up being larger than we anticipated we needed more serious seating. So what’s a gal to do when she doesn’t want to spend more money? She emails her best girlfriends and asks for input and ideas on what to do. And let me say that I have the best friends I could have ever asked for – better even. They practically yelled in unison through email that I should use the reception chairs and they would move them from the ceremony to the reception tent while Dennis and I held a receiving line to greet guests. It worked so well that they were long finished before we were with the receiving line and we didn’t have to pay for double the seating. Don’t hesitate to ask for help; especially when you have to stick to a budget.

Linens + overlays
When it came to linens I was picky about some things and not picky about other things. I was choosy about length – only floor length – but not so much with regards to color. I didn’t go in with my heart set on a particular color because I had no idea what they would have in their inventory. Wherever you go, make sure they give you time to look through the linens and try them out on a display table. We narrowed our choices down to two options and then we rented one table cloth of each color and one chair of each color we were considering and hauled them out to my parent’s house for a test run. (Note: I HIGHLY advise that you rent a couple of samples and take them to your reception venue. I guarantee the lighting at the rental company will be very different from your venue’s lighting which will ultimately alter the color of your linens. Take it from this former textile student.) For overlays I purchased my own. I had already decided on burlap long before and it is foolish to rent burlap. I went on ebay and purchased a bolt at a much reduced price than I could get at a fabric store. Yes, I needed quite a bit for other things but you can still by 10, 25, 50 yards much cheaper than you can get at your local fabric store.

Eat + drink
When you’re having a DIY outdoor wedding it is a good idea to think about balancing disposables with non-disposables. Since we were doing this ourselves we wanted easy clean up but we wanted more than standard fare paper plates and plastic forks. Plus I really wanted to be environmentally responsible and not have a bunch of plastic getting thrown out. (I also didn’t want my family in the kitchen all night long.) We decided to use square bamboo plates in dinner and dessert sizes and paper napkins all purchased from a restaurant supply store online. Bamboo plates look great, are tough, and have a lovely organic look to them. And rather than go with the usual square dinner napkin, we opted for the “restaurant fold” which is one additional fold so the napkin lays as a rectangle. They don’t cost anymore than the standard square and they look more formal. For drink glasses we opted for the good ole Southern standard: the “jam jar” (mason jar). Our rental company carried them but we found it was going to cost us the same to purchase them ourselves because it was canning season and you could easily get them on sale by the case. I ultimately gave some away to my helpers and decided to keep the rest. I have no doubt that I could have easily sold them to another bride in my area had I chosen to not keep them. And that brings us to utensils which happens to be the only food service item we rented and I’m so glad we did. The bamboo and paper napkins were a good balance with the glass jars and silverware for an outdoor affair. And we didn’t even have to wash the silverware – the rental company takes care of that. All we had to do was toss them back in the plastic box they came in and send them on their way. I liked that. 🙂



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