Wedding Rentals: Everything You Need To Know

And why renting is almost always easier than buying

It’s time for you to figure out wedding rentals. You have a party to build, and you’re going to need…. well, a lot. Probably tables, chairs, plates, cups, silverware and napkins. You might need trash cans, or lounge furniture. As the owner of Davis Row, a New York City wedding planning firm, I’ve planned a lot of weddings. And that means I’ve managed a lot of wedding rentals. And I’m here to walk you through everything you need to know.

Is It Cheaper To Rent Or Buy For A Wedding?

One of the first questions out of most people’s mouths when we talk about wedding rentals, is, “Shouldn’t I just buy it?” That question has an easy answer: “No.” And it’s not all about price.

Why rent when you could likely buy these items for the same amounts or less? Well, first: you very likely don’t need to own ten banquet-size tablecloths, or 150 napkins (and no: it’s probably not going to be as easy to sell them as you think). But more than that, when you buy items, you don’t have a rental company to make the process seamless, which means you’re going to create a ton of extra work for yourself.

First, you have to find the item. Sure, maybe it’s just searching Amazon for “napkins,” but it might mean hitting thrift stores, hunting for crystal glassware (which sounds really fun until you’re on your tenth thrift store and still don’t have what you need). But that’s the real work. Next, you have to transport it and store it until the wedding. Do you have a basement/garage/spare bedroom that you’re okay having taken over with wedding stuff for a few months before your wedding? Then you have to transport it to the wedding and back home afterwards. If it’s tablecloths, they likely all need to get steamed before they get put on the table. And then everything needs to be carted home and washed in the end. How big is your dishwasher? And your washing machine?

Suffice to say, renting isn’t just the easy option, it’s the green option. Rent a tablecloth that arrives steamed and ready to go (and has been used hundreds of times before), and then have it carted away at the end of the night to be used hundreds of times more.

Various glass goblets on a table.

Do You Need To Manage Wedding Rentals On Your Own?

If you have a full-service caterer, they will manage rentals for you (this is one of the things that makes full-service caterers worth the extra money). If you’re getting married at an all-inclusive venue, rentals will likely be included. And obviously, if you have a planner or coordinator, their job is to manage this (make them manage this).

But otherwise, you’re on your own. (And as always, we strongly suggest that you have a wedding stage manager if you don’t have a planner/coordinator… but that friend isn’t going to place a wedding rental order for you, so let’s get started.)

Photo of a set table

What Rentals Do I Need For A Wedding?

If you’re in charge of the rentals, you’ll want to take the time to consider what it is that you need. Refer to your venue contract and ask your contact for help if you need it, but most weddings will involve renting some selection of the following:

  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Tablecloths (you’ll often see these called linens)
  • Napkins
  • Chairs
  • Plates (often dinner and salad/cake)
  • Forks
  • Knives
  • Glasses (water, wine, beer, rocks as needed)

Less universal but still relatively common items include:

  • Cocktail tables (and linens)
  • Table number stands
  • Bread baskets
  • Beverage dispensers and tubs
  • Lounge furniture
  • Other furniture (farm tables, bars, etc)
  • Garbage cans
  • Lighting (if your venue lighting is fluorescent, please get this)
  • Dance floor
  • Tents (you’ll need one if you’re hosting outdoors and the weather doesn’t cooperate)
  • Umbrellas, fans, portable restrooms, ceremony arch/backdrop… the list could go on and on.

View of various flatware sets.

If My Venue Is A Raw Space, What Do I Need?

Raw spaces (or “four walls and a roof,” as we planners sometimes describe them) where you can host weddings, are popping up all over the place. The biggest advantage they offer is the ability to truly customize—you can do just about whatever you want, so long as you follow the rules well enough to keep your deposit. If you’ve rented one of these spaces (and they can range from a warehouse to a barn to an empty social hall) then you’re going to need lots of wedding rentals. Some of these venues have a few pieces of furniture, like tables or folding chairs, but many require you to bring in every last piece of everything. Yes, you’re going to need to choose some chairs and dishes that you like, but keep in mind you also might need to bring in things like your own garbage cans. If you’ve rented four walls and a roof, it’s time to make your list and check it twice. (And if you haven’t picked your wedding venue yet, consider this before you decide that a raw space is the cheapest rental. Once you add everything in, it may not be.)

Table setting with focus on the napkins.

How Do I Pick the Right Event Rental Company?

If you live in a major metropolitan area—or somewhere that’s a popular wedding destination—there are likely a lot of choices available to you for rentals. And they’re all going to be different. Usually, pricing is about the same—and super-low pricing should concern you a bit—but the major difference is the quality of their inventory. What looks pristine online could be stained, uneven, or worn out in person. Ask someone on your vendor team for advice if you can, because we (planners, caterers, and often venue managers) all have our favorite providers. You also may run into required use of a certain provider at your venue. If that’s not in the cards, reach out to the rental company you’re eyeing and try to arrange a showroom visit. You don’t want to find out that you chose the wrong option when your order arrives. (Also: this is a great time to dive deep on online reviews.)

Questions to ask as you are looking for the right rental company, as they tend to differ from one to the next:

  • Delivery and pickup times and charges (need a specific time or a late-night load-out?)
  • Set-up and tear-down charges
  • Minimum order amount
  • If dishes/glasses/silverware need to be returned scraped, rinsed, or washed (all of which are decidedly different amounts of labor)
  • Willingness to work with you without having you setting up a professional account

If you’re handling your rental orders yourself, it’s probably worth calling a few different companies to ask them these questions and get a general quote started.

A woman sets a dining table for wedding rentals.

What Do WEdding Rentals Cost?

Let’s get into numbers. We did some research around the United States, and standard rentals pricing tends to look like this:

  • Plates: $0.60 – $3.00 each
  • Forks/knives/spoons: $0.50 – $1.00 each
  • Glasses (wine/water/rocks): $0.90 – $2.50 each
  • Standard height 60″ round tables: $9.00 – $20.00 each
  • Linens to fit standard height 60” round tables (90” round): $10.00 – $20.00 each
  • Folding chairs: $3.00 – $5.00 each
  • Chiavari (or ballroom) chairs with cushions: $7.00 – $15.00 each

(Please note, all numbers are approximate. If you’re in NYC or another major metropolitan area, the prices will likely be on the high end.)

Table level view of a table setting for wedding rentals.

A few more thoughts on Wedding rentals

  • Why do most weddings feature floor-length table linens? Because the tables underneath are ugly AF. Trust. (Be wary of white linens too, they may need an underlay to avoid seeing right through them.)
  • Cotton over poly(ester), always. The price differential is likely minimal, so go for it if you can—the look and feel of cotton is much, much better.
  • You need more than one glass per guest. Unless the venue has a dishwasher (and you’re hiring enough staff to manage it), having each guest keep one glass all night can be rough on everyone—including your guests. Plus, what if one breaks? If you’re set on a one-glass-per-guest rule, make sure that this is communicated very clearly and you have a few extras on hand. Your Auntie will be mad if she finds out that she accidentally put down her only glass for the night and is out of luck.
  • On the topic of extras, get extras of everything. If you have 150 guests, you don’t need 150 extras everywhere of course, but at least 10–20 is a good buffer for dishes, flatware, and cloth napkins. This covers you for lots of unexpected scenarios, like extra guests popping up, breakage in transit, and people dropping things on the floor (Opa!). It’s also good to have an extra table linen or two just in case one arrives stained, but they also work great as giant mops when twelve full water glasses hit the floor.
  • Don’t forget dessert. Small plates and forks (or spoons, depending on what you’re serving) need to make it onto your rental order.
  • Place your order early, especially if your wedding is on a popular date or during a busy season in your area. Reserve everything you want and need, then edit it down later—your rental company will tell you that you can make changes up until a certain date, so mark your calendar! (Louder in case you missed it: start with a big rental order, reserve extras, and scale back later once you have RSVPs.)
  • Double- and triple-check your rental order, including the delivery and pickup information. Make sure they have the correct items and counts, yes, but also make sure that they’re coming on the correct date at the correct time. To the correct place. Human error is no big deal, until you realize on your wedding day that your delivery address was accidentally set to your apartment.
  • If you decide not to pay the rental company to set-up and tear-down the items, you’ll need to find family and friends who can. Honestly, it’s often worth the cost to have the professionals do it, just make sure you send them a floorplan so they know where to put things—and still put someone (a planner? a wedding stage manager?) in charge of receiving and overseeing the rentals and their layout.

Overhead view of a table place setting for wedding rentals.

In conclusion, if you’re on the fence: rent! The saved time and energy is worth it.

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