The Pros and Cons of Wedding Rentals (And What You Should Buy Instead)

No matter what stage of planning you’re in, one thing you’ve probably come to terms with is the fact that weddings are expensive. Like, very expensive. Whether you’re having a small microwedding or a guest list of 400, you’re likely to have moments of sticker shock as you make your way through the planning stages. 

One of the ways you might plan to cut costs is to rent instead of buying certain items for your big day. Wedding rentals can cover nearly all the materials and accessories required to pull off your wedding, including tables, chairs, bars, tents, dance floors, and lounge furniture. And don’t forget those tabletop rentals such as chinaware, glassware, linens, and napkins! Many of these items would be double, if not triple the cost if you were to purchase them. Not to mention how impractical.

“It doesn’t make sense to purchase a tent or 200 glass chargers, for example, even if the purchase price is lower than the rental price,” says Gretchen Culver, wedding planner and owner of Rocket Science Events in Minneapolis. “…You have to take in account the hidden costs such as cleaning, set up, and storage.” So, what should you rent vs. buy, if anything? And what are the pros and cons of each? Read on to find out more!

wedding rentals

The benefits of wedding rentals 

In addition to saving you money, renting may also save your stress levels, sanity and will also help you secure everything you need for your wedding. It also allows for the most flexibility when it comes to the number of items you need depending on guest count, notes Kelly McWilliams of Kelly McWilliams Celebrations, Weddings & Parties in Cape Coral, Florida.

“If you purchase instead of rent, you are fully responsible for sourcing, storing, delivering, setting up, packing up and then storing what you’ve purchased,” she explains. “Sure, you can find 6 vases that are perfect at the local home décor store, but finding 18 is going to be far more difficult than you can imagine,” she says. And selling afterwards is “near-impossible.”

Wedding rentals also come with the added benefit of being dropped off and picked up from your destination, which means there’s little schlepping involved for you. The environment benefits from this too, since renting allows items to be used multiple times, creating less waste. “If you are renting locally, which most couples do, your ecological footprint is smaller,” says Culver. “Ordering items from around the globe to be delivered to you is a huge polluter.”

The cons of wedding rentals

Although wedding rentals do come at a fraction of the cost of purchasing, they still add up quickly, notes Oniki Hardtman, wedding planner and owner of Oh Niki Occasions in South Florida and New York City. This is especially true if you’re hosting a large wedding with hundreds of guests, since the cost will go up based on the guest-count number. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep a realistic rental budget in mind. 

Another con about renting is that most items are fragile and have to be handled with the utmost care. “It Is not uncommon for these items to go missing, become damaged and unless there is a liability waiver in place, you will be responsible for not just the rental cost, but the full value of the replacement which are two different things,” says Hardtman. “There is so much to consider—such as load-in and load-out times for multiple vendors—so if you are not working with a wedding planner or designer to help manage this entire process, it can be a huge undertaking for you on your own.”

What should you rent for your wedding day? 

While it’s clear the benefits of wedding rentals far outweigh the cons, it’s important to know which items are worth renting in the first place. Here, we asked top wedding experts to share the items they recommend that their clients rent instead of buy for their wedding. 

Lighting

Jamie Chang, owner and destination wedding planner at Mango Muse Events in Los Altos, California, always recommends that her couples rent lighting. “While you certainly can buy lighting, the labor and time it takes to set it up and break down is much harder and longer than you think,” she says. “Having the professionals handle the lighting means you don’t have to worry at all because if there is an issue they’ll fix it, not you.” 

When it comes to renting lighting, she recommends double checking with your venue to make sure that there is enough power and understanding what is possible and what isn’t. “Your lighting team will have questions about the power situation at the venue and who else needs power in order to figure out a plan and make sure your lights don’t go out,” says Chang. “Be prepared to answer those questions in order to nail down an accurate proposal.”

wedding chair rentals

Tables and chairs

Unless you’re purchasing your very own wedding venue, there’s no reason to buy tables and chairs. Even if you’re having your wedding in your own backyard, purchasing them means you also have to transport and set all the tables up, not to mention break them all down post-party, which is going to take up a lot of your precious time and energy. “There are different types of tables and chairs with different prices and, because you typically need a good amount of tables and chairs, the total can add up very quickly,” notes Chang. Even when you do go the rental route, make sure to discuss set up and break down with your vendor, since it’s usually an added fee. “While it will cost you extra to have them do it, it’s always worth it,” she adds.

Table linens

While table linens are certainly something you might need in your life moving forward, chances are, you won’t need 100+ napkins or place settings. “Renting linen ensures everything looks nice at your wedding and doesn’t leave you with the mess to deal with afterwards,” says Chang, who recommends always renting more than you need. “You don’t need tons of extras, but sometimes a linen will be delivered that has a stain on it, or the wrong linen is delivered,” she says. “Extra linen is a good idea to prevent any stress.”

What should you buy instead of rent for your wedding day? 

Candles

Candles and candle holders are an item you can certainly rent from many rental companies, but Chang usually doesn’t recommend doing so because they often don’t have the exact item you’re looking for.  “Many times the candle holders they have to rent have a very particular look that just doesn’t make sense with your wedding,” she says. “In addition, candle holders can be particularly pricey from wedding rental companies so it’s usually better to provide them yourself.” 

While you can buy new candle holders, Chang recommends searching for them on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace (or some other used item site) or a Goodwill. “There are typically lots of these types of items for sale and they can be really affordable,” she says. “Not only will it save you money, but you’ll be reusing something which is also eco-friendly.”

Table numbers

Seeing as you’ll likely only need a dozen or so of these, it may be a better option to buy instead of rent. What’s more: The ones rental companies have tend to be very generic looking and take away the opportunity for you to personalize them. “This is a really good opportunity to inject your personality and have some fun,” says Chang. “Even if your wedding is elegant or luxurious, you can still have fun with this and play with ideas that represent the two of you and your relationship.” 

Cake knife and server

Hardtman always recommends that her couples invest in a cake knife and server set that will eventually become a sentimental item for them. “If you started your registry early on, you may have already been given a special set for your engagement party or bridal shower,” she says. “Be sure to pack these items and give them a special place on your cake table which will be a focal point throughout the wedding reception.”

All and all, wedding rentals are a great way to go. Of course, like any part of wedding planning, going through the process of handling rentals can feel super overwhelming. For this reason, Elizabeth Wexler, wedding planner and owner of emlan events in New York City, recommends giving yourself a budget and sticking to it. “Make concessions (remember you don’t need it all!) and ask for advice from your planners and caterers,” she says. “Remember, you only do this once a lifetime and your vendors that you’re renting from do this for a living.”


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