From linens to leopards—and more.
Party-rental supply stores have become a lot like your local mall, offering a dazzling choice of goods at a variety of prices. Whether you want dishes in basic black, tablecloths in hot pink, or gauzy overlays with beaded fringe, the wishes of design-conscious couples have become the rental industry's command.
Big cities offer the most choices, but if you're willing to play detective, you can find just about anything, no matter where you live. (Keep in mind, the further away you are from the rental source, the more you'll have to pay in delivery fees.)
Now that caterers' creations have started to resemble the menus of star chefs, rentable tableware is following suit with sophistication, new shapes, and international flair. Even the most esoteric items are becoming commonplace, like Riedel crystal glasses, whose many shapes are designed for specific types of wine. Couples who don't want to follow the white-china route can choose from oversized shallow bowls with broad rims, mirrored chargers, colored goblets in elongated silhouettes, and chunky Mexican glass tumblers.
Planning a feast with pan-Pacific fare? Party Rental Ltd., with branches in several East Coast cities, including Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., offers bamboo-handled flatware and Asian sandstone plates among its stock.
The beauty of fabric is that it's lightweight, so mail-order rental houses with vast selections will ship anywhere. "I can't remember the last time I used white linens," says wedding consultant Amy Mader, of Amy's Platinum Weddings in Austin, Texas. "We've done kiwi and salmon stripes in taffeta, and topped taupe satin with embroidered lace."
At Just Linens in New York City, Linda Lieberman is up to her ears in organzas and silks. "We have quilted, pleated, embroidered, beaded, hand-painted, plaid, striped, polka dot—you name it." If luxe is your look, rent gold lamé napkins backed with red velvet, or satin-edge Tiffany-blue squares; cinch them with tassels, cording, or metal scrolls.
The only way to disguise ballroom chairs used to be by covering them with plain, loose-fitting slipcovers. Nowadays, you can lease contoured versions for a tailored look, or create texture by using chair caps (fabric covers that fit on chair backs) embellished with wooden or crystal beads. You can even find shirtback chair-covers with corset-style lace-ups and button accents. If you prefer to go contemporary with your seating, seek out the Bellini, a sleek plastic stacking chair.
Backless is also big. "We're doing a lot of benches with square tables put together in a row to create a feasting table," says Victoria Canada, a wedding planner in Phoenix. Ottomans, too, are popular, observes Susan Allen, of Elizabeth K. Allen, a wedding-consultant firm in Boston and New York City. "We also rent longer benches with room for four or five people." Allen's innovative seating has also included banquettes (built-in upholstered benches with high backs) that evoke café-society glamour.