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Whether tucked away in a corner of a ballroom or occupying a separate tent, lounges are wonderful oases of calm. Many of the bigger rental houses carry everything you'll need to invent a living room away from home—sofas, end tables, area rugs—but prop houses offer even greater selection. Choose among shabby-chic sofas and Scandinavian-modern divans, plus statues, mantels, chandeliers, even birdcages. Some antique stores also rent their wares, from oversized tufted sofas to Oriental rugs. Think about purchasing liability insurance at wedsafe.com to cover possible damage of expensive rentals.
Prop houses encourage thinking outside of the box. "One couple rented an antique clawfoot bathtub to use as an ice bucket," says Jennifer Ginsberg of Props for Today in New York. At the Propper Source in Atlanta, Hilary Henkin has leased his-and-her thrones, vintage fabric bunting for a Fourth of July wedding, and old columns that were reborn as huppah supports. Even photo booths are available. "They're interactive and fun for the guests," says Chicago wedding planner Susan Jablonski. "You can post the pictures on a bulletin board for an instant wedding album."
Party animals can fill their festivities with a flock or two: Amazing Animal Actors in Malibu, California, offers creatures from leopards to lovebirds. Another source for cute critters: private wildlife and game parks licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For a nationwide list of renters, visit aphis.usda.gov/ac/publications.html, scroll down to "facility lists," and click on "licensed exhibitors."
With plant rentals branching out into trees, it's not far-fetched to decorate your entrance with a pine or palm, or have topiaries surrounding your outdoor ceremony. "We have an entire division devoted to tree rentals alone," says Heidi Bianchi, of Hartmann Studios, an event-design company in Richmond, California. "You can get ones as tall as 14 feet." From tropical trees and standards like ligustrum and plumbago, available at the New York floral-design firm of Renny and Reed, to blossoming fruit trees, rentable flora are turning wedding halls into virtual forests.
Event planner Sidni Greenblat, of Rave Reviews, in Washington, D.C., uses flowering fruit trees as centerpieces. "The tree can fit right through the hole formed by four quarter-round tables that have been fitted together in a circle," he says. Greenblat also fashions indoor courtyards using live hedges and black olive trees. Can't find the right specimens at your party-rental store or florist? Head for a local nursery, where you can often rent plants and other foliage at excellent prices.
Nowadays, your event can take place anywhere from a mountaintop to a rocky coastline, thanks to subflooring options. "We once built a dance-floor balcony that extended over a lake," says Dennis Coppi, of HDO Productions, which has offices in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Another way to walk on water is with a clear dance floor that fits over an in-ground pool. "You can light it from below and put bubble machines in the water for a really dramatic effect," he says. Transparent and frosted Plexiglas dance floors can also move indoors, along with flooring painted with flagstone or floral motifs.