Wondering what you should rent for your wedding and what you should buy? We're here to help. One realization you have when planning a wedding: You’re spending a ton of money on one day. It’s natural to want to buy everything. That makes it an investment, right? Not entirely. While it may be tempting to purchase everything (on sale, of course), sometimes it’s actually a better value, less expensive, and a lower chance of a major headache to rent your wedding supplies. The No. 1 question to ask yourself: Will I really use this item later?
To help you figure out when to throw down the Amex and when to sign a rental agreement, take a look at this list.
What to Buy
Whether it's because you want to save it long after your wedding or customize it for the day, these are the items you're better off owning.
Your Wedding Dress or Outfit
While we’re all for renting outfits for pre-wedding parties and bachelorette shindigs, we do think purchasing your wedding dress is a must. Buying your gown or suit ensures it will be tailored to your body and look absolutely perfect as you walk down the aisle. If you’re worried about never wearing it again, consider buying a formal dress or a non-white color. Then you can don it to another fancy party in the future. Plus, who says you have to wear white on your wedding day anyway?
Wedding Jewelry and Accessories
"I don't get these celebrities who borrow jewelry for their wedding days,” says Jesse Tombs, managing partner of Alison Events. “Don't you want to own the necklace you wore on your wedding day? I know I would." Sure, not everyone can afford a $1 million bauble, but you can purchase something within your budget. Treasure it forever for its sentimental value and add it to your family heirlooms, Tombs adds. "That has so much more meaning in my book.” The same goes for your clutch and shoes, both of which can be items you use post-wedding. We know many a bride who still carries her wedding purse out to nice dinners and dons her shoes with other dresses.
Grooms can get in on this, too. Splurge on a set of nice cufflinks and a matching tie bar, especially if you want to monogram either. You’ll keep them forever and always remember the big day.
The Groom’s Tuxedo or Suit
Like a wedding dress, grooms should consider purchasing their tuxedo or suit for multiple reasons. First, you’re guaranteed a better fit, since the look will be tailored to your body. When you rent, you get the best-fitting tuxedo, but it most likely won’t be perfect. Even if you buy a suit off the rack, a quick trip to the tailor to adjust the sleeves and pant legs can look a lot like you got a bespoke outfit. Second, you can customize the look exactly how you want, especially if you have your suit made. Include a fun lining to show off your personality or embroider your partner’s name and the wedding date inside the pocket. You can even include a contrasting lapel for extra pop, such as a black satin lapel on a forest green velvet jacket.
While you can rent generic signs to point guests in the direction of your ceremony, reception, and more, creating something tailored for you ensures you have something you can hang on your walls forever. "We had a client who created a custom neon sign that now hangs on a wall in their living room," Tombs says. "It's something you can keep forever to remember your day." Even simple calligraphed signs to place along the bar with your signature drinks look more authentic and can even be cheaper than renting.
Welcome bags have replaced favors. Treat your guests to amenities for the wedding activities, especially if you’re hosting an entire weekend of celebrations or a destination affair. Include your favorite treats alongside necessities like water, a hangover kit, and the itinerary for the festivities. If you really want to go all out, planner and event designer Amy Nichols, who is also co-founder of The Poppy Group, suggests adding a bottle of bubbly and having a fresh snack spread set out for your guests upon arrival. “Your guests will feel really special when they find a beautifully wrapped package waiting for them,” she adds. You can also include a sweet take-home gift as a reminder of your nuptials in the welcome bag. Choose something that feels authentic to you, such as a camping mug for a rustic venue or a beach towel for an oceanside fête. These items are useful beyond the wedding, too.
One popular design element is a collection of ornate, hand-knotted, and loomed rugs to line the aisle instead of a runner. Some couples even place one on the altar where they exchange vows. We love this look for rustic or bohemian-inspired celebrations, and what is more sentimental than to place the rug or carpets in your home post-nuptials? Since you’ll likely only need a handful for the ceremony, it’s easy to transition these throws to your abode. Then you can recall your walk down the aisle as you strut down your hallway.
What to Rent
For those less-sentimental items you're unlikely to use again, renting is the way to go. And more often than not, you'll save money.
Table Linens, Napkins, and Runners
Not only are linens expensive to buy, but they are also time-consuming to clean, fold, press, and store. “Renting linens is the smartest way to go,” Tombs advises. You won’t have to iron or steam the linens before the party, since rentals arrive ready to go. After the wedding, they go right back to the vendor, with no cleanup or storage required. Just toss them in the bag. And be honest: When will you ever need dozens of tablecloths and runners for home entertaining? We're guessing never.
Candle Holders and Vases
Sourcing inexpensive candlesticks, vases, and votive holders may seem like a great idea but think realistically about what it means to have dozens—or hundreds—of glass and metal items post-wedding. You likely won’t be using wax-covered candle holders again, and cleaning them will take much longer than writing out your thank-you notes. That goes for vases for your florals, too. Many florists allow you to rent vessels from them and some even have eclectic options for holding your stems. They handle the pickup, setup, and cleanup, meaning you won’t have to lift a manicured finger on the wedding day or haul boxes of vases out of the venue the next morning. Tombs adds that it’s generally not worth the minimal savings, or sometimes no savings, buying can offer over renting in this category.
Upgraded China and Chargers
If you’re splurging on upgraded place settings, be sure to rent. While it may be tempting to order your wedding china and chargers for the big day, you likely won’t need 150-plus plates in the future. Consider renting a pattern that fits the decor. If you’re really set on dining on your own china, have your venue set the places for you and your spouse with the special plates while guests dine on rented porcelain. Want the look, but don’t have the budget to rent plates? Splurge on a fancy charger to impress your guests as they find their seats, says Nichols. You won’t believe how it will upgrade even a plain, white dinner plate.
We always suggest using the venue’s furniture first to keep costs low, but if you’re budgeted for lounge furniture and dining chairs, go the rental route. There is really no value in buying these items—could you imagine trying to fit 150 Chiavari chairs in your home? "I tell my clients to never underestimate the power of a chair that matches your theme,” explains Casey Muller, owner and lead planner of Pink Diamond Events. “If you want your guests to be wowed when you walk into the room, those ghost chairs will really pull it all together." You can also have chairs pull double duty by using them for both the ceremony and reception. For lounge furniture, choose seating that will fit several guests, such as cozy couches, since you know they’ll want to take a break from the dance floor. Make sure to include places for drinks, such as a coffee table, so that guests who take a seat have a comfortable place to socialize.
Seating Assignment Decor
While a custom escort card display may be on your dream list, for many couples, simple signage noting where each guest should sit is sufficient. In this case, consider renting a large mirror or chalkboard and write guests’ names and table numbers on it with a chalk pen. You could buy this item, but before you decide if that’s the cost-effective way to go, pick a place for it in your home and make sure you like it. Otherwise, you’ll just be tossing it, and you still had to deal with getting it to your venue and back.
Many event spaces, especially those in hotels or part of hospitality establishments, have glassware on hand for you, but if you’re upgrading the look or bringing everything into an industrial space, choose to rent. Ikea may seem tempting, but glassware rentals still come out cheaper. Sometimes flutes are only a few cents each. Just make sure to ask for more glasses than your guest count—many guests put a full drink down to pick up a new one, and, inevitably, someone will knock over a stemmed wine glass. Opa!