For event planner Shannon Wellington, decor is a crucial component of any wedding because it ties the celebration together aesthetically and ensures your guests can easily navigate the flow of the day. (Those seating charts, table numbers, and directional signs do exist for reasons beyond just looking good on Instagram, you know!)
Meet the Expert
Shannon Wellington is the founder of Shannon Wellington Wedding and Events, an event planning and design firm based in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.
That said, decor can also take up a significant portion of your budget, and lead to excess waste. If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly approach, consider going the second-hand route. Not only will used wedding decor reduce the carbon footprint of your big day, but it can also come with lower costs. Read on for expert insight into determining what to rent vs. what to buy, how to find the best stuff online, and tips for selling the pieces once the wedding is over.
What to Buy vs. Rent
Renting a bulk of your decor is an easy way to majorly up the sustainability stakes of your wedding day. (In the simplest of terms, the more times an item is used, the less energy has to be devoted to creating new ones.) Per Wellington, big pieces such as lounge furniture and wooden ceremony arbors (which you’ll most often see covered in florals) should pretty much always be rented.
This, she says, is as much for sustainability reasons as it is for your own peace of mind: Rental companies will take care of delivery, set-up, and pick-up, three things you *definitely* don’t need to add to your to-do list during your wedding. The same is true for dishes and dinnerware—unless you’re having a micro wedding, the added stress of having to coordinate everything a rental company would typically take care of (i.e. sanitizing, re-crating, and pick-up) will only take away from your full enjoyment of the celebration.
Smaller items that will be custom to your wedding—table numbers, signage, welcome station decor, cocktail napkins, tabletop accents, etc.—should be purchased, along with candles and votives. “Here, your florist is going to charge for the product, the setup, and the cleanup, for which they have to put the candle holders in the oven to melt the wax,” explains Wellington. “But if you buy these items yourself, your planner or caterer can just put them out for you. There's definite cost savings.”
Tips for Buying Used Wedding Decor
First things first: kudos to you for considering this approach! With so many endlessly-customizable wedding decor options flooding the market, it takes commitment to go second-hand. Which brings us to one of the potential downsides of used wedding decor: it likely isn’t going to perfectly match what’s on your Pinterest boards. “If you have a specific look, it’s easy to not want to do anything that doesn’t fit into that window,” says Wellington. “You have to step out of that. See what’s out there, and make what’s available work. Something else will work—it could even be better!—but you have to have an open mind.”
Opt for basics.
Don’t want to risk being disappointed by your choices? It helps to seek out used wedding decor pieces that will be easy to hunt down. “Go for all clear glass,” suggests Wellington. “You can look for hurricanes, vases, candleholders, etc., and really put together a collection.” Other items she finds are commonplace at thrift stores include picture frames, mirrors, brass candlesticks, and mercury glass.
Browse before you buy.
While it’s tempting to purchase items as you find them, a little research can go a long way in ensuring you don’t wind up wasting any of your wedding budget. “See what’s out there first,” says Wellington. Whether it’s brass candlesticks, silver picture frames, vintage books in a certain hue, or milk glass bud vases, be sure you’re confident there will be enough to satisfy your needs—otherwise, anything you buy but can’t ultimately use will be a sunk cost.
Use your network.
Share your search on social media, and check-in with friends and acquaintances who have recently tied the knot—especially if you see a piece you like pop up in the wedding pictures they post on Instagram or Facebook. “If you notice something, it doesn’t hurt to ask where they got it or if they’d be open to selling it,” says Wellington.
Another way to score the good stuff: follow local wedding vendors on social media. “Florists and smaller rental companies often have inventory warehouse sales to get rid of old decor and make way for new stuff,” adds Wellington. “It’s a great way to find larger, matching collections of vessels, candle holders, pedestals, glassware, and even table numbers.”
Be smart about shipping costs.
A vintage piece on Etsy or eBay can feel like a great deal—until you realize it’s shipping from across the country or another continent. When faced with tariffs or a hefty FedEx fee, Wellington asks herself two questions:
- Is this piece going to a noticeable focal point?
- Does it tie to our personal love story or a sentimental memory?
If the answer is no to both, and the item can be substituted with something else, it’s likely best for your budget to do just that.
Tips for Selling Used Wedding Decor
Assess what you’ve got.
Small one-off pieces that aren’t part of coordinating sets and signs personalized with your initials or wedding date are going to be tough to move because they’re going to have a very limited customer base. (Same with anything associated with a super-unique color palette or theme.) Pieces worth the time and effort of reselling are going to be the ones that can work with a wide variety of aesthetics (gold, silver, white, clear, wood), or, on the flip side, are associated with a very specific trend that seems to be everywhere at the moment (think back to, for example, geodes or billy balls).
Also valuable: customizable signage options (marquee lightboxes, cafe letter boards). People are often interested in these but are hesitant to pay full price for one-time use.
Ask your vendors first.
If it’s a bigger item, like a ceremony arch structure, or something super versatile, such as acrylic escort card holders, Wellington suggests offering it up to your vendor team first. (They are, after all, the ones most likely to use it.) Your planner can also put the word out to other wedding pros.
Share on social media.
This goes for your personal networks as well as broader ones, such as neighborhood listservs and Facebook community groups. This is an especially good tactic if you live close to your wedding venue—someone getting married at the same place might love the way your decor looks enough to copy it exactly.
Put in the effort.
The reality of using a site specifically tailored for online resale is that you’re going to be competing with thousands of listings, so you’ll want to do everything you can to make yours stand out. If you know the exact brand and name of the item, use that in the title of your post, and include related keywords in the description. Use the best quality photography you can access (official pictures of the product, as well as professional photos from your wedding, work best), set a reasonable price (at least 25 percent less than retail value), and be prepared to promote the item, respond to questions and negotiate offers in a timely manner.
Where to Buy & Sell Used Wedding Decor Online
To shop, head to the left-hand menu of your main Facebook newsfeed and click “Marketplace.” From there, use the search bar to browse for the items of your choice, then message the seller to discuss the price and arrange pickup. To sell, click “Create New Listing” and follow the prompts. (To get more eyeballs, Facebook will give you the option of boosting your listing for a small fee.) Depending on the user, the value of the item, and whether or not it fits into Facebook’s approved list of categories, you may also be able to set your item as available for shipping.
If guidelines allow, local neighborhood and community Facebook groups are both good places to post used wedding decor for sale. (You can also try searching for and joining groups specifically tailored to the task, such as Brides to Brides … Used and New Wedding Decor, or local versions like Maryland Wedding Resale.) From there, you’ll post photos and descriptions of the items you’re selling (or searching for); group members will arrange purchases, product shipping, and pick-ups via Facebook Messenger.
You’ll need to create a (free) profile to buy and sell on this peer-to-peer app, but the interface allows for easy, all-in-the-app ways to post, sell, buy, negotiate offers for, and promote used wedding decor for sale all over the United States and Canada. For sales under $15, Poshmark takes a $2.95 commission; for sales over $15, they take a commission of 20 percent. Poshmark creates the shipping label (USPS Priority Mail), and the buyer typically covers the shipping costs.
Another peer-to-peer marketplace app (but this time, with a specific wedding section), Tradesy takes a flat commission of $7.50 for items that sell for under $50, and a 19.8 percent commission on items that sell for $50 or more. Sellers can choose from a variety of shipping options, but the company’s popular shipping kit is not available for wedding items. You can sell on Tradesy only if you are located and reside in the U.S.; buyers can be located internationally.
Etsy is a great place to browse for vintage wedding decor from independent dealers all over the world, and the vast selection makes it a good place to start for more unique items. Shipping rates vary by buyer. It is not recommended for selling used wedding decor unless you plan to open a shop and make it a regular business.
With it’s a second-to-none search function, the OG of online second-hand sales is still a great option for buying and selling used wedding decor, and it does have a specific section dedicated to wedding venue decorations. (Just be sure to click “Used” under the Condition category on the left-hand menu to avoid manufacturer and wholesale options turning up in your search.) A seller can list up to 200 items for free per month, and eBay takes a 10 percent commission on the final sale price. Shipping costs and methods are determined by the seller.
Listings are free on this peer-to-peer marketplace app; sellers are charged a 10 percent commission fee on sales, as well as payment processing fees. Sellers can opt for discounted pre-paid shipping labels from Mercari, or choose Mercari’s professional pack and ship option for fragile items. Local delivery via Postmates is available in select U.S. cities. If you’re shopping, click “Like New,” “Fair,” and “Good” as your Condition parameters to turn up used wedding decor in your searches.
This peer-to-peer online marketplace is dedicated specifically to wedding decor. Though it takes a lower commission (4 percent when an item is purchased directly through the Cart feature), it does not offer the same level of buyer protection you’ll find on the marketplace site and apps listed above, and pricing can be hit or miss. Payments made through the site are deposited into a PayPal account; buyers and sellers also have the option of privately communicating to arrange for alternative methods of payment and pickup.
While it costs $9.95 to list a wedding dress on this marketplace-style site for used wedding items, decor listings are free to post. BravoBride does not offer on-site payment or shipping services, but rather an opportunity for buyers and sellers to connect and privately arrange those details.